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.

31 January 2018

Better

Last summer at the Ohio State Fair, a young man was killed when the ride he was on broke apart and sent riders hurtling to the ground, resulting in the kind of blunt force trauma that the ER docs likened to car crashes. Several others were injured. The midway was immediately closed, all the rides were re-inspected, and the ride in question--the Fire Ball--was immediately shut down at fairs across the country, just in case.

I was unlucky enough to walk past a TV right when the news was showing social media video of the incident, and it nearly knocked me to the floor. It's horrifying. (Please be warned before you Google that you will not like what you find.)

All of this--closing everything down, re-inspecting, and so on--was absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, the correct course of action.

But why, then, don't we demand the same level of action when there is a car crash? Machines fail--we know this. Human error happens--we know that, too. But when machines fail and human error happens over and over again in exactly the same way, one begins to wonder if there isn't more that could be done. (There is, by the way. Traffic engineers have all sorts of tools they can use to make streets safer, and some of them are unpopular with the folks who are still alive, and that's why people keep getting killed.)

There was, and may still be, an intersection in Lubbock that was marked with a sign warning drivers (and bicyclists, and pedestrians) that it was a high-fatality intersection and to use caution. That was the city's response to the most deadly intersection in town. Not, "let's take a look at the design of this intersection." Not, "maybe there's an issue with the traffic signals that we can adjust." Not, "let's get officers and engineers out to find out why people are dying here on a weekly basis." No. The response was to put up a sign and leave everything else unchanged. Anyone want to guess how much good the sign does?

I'd love for there to never be a need for another one of
these. Wouldn't you? Source: Albuquerque Journal.
The young man at the state fair should not have died while out having a fun night with his friends. Nor should anyone die on their commute to work, or while taking their kids to school, or while picking up groceries, or on their way to a night out. Somehow we've decided that 35K traffic deaths per year in this country is the price of doing business. Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of child death (age 14 & younger) in the U.S. Our kids deserve better, our future deserves better, we deserve better.

If you've lost someone in an avoidable tragedy like this, my heart breaks for you. Please, please, please, let's demand better.

30 January 2018

Best Books of 2017

Better late than never: the top books that I read last year. As should be evident if you've read any of my book posts, my loving a book is no guarantee that you will. (Although these are pretty good ones.) Please note that these aren't necessarily books published in 2017, but rather books I read in 2017. I'm not that fancy.

I only read 23 books in 2017, so it was not a huge or even normal year for my reading, but what I lacked in quantity was made up for by some pretty great, thought-provoking stuff, some of which everyone needs to be reading right now.


So, here we go. All images are from Goodreads:

3. What the Living Do: Poems, Marie Howe
I forgot until I re-read Dash and Lily for Christmas that it was them who pointed me in the direction of Marie Howe. And I'm so glad they did. Magnificent, beautiful poems about the nature of life and death. IIRC (I read it early in the year), it's not entirely PG, so be warned if you decide to read.

2. Demagoguery and Democracy, Patricia Roberts-Miller
I saw this author at the Texas Book Festival! Because, full disclosure, I sat in her class for a semester back in 2010 (and got an A, by the way) and we're friends on Facebook, and I get to enjoy the benefits of all the things she writes down on a daily basis.

Anyway, this book. Obviously, it's timely, but its importance lies in the tools it gives the reader for spotting and pushing back against demagoguery. I read it on the plane home from Austin and the next day handed it to a coworker to read. Which I would do for you, too, if you were within book-handing-to distance. Read it.

1. Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation, Jonathan Rieder
Speaking of timely. If you've never read Dr. King's Letter, there's no time like the present. This book is a great way to do that, especially for those of us who didn't live through it, because it provides historical context. Also, lots of great photos. It took me twice as long as it should have to read it just because I couldn't stop staring at the photos.

It's fashionable for some at the moment to claim that protest itself can be as bad as the injustice that is being protested. Have a read of this book to see that indeed, nothing is new under the sun. Dr. King has a strong message for those folks, alongside his encouragement for those who stand up against injustice for what they believe to be right.


Shorter list than usual, but it was a short reading year. Want to see more of what I read? Let's be friends on Goodreads and you can check out my 2017 shelf.

29 January 2018

All the Steps

How do you start something when you don't really wanna?

This has been a thing for me for my entire running life. I'd almost always rather have run than not, and once I start running, I'm usually happy in the moment and willing to continue. I'm just challenged by getting started. The first step is the worst one.

So even at the best of times, I don't feel like starting, and a few hours after watching Roger Federer's Australian Open win at an unholy time of day is not my best of times. The only way I talked myself outside was by deciding to change up my route to include the city steps to add a bit of interest and pain, I guess.

This picture is not from my run. It's from my walk to church
yesterday morning. But it's outside, so here you go.
By the way, those aren't storm clouds. The fog was very
thick yesterday morning. I was trying to capture it,
without a lot of success.
It went like this: my legs complained about being stiff from running the day before, and I told them to give it a few blocks. Then other parts of me wanted to just give it up and head home, and I reminded myself that I was going this way to enjoy the city steps and to turn around before I reached them would defeat the purpose. Then it was, "I'll get all to the 1-mile mark and see how I feel." After that, I reminded myself that I was headed toward the downtown bus plaza, so I could always run along the riverfront and bus home instead of turning around and going back up the steps. I talked myself through three miles' worth of running until all that was left to do was decide whether I was really going to tackle the steps in my worn-out state. 

I did, because I was so close to home at that point it would have been silly to get on a bus instead of pushing through the final mile. Lo and behold, I pep-talked myself through four miles one tiny bit at a time, and my reward was the post-run feeling of accomplishment that I wish I could bottle for days when the first step feels like jumping over a building.

Some days, one tiny bit at a time is the best any of us can expect from ourselves. Whatever great things lie down the road, we'll never get there if we can't get through what's right in front of us. By telling ourselves that we just need to do this next thing and not thinking about the hundred things that follow. By giving ourselves permission to take a break when necessary. By knowing that we'll get there when we get there.

One step, then another, until it's done.

28 January 2018

And We'll All Go Together

Earlier this week, one of my posts from a year ago when I was looking for the right church turned up on my Facebook memories. I believe that was also the week I visited Echo Church for the third time and finally decided I was there to stay.

While my usual bike, Sharlie, has been to
Echo many times, last week was (IIRC)
Hugo's first time there. His mountain bike
tires are much more suited to the mud &
slush that were on Cincinnati streets
last weekend.
They're stuck with me now. They don't seem to mind, either because they're great actors or because I'm more fun to be around than I thought. I'm equally at peace either way. I wish I could say I learned something from the journey of visiting many places before I found my people, or that I now have the tools to find the right church in the future, should I ever be so mad as to change cities again. (This is city #5. While I have a short list of other places I'm willing to live, it gets shorter all the time and I'd rather not have to deploy it unless absolutely necessary.) (Unless there's a nonprofit in NYC that has a job to offer me right now and will pay me enough money that I can live a couple blocks from a subway line. I'd take that in a heartbeat.)

No, all I've learned is that God has many people in this city. And some of them are pretty great people who've opened their hearts and lives to what God wants to do through them. In our women's Bible study we've been reading through Mere Christianity, and this week got to some great things C.S. Lewis says about Christian community: "...united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body." 

That reminded me of a bit in Screwtape Letters (which I haven't read in years, so this is entirely from a memory that is only marginally reliable), when Screwtape tells Wormwood that for his client to be attending the same parish church week after week, seeing the foibles of his fellow parishioners up close until they grate on his nerves, is an effective way of keeping the client in hell's clutches. From what I've heard, the client in question in Screwtape is Lewis himself, so to put those passages together makes me think that Lewis hung in there through the aggravation he may have felt at his fellow community members and their more trying traits, to come out the other side treasuring them deeply as fellow believers. 

I don't know if I've ever gone through that process as thoroughly as I could. Goodness knows I'm fairly easily irritated, and never more so than in this era of everyone proudly displaying their quirks, delightful or otherwise, all over social media in a display of I don't even know what. (Guilty!) But to embrace a community is to embrace the whole of it, even at times when I may be completely flabbergasted by the person standing in front of me. As a person whose whole life is a bit outside of the ordinary, it's not like I don't bring my own foibles to the equation.

So after a year in this community, I'm happy, and indeed delighted, to have found them. And I know I still have some growing to do. So here's hoping for many years of all growing together.

Post title is a nod to the song, "Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go," which I wasn't planning to do until I wrote that last sentence. And after that I naturally couldn't think of anything else.