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.

03 February 2019

Past vs Present

Austin has a new library. It's fantastic.
I'm in Austin this week, visiting my sister and seeing some of the beloved people and places that have helped make me who I am. It's an ongoing joke/truism in Austin that things around here change in a hurry, and not always for a better in the eyes of the locals. And while you don't have to leave for a couple years to see it--just waiting around one's own neighborhood for a few months will do--coming back to visit every six months is a fast way to muddle all the mental maps I used to have.

New pedestrian plaza on UT campus
Capital Metro, for instance. A bus system I once knew as well as the inside of my own apartment. I knew that major changes were coming--there were signs up at every bus stop when I was last here in May, plus I keep up with the Twitter chatter around transportation in Austin. But last night Denise and I were driving home from "my" HEB (which has also been rearranged, by the way) and talking about buses that are rerouted and stops that we used to use that are now gone altogether. I had no sooner said aloud, "I need to look at the CapMetro map and see what's changed," than I saw a sign for the upcoming Austin Marathon, indicating that the route is going through East Austin, a place it never went in the years I was running, volunteering, or spectating. So I added, "And I guess I need to look at the marathon map, too."
 
Places adapt and change. Kids grow up. People move away. Businesses close up shop and others open, buildings are torn down and new ones spring up. This is true everywhere, not just Austin--I've seen it happen plenty in the short time I've been in Cincinnati. And while I have my own reasons for clinging desperately to a time that is gone, the truth is that I know full well those days are never coming back again. My first Austin bus route is gone forever, the local supermarket can't serve customers who don't exist, and I'll never go back to one of my former apartments, open the door, and find Chadwick on the other side waiting for me to come home. The world is moving on and I've already gone with it, whether I like it or not.

Ai Weiwei's "Forever Bicycles" is here on a long-term
loan
. For that matter, it may be gone; I haven't been
round to look yet. It's new since I lived here and will also
be moving away again.
On the other hand, the Austin Half Marathon course has reverted to the one I ran for the first time and loved back in 2009, and while I'm not going to be here in two weeks' time to experience race day in
person, there's nothing to stop me from running some of those miles this week. Not for the sake of reliving the past, but rather to get all the joy I can out of the present.

And I hope that's what you're doing this week, too.

30 January 2019

How to Get to Carnegie Hall (kinda)

Friends, let's talk writing. Specifically, your writing.

If you have a pen this fancy, on you go! If not, any
writing utensil will do. Doesn't matter.
Pick it up and start writing.
Source: AndrĂ© Bergonzzi on freeimages.com.
I see you trying. I see you struggling with the thoughts and feelings that are inside you that, if you could only find the right words, might reassure or inspire or help or in any way make a mark on someone who needed to hear from you today. I see you, and you aren't alone.

Maybe you want to reflect on a milestone in your life. Maybe you have lots of great things to say, but the tools you'd like to use to say them are rusty, dusty, or blunt from neglect. Maybe 2019 is the year you finally want to put into words how flowers newly blooming, or summertime, or the start of a new school year, or Christmas or New Year make you feel--you want to share this piece of your heart, but every time you try, you hope for a ting! and instead get a thunk.

The good news is: you can do this. The less good news is: you're going to have to work at it.

Don't go! This shouldn't be a surprise to you. After all, it's widely accepted that anything worth getting is going to cost you some sweat equity, and that anything that comes without a cost is likely to be valued less. And if you don't have time or energy for this right now, that's okay! Maybe this isn't your season for improving this skill. Let it go for now, concentrate on what you need to be concentrating on, and you'll come back to this one in due course.

This movie is filled with great quotes
about writing. And if you don't watch the
last 30 minutes, it even has a happy ending!
Source: Pinterest.
Still with me? Great. Now, I'm not going to give you a list of Top Ten Things Real Writers Do. Why not? Because it is the 21st century and we have search engines, my friends. If that's what you're after, better people than me can help you out. No, we're going to talk about the thing that will help you get more comfortable with expressing yourself in writing: practice, practice, practice.

Yep, if by the end of May you want to be able to share with confidence and fluency what your child's eighth grade graduation means to you, now's the time to be working on your voice. Start right now--get a pen, or open up a word doc, or create an account on Blogger, if that's how you roll. Start writing. Use 100 words to tell yourself your favorite thing about winter. You don't have to post it on Facebook, or make your spouse read it, or even show anyone at all. Just do it. Tomorrow, write another 100 words, this time about the blanket on your bed. Your preferred mug. The feeling of getting up a few minutes early, when everyone else is still asleep. 100 words not enough? Try for 250. And when you've no idea at all what you can write about today, here's a list of nonfiction writing prompts to get you started.

I personally don't plan to woo any
women, but the sentiment holds
regardless: if you want your message
to be received, laziness will not get
you there. (And for anyone looking to
woo me: listen to Mr. Keating.)
Source: Pinterest.
Don't try to be "good." Don't try to be "smart." At the beginning, don't try to make a beautiful point or even any point at all. Just practice getting words out. After a while, when you're ready, it's time to take an extra moment to consider what word you really mean in the middle of your sentence about your grandmother's antique clock. Was it old, or was it ancient? Was the ticking loud, or stentorian? Did it smell strong, or of mothballs and furniture polish? But don't be fancy just to be fancy. Use the right words to say what you mean.

Don't be afraid and don't get discouraged. Take heart from this tidbit I used to tell folks when I worked at UT's writing center: no one is born a good writer, just like no one is born walking and talking. They are skills, and they can all be learned. Even this one.

A few minutes every day, bit by bit, and you start to know what feels right when you write it down. What sounds like you. How to get as close as possible to transmitting the picture in your brain into your readers' brains as well. And maybe that's when you set up shop and get your own blog going, or a daily thought on Facebook, and start letting other people in to what you're thinking of. Or maybe you realize you like having all these words all to yourself.

And then, come the next significant date you wish to commemorate with a lovely Facebook post designed to touch hearts and minds, you'll be ready.

Post title is a reference to the well-known joke. If you've never heard it, that is a real bummer.

27 January 2019

Well.

Enough folks have asked what's happened with my blog that I'm acknowledging it's probably time for a check-in. And I have a few minutes before Rent: Live begins.

So! What's happened? Well, everything. It feels inappropriate to be light-hearted when the world is on fire, as I've mentioned before. I'm not a political blogger and don't want to be, at least in part because there are not a lot of major policy issues about which I have a level of expertise for rambling on for 500 words or fewer. (Transportation. That's it. That's my area.) I realize this is a small bother that doesn't really stop many folks, but it stops me. I won't be that person.

That person, however, exists. That person is a lot of people I care about. I've sought offline conversations rather than this format for nearly a year now, because engaging with that person is both depressing and wearying. Please, let's all be less of that person. Being informed is good. Educating one's self is good. Getting locked into an echo chamber or sharing dumb, baseless memes on Facebook is terrible.

You know what they say about lighting a candle instead of
 cursing the darkness. Source: Sorina Bindea
on freeimages.com
.
But so is withdrawing altogether, and I like to do what I can. What I can do is pick up again on a regular dose of the B things I know (why do they all start with B? No idea): books, bikes, buses, and Broadway. If that's what you like, here I am. If not, well, I can't imagine why you're here, but hello there! *waves* You are most welcome.

So should you come by in a few days, or weeks, or months, and think, "My goodness, she has a lot to say about utter drivel when there's serious work to be done,": yes. Yes, I do. Please know that I'm not unaware of the world around me and I'm doing my part in as many offline ways I can find. In the meantime, here is a space to be lighthearted. And wow, do I have a bunch of theatre to tell you about.

Not right now. Rent: Live is about to begin.