Sunday Stealing: February

walking without tripping

The first question in this iteration of Sunday Stealing is about the second month. It should be the 12th month, but we won’t get into that.

1. What are your plans for February?

There will be an Olin Family Reunion online on February 3. I’m involved with the John Olin Origin Project. We know he came across the Atlantic in the latter 17th century on an English ship, but was he English? Welsh? French? BTW, I am the spouse of John> Joseph> Joseph> Reuben> John> Earl> Orva> George> Ann> Carol.

Two Death Cafes are taking place online in February. I’ve written about them here, among other places. Although I wasn’t a part of the originating group, I’ve been recruited to run one of the break-out rooms, making sure everyone who wants to has the opportunity to speak, take notes for when the group gets back together, and basically try to keep things on track. Some college students will be joining in.

Also, Valentine’s Day will be Ash Wednesday. They coincided in 1923, 1934, and  1945, which I don’t remember, and 2018, which I do. It will happen again in 2029, but not again in the 21st Century. My hot V-Day date with my wife will be going to church.

2. Did you ever have or go to sleepovers as a kid?

No sleepovers at my house, at least for me and my friends. I have some vague notion of going with one or both of my sisters to someone else’s house when I was eight or ten, having a mad crush on a girl from the host family.


3. Which books would you pick for a book binge?

There’s a shelf in this office of books I purchased in the past two years at the author talks at the Albany Public Library that I’d grab. I’d probably start with Roosevelt Sweeps Nation by David Pietrusza.

4. What features do you love most about your home?

It’s the built-in bookshelves in this room, the contents of which I had to reorganize.

5. How often do you try something new?

I watched this recent Vlogbrothers video by Hank Green.  I’ve concluded that every day I do something new when I write this blog because I’m synthesizing my experiences. And the experiences are new, whether seeing a movie or reading a book. I only went to France last year so I’d have blog fodder. (KIDDING, Deborah!)

6. What type of sushi is your favorite?

I don’t really know sushi, and I seldom consume it. California roll, I suppose.

7. Do you prefer to relax or go on adventures during vacation?

I don’t have a great need to go somewhere in order to relax. It is not as though I like sitting on the beach, in no small part because of my vitiligo, but even before I developed it two decades ago, I never saw the attraction.

8. Which colors look best on you?

I look marvelous in everything! You should ask someone else. Blue, I guess?

9. Do you like brunch?

As opposed to not having brunch? Sure.


10. Do you get stage fright?

Apparently so. I was in two different musicals at church in the past decade, and I knew my songs cold in rehearsal but forgot a line in one song and failed to make an entrance in another.

11. Which podcasts do you like at the moment?

There are approximately one zillion podcasts, and I’ve heard a few that seemed intriguing, but I haven’t the time. I can’t listen to one while doing something else. (This is true of audiobooks as well, BTW.) So I’ve been listening to three: Coverville by Brian Ibbott since 2008, Hollywood and Levine by Ken Levine since c. 2016, and AmeriNZ by Arthur since… actually, I haven’t a clue, but for a long time.

12. One thing that immediately makes your day better

When the cats are in a good mood and want to purr on my lap.

13. Which family members are you closest to?

My wife, my daughter, and my two sisters.

14. Something you practice often

Choral music, near-obsessive self-reflection, walking without tripping over the cats.

15. Are you a light sleeper or a deep sleeper?

Deep sleep, not necessarily for very long, but often enough time to have vivid dreams.

Ash Wednesday: What is hell to you?

I opined that the old guy was in his own hell, and Catbird agreed.

I don’t think a whole lot about hell. Well, not since I was growing up with the concept constantly slipped into every third sermon I heard.

One of the things that started my long withdrawal from church in my twenties had a hell of a lot to do with what some said happened after death.

Specifically, it was the notion that everyone who didn’t accept Jesus as their savior was going to some fiery pit in the next life. That would include someone in a remote village in Nepal or person on a tiny island in the Pacific. (This is why we “needed” so many missionaries.)

Still, I think there is a “hell.” My good friend Catbird is reading “The Da Vinci Code,” which I’ve never even started. The motivation was partly because the book is on the PBS “Great American Read” list.

But it was also because some old acquaintance of Catbird’s said it was the work of the devil, which made it more enticing. My friend emailed the acquaintance to ask what event or character had informed his opinion, figuring he had never actually read the story. He replied that Catbird was going to hell and that his words were a warning.

Catbird shared the opinion that both heaven and hell are what one chooses to make of one’s circumstances. A life-altering experience has deeply informed my friend that death is nothing to fear.

I opined that the old guy was in his own hell, and Catbird agreed. And from appearances, it seems “entirely self-inflicted… and possibly addictive.” Catbird heard on the radio about the door to hell being locked from the inside and thought that it applied especially well to him.

So what is hell to you? Is it a physical place after we leave this mortal coil? Is it something else? Does it not exist at all? Maybe you’re hedging your bet.

This Lenten discussion immediately brought to mind a song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong: You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth, recorded by The Temptations and Undisputed Truth.

Valentine’s Day is Ash Wednesday

Being selfless can be a self-centered act.

Without looking, I knew I would find this sentence in some news source: “Parishioners… think Valentine’s Day is actually a great day to start Lent.” Romantic love, Jesus’ love, and all that.

This resonates, even though Lent is intended for sacrifice and February 14 is usually keyed to indulging in candy, more in line with Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, which immediately precedes Lent.

But I’ve heard enough Ash Wednesday and other Lenten sermons to make the case that indulging and sacrificing do not have to be that far apart. Traditionally, Christian believers tend to put aside a particular vice such as the chocolate that is a favored treat.

Perhaps you can make a sacrifice of your time to indulge the human need of personal connection. Maybe it’d be a visit to someone you hadn’t seen in a while. Or a handwritten letter, rather than email. Or an honest-to-goodness phone call, not merely a text.

Maybe you can do something for someone else. Random Acts Of Kindness Raise Dopamine Levels And Boost Your Mood. Being selfless can be a self-centered act.

And it does not need to be a large gesture. Opening a door… and giving advice are wonderful ways to give. “Anytime we step outside of ourselves long enough to help someone else, something wonderful is waiting for us when we return: the Happiness Trifecta neurochemicals are all boosted!”

When I was a kid, you could always tell which of your classmates were Catholic by their “dirty foreheads” on Ash Wednesday. But somewhere along the line, the mainline Protestant churches “gave up” on the rejection of this ritual and embraced it instead.

Here is vlogbrothers: “Two Love Stories”

Finally, here again is my favorite Valentine’s Day song, by Steve Earle.

If I could I would deliver to you
Diamonds and gold; it’s the least I can do
So if you’ll take my IOU
I could make it up to you
Until then I hope my heart will do
For Valentine’s Day

Circular question answering New York Erratic

Let me say that while Thanksgiving and Christmas are wonderful and all, there seems to be a lot of sense of obligation.

happinessrunsAnd in an act that defies logic, I am now answering questions that New York Erratic answered for me, even though I gave them to her, based on questions Lisa posted, and which Dustbury also answered… Oh never mind.

1. What is your dream vacation spot and why?

It would be a place by the water, preferably running water, like a river or waterfalls, because I love water; maybe it’s the Pisces in me. It would be neither too hot nor too cold. MaybeVictoria Falls, in September.

2. Where did you come up with the name of your blog?

There was a long-running radio talk show called Rambling with Gambling, from which I got the Ramblin’ part. The Roger part, I have no idea.

3. How do you define blogging success?

It really does vary. While I don’t especially care, when my Times Union blog is trending, or when Chuck Miller declares it one of the week’s 10 best, I enjoy that.

But the real success is that I find people with whom to have reasonable, usually rational, dialogue. Such as with New York Erratic.

4. What is your favorite type of “going out” entertainment?

I like going to the movies because I like seeing movies in the theater. Watching videos often creates the temptation to pause it and do something else. That’s OK with something I’ve seen before, but not the first time. That’s why I ultimately canceled Netflix; I had The Hurt Locker for four or five months, and never found two solid hours to watch it without The Daughter around, or being too tired, or too busy.

5. How many states (name them) have you lived in?

North Carolina (for four months). New York (the rest of my life.)

6. What is your favorite holiday and why?

Ash Wednesday. Let me say that while Thanksgiving and Christmas are wonderful and all, there seems to be a lot of sense of obligation. The beginning of Lent is a time of quiet reflection. When I was a kid, it was only the Catholics I knew that got the ashes on the forehead, but lots of Protestant churches, including the last two I’ve belong to, participate, and I think it’s an easy, but symbolic, way for religious rapprochement.

7. What’s your favorite number and why?

I really do like zero. It’s nothing, yet it’s massive in combination. It’s that dividing line between the positive and the negative. What’s not to like?

8. What would be your dream vehicle to own?

Some motorized bicycle that I’d turn on for hills, and pedal otherwise.

9. What is your favorite hobby?

I suppose it’s singing, though, until you brought it up, I never thought of singing as a hobby, but rather just WHAT I DO, WHO I AM. Or blogging.

10. How do you try and keep your blog fresh?

I change the blog filter every 3,000 miles. Cereally, I actually plotted out 2014, or parts of it. I decided on my ABC Wednesday topics for every week in Round 14, back in October; didn’t write them, of course, but knowing what I was going to write about gets the brain working. Then I found the half dozen people who turn 70 I want to write about. Then there are holidays and observances. And anything I find interesting I don’t have anything to write about, I link to at the end of the month. This leaves the rest of the time for movie reviews and life experiences. In other words, I throw the blog against the wall and see what sticks.

11. Where do you do your best thinking?

In the shower, or riding the stationary bike. Or when I first wake up, which is why I like to blog when I first wake up (and don’t particularly like to blog at night).

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