What are we talking about today?

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

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

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

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.