Another “What I’m Thankful For” Thanksgiving Post

I know it’s cliché, but I can’t help it… But I think this time of the year, we should all take a moment to count our blessings and list them. I probably should do this on a weekly basis to remind myself, especially as the winter sets in and with it comes my usual round of sun-deprived depression, but I always feel a little corny giving myself all this positive reinforcement like a page from Chicken Soup for the Soul. Yet here I go… Just like everyone else…

I am thankful for my parents. They provided a secure, comfortable upbringing in which I never had to worry about anything nor want for those things in life I needed to survive; I never went hungry nor went to school with clothes too old to fit properly. My parents each have coached my various soccer teams throughout the years. I always felt loved. And they raised two very self-reliant and financially responsible children. That’s an accomplishment they should pride themselves in.

In the same vein, I’m thankful that as an adult I can appreciate my parents as friends. I enjoy going to ball games, drinking beer, and hanging out with my dad. I enjoy seeing theatre and having philosophical discussions with my mom (because we agree on most things). I’ve had a rocky relationship with my parents in the past (mostly growing pains) and it feels really good to be able to accept them into my life in this new way. I appreciate this every day when people talk about the dysfunctional relationships they have with their own parents… and it makes me sad whenever I hear people say that they do not like spending time with their parents. My parents stood by me during the worst moments of my life, even when I stupidly rejected their help. They’ve taught me that blood is thicker than water.

I’m thankful for my grandparents on both sides. With the Emhoffs, I shared lots of memories of camping; with the Herrmanns, sleep overs, post-church trips to Friendly’s, and conversation. The holidays aren’t the same without any of them. Especially Christmas. I’m very fortunate to have had them in my life all the way into my young adulthood. I miss them immensely.

I’m thankful for my husband. Though our life together was short–much too short–it was magic. And magic happens so rarely in life. Because of him, I will never settle for anything less in a relationship. Because of him, I’m a much more self-reliant person than I ever could have been. I love him for everything he was and everything we were together. Unselfishly, unrelentingly. Forever.

I am thankful for every day that I wake up alive, breathing, ready to face the new day head-on. No matter how bad things get, it’s always better to be here on Earth (or Mars) than dead. Always.

I am thankful for friends old, new, and someday left to meet. I’m never lonely or without someone to talk to when I just want to relax. My bike club and my church have allowed me to encounter so many great people. I’ve learned so much from all of them.

I am thankful for my health. That I can ride my bike every day, and ski in the winter, both of which I may appreciate more than others having had a grandfather who had MS. I never take my mobility or my athletic endeavors for granted.

I am thankful for my job. Some people have none right now in this horrible economy. I’ve been lucky enough to have been promoted to a position within my company that I enjoy much more than my previous one, motivating me in new ways to keep plugging away in the corporate world. The money from this job gives me the ability to do those things I love to do–travel, ride my bike all over kingdom come, relish red wines, and attend multiple U2 shows this year.

And on the topic of U2 (you knew this was coming), I’m really grateful that Bono’s back surgery went well. I recently learned that the extent of his injury was so serious that he nearly lost the use of his legs. I’m grateful to the surgeon and physical therapist that brought him back to his usual, exuberantly energetic self. I feel bad, but yes, my thankfulness is in part due to my selfish desire to see him in concert (twice) this year. But, also, I think the world would have suffered a great loss if Bono ceased to be mobile. Though immobility may have left him more time to pursue all of his humanitarian and activist causes, I am thankful he didn’t have to make that choice or suffer the psychological implications of losing the ability to walk. Either way, Bono needs to keep going… I don’t think U2 is done with the world quite yet.

I’m thankful for all the dreamers in the world who keep dreaming. It’s your backs on which the fate of human civilization rests. Not to put any pressure on you or anything. But it’s true.

I’m thankful for the 60-70 sunny days per year we get in NEO Ohio. I know it’s not much, but I guess the ~300 days where we lack sun (or are under partly cloudy skies) make us love and appreciate and worship the sun all the more. (Is it kind of like the theory that we wouldn’t know joy if we did not also know sorrow??)

I’m thankful that my cats Nicki and Cleo are still alive to make me smile. Even though Cleo has diabetes and has made my life more difficult as I can’t come and go as I please anymore, I’d rather have her around awhile longer giving me that long-former-smoker’s screech of a “meow” when I’m not giving her enough attention. I’m glad Nicki still waves at me every day. They are my cat-kids, such that they are.

I’m thankful I’ve not had to deal with bed bugs since 2005, despite my frequent travels domestic and abroad. I have been paranoid that they returned a few times, but it has all been false alarms induced by the post-traumatic stress that bed bugs cause a person. Thank GOD. Now somebody please wipe out that entire race of insects, would you? So that maybe someday I can be thankful their scourge has been destroyed forever…

I’m thankful for music. Not only U2, but that joyful noise created by other bands and songs sung by choirs. And anything that makes a joyful noise. Without music, the world would be a quiet, less vivid place.

I’m thankful for good books, great sci-fi movies, and creative people.

I’m thankful for pumpkins and all things flavored pumpkin–lattes, pies, shakes, bread, beer.

I’m thankful for the color purple. My mom always said that if I kept buying things in purple, I’d get sick of the color. Over 30 years later, I’m listening to music blaring from my purple iPod while typing a blog entry on my “royal blue” (read: purple) netbook. I make calls from my “dusty lavender” Blackberry. I won’t even go into how much purple clothing I own….

And, lastly, I’m thankful for the occasional light of inspiration that flits into my brain. May I occasionally figure out what to do with the ideas that come from it.

Coming Full Circle

It was exactly three years ago today that I stood before the congregation at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent and declared openly my willingness to become a member of the church and to accept the seven principles of the UU faith as my own. Today was our annual pre-Thanksgiving communion service–which is the same service at which I was welcomed into the UUC Kent community three years ago–and I had a bit of a spiritual experience. In the middle of one of the hymns early into the service, I realized I was actively singing while also swaying rhythmically to the melody. I didn’t care who heard my (really bad) voice; I felt comfortable expressing my enthusiasm for the song by moving with it. This is huge. Monumental, in fact, because it shows that I’ve lost some of my self-consciousness enough to really get into the moment of the service. I’m no longer worried that everyone is looking at me or passing judgment about my singing. Because I’ve let go of those little fearful voices in my head, I’m an open vessel to the community and the spirit.

As I realized what I was doing–which, of course, momentarily took me out of the moment–I wondered what had allowed me to let go like this. Was it my sudden enthusiasm for music lately? The service I wrote about U2 has rekindled within me the need to hear music–not just U2 music but all music. I’ve been filling my iPod with new music from artists I’ve been exploring or, in the case of R.E.M., rediscovering. My head is buzzing with lyrics and melodies and I find myself humming tunes whenever I’m stuck in silence. My body vibrates to the sounds of the many songs in my head. (Gratuitous U2 song quote: “You got my head / Filled with songs” – “Do You Feel Loved”)

Or was my new freedom from self-consciousness caused by having delivered that same sermon I wrote before the entire congregation? Do I feel closer to everyone in the sharing of myself? From the many people who came to me after the service to share their own stories? Perhaps it was just the mere fact that I stood in front of the congregation and delivered a sermon at all–regardless of what I discussed–which has to be the scariest and bravest thing I’ve done in a long while. After that, my pew neighbors overhearing me sing (off-key) is nothing.

I also wonder if because of the nature of what was shared in the sermon, I’ve completed some sort of vital exchange between my fellow congregants that is required to build a relationship. Many of them have also led services in which they shared their own very personal stories. For me, this sharing was always one-sided because I didn’t openly contribute. Now that I’ve delivered my own sermon, the circle is complete. Do we, in return, feel a little mutually closer to each other? Is this the “right relationship” my church speaks of in their covenant?

It’s funny because recently I realized that I’m a little less of the discrete, shy girl who sneaks in and out of the church on Sunday. There is another woman in the church who shares the same first name as I do and people are constantly getting us mixed up. Previously, she was the only Heidi so people got used to referring to her as simply Heidi without last name. So when my service was just an idea on a paper for approval, several people even mistook her for me. Both the worship associate and the musician who sang “Where the Streets Have No Name” at my service remarked that when they originally were asked to help with my service, they thought it was the other Heidi. So, knowing this, at the meeting, when we were asked to introduce ourselves, I remarked, playfully, “I’m Heidi E. Not to be confused with Heidi S.” One of the women in my group smiled at me and said, “Oh, Heidi, we all know who you are now. You’ve done a service.”

It’s kind of validating to know I won’t be confused with someone else anymore. I admit that. I really wasn’t annoyed that I was mistaken for someone else. It just doesn’t really happen all that often to you when you’re named Heidi (it’s never been  a hugely popular name). So I just wasn’t used to it. But it’s nice to know that now, for some people in the church, I’m not just that faceless person in the middle rows (I always strive to blend in by sitting in the middle). There’s acceptance within the community when people actually put your name to the face.

I’m getting to know more people in the church too. I’m feeling more and more comfortable. Leading the service certainly helped me feel more comfortable as well as introduce me to people I only knew in passing. I’m starting to know some of the hymns and can sing them without the hymnal. Because I’m spending less time focusing on my fears, I’m allowing the spirit of the service to fill me up. I love when I get into the moment and live it. When goosebumps rise on my flesh in agreement to the wonderful words being shared. When I totally and completely let go of the thoughts that hinder my mind–the chores I need to attend to after church, the bike ride I want to go on, the argument I may have had with someone recently–so that I can listen to these words.

Today was one of those services where I found myself really getting into the moment. Communion–a rare UU pleasure–and meant in the sense that we share food in community together. The service is a little different every year. This year, we had an assortment of breads from which to choose and apple juice. I felt as though I were reiterating my own decision to join this church as I ate my piece of (gluten-free) shortbread and washed it down with the apple juice. When I started at the UUC Kent, I was a lot more unsure of my decision to join the world of faith again. I was embarrassed about mentioning to people that I went to a church. I didn’t want to be one of those “church-going” people. I would even say “church” in a hushed tone lower than the rest of the sentence. And now, three years later, I find myself proudly admitting to attending church. I’ve told people that I’m Unitarian Universalist (even if they don’t know what it is). I feel confident now that I’d not only made the right decision, but I found the religious home I was looking for even when I didn’t fully realize I was looking for one. Yes, I still feel that I’ve come home.

Rock Star Names

So one of the projects I’m working on, in between writing my memoir, is a fiction story I’ve been playing with about a rock star (hhhhmmm, could this idea perhaps be inspired by a recent fervor for U2??). I don’t know quite yet what I’m doing with this story, but it currently feels like something that wants to be longer than a short story, which is bad because, not being a published writer, I really should be trying to write short stories since I’m much more likely to get a short story published than novel-length one. But at this moment, I’m not exactly writing this story for publication. It’s just something bumping around in my head and when I’m bored from trying to write about reality, it gives my mind something to ponder and allows me to practice some focused writing. It’s fun, anyway, so I’m going with it for now.

I acknowledge, however, that while I can come up with some really great ideas, the names of characters just sometimes don’t come to me. I’ve got the  name of my non-rock star female character…. however, I can’t come up with suitable rock star names. I wanted to do come up with a cool one-word name. Yes, kind of like Bono. But, let’s face it, there is no cooler or more unique rocker name than Bono.

Anyway, I’m looking for ideas. And so here’s your chance to participate. Give me some rock star names. I’m going to need 4 or 5  (I will have a full band, after all). I’ll entertain cool one word names or full first and last names. I’ll totally give you credit (a dedication perhaps?) should I ever take this “novel” anywhere further than the hard drive on my computer. Remember, this is a fun side project for me right now–a simple warm-up exercise for when I’m trying to get into writing mode. I don’t really even have much of a plot–just a beginning scene and a notion of how the story will end, no details in between.

Be creative and submit to me your ideas. They have to be better than the lame-o names I’ve come up with thus far. I don’t need a band name… have one! Feedback. And if you know the connection there, you win points for paying attention. (Hey, I have to pay homage to the source of my inspiration.)

As a side note, the other short fiction story I’d like to work on, which I started a year ago and never picked back up, is still in the hopper as well. Now if I could just get a gym membership (to maintain my happy endorphins) and some evenings to myself in which I’ve got my full energy, I just might be cooking with gas. Let’s not forget the ramp-up of haiku I must get going… if I’m going to attempt to compete in the Haiku Death Match (I keep saying “if” to remind myself that I’m not really committed to this event yet). I may not have fulfilled my goal of trying to get something published this year, but I’ve at least done some creative things (ie, my sermon) that’s gotten me out there a little bit creatively. The more I expose myself and writing, the less I’ll be afraid to put myself through the rigorous process of trying to get published. Eventually, I’ll get there. It’s not impossible. I’ve got the skills and talent. I know I do.

Hello, 4700!

Just last week, I was aiming to get to 4600 miles. The weather was starting to get cold… down to 30 degrees at night… and I figured I was winding down for the season. I decided to skip the Red Flannel ride on November 2nd because the morning was much too cold. Instead, I rode the final 40 miles to 4600 down in the valley later that afternoon when it had warmed up. I figured I was probably done after that. I was going to put my bike on the trainer after that weekend.

But then, the week days were moderate. I logged another 40 miles between the Tuesday and Thursday night rides with ABC. And then, this past Saturday. Beautiful weather befell NE Ohio. I had planned to ride at least 40 miles. But as I was getting my bike ready to ride around 12pm, it suddenly occurred to me how fortunate I was that the weather was so beautiful this late in November. A funny idea came to my mind…. How about your route to Hiram on this fine day? my mind urged. And, well, the next thing I knew, I was headed off down my favorite roads to Hiram–Old Mill, Mennonite, Chamberlain, Winchell. Straight through the tiny town of Hiram Rapids, past the old church, and up the big hill on 700 into my old ‘hood of Hiram College. I went up the street past my old dorm, though Bankcroft and Dean past the post office… Ahh.. Beautiful weather. I refilled my water bottle in Hinsdale Hall and sat underneath the arch for about 20 minutes remembering my life as a student over 15 years ago.

I then rode on down 306 to Wheeler Road, past the Hiram College Biology Station. Into Garrettsville. The backroads–Hankee, Asbury, then 303 to Cooley.  Gray, Peck, and the beautiful–if not bumpy–Lake Rockwell Road. I felt so good riding. It had been several weeks since I’d ridden more than 40 miles; I was surprised I still had a 60 mile ride in me. It must have been the weather that filled me with the inspiration to keep going. I just wanted to ride and ride and ride.

From door-to-door, my route to Hiram and back is 60 miles. Since I was so close, I figured I mine as well complete a metric century. So once I got into my neighborhood, I rode an extra 2 miles to get that 62-mile ride. The ride secured me a 4700 miles for the year. A new record–beyond the 4600 mile record I initially set–that I’m going to be hard-pressed to beat next year. Oh well. How grand!

So. I don’t know exactly how many days I have left to ride. I’m definitely in bonus round. It could snow tomorrow and I’d take out my skis. I don’t care what happens now, but I’m so glad that I’ve managed to pull in this many miles this year. I am not going to make it to 5000, but I’m sure proud I’ve made it this close. I just don’t know where I get all this energy.

It’s days like Saturday that make me feel so good to be alive. The entire time I was riding, I couldn’t help but think about how fortunate I was to enjoy such unusual November weather. A rare treat. I wore shorts and a short-sleeved jersey and I felt so comfortable in the warmth of the sun. You just can’t let days like that pass you by. I ignored some errands I had to run and I shirked the writing I wanted to do. But in exchange I got wonderful peace of mind. Pretty soon the winter weather will be upon us, and though I can ski, I can’t ski every night. The last bit of warmth is a rare treasure to appreciate. It’s a memory I can hold onto in the dark, cold of winter until I can ride again.

Share the Road

So once again a story about a cyclist goes national, and a morning show host feels it necessary to discuss, which of course leads to all the local yokels calling up to voice their unbridled hate for cyclists. Nevermind the despicable details of the article that describe a situation in which yet another motorist gets off with little more than a hand-slap after hitting a cyclist. This happens all the time, by the way. It happened locally with the motorist that killed the cyclist on TOSRV back in 2008. There is an attitude with motorists who are non-cyclists that cyclists deserve their fate. Even if the motorist can be blamed for not paying attention the road (do I hear texting? emailing from your phone? talking on your phone?), somehow the blame is always put on the cyclist for the very fact that they are on the road.

The saddest part of this whole debate is that motorists consistently make the blanket statement that cyclists do not obey the traffic laws. While it’s true that some cyclists do not obey the traffic laws, a vast majority of them (like myself) DO obey the traffic laws. There are many motorists who don’t obey the traffic laws either; I see them every day; heck, I’m probably occasionally one of them. But to say that no motorist ever obeys any traffic laws is ridiculous. Likewise, it’s just as ludicrous to claim that all cyclists do not obey the law.

For me, it’s the simple laws of physics. I completely understand that a vehicle weighing a couple tons has more mass on 145-lb me on a 10-lb bike. I understand that I’m not capable of going the speed of traffic in most situations (unless going down a hill-eh hah hah!!). I realize people want to get around me. So, I generally hug the white line unless there are some really bad potholes in my direction of travel, in which case, I move more center to the lane until I pass these obstacles, and then I’m back to riding just left of the white line.

Just left of the white line. I’m a vehicle, I’m allowed to ride on the road. It’s at least state law in most states. I cannot be expected to ride in the berm on the side of the road where many-a-careless motorist has tossed their trash–some of which, I might add, is glass. I’ve every right to be on the road as the car. You can get around me when I’m riding along the white line without even, really, needing to cross the yellow to pass (though, it’d be nice if you gave me 3 feet of space when passing).

When I ride in groups of cyclists, I tend to ride behind someone. I usually don’t ride next to another cyclist unless I’m on a country road where there isn’t a lot of traffic because it’s just as much of a pain in the butt for me to have to slow down to get back into single file as it is for a motorist to try to pass me when I’m doubled up. So this generally means that I don’t try to ride side-by-side another cyclist on Riverview Road in the Cuyahoga Valley–there’s just too many cars. However, be assured that when I do ride next to another cyclist, as soon as I see a car in my rear view mirror, I start angling to move in front or behind the other cyclist to make that single-file line all motorists prefer.

Why not use the bike paths? I’m always asked. Well, I do use bike paths sometimes, often as a warm up or part of my planned route because they tend to be a good way to get from one location to another location fairly quickly. But the problem with bike paths is that they tend to be crowded with recreational cyclists, runners, people walking their dogs, and a handful of spaced-out clueless people who aren’t paying attention to anything that’s going on around them. This is all good–I condone people getting out into nature and enjoying a beautiful day. (Well, except for the handful of space cadets–they should probably stay home where it’s safe.) However, these people are generally obstacles I have to get around–in much the same way a car has to get around cyclists. It makes me frustrated because I have to keep dropping pace to get around people (in a nice, polite fashion) and it makes them frustrated because they have to deal with some pedaling hammerhead when they just came out for a peaceful, casual ride/walk.

There’s a huge difference between the type of riding I do and a recreational cyclist: speed. I’m generally going 17-19mph on the flatness of a paved bicycle path; recreational cyclists are generally going 10-13mph. Recreational cyclists may also be looking at things–the trees, flowers, their significant other, their kids who are weaving unsteadily back and forth across the path. This is all good. But in the end, we just disturb each other with our differing objectives. (I started out as a recreational rider, so I totally understand.)

Bike paths do not usually offer much by way of challenge. They tend to be flat, railroad graded terrain (since many of them were built on old railway paths). Because they are so flat and do not give me much of a challenge, no matter how pretty they are–being among the trees and through parks–I get bored. Pretty quickly. I like to climb things. Hard things. Horrible roads people fear to take in their car. So a flat bike path is usually just a means for me to get from one place (my house mainly) to some place where I can do really interesting riding (the valley).

Bike paths also don’t really go anywhere specific. They go from one park to another, or through a city, but it’s generally the furthest route from anything I would need to usefully get to as a bike commuter. In my commute to work in the summer, I take the bike path to get to the valley, and then I swoop down into the valley, and then climb back up to the city where my job is located. There is no bike path that goes to where I work. But, alas, there are roads that go to where I work. Hmmm. So I take the road.

There simply is not enough bike path for a person such as myself–who rides between 3,500-4,500 miles per year–to remain entertained. Yes, I know the towpath is about 40 miles long. I do take segments of it on Beau (since it’s also unpaved, which means my road bike can’t do it). But to ride the same route every day–and I ride almost every day mid-season–would really make anyone lose interest fairly quickly, no matter how beautiful or how challenging it is. Heck, I even get burned out on riding in the Cuyahoga Valley because I use it to get to work 2-3 times a week. I often have to take my bike out somewhere completely different on the weekend just for a change in pace.

Don’t get me wrong: bike paths are great. I certainly advocate the creation of more of them. They get more recreational cyclists out who have no interest in riding on the road or being anything more than a recreational cyclist. I do like to use them for part of my route (and sometimes they are a welcome change from the rigors of having to be ever vigilant while riding on the road). But they are definitely not–and should never be seen by anyone in the public as–a replacement for cyclists riding on the road. I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing a local motorist rant about how they paid their precious tax money for a bike path only to be enraged that it didn’t take any of the cyclists off the road. People are using bike paths; just not the road cyclists.

I’ve been in cities where sharing the road works. I’m sure it’s not perfect. I’m sure there are still angry motorists in these cities as well. However, I will say that when I did visit these places (Seattle, Portland, not to name any names), I noticed a much more pleasant attitude towards cyclists. Not once pedaling those city streets did I ever feel my life was in as much danger as I feel riding my bike down one of my busier streets near my house. Ironically, when I drove a car around Seattle, I felt the most ill-at-ease. People expected me to be on the road and they were okay with it. It was a cyclist’s paradise. I didn’t want to come home!

I love my state of Ohio. I just wish sometimes that it wouldn’t be so backward about things. There’s an inherent attitude in Ohio against change. People don’t like it. So if you paint a sharrow on a road, people are all up in arms. “What?! You’re gonna invite them cyclists on the street? Then I can’s run them down!” Heaven forbid someone choose a more ecologically friendly way to travel around town than a car. Is my ability to function without gas (at least in the summer, since I’m a wimp) threatening to you?

Whenever I encounter these angry drivers, I always think that they’d all probably be a lot happier if they too took to a bike and rode around the streets… All those exercise-induced endorphins pumping through your veins make it really hard to be angry at people. When I commute to work by bike, I feel so great when I get to the office. I’ve had my morning work-out and I feel ready to tackle the day. I approach my work with vigor and excitement. There’s nothing better than that feeling. I think if everyone experienced this elation, road rage would be obliterated. And just think what it would do for our obesity problem in America! Everyone should walk or bike to work. Or even learn to ride a motorcycle (it uses less gas).

I just don’t get people. I’m just appalled when I hear the kind of comments that come out of motorists’ mouths about the fate they’d like to see befall a cyclist. People actually wish death on someone riding a bike simply because having to drive around a cyclist made them two second slower on the way to where-ever it was they were going. Death! Seriously? You wish that cyclist to die? There are lot of people in the world who make me mad–biggots, chauvinistic men, fundamentalist Christians, Republicans (well, some of them anyway), Sarah Palin–but I certainly do not wish these people dead.

So I just can’t listen to those people ranting the radio. I had to turn the whole discussion off because at 7am on a day when I couldn’t ride to work (it’s too cold), I didn’t need to start my day with my blood boiling. Getting into a rage just doesn’t suit me well. The way I’ve come to deal with these kind of things lately has been to turn off the radio. I’ve been doing the same thing with politics because I just don’t want to listen to angry banter on both sides. (It’s funny because a friend of mine has been telling me to do this for years!)

Is it stupidly optimistic for me to hope that at some point–especially with these rising gas prices–that motorists and cyclists could simply learn to coexist? (We need a catchy “coexist” symbol for cyclists and motorists–anyone creative out there?) I can’t be responsible for the cyclists who do not stop at stop signs/lights, cut cars off in traffic, ride in groups of two or more across the span of the road so that cars can’t pass, etc. However, you can rest assured that when I’m on the streets, I’m not doing any of these things. So, please, for my sake–and the sakes of other cyclists like me who respect the law–please do not take your anger against cyclists who you have witnessed not obey the law out on me! Stop texting, stop checking your email, stop talking to your friends; put your two hands on the wheel, look out the front window, and please be aware of me and my friends! I’d do the same for you if you were a pedestrian, whether I was in a car or on a bike. You may only get a slap on the wrist by law if you hit one of us, but I’m sure the weight on your conscience would really be far greater than you boast when you boldly call these radio shows (or respond in the comments of online articles) claiming you’d like to hit a cyclist… We’re all just out there trying to get somewhere.

U2 Albums, Ranked (Rewrite)

Due to extensive research in the topic of the late, I’ve re-ranked all the U2 albums now that I can rightfully pass judgment since I own them all. And to keep this blog entry fresh so that I give you new information in a topic I’ve already written about, I’ve listed my favorite tracks on each of the albums. Somewhere in here there is order and method. If you’re a fan, I invite you to find it. Ha! I also promise that I’ll write about something real this week and not just my ongoing, consuming obsession with U2.

I’ve also been writing some haiku for the Haiku Death Match in January… If Joanna lets me compete. ‘Course, I might just want to keep those poems under wraps so that I can come in for a killing and surprise my unworthy opponents. *snort*

I’m going to see Vox Voronet–my friends Andy and Scott’s band–on Saturday in Kent. So, you see, I listen to music other than U2. Really, I do. Maybe I’ll have something to blog about on Sunday, emm? I don’t know how my old body is going to stay up until the wee hours of Sunday morning to watch them, though (the show starts at 10pm!!).

Anyway, here’s my list of U2 albums ranked, yet again. I forced myself to only pick two favorite songs per album. Okay, so I cheated on a few. But that’s only because the second favorite was tied. I always had a hand’s down, immediate favorite for the number one slot on all of the releases. I’m just like that.

1. October (1981)

Fave Song: Tomorrow

Fave Song 2: With a Shout

2. The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

Fave Song: A Sort of Homecoming

Fave Song 2: Indian Summer Sky

3. War (1983)

Fave Song: Drowning Man

Fave Song 2: Sunday Bloody Sunday

4. The Joshua Tree (1987)

Fave Song: In God’s Country

Fave Song 2: With or Without You

5. Achtung Baby (1991)

Fave Song: Acrobat

Fave Song 2: Even Better Than the Real Thing

6. Zooropa (1993)

Fave Song: Dirty Day

Fave Song 2: Lemon – Though I wish the studio track was like the live versions from the ZooTV tour where Bono, as Mr. Macphisto, sang “Midnight” in this cool way over top The Edge singing the chorus vocals. I guess, though, that’s what makes watching the live performance special.

7. No Line on the Horizon (2009)

Fave Song: Breathe

Fave Song 2: Crazy Tonight, Stand Up Comedy

8. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2005)

Fave Song: Miracle Drug

Fave Song 2: Yahweh

9. Rattle and Hum (1988)

Fave Song: Heartland

Fave Song 2: Silver & Gold (live) – Famous line (which I love!), “Am I buggin’ you? Don’t mean ta bug ya.”

10. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000)

Fave Song: Walk On

Fave Song 2: When I Look at the World, New York

11. Pop (1997)

Fave Song: Do You Feel Loved

Fave Song 2: If You Wear That Velvet Dress, Last Night on Earth

12. Boy (1980)

Fave Song: Out of Control

Fave Song 2: Twilight

Screams the audience of U2 fans, “What?! Not ‘I Will Follow’!??!” I like that song, yes. But it didn’t make my favorite list. Sorry. Neither did “Gloria” on October and I love that song. So nah! It’s my list.

So if I could insert a few non-U2 projects involving U2, I’d squeeze The Million Dollar Hotel soundtrack between 6 (Zooropa) and 7 (NLOH) above because it’s really a solid CD of music. Most of it is sung by Bono if it’s not an official U2 song. The music is kind of floaty, trippy like The Unforgettable Fire only more modern in sound. I really like it, minus that annoying “Anarchy in the USA” song and Milla Jovovich’s total destruction of the beautiful Bono-backed cover of Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” (Bono does a great version of “Satellite of Love” on the ZooTV tour. Check it out.) From this soundtrack, my favorite song is “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” (hands down) with “Dancin’ Shoes” and “Stateless” sharing second place.

I would insert the U2/Brian Eno project as Passengers, Original Soundtracks 1, between 11 (Pop) and 12 (Boy). I want to really like it since I love ambient music, but, really, I’ve only played it a few times since I bought it, which says something because I got The Million Dollar Hotel soundtrack a month later and have already listened to it more than Original Soundtracks 1. I really like “Your Blue Room”–much better, in fact, that Bono’s beloved “Miss Sarajevo.” What can I say? Both these songs I would list as my favorite and second favorite respectively. Maybe I need to give that CD another listen tomorrow while I’m at work…

If I could stick Under the Blood Red Sky–the live from Red Rocks–CD in this list, it would probably go between 3 (War) and 4 (Joshua Tree) with my favorite live cuts of the songs being first and foremost “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (always my favorite, especially live) with “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” and “40” sharing second.

I’m happy to report I also borrowed a bunch of R.E.M. CDs from the library to refresh my love of that band in an attempt to get some variety now that I’m no longer writing a sermon about U2. (Oh, Michael Stipe, your last release, Around the Sun, was not your best… :( ). I also borrowed all of Interpol’s CDs. I like them–they’re kind of gloomy in a Depeche Mode/The Cure kind of way, if Depeche Mode or the Cure went punk. I can only listen to them for so long, though, before all the songs run together. But at least I’ll be familiar with them when I see them open for U2 in Pittsburgh.

I’m trying really hard to listen to other music so that I don’t get sugar sick on my favorite band. But, you know what, the reason why U2 is my favorite band is that for some reason I always like them and never get tired of listening to them. Which I can’t really say for any of the other music I like, except maybe the CDs by my church’s music director, Hal Walker. To me, U2 is like a breathe of fresh air. When I turn back to them after being away, their music does to my brain what that first sip of coffee in the morning does… Everything just feels right with the world again. How can one band’s music inspire such an unnameable mood? They must have me hypnotized or something… It happens to young, impressionable women like myself when Bono sways his leather-pants-wearing hips… And it’s the only explanation for an outfit like this…

Bono's outfit in encore of PopMart Tour

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I got the coolest boots ever at Payless yesterday. I didn’t notice but apparently the 1980s are back… check these OUT:

The 80s are BACK!

So I totally had to get them… right? I went into Payless looking for some cheap tennis shoes to wear with my jeans, since my current pair were literally falling apart (sole was coming off, making flappy sounds when I walked). And, you know, it was one of those buy one, get one half off deals. Of course, these were the more expensive shoes than the tennis shoes I bought, but when you consider I ended up paying less than $15 for my tennis shoes and, well, got these swank boots for a mere $35 full cost, hey… It’s a good day when you walk out of a shoe store with two pairs of shoes for $50. Right? Anyway, I couldn’t pass those boots up. Unfortunately for the world, I tried them on with a pair of black shorts just to see if I could get away with wearing them with my shorts… because I was thinking… yeah… of wearing them to a… (wait for it)… U2 concert. (And, yes, the answers is I CAN get away with wearing them with shorts.) But not only that. I wore them to church today with a mini-skirt, tights, and a nice long sweater, and I think I looked quite sheik if I do say so myself. Yep. If the 1980s are back, I’m ready to paaaah-ty.

But I’m not willing to rat my hair and use AquaNet to glue it in place. Nope. There’s only so far I’ll go for the sake of looking cool.

Unfinished Business

Yesterday I was at going-away party for a friend in which I encountered–as I knew I would–an ex-boyfriend. Knowing that I would see him there, I had thought that I would eventually find a way to just tell him that I was sorry for the way I treated him when we were together, that I realized–at last–that I’d been a complete and utter ass to him. Which, really, is probably the way I treated several of the guys I’ve dated since re-entering the single world as a widow. Not all my exes, mind you, but the ones who I probably dated a little too soon after Mike’s death. Before I was ready. This guy–we’ll call him T–was definitely someone I mistreated because I wasn’t quite ready to date. Even though I’d been widowed for a little over two years when we started dating. But, as they say, everyone grieves at their own rate.

I started dating T about a month before I moved to Colorado. I hadn’t really planned it that way. I’d known him for about two years–some of that time while I was married–as we were coworkers and I needed to go to him often for technical information. It wasn’t anything more than a friendship even after Mike died and I found it kind of comforting to have a friend to talk to once I’d moved away from the town Mike and I had been living in. I was lonely a lot that year and it was nice to talk to someone who didn’t expect anything out of me, who didn’t know my husband. T asked me out a few times–once to a ballgame, which I perceived as a completely innocent friendly gesture and once out to see one of the Harry Potter movies. It was after the second get together that I realized we were really, kind of, on a date.

At the time I was planning my escape to Colorado. So I really wasn’t looking for any romantic attachments. Our second date was about a week before I was about to go on vacation, which was really a smoke screen (as far as my job was concerned) for some job interviews I’d lined up in Denver. The second date kind of messed me up. When I realized that I was finding myself attracted to a guy friend, I thought it was at the worst possible moment. It wasn’t a part of my plan. I tried to keep my distance from him to stay on course with my dream of moving away. As luck would have it, my trip to Colorado taught me two things: 1) I really wanted to live in Colorado, and 2) I really, really liked T. Absence, for even a week, makes the heart grow stronger? This was in a time before Blackberrys and iPhones. I didn’t even have a laptop. I spent the evenings of that week popping in and out of the Kinko’s by my hotel to use the internet so that I could pick up T’s email messages.

Anyway, I ended up getting a job–the one I wanted which was considered a transfer to the Boulder office of my company. Within two months of our unexpected relationship beginning, I was packing up to leave for Colorado. T helped me move out there, driving with me all the way out, helping me handle the moving van drivers and unpack my stuff. He hung out with me the first week as I moved in and prepared for my new job. He started to plan to come out to Colorado too.

Which he eventually did. And it should have been great. The perfect happy ending to a widow’s sad story. Except, once he moved out there, I did nothing but push him away. I think part of me really wanted to try to branch out on my own, build a new life out there, and stand on my own. I felt like his moving to be with me made me weak. So our relationship began to crumble. I was super-critical towards him. I accused him of not understanding the kind of pain I’d gone through in losing my husband, which led into philosophical debates about how I should view my experiences as a widow. He really may have understood me. He may have even been right about how I should have handled myself. I just needed an excuse in my head to feel justified in pushing him away.

It wasn’t all bad, though. We did have a good relationship when I let him in. Unfortunately, once he moved out there, neither of us seemed to try very hard at seeking friendships outside of our relationship with each other. He didn’t love Colorado like I did and was only there because of me. In the end, when our romantic relationship was clearly over (because I had built a stone wall around my heart), he made plans to return home. Suddenly feeling alone in a strange land, stinging in the aches of loss, I decided to sell my house and come home too. Yeah. A breakup is what brought me back to Ohio. I never really admitted that aloud to anyone, not until the last couple of weeks as Ohio winter begins to set in and I’ve been again asking myself why I ever came back. I turned around and came back because I couldn’t deal, alone, with the grief of a break up. How pathetic is that?

I’m not still in love with T and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. T’s married now. I’m totally happy for him because I’m told that they make a great couple. I’m not jealous or mad or anything. In fact, part of me is happy that T now understands what it’s like to love someone in the way that I loved Mike. Not that I really doubted that T understood love like that–no matter what I told him in anger. I just think that now, I don’t know, maybe he could empathize with my loss in ways he really couldn’t before. I really want him to be happy.

The only thing I wish I could do is apologize to T for being so horrible to him when we were dating. I’m pretty sure there was some emotional damage done back then and though he’s over it now, I still feel like I should apologize. Mainly because I’m supremely embarrassed about how badly I behaved back then. I was on a course for self-destruction. I was very lost and I was dragging people down with me. I wish I could tell him that the person he knew back then was not the person I wanted to be.

Of course when you plan these grand confessions, you never end up finding the right moment to get the words out. As I arrived for the gathering, T was crossing the parking lot into the restaurant as I was turning in in my car. He looked up and waved at me. For sure that was a good sign. But I spent about a half hour after that trying to find the party (they were tucked away in a corner of the bar I didn’t see) and by the time I arrived, the party was at full swing and loud. I greeted my friend–our mutual friend–and started talking to her. T was standing there and I totally avoided eye contact with him. His wife was standing next to him and I felt kind of out-of-place. I didn’t want her to misinterpret my actions so I was trying to act uninterested in seeing him. There’s a really weird tension between an ex-girlfriend and a wife. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like I’m being judged or accused of something I’m not doing. Like I might at any moment try to snatch the ex-boyfriend back or something. So I said nothing. I didn’t even say hi.

So, of course, T being the better human, laughed and said, “You’re allowed to say hi.”

Which embarrassed me into silence. I said hi–coldly, dispassionately–and then looked away. Ugh, talk about the wrong signals! Now I looked as though I were mad at him. Childish, childish!!

I figured I’d have a chance later that evening to amend my completely grand faux pas. After I’d had a beer to loosen my lips, make me a little less morose. However, about twenty minutes later, T and his wife said their goodbyes and left. The moment I’d been planning for the last several days would never come. I was left feeling kind of angry and frustrated. I needed to get this thing off my chest at last. Maybe it was for the best, though. No need to beat a dead horse, especially this late in the game. And, really, I suppose the only person I’m going to make feel better about this whole thing is myself, right?

Grand confessions and apologies a side, though, I’m still kicking myself that I treated him so coldly, thus completely proving that I am totally the witch he remembered dating. Why can’t I just act normal? It’s so hard trying to be friendly with a former lover. No matter what you know or accept about the status of your relationship (or lack of one), there’s still always a tension there. I guess we really aren’t meant to commingle with each other after we’ve broken up. But it’s just sad. I could have showed him through my actions that I was sorry by greeting him with a friendly hello. I hate when I act like this. It does not represent the person I want to be. From the song “Acrobat” by U2:

I must be an acrobat
To talk like this and act like that

Once again, I came out looking like the fool. In retrospect, I realize the only way I could have come out on the winning side of this encounter would have been to given him an equally as cheerful hello. Maybe we could have actually exchanged a few words. Why do I let my emotions trip me up all the time?

Sermon on Podcast

In case you’d like to hear me read my sermon, the podcast from the service is now available. I haven’t listened to it; I’m afraid. I don’t like the sound of my voice on recording. But maybe to you I sound on recording the same as you hear me (God, I hope not!). And if you don’t know me personally, and have never heard my voice for real, you won’t notice a difference. Anyway, enjoy!