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.

27 June 2017

Stretching


Image source: Goodreads.
I'm reading The Rise of the Creative Class, and apparently the creative class has excellent eyesight that can easily read such small print. I'd like to at least get to 40 before I require bifocals, but it seems my need for large-print books has already arrived.

Anyway. Early in the book, Mr. Florida quotes, "Creativity is favored by an intellect that has been enriched with diverse experiences and perspectives." Something that comes up a lot among those of us who dream of one day being published authors is travel--the idea that unless a writer travels a lot, it's harder to come up with things to write about.

It's certainly true that travel is enriching and a fast way to engage with people unlike one's self. But it's not the only way, of course. It's possible (for most of us) to have fresh experiences and meet people with different points of view without ever straying too far from where we live. It does takes effort and courage to push past one's own edges and venture out into the unknown, even if it's just a stroll into the next block or to say hello to the person I see at the coffee shop once a week but have never spoken to. Or to read a book that I might not enjoy by a writer I would normally avoid. (I do this at least twice a year. Sometimes I hate it. Sometimes I love it. I never know until I do it.)

This came up in my Facebook memories yesterday.
I agree with the sentiment, certainly, but
I think it might add "learn something"
or "see something" or just "go outside."
They all work together when it's time to create.
To invite creativity into one's life is to invite joy and fun and wonder. But it also invites in risk--what if I fail? What if this isn't really who I am? What if I hate it? And the adrenaline rush that comes with pushing the edges of who we are always might end in an unfun crash that leaves us sprawling on the floor eating chocolates and wondering why we ever thought this was a good idea in the first place.

But the rewards of getting it right after many failures, of a kind word from a stranger at just the right moment, of having that "ah-ha" of suddenly seeing the world--or my own neighborhood--with fresh eyes... those rewards are why we push ourselves and try again. Those rewards make the curiosity and the courage required to seek out experiences and perspectives unlike our own so worth it. And they top up that courage to go out and do it again and again and again.

And that's worth getting out of bed for every morning and setting out to see what a new day will bring. What are you experiencing this week?

26 June 2017

Paused

My running the last few weeks has been more theoretical than literal, or to put it more bluntly, I can't remember when I last my running shoes on. I have a fairly detailed log, so of course I could just look, but that's not quite the same thing as being able to remember it.

What my running shoes look like when I'm not totally
neglecting them. 
This is irritating to me not only because I kind of need running to keep my synapses firing in good working order instead of short-circuiting sideways to "unbearable," but also because I'm wasting this nice summer weather that I love quite a lot. It's not like I've forgotten how much I hate running in the cold, but maybe it's that not-running became such an easy go-to that now I'm having a hard time getting my brain back out of that rut I dug. Sigh.

I wonder how long I'm allowed to not-do something while still calling myself a practitioner? A few weeks off running, when there's no race on the horizon, is easy enough to correct as long as I go out and do it eventually. When I think of all the other creative acts in my life (yes, I totally count running as a creative act) that come and go and come again--I don't know how comfortable I am calling myself a quilter, for instance, when the last quilts I finished were at least 10 years ago. The last cross-stitch I made was 2 1/2 years ago, and it didn't turn out as well as I had hoped it would (so much so that I told the recipients that I was totes cool with them shoving it in a drawer and never looking at it again. They laughed, but I don't know what they really did with it).

Or is everything like marathoning? I'll never stop being a marathoner, even if I never run one again--does that also apply to being a crocheter? A public speaker? A cookie maker?

One thing all these skills have in common is that the skills become rusty with lack of use. One thing they all have in common is they can always be picked up again when the time is right. And one great thing about Mondays, as I say as often as possible, is that it's a perfect time to begin anew. So that's why I'm headed out this morning for the short run that's listed on my plan, just to make sure that I remember how to put one foot in front of another.

What will you begin again today?

25 June 2017

Word: Checking In on Creation

The last Sunday of June seems like as good a time as any to check in on my word for 2017, Creation. (Some of the ladies at church can remember each other's words and cheer for accomplishments in their word of the year. I only remember mine because it's on my ribbon board and I can see it from here. Maybe my word should have been "memory.")

These are Charles Rennie Mackintosh font & roses.
Because when in doubt, use someone else's creation, I guess?
My word was inspired in part by 2 Corinthians 5:17 and in part by Rent, which is par for the course here in Su-Land, but of course all my creating thus far this year has had very little to do with either thing. Some creation in my 2017 thus far:

  • Since I'm likely to be in this apartment for at least another year after my current lease runs out, I'm making it a living space I can feel comfortable in and happy to come home to
  • More writing on my perennial friend, Sybil, who may never ever be finished but at least is my constant companion
  • Building a new community, as best as I can, in Cincinnati (I honestly have no idea how humans make friends. I mostly just hang around people and try out a few topics of conversation until they either talk to me or run away. Is that what everyone does?)
  • Tackling a massive knitting project with a hard deadline. I should be working on that right now
  • Planning, with considerable enthusiasm, my next four crafty projects. Because creation begets creation
  • 131 blog posts (out of 211 days of the year thus far), which is more than I've managed in some entire years. 
  • Embracing that some of my blog posts are bound to suck, and taking the duds as a learning experience to make all my writing better
  • Finding ways to keep all the new information I'm learning at work in order (every time a coworker asks me for information, I pull up the spreadsheet where I keep said information, which inevitably elicits a "Wow, you are so organized!" from the coworker. To be clear: I am so very not)
  • Reluctantly spending less energy on the time-sucking pits that I love (Twitter and Pinterest) and less time on the sucky pit that has become a habit (Facebook) to devote more of my time and energy to things that need that kind of attention if I'm going to get them done
I'm not sure I would count all these things as creation, any other year, but I'm counting them now as I go through my days looking for opportunities to create and attempting to see the everyday with fresh eyes.

What are you creating today? Alternatively: what's something you're trying this year, and how is it going?

24 June 2017

In the Flowers

After I blogged about (metaphorical) weeds potentially choking out the more desirable things of life, more thoughts arrived, as they are wont to do. For instance: What is a weed?

Broadly speaking, anything I don't want growing in my garden is a weed. But why is it that we plant daisies on purpose but not their cousins the dandelions? What characteristic does clover have that makes it a nuisance rather than a welcome friend? 

Some folks see these and race for the weed killer.
I see them and rejoice, especially when the bees are at
work around them. Source: Andre vd Meulen
on freeimages.com.
Context plays a role, of course. My parents' house is surrounded by farmland, so my mother can't grow morning glories, which are aggressive and will attatch to anything taller than themselves, like handy stalks of corn. They're a nuisance to farmers not only because of potential lost crops, but also because their vines will wrap around equipment during harvest and cause breakages. Morning glories are gorgeous and wonderful in the city or in the forest. In farmlands, they're destructive.

By the same token, a good thing in my life may be a weed in yours, and vice versa. I guess the problems really begin when we look round at other people's gardens and see them proudly cultivating their weeds. "Why would anyone want to grow that?" I wonder, or worse, "They let the weeds overrun their flowers," when in fact said weeds are the flowers, and I just can't see it. And from there it's only a short step to seeing the presence of weeds as the presence of a moral failing and the absence of virtue. 

This plays out quite literally in places where some folks are, shall we say, zealously devoted to the care and maintenance of their grass while the neighbours are, shall we say, less devoted. And so the dandelion seeds float from one lawn to another, while one resident is oblivious and another is indignant. I'm convinced this is why HOAs happened. For some folks, it was surely either that or start a dandelion war. 

But in our lives the weeds and flowers are less literal and the misunderstandings that arise even more fraught. No one wants anything they've spent time and careful attention on--be it a school accomplishment, or a work project, or a new skill, or a creative endeavour--to be treated like a weed. And I hope no one wants to be the person who treats others' precious flowers with such disregard. (Please keep that in mind the next time you're tempted to ask, "What are you going to do with that??" of your college-aged relatives.) But it happens to the best of us from time to time, and flowers get trampled and hearts get bruised.

What to do? Apologize, with all sincerity. Forgive (even though it takes time). Learn from the mistake and use that new knowledge to see with different eyes. Stretch the definition of a flower and shrink the definition of a weed, and see where that takes you.

Cultivating great things in my own life is important, but to recognize it in someone else's life is beautiful.

22 June 2017

The Galling Sides

There's a little saying that tends to pop up a lot in social media land, often after a news story hits about a massive gaffe, but it also worms its way into everyday life. I've said it many times, and maybe you have, too. But these days just the mere hint of it is enough for me to roll my eyes and stop listening, and I'm writing this in part to understand myself why I'm so annoyed by one little platitude. What is it?

"There are two sides to every story."

Nice, right? Good way to remember that maybe the victim and perpetrator aren't as clear-cut as we were first led to believe. Good way to suspend judgment until all the facts are in. Good way to exercise the voice of reason in a volatile situation.

Here's the thing: it's not true.

Now I'm sure some folks have rolled their eyes and run off already. Maybe others are trying to pinpoint which thing in the news that I'm talking about. (I couldn't possibly pick one, so don't bother.) Someone is already writing their heated response to my obvious foolishness in their head. And all those reactions are exactly why the cute little saying isn't true, because there are waaaaaaay more than two sides to every story. 

Humans are complicated, y'all. We are big bundles of messy emotions and motivations and intentions. Think about all the times in Fiddler on the Roof when Tevye mutters to himself, "On the other hand... but on the other hand... but on the other hand..." It gets a laugh, every time, at how quickly he runs out of hands. Until the time when he finally explodes, "There IS no other hand!" and then it's tragic, not funny.

Saying "There are two sides," when in fact there are many more sides, is a cop-out. It can be a stand-in for "I'm not choosing sides yet" or for "I have an unpopular opinion about this" or for "I think you're wrong but I don't yet have proof" or even for "Maybe this isn't worth spending our time arguing about" without really conveying any kind of meaning. At best, it sounds wise and reassuring without saying anything at all. At worst, it sounds wise and reassuring while being a passive-aggressive disagreement that's hard to refute, because who wants to disagree with both sides' right to their own agency?

Even the most basic die has six sides. Humans definitely
rate more sides than that.
Source: Armin Hanisch on freeimages.com.
The problem with this kind of "wisdom" is that we already know we have more than two sides going on inside ourselves at all times; why on earth would a conflict outside ourselves have only two sides? I may think a problem is with a coworker (although please note that I have no such problems at the moment), when really it's much deeper than that, with roots in our separate interpretations of company policy, and our relationships with the boss or with other coworkers, and with resonances of how a situation was handled in the dim and distant past that we may not even realize are still bouncing off the office walls. So one day when it all comes to a head, the simplistic "two sides" may bring temporary harmony, but it doesn't address the roots.

It's nice to jump onto Facebook with platitudes and try to be a voice of reason. It's great to get comments about how levelheaded one's interpretation is of the headline du jour. It even feels good to score some points against a hotheaded friend who chooses sides at the outset and then turns out to have read the situation incorrectly. But it's also good to remember that human interactions aren't equations with one correct answer. Let's not pretend every outrage that hits the evening news can be solved by hashing out the two sides until we declare a victor (and then, as is the wont of humans, go on fiercely defending the side we liked better ad infinitum).

Withholding judgment until more facts are available is wise. It's okay not to know who was right and who was wrong. Not saying so--biting one's tongue (or fingers, since they do the typing)--is harder when the arguments are piling on and you suspect other people are wrong. But "there are two sides to every story" is still a cop-out, especially if it really means "I'm not ready to rationally discuss this." If I'm that interested and that invested in getting to the truth, saying "there are two sides" and leaving it at that is not going to get me there.

Post title is an homage to the Mathnet episode "The Case of the Galling Stones," which is about a gem shaped like a dodecahedron. I'm still a huge Mathnet fan, and while I loved Kate Monday, I adored Pat Tuesday.

21 June 2017

Seeing Red (Lights)

I don't know what causes road rage. I do know what I'd like to do to people who act on their road rage. But studying the root causes of this behaviour is well outside my areas of interest.

However, I do have my suspicions, every time I hear someone complain bitterly about heavy traffic or road construction or both. (Or, of course, hear them complain about having to slow down for a few seconds to safely pass a person on a bike. Here's a little tip that should be no surprise to anyone--if you complain to me about that, expect an earful. No one has ever made that mistake twice.) It seems some folks expect an easy-flowing, obstacle-free drive to everywhere, at all hours of the day, every day.

You're going to get stuck. It's going to happen.
Source: Lonnie Bradley on freeimages.com.
My friends, the automobile industry has sold us a bill of goods. And of course they have--it's in the interest of their own pockets to convince people that getting from A to B is easy peasy. No matter how many cupholders an SUV has, images of it stuck in a colossal traffic jam are not going to get many vehicles rolling out of the showroom.

As with so many other areas of our collective lives, it may be time to lower our expectations. No one is always going to get every green light. No street is exempt from folks crashing their cars into things and causing a snarl. Traffic lights fail, natural disasters don't care about your route to work, roads crumble and have to be repaired.

And if that weren't enough, when the majority of Americans own cars and the majority of Americans drive alone and the majority of Americans go to work at about the same time of day, traffic can't possibly flow right along. No matter how badly we want it to. No matter what it used to be like just a couple years ago. And as the saying goes, you aren't sitting in traffic--you are traffic.

If all of this is making your blood pressure rise just thinking about it, then maybe it's time to reconsider what you expect from your car. What do you get to control? The temperature, the music, who comes along with you. What can't you control? How many other people want to go the same place you do. What can you control? Your reaction to delays and detours and things generally going wrong. Cars aren't teleporters. They aren't magic. Other road users aren't your enemies. They're just people also trying to get on with their lives. And if you get into your car knowing ahead of time that something on your route will go awry, expecting that delays will happen and jams will get jammy, then maybe your reaction to it happening will be less outraged surprise and more "good thing I'm enjoying this podcast I'm listening to."

And a little less rage goes a long way toward a pleasant trip.

(Before my fellow active transportation users get out the pitchforks and torches--if you can avoid driving, by busing or walking or biking or even by taking turns carpooling, your trip is likely to be less rage-inducing and more relaxing. There's even some research about that.)

20 June 2017

In the Weeds

I'm participating in a Bible study group this summer that's reading a book called Uninvited, by Lysa TerKeurst. Normally, this is so not my kind of book. Every couple of years I pick up whatever Christian book everyone is raving about, fiction or non-fiction, to almost inevitably put it back down unfinished. I just can't even with Christian literature, although I keep giving it a try to see if it's gotten better. (This is not an invitation to send me suggestions, by the way. You should only do that if you want to end up on my Highly Suspicious list.) 

Image source: Goodreads.
But, this is what the group is reading, and I don't hate it so far. In this week's chapter I ran across this bit which I (mostly) appreciated, as a person who grows things: "Time grows the seeds that are planted, watered, and fertilized. Plant beauty, grow beauty. Plant thorns, grow thorns."

That first sentence? I love it. She nailed it. She nailed it so hard I wish she'd pushed the metaphor on and reminded us that the planting and watering are work that require constant attention to make sure the beautiful things that were planted continue to grow and thrive. Because the truth is that you don't have to plant weeds for them to grow. They sneak in, very much uninvited. In fact, they don't even sneak--they push up through the ground with brazen confidence, unfurling their leaves and growing at a breakneck pace. Because the weeds are racing the gardener, trying to pollinate before she notices their presence and brings them to a speedy end. If you want to plant beauty in your life--a new skill, or a friendship, or an exercise program, or a tidy house, or whatever your thing is--you have to pull the weeds all the time that you're nurturing the thing you want to grow.

Grandma told me over the phone
that her weeds were waist-high.
I'm not sure whose waist she was
referring to, because it sure wasn't
mine or hers. This thing was as
tall as I was and left a giant hole
after I dug it up.
Of course, Ms. TerKeurst isn't wrong about the thorns. Anyone who wants a weedy or thorny life can have one practically for the asking. It's a lot less work. And, IMO, a lot less worth living. 

I dug some very real, non-metaphorical weeds out of my Grandma's flower beds last weekend. She doesn't grow flowers any longer, but she doesn't want weeds there, either. So all summer long she gets outside on nice days and digs up the weeds that have taken root, all the while muttering about how she just dug this one up by the roots last week. Now, Grandma has lived a long life filled with hard work, so I don't blame her for not wanting to go to the bother of flowers at this stage of the game, but she knows as well as I and Ms. TerKeurst do the truth about weeds--the best way to keep them out is to grow the thing you want instead.

What are you growing?

19 June 2017

Upward

Have I mentioned that I live on top of a hill? A lot of places in Cincinnati are on top of hills, of course, and I live in one of them. Some of the ways up are steepish, others not so much. All of them are sweaty.

There are some advantages to all these hills, of course.
So it was that one day I had gone for a bit of a ramble round and was returning home via the steepest of the possible directions from my house. The hill before mine is not as high, but from the top of it I looked across to see that not only was I not level with the top of the next hill, but also that the top of the hill was obscured by trees, which made it look even worse than it really is. As I headed down and the next hill loomed ever larger, it continued to look steeper the closer I got to the bottom, and it was almost hard to believe this was the same hill I've been easily up and down dozens of times.

Guess what made the hill flatten out and not look so awful? Going up it, of course. Tackling something up close, taking it step by step and inch by inch, is rarely so insurmountable as trying to take in the whole thing at once. (Alas, those times when up close really is worse--well, that's why we have chocolates and friends. Friends with chocolates, if at all possible.) As Samwise Gamgee so wisely put it, "It's the job that's never started as takes longest to finish." And a hill will never get smaller from standing at the bottom staring up at it.

I'm just going to go apply this thought to as many things as possible before I forget again.

16 June 2017

Fill it In

A few Sundays ago, the minister made an offhand remark about the local landfill during the sermon. Note to everyone: offhand remarks in my presence tend to turn into blog posts. Ye be warned, if you weren't already.

So the local landfill is colloquially called "Mount Rumpke," because Cincinnatians are a delightful group of quirky weirdos. This was the first time I had heard the preferred nomenclature, though, and it came along with a comment about how the speaker doesn't really know how landfills work. Which, naturally, activated the "Oooh, oooh! This is a thing I know!" section of my brain (and let's be honest, that's like 90% of the brain cells that aren't dedicated to things like breathing and circulation).

"But how could you possibly know about landfills, Su? Your areas of expertise are bikes and books." 'Tis true, but I am descended from a man who loves nothing more than to talk for hours about the things he knows (shut up), and said man has worked for a landfill for over 40 years. (He'll tell you 50, if you ask. But he was not working there as a 10-year-old.) So here's what he's managed to teach me in that time--what I've managed to hang onto without firsthand knowledge of working in one, that is.

If you imagine a landfill to be a giant mound of trash, with carrion birds circling overhead and plague-bearing rats headed in and out, you're thinking of an old-style open dump, the sort of which have not existed in the U.S. (not legally, anyway) since the late 70s. A sanitary landfill is exactly as the name describes: earth is excavated from site so the rubbish can be packed in and the floor and walls are lined to keep the nasty stuff in. The area will be divided into cells, and as rubbish trucks arrive, they're directed to empty in/near the cell. Large and heavy equipment will pack rubbish into its cell as tightly as possible, and once that cell is full, it's covered back up with dirt and packed in some more. Then the next cell gets its turn, and so on, because Americans produce quite a lot of rubbish. Which is why, if I ever hear anyone complaining about a landfill, my first question is about what they're doing to cut back on the trash they produce. No one's hands are clean when it comes to waste.

It has to go somewhere after it goes on the truck.
Image source: Niklas Johnsson on freeimages.com.
Here's the thing about sanitary landfills, and my real reason for wanting to share this: things aren't supposed to break down. If you're putting something in your trash thinking it's biodegradable, and it won't be around for that long anyway, please take that thing right back out of the trash and stick it into your compost. Things that biodegrade = compost; things that recycle (glass, plastic, paper, cans) = recycling; things that do neither = trash can. PLEASE. Because you know what happens when stuff breaks down? It releases gas and liquid, both of which can be harmful when you consider the company your rubbish is keeping. Liquid seeps and can get into the groundwater; gas is smelly, potentially poisonous, and when trapped underground, can sometimes get a bit antsy and violently force its way out. Which is why sanitary landfills have regulations about what they have to do to protect the groundwater, and methane wells to keep the gas under control. Mount Rumpke converts the methane into natural gas, which powers some local stuff, but persistent problems with the methane wells are what keeps Mount Rumpke much smellier than it's supposed to be. (I grew up around a landfill. I know what it's supposed to smell like. That's not it.)

Of course, the planet has its own way of dealing with things, and just because rubbish isn't meant to break down or leak in a sanitary landfill, it still does, just very slowly. Rain finds its way in through the tiniest of cracks, earthworms say, "Hey, what's this?" and basically the planet acts a bit offended at having a bunch of useless crap shoved in it. Which is why, after a landfill is closed, it has to be monitored for at least 30 years before anything else can be done on top of it, in case something decides to shift.

And to answer the other question brought up in church that Sunday: Mount Rumpke is expected to be operational until at least 2022.

Tl;dr: Don't put anything in the trash that is biodegradable or recyclable. Better for the planet, better for your community, and if your local rubbish collection charges by the size of the container you use--better for your wallet.

06 June 2017

False Starts

Today would normally be my "What I Read" post, but as I look at my Goodreads list I see that I finished not a single book in May. Good grief. I started a whole bunch, but finished? Nope. That 2017 Goodreads Challenge is not going so well.

Source: Goodreads.
So, here's one of the things I'm reading. I'm on my second try of Catch-22, and while it's hilarious, it's not hard to remember why I put it down the first time. It's a book that requires a lot of concentration and is only pretending to be a light read. I have a few other books out from the library that I'd also like to read, so maybe I'll end up taking this one back if I run out of time before I run out of book. I have no objections to picking it up a third time.

And this is hardly the first book that it's taken me a few false starts to get through. Les Misérables took two tries. Little Women took at least three. (Also, it's one of the free public domain books I loaded onto my mother's tablet a few months back, and on my last trip home she told me she was having trouble getting through it. There are a few parts of that book that are a serious slog for the 21st-century reader.) Lord of the Rings took a couple trips to my house before I finished it, although that was more due to all the things I had going on in my life right then that were crowding out my reading time. And even the entire Chronicles of Narnia series was a seven-year adventure of me not being ready for some of the later books even though I loved the early ones--I started them in the 5th grade and didn't finish until a couple months before high school graduation.

More recently, I took Wicked back to the library after my second attempt to read it through. Will I ever pick it up again? Maybe someday, if I'm in the right frame of mind.

I know there are folks who feel that once a book is started, they must finish it, even ones they aren't enjoying. I have too many books on my to-read list to be that person, but if you are one, please hear this: if you're struggling, if you're not enjoying that book, if there are other things you'd like to read right now--it's okay to put that book down. Stick a little bookmark in it and put it back on your shelf to give your brain a break. Write it down somewhere so you remember to go back to it and then take it back to your library. Loan it to a friend who might enjoy it more than you do. The book isn't going away, and it will always be ready for you when you're ready for it.

Those books I mentioned before? Little Women, Les Mis, LOTR, Narnia? They're all all my favourites list now. I've re-read every single one of them, some of them multiple times, and my relationship with those stories is none the worse for my having taken my time to befriend them in the first place. So if I do return Catch-22 still unread, it will be with no regrets and the knowledge that it will come to me again when I'm ready.

What's something you've had to put to one side to await a different season in your life?

23 May 2017

The Unadulterated Cat

Dawn sent me this book for my birthday, and I gotta tell you, it's the Pratchettiest Pratchett he ever Pratchetted.

I haven't finished it, but that's because I have so many things in the air at the moment I haven't finished anything in a while.


"A Real cat's aim is to get through life peacefully, with as little interference from human beings as possible. Very much like real humans, in fact."

15 May 2017

Consistency Is Its Own Reward (but medals are nice, too)

In case anyone was wondering: training in Cincinnati and then racing in Indianapolis is a great strategy. I should do that again.

I got a couple short runs in this week, which I don't usually do after races more than 15K in length, so I guess my legs are fine. Probably. I'm not as well acquainted with my running muscles as I once was, and since that's something I should probably change, I have my running calendar laid out from now until the end of the year. Nothing major or dramatic, just rebuilding some consistency into my life that's been sorely lacking since I stopped being a member of my local running club.

Aside: y'all, never underestimate the power of other people in your life. As encouragers, as accountability partners, as friends who will mock you if you let things slide--whatever. Fill your life with those folks and don't let them go. And always be willing to be that person in someone else's life. Humans need other humans. Runners--some of us, anyway--need other runners.

I still don't have any more 2017 races on my calendar, although I'm debating the merits of Cincinnati's trail series, if for no other reason that it will be kinda like being in the running club again. Downside: getting anywhere that's more than a couple miles away without a car. Even low-cost races get expensive in a hurry if I have to get a Zipcar every time. So I'm pondering.

Today is a new day. Let's go.

Updated medal display. (Because what else am I going to do with them?)
The far right are Chadwick's finisher medals--the ones I could find, anyway.
Red, white, & blue ribbons to the left of those are our age-group medals.
The rest are my finisher medals. 

14 May 2017

Actions Speak Louder

For years, I've not gone to church on Mother's Day, but this year I'm in a "new church, new people, new city... why not?" mood and will be headed out the door in just a few to see if this delightful group of people can remain delightful on this day, my worst day of the year for being in church. (This is not the fault of anyone I've gone to church with in the last few years. This damage was done long ago and I'm just coping as best I can with the residual mess.) I hope it doesn't end with me sitting in the hallway listening to the Next to Normal cast album.

Yesterday, I listened to The West Wing Weekly podcast about the episode I persist in calling "the Ephesians 5:21 episode" but I believe is more properly titled "War Crimes," in which the Bartlets return from Mass with the president complaining bitterly about the sermon being terrible. (A thing I have done a few times in my life, but not the week the minister went to Google images for sermon illustrations and chose an image without checking the source, and it was a still from the soap opera Days of Our Lives. That was a great Sunday.) He says:
Saint Paul begins the passage: "Be subject to one another out of reverence to Christ." "Be subject to one another." In this day and age of 24-hour cable crap, devoted to feeding the voyeuristic gluttony of the American public, hooked on a bad soap opera that's passing itself off as important, don't you think you might be able to find some relevance in verse 21? How to end the cycle? Be subject to one another!
It's fantastic enough to see a character of deep faith on TV. It's even better when he or she articulates that faith in a way that shows the heart of the character. And such a heart is one I'd like to have, a heart that can stop being a narcissist for possibly minutes at a time to consider just how serious the "one another" passages (there are a bunch of them, by the way, should you be looking for something to read) are, to take them to heart and act on them.

I was a bit stuck for an appropriate image for this post, then
ran across this old tweet. So, yeah, more of this and less of the
other stuff.
Being an infertile woman in church on Mother's Day has sucked, by and large, but if I'm going to give the new folks a chance to not be sucky the least I can do is bring a frame of mind that is as much "be subject to one another" as I can possibly manage behind my overly-thick emotional shield that I must carry on this day. Maybe I can take a couple of layers off after today.

08 May 2017

Sweat, Sun, Sheep, and Speedway: Indy Mini 2017

In case you missed all the fuss on Twitter or Facebook: I met my goal time at the Indy Mini by 12 seconds, AND I got the Meb high-five I was looking for. Hard to argue with that.

The weather report got progressively more depressing as last week went on, only for the skies to defy all expectations, as they are wont to do, and after a morning of the rain stopping then starting then stopping then starting then stopping then starting, it finally cleared off for good just as the winners were coming down the home stretch and I was somewhere past mile 2. (My wave started 30 minutes later than their wave. It didn't take me an hour to go two miles.)

The crowd support in Speedway, Indiana, is the best anywhere. They love this race, and it shows--I think the whole town was out on Saturday morning. Lots of high school cheerleaders were on the Speedway itself, which is much appreciated since it's the most boring stretch of the entire race. (Everybody was talking about that after--you go into this race thinking that running on the Speedway will be so exciting, and it turns out to be the most mind-numbing 2.5 miles known to half marathoning.) I did not kiss the bricks this year, partly because I was already moving faster than I had intended and there was a line, partly because since I was moving right along, I was afraid if I stopped and got that close to the ground I might not get up again, and...

Because I got my Meb-five and that was all I was after. Last year, Meb had quite an entourage running with him and everyone made a big fuss as he passed, so I was kind of expecting a bunch of people, or at least a giant "Here he is!" sign, but what actually happened was he was standing by himself on the track facing oncoming runners, and if anyone looked the wrong way they might have missed him. I mean, I've seen hundreds of pictures of Meb and heard his voice in many interviews, so it's not like I didn't recognize him, but the whole thing was so low-key I wondered a bit if I'd just high-fived some random gent who was looking for his friends. (I've high-fived so many random gents in the course of my running life that it's not like one more makes that much difference.) Anyway, I got my high-five and he said "Good job," and that was enough excitement for this race.

And the sheep. I'm pretty sure these were the same folks who dressed as the entire cast of Mario Karts last year, and I passed them all stopped at the exact same bar I saw them at in 2016, only for them to somehow get past me before the finish. Again. So, Bo-Peep and her sheep ran, walked, or otherwise goofed off for 13.1 miles, and I must have been more zoned than I thought to have missed a herd of sheep going by me in the final two miles. They were definitely having more fun than I was.

After spending the first five miles telling myself to slow down, only to look back down at my watch a minute later and seeing that I'd sped up again, I finally went with whatever my legs wanted to do knowing that I could always walk later if I ran out of steam. Except I got to mile 11 and was like, "No way am I stopping now." Y'all, Runner Su is back, and this time I hope she's back to stay instead of dropping in for a few miles and then disappearing again. I've missed her. I'm pretty sure my celestial running buddy was by my side, too, as he usually is.

The end result was an overall pace of 12:34/mile, which would have made Past Su lay on the floor and cry but is freaking flying for 2017 Su. My final time was 2:44:48, which is 20 minutes faster than 2016. Not only will I take it, my feet have barely touched the floor since I crossed the finish line.

For now, I have no races to train for (although I have a Cincinnati race calendar open right this minute--Cincy has a trail series!--so that won't last long), and there's no telling when I'll run 13.1 again. Maybe not until the Flying Pig a year from now. But (barring something really awful happening) this will certainly not be my last one.

07 May 2017

Finding a Family

I'm away from what is rapidly becoming my beloved church home (right now it's just my really really really like a lot church home, which takes a lot longer to say) this morning, and reflecting on something Keely and I talked about earlier this week: What is church?

She's going through the same fun-fun finding a new church thing that I just finished. (We've been doing things at more or less the same times for at least 15 years now. Not on purpose--it just happens.) Through our conversation, my phone was buzzing with "mouse updates"--someone at church was having some unwanted critter problems last week and regaling a couple of us with the more hilarious details. So, naturally, when Keely asked, I said, "People who will willingly read each others' mouse updates." She said, "That's a really good definition."

I spent half an hour this morning
swearing at my phone and the
Flying Pig Marathon, trying to
get the runner tracking to work.
After all, it's only fair for me to also
track my running friends in return
for all the kind texts and tweets.
And I like that it is. I'm sure there are many folks with so many support networks that all they're looking for from church is the encouragement from the Sunday morning gathering. If that's you, fantastic. On you go.

If it's not, for those who are looking for more than that, then "what is church?" is the question we have to ask ourselves, perhaps several times. I was not specifically looking for people who would send me congratulatory texts after I finish a half marathon, or their mouse updates, or suggestions for the best places to ride a bike, but that's what I found once I found a church family that was kind and welcoming and not weird about me being widowed with no children. (It's remarkably sad how many church folks are weird about that. More the "no children" than the "widowed", but still.) What is church for you?

The church I'm visiting this morning is the church I grew up in, and once upon a time they were my people, but I can feel the years between us when I visit. Some of them still see the kid they once new, which is only natural. Some of them still say, "Oh, Billy and Denise have a sister?" every time they see me, as though I'm one of The Silence. Some of them are every bit the delightful folks they've been my whole life. I'm happy to seem them on every visit, but I readily admit I'll be happier to be back at Echo next Sunday.

Because they're church for me.

05 May 2017

Tired Shoes

On the eve of my ninth half marathon (remember that time I said I wasn't that into the half marathon thing? I changed my mind about that in a hurry), let's talk shoes.

I've been very fond of these shoes, but it's time to meet
their replacement. Today at the Indy Mini expo, I hope.
Shoes are tricky, because they're easily the most expensive and the most complicated part of any runner's gear--they have so many kinds of materials in their construction, after all--yet their useful life as running shoes is pretty short (between 500-1000 miles, although most experts will caution that you start playing with fire if you push it to the higher end of the range). I can generally tell when my shoes need replacing by how my feet and ankles feel--when they start getting weird pains, I change out my shoes, which for me is usually around 700 miles.

But what to do with them? The landfill is a terrible option, but thrift stores won't always take slightly-broken shoes with open arms, either. Planet Aid will send them to developing countries, Nike will upcycle them into tracks and other cool things, and some gardening types (hey, that's me!) will use them as planters for a couple seasons. I've also occasionally unloaded them onto friends who don't mind free, slightly-used shoes, especially when Mizuno goes a bit crazy and makes my preferred shoe model in pink, as they do from time to time. Ugh, no way will I downgrade those to my everyday shoes. It's bad enough having to wear pink while running.

As with pretty much everything, shoe recycling/reusing takes a bit of thought and maybe some time to research good options, but there's almost certainly something that can be done with your old shoes besides tossing them. 

03 May 2017

A Year in a Life

Y'all. Look what the 5th Avenue Theatre posted for my birthday!



I didn't even get out of bed this morning before I watched it. So fantastic. Bea Corley looks to be a brilliant Mary Lennox. Seattle friends, go see this NOW because it's your last chance!

Anyway. This isn't supposed to be a Secret Garden post. So the day I've been not-looking-foward-to for two years has arrived... I've reached the age that Chadwick got to but never got past.  On my 36th birthday, which was the last we would spend together, he and I talked about the weird feeling I had about arriving, healthy and whole and with every expectation of seeing 37, at the age at which my beloved uncle had died. And then it was less than a year before Chadwick was gone, too, despite his expectations (and indeed, eagerness--he was a bit of an odd one, my Chadwick) of seeing 40. I suppose you could say the death rate is still going strong at 100%.

Thanks, Google.
So I don't know how I feel about it today. My coworker whose office I share (even after three months, I still think of it as her office) also just not-celebrated a birthday, and we've talked a bit the the past week about neither of us really feeling the spirit of getting another year older. I feel, as I always do on this day, the weight of the legacy of sharing my birthday with a grandfather I can't remember (he would have been 85), the joy of a baby cousin who I don't see nearly often enough who now shares this birthday, too (I've lost track of how old she is), and a special kinship with a couple other beloved birthday buddies. (Okay, so one of them is Dulé Hill, who technically isn't "beloved" since he's a complete stranger I just admire when I see his work on TV, but the other one is a high school classmate who welcomed me back to Greenfield last summer with literal open arms and is beloved enough for both herself and a random celebrity, with some left over.)

That paragraph kind of got away from me a bit. I'm leaving it.

But there's an extra weight this year, that at some point in the next few months I'm likely going to cross what was Chadwick's finish line and have to keep going. He woke up in the arms of Jesus before he could get to the magical milestone he was so excited about, the one he was planning to greet like an old friend instead of as a drugery, the one he was already celebrating instead of dreading. And if God grants me another year on this planet to live and love and laugh and grow and be--the least I can do, the very least I can do is greet this year and the next great adventure with the same lightness in my heart.

Even if there are tears today. (There already are. It's ridiculous.) Even if I feel this hole in my heart so keenly as I face another day without him by my side. Even if the road looks long and dark and I'd rather just lay on the ground than carry on. He would not want me to waste a perfectly good year on angst--he'd want me to grab this life with both hands and stretch it in every way I can to make sure I didn't miss any of it. That is the legacy he's left with me. That is a thing that I can do.

Post title was not an intentional reference to "Seasons of Love," but since that works out so nicely, here you go. Maybe I'll make that my theme song for 39. That one or "No Day But Today," which also works well for birthdays. Here on in, I shoot without a script.

02 May 2017

What I Read: April

I read three books again in April, which means my Goodreads Challenge is getting a bit ahead of me at the moment. Maybe now that I can stop dashing out my door a couple times a week to go take photos of places I've never seen before, I'll have a bit more time for reading. I hope.

So, here's what I got through in April. Books are in alphabetical order by title (ignoring articles, naturally; I'm not a barbarian). If you want to see them in a different order, let's be friends on Goodreads and you can peruse my shelves to your heart's delight. As always, book images and links are from Goodreads, and that's where you can read my reviews, too.



First-time reads:
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've LearnedAlan Alda
The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurain
Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, Ronald J. Sider


Re-reads:



Books by women:



Goodreads challenge: 13 of 52 books in 2017


What are you reading?

01 May 2017

Zoom!

That's the sound I'm going to make when I'm running on the Speedway on Saturday. Of course, I'll have to say it aloud, because my running is less "zoom" and more "plod," but whatever. Going slower just means I have more time to line up to high-five Meb, amirite?

I'm just gonna go get another set of these Saturday.
Seriously. If I manage to get a Meb-five, I don't even care if I break my leg on the next turn and have to be carried back via the nearest hospital. That's really all I'm going for.

So! Less than a week to go until my second running of the Indy Mini. As I did for El Paso, I'm guessing my final 12-mile training run time is likely to be close to my race day finishing time. I was a bit slower than that in El Paso, but here's the thing about Indianapolis--it's flatter than the flattest of pancakes. Unlike everywhere I look in Cincinnati, the closest thing the Indy Mini has to a hill is the ramp up to the Speedway. Where Meb will be. I think I got this.

This will be my 61st race and my 9th half marathon. There's nothing particularly significant about those numbers (except, hey! That's where all my money goes), but since I went to the trouble to look them up, I decided to share. You know what's going to be sad about this race? No one following me on a bike. So... anybody wanna come be my portable cheering section? It's flat!

Let's do this, Indy.

30 April 2017

Z is for Zoo #AtoZChallenge

Last one! I hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse of Cincinnati with me. My favourite thing about this series has been all the locals who've read a post or two and then told me their personal histories with the things I wrote about. And the folks who, having read about one thing, asked if I'd been to another. And the ones who've filled in the gaps left after I read the info available on Wikipedia. Maybe the kindest thing I heard was from a coworker who said, "It's been fun rediscovering Cincinnati through your eyes." And that is, indeed, the most I could possibly have hoped for.

So! The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. You've probably heard of it. (And if you're not following the updates on Fiona the baby hippo, you're wrong.) As with many other posts in this series, I didn't go inside, but instead took a few pics of the entrance. And attracted the attention of a couple Zoo employees, who probably wondered what the heck I was doing. C'est la vie here in Su-Land.

The Zoo opened in 1875 and is the second-oldest zoo in the U.S. One of the original buildings still stands (it's the Reptile Building now), and is the oldest zoo building in the U.S. Admission on opening day was 25¢ for adults and 15¢ for children. I believe it's gone up a bit since then.
This historic entrance has an elevator inside, so colour me skeptical.
Also, at what point do you change your sign to read "Historic Entrance"
instead of just "entrance"? There have to be data on that.
The Zoo's first guidebook was printed in 1876 in German, because that's what a sizeable portion of the population at the time spoke, with the English guide coming in 1893. Clearly, the English-speaking folks weren't in too much of a hurry to print a guidebook.

Bike parking: approved.
Red Bike kiosk: thumbs up. Although riding one of these heavy bikes
back up the hill from here towards the University area cannot be pleasant.
Unless the rider has legs of steel, I suppose.  There are a couple more stations
further north than this one, but once you're at the Zoo you're closing in on
 the northern edge of the Red Bikes system.
Bike rack shaped like a snake: thumbs way up. I love it.
Not pictured: the Zoo is served by two local bus routes.
Public transit: also approved.
I'm not normally one to get excited by car parking, because why would I?, but this is pretty cool. The Zoo parking lot has solar panels on the covered parking roofs that provide 20% of the Zoo's energy annually. There was another sign describing it as a "demonstration project," but at that point the zoo dude was staring at me pretty intensely so I decided to skip that one and move on.
Sign describing the project + panels as seen from the pedestrian overpass.
I will probably save any actual visiting the Zoo for such a time as my sister comes to visit, because of the two of us, she's more of the Zoo one. (I'm the libraries and museums one.)
Plants at the entrance. As you can plainly see, this is the tulips' way of
telling me I should have come by a bit sooner.
And that, my friends, is the 2017 A to Z Challenge. Tomorrow I'll resume my usual nonsense. See you then.

29 April 2017

Y is for Yeatman #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

Yeatman's Cove is, according to the sign I read while down there, the place the first settlers landed from the Ohio in what would become Cincinnati. However, good luck finding confirmation of that anywhere on the internet.
Yeatman's Cove these days is one of a string of linear parks that stretch for two miles along the river, and if I weren't still in mourning for my beloved Town Lake Trail I would probably appreciate those two miles a lot more. As it is, well, it's still a nice spot even if I am unfairly comparing it to something 1000 miles away.

At Yeatman's Cove, we have the Serpentine Wall:

So named because it looks like this: ~~~~~~~~ Except it doesn't have quite that many wiggles, but you get the idea. The wall, in addition to looking like a set of bleachers and therefore being a great place for sitting, is also for flood prevention--Cincinnati's past contains some historic floods that resulted in loss of life and property, and obviously that's not a thing we want repeated. So the wall is one of several levees that keep the city high and dry in case the river gets a bit antsy and overflows its banks.
There was some nasty-looking debris that had washed up here that I didn't
want Sharlie rolling through, so here's where I stopped. Incidentally,
here's where the water stopped, too. So it's working great.
That's the Taylor Southgate Bridge, which lies between the Purple People Bridge
and the Roebling Suspension Bridge. It has a bike/ped path, so I still like
it even though it's not my favourite.
Flood stage for the river is 52 feet, measured from the Roebling Bridge, and I don't really know how they do that (which is probably why I'm not in charge of it).

Yeatman's Cove got its name, not from the first settlers, but rather from Cincinnati's first tavern, which Yeatman built here near the river, presumably for easy access for the men who wanted to get drunk after working on the river all day.
It's a city park now, so getting drunk here is highly discouraged. There
are two sports stadiums just a mile up the road that can help with that.

28 April 2017

X is for Xavier #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

I was about to skip over X and go to Y. That's twice this challenge I've done that. Clearly, the alphabet and I are having a critical difference of opinion.

Xavier University is one of many institutes of higher learning in Cincinnati--I tried to nail down an exact number, but apparently no one has bothered to count them. (Okay, actually, everyone has bothered to count them, but can't agree on the number.) Basically, if you want to learn things, you're in good shape here.

I read this guy's label, then promptly forgot who he was,
although reason would suggest he's Frances Xavier.
Anyway, he's at the entrance to vaguely gesture at people
as they arrive.
Xavier is a Catholic university, among the oldest in the country, and while I'm wildly out of the loop re: Midwest universities and how they've been getting on in my 20-year absence from the region, Xavier seems to be not too shabby in either academics or athletics. A handful of my coworkers went there, if all one hears is true, so I can at least vouch for some of Xavier's graduates being awesome.
I don't know what this is, but I kind of expect the Doctor
to turn up and point a sonic screwdriver at it.
Their mascot is D'Artagnan, certainly Chadwick's favourite of the Musketeers, which softens my heart toward Xavier already, even if they didn't have excellent bike parking.
But they do! Very well done, Xavier. So, re: the lack of human
activity... this was one of the stops on Susan's (not me; the other one)
Easter Sunday Tour of Cincinnati
, but being as it was Easter
the Catholic school was on holiday. It was kind of creepy
wandering around not seeing any students.
Not sure about the presence of any bike lanes nearby, because I didn't look, but if the rest of the city is any indication it's lucky for Xavier students who travel actively that there are nice wide sidewalks surrounding them.
Like the one next to this sign, for instance.
Bellarmine Chapel on campus has a hyperbolic paraboloid roof (note to self: look up those words), so that even even if the walls were to come a-tumbling down, the roof would stay up, which I would call witchcraft except this is a Catholic university, so I'm thinking the roof has its own patron saint. I admit that would be useful to have.
The thing on the front is cool, too. I wonder if it's ever open to the public?

27 April 2017

W is for Woodward #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

Mr. Woodward was half the architectural team of Garber & Woodward that designed a whole bunch of stuff around Cincinnati, including many other things that begin with W.

Like this:
This is a high school. (Walnut Hills)
And this:
Also a high school. Not the Von Trapp's estate,
but I see where you might make that mistake. (Withrow)
Same high school (!!!), from slightly
farther away.
And this:
This is a PRIMARY school. Holy smokes. (Rothenberg)
So clearly, when I need a setting for any future school stories I need look no further than a Garber & Woodward building.

A few more (not nearly all) of their buildings around town:
Every single one of these buildings is on, or within sight of, Fourth Street.
Clearly, our friends G & W had a good thing going downtown.
Clockwise from top left: Taft Museum (they handled the remodel);
Christ Church Cathedral; Anna Louise Inn; Guilford Building
(also a former school, and it stands on the site of Fort Washington);
Dixie Terminal; The Phelps (these days it's a Marriott);
Cincinnati Gas and Electric Building.
So by my count, for our Day of W we have Woodward, Walnut, Withrow, Washington, and Wow! (That last one is just what I said when I saw those high schools. How could your university possibly compare if that's the high school you went to?) Not bad.

26 April 2017

V is for Vontz #AtoZChallenge

Join me on the A to Z Challenge: I'll share a different thing from my new home, Cincinnati, every day for 26 days in April.

On Easter Sunday my friend Susan willingly participated in a day of "hey, I need to gather some pics for my blog," and we drove past this building that I'd never properly looked at before. All I read of the sign was "molecular studies," so I asked, "Is that building supposed to be shaped like a molecule?"
From what I've read: no. It's just some cool Gehry architecture. 
So, because reading the entire sign is for other people, I said something about how it was too bad I hadn't seen it before my M day, and Susan said, "You can still use it. That's the Vontz building."
Hey, what do you know! It's right there in great big letters.
By the way, Susan and I have this recurring habit of introducing ourselves to visitors at church at the same time, after which I have an unfortunate tendency to say that we don't usually travel as a two-pack of Susans, because I have yet to learn the art of saying hello and then shutting up. Also this:

Anyway, I don't actually know anything about architecture--my appreciation for buildings mostly extends to, "hey, that one is pretty!"--so for further anaylsis you'll need someone else. The Vontz Building is part of the University of Cincinnati, and is across from the UC hospital, so lots of cool and smart things are happening here. The building is already in need of some repair/renovation, despite being less than 20 years old. Bummer.
But seriously, how great is a building that looks like it was built
by one of the Animaniacs?
Outside the building, there's this:
I saw it and thought, "Wait, that Sabin? The polio vaccine guy?"
So, good job, history teachers! I hadn't realised until now that
Cincinnati was Dr. Sabin's home.
And this:
Great plaza space that was being used by approximately zero students,
But since this area is where science students learn things, I presume they're all
studying hard for finals. Or maybe they just don't like going outdoors that much.
I want one of these:
It's a giant leaf. I can't believe no one was sitting on it.
In the department of less-spectacular things found nearby, there's this ridiculous sign right at the intersection where the Vontz building (and the hospital!) is. I certainly don't want to ascribe ill will to the hardworking city planners and traffic engineers of Cincinnati, but who looks at an intersection that will be serving thousands of students and transit-dependent folks and thinks, "Let's not bother with a crosswalk on this side"? I mean, seriously.

Welcome, pedestrians! Please enjoy your walk all the way around
the intersection instead of going in a straight line. We certainly
hope you're able-bodied and not at all in need of the hospital's services.
People cross midblock near this intersection all day long, and who can blame them? I did the same thing coming back because I couldn't be bothered waiting for three light cycles instead of just one. Get it together, Cincinnati.
It's all the more egregious when you consider these things are within
a few feet of the "no pedestrians" sign. Talk about your mixed messages.

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