Friday, April 30, 2010

Hands Free?

According to Oprah, today is No Phone Zone Day. It’s just one aspect of her fight against people driving while distracted with cell phones, texting, and the like. I’m proud of her for taking a stand on this issue. With her clout, there just might be a major shift in thinking coming soon. So, in honor of NPZD, I decided to observe all drivers who passed me by on my walk to work…to see how many were on the phone. I spotted 24 drivers, not counting the pickup with the completely blacked-out windows, and only 2 were on the phone. Oprah would be proud.

P.S. I found a half-full water bottle in the parking lot of the campus art building. It’s currently in a trash can at my feet.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Well, it’s time for me to make the sun-soaked walk home for lunch. The bad news is…according to the EPA, the UV Index for my town is 8, which is very high. I forgot that there might be some drawbacks to walking to (and from) work vs. being in a car (convertibles not included). And these drawbacks are potentially life-threatening. I mean, what good is enjoying birds chirping and running into old friends if you get skin cancer & die an early death in the process?

Lunchtime is, of course, the worst. Even the EPA says, “between 10:00am and 4:00pm” is the worst time for UVs. So it’s something I don’t worry about at the beginning or end of my workday. I’m somewhat prepared today, though. I happened to remember to use some sunscreen on my (bald) head and my nose. Hopefully, it’ll take my 8 UV concentration down a few pegs…to a 4 or 5. Regardless, I’ll be walking from one shady spot to another…all along the way to the house.

Wait! Good news! I just got a call from my family who’s out on the town. They’re coming to give me a ride home. The UVs will just have to wait another day. Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 21

P.S. This morning I found a 3-inch piece of foam pipe insulation behind the library. It was probably left behind by some utility folks yesterday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Social Capital #4

They say that walking around your neighborhood can increase social capital, which makes sense. The odds of you saying “Hi.” to a neighbor in his/her front yard would logically go way down if you were closed up in a car, driving by. I pursued this idea for a whole week in early March…thus the 4th Social Capital installment in late April. Yesterday, on my walk home for lunch I ran into someone who (I learned recently) will be leaving the university at the end of the semester. I planned on shaking her hand and telling her how much I’d miss her dedication & hard work, etc. The handshake turned into a quick hug. She’s probably giving everyone hugs these days. I mentioned that I hardly ever see her, so I should probably say “goodbye” when I had the chance. It was a brief but meaningful exchange that would not have happened had I been driving.
And then, this morning, just as I was closing the front door behind me, I noticed one of the school’s professors walking by my house. I asked him if he was in a hurry & he said no. So we walked and talked. I could count on two hands the number of times I’ve walked with someone on my way to work…not counting my wife and kids. I think I could do it every day …especially if most days were as pleasant as today. Of course, I couldn’t do weird stuff like walk past the school (and back around the opposite side) to get some extra exercise. I can’t think of anyone who’d put up with that. So, obviously, we took a fairly direct route to campus. It was our version of a carpool, I suppose…and I enjoyed every step of the way. Fellow walker sightings (to date): 19

P.S. Where has all the trash gone in town? It’s been slim pickin’ this week…not that I mind. Yesterday all I found was the very end of a very pink balloon. Today, it was an empty hot sauce (mild) packet from Taco Bell. Both items were roughly right behind the library.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I walked thankfully to work this morning—thankful that the weather was so fallish that no mosquito would be caught dead flying around in it. Mostly, though, I was thankful for a group of loving, Christ-like people who (evidently) think of me, my wife, and kids as family. The feeling is definitely mutual. This is a church family I’m referring to. It seems you never really know how much you’re loved until you have a need and you wait to see who’ll show up to actually help with that need. Our church family (seemingly all of them) showed up…in such a sacrificial way! The thankful feelings were so fresh on my mind as I walked this morning because all that generosity came to a head last night.

The One I’m most thankful to is God Himself who formed these people into people who would do the selfless things they’ve done. His hand was definitely working in and through our need and especially in the response to that need.

P.S. Picked up yet another red, Sonic straw. This time, from the grassy slope behind the library.

Friday, April 23, 2010


As you may’ve noticed, I like counting things on my walk to work. It’s somewhat of a hobby. For this blog, I’ve counted paces, colors, waves, and clotheslines. What next?! Gardens?

I took the long route this morning, which is rapidly becoming my “normal” route. Along the way, I took note of every garden I passed. Not the floral kind, but the vegetable variety. There were four, including one that took up about 90% of a backyard. Very impressive. This is someone who must have a lot more time on their hands than I do…AND someone who doesn’t have kids. The yard is, now, definitely not conducive to a good game of tag.

Not only do I count a lot…but I also try to make mention of any event or encounter along the way that would not have happened (likely) if I’d been driving rather than walking. Encounters like the brief one I had with an old friend who was out walking for exercise. I asked him not to stop or slow down…lest he ruin the aerobic…but he did for a couple of seconds. Just enough time to get in a good handshake and a warm hello. I really miss seeing him. While we were talking, two Canadian geese flew directly overhead. Fairly low, too. Honking away the whole time. I was truly in awe. They just came out of nowhere. In a car, I may have seen the geese but would've missed out on the honking. I'm glad I didn't.

P.S. The goldmine for litter in our little town has to be the alley behind the drugstore. I can always count on something being there that needs picking up…like the receipt I nabbed this morning (from, you guessed it, the drugstore).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Not-So-Earthy Commute

It’s Earth Day…and I unintentionally celebrated by walking to work through the most concrete, asphalt-filled part of town. I had to drop the van off at the shop before I headed to work. The shop’s roughly 4 blocks from campus. The problem with those 4 blocks is that it’s right along Main Street. No trees. No grass. Wall-to-wall storefronts, basically. The highlight? The downtown Cash Express location…with its balloons. I never knew I had it so good…walking through tree-lined neighborhoods, for the most part, every day. I’ll try never to take the natural aesthetics for granted again—not on Earth Day or any other day.

On my drive to the shop I said hello to a couple of fellow walkers who (rightfully) gave me a hard time for not walking myself. They said they’d let me off the hook this once. I’m proud of ‘em. Fellow Walker sightings (to date): 18. At lunchtime I was offered a ride to the my boss...I accepted. Ride Offers (to date): 8.

P.S. My commute did have several litter-removal opportunities, though. I took advantage of one. It was a fairly large blue post-it note…with the phone number for someone named Abby. I found it in the alley behind the downtown drug store. One of these days I’ll explain why I bothered bending over and picking it up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

No Buffer Zone?

Weather Report: Very cool. I would’ve worn one of my lightweight jackets had they not (both) been hanging on a coat rack at the library. I abandoned them a week or so ago. It was borderline uncomfortable, but took the long route anyway. On the way, I passed right in front of a landmark that catches my attention 7 out of 10 mornings…the house we almost bought when we moved to town (see picture top, left). After doing a little house hunting (almost 9 years ago), it was obvious that only two houses were viable candidates. The one we didn’t take (the one I walk past most days) is the one that’s since been purchased by the university. I believe interior design classes meet there now. Living there would’ve cut my commute time to campus by 95%...because it happens to be across the street from campus. I’m glad we’re not that close, actually. There’d be…as Seinfeld would say, “no buffer zone.” Also, I’d miss out on the walk to work I’ve grown to love.

On this morning’s walk, I got a ride offer & a honk to boot. It was a great way to start the week. Honks from Passersby (to date): 6
Ride Offers (to date): 7. I actually forgot to mention a ride offer from last week (maybe Tuesday?) which I accepted. It was just one of those people I couldn't say "No" to.

P.S. Picked up a 4-pg homework assignment from someone named Westley. I found it along the side of North Ave., with tire marks across the front and back. The topic was “semicolon use.” I can just imagine poor Westley showing up for class this morning (in tears?) saying, “Uh, teacher, I lost my assignment. I had it when I left the house, I promise. But when I got on the bus, it was gone. I answered every question, though, I swear. (sob)” Hopefully, the teacher’s merciful, because every question was, in fact, answered.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hanging Out?

I got a jump on National Hanging Out Day, which is this coming Monday (April 19th). It’s a “holiday” that draws attention to energy consumption & saving some by hanging out clothes instead of using a dryer. I honored the observance by looking in just about every backyard I walked past. I took the long route this morning and saw only 3 clotheslines—one of which was our own. Since I passed about 25 houses, that means only 1 out of 8 or 9 houses could even hang out clothes (outside) if they wanted to.

Here’s a quote from the NHOD website, “For many people, hanging out clothes is therapeutic work. It is the only time during the week that some folks can slow down to feel the wind and listen to the birds.” That’s actually the exact same way I feel about my walk to work. In fact, I think I’ve used several of those key terms in this blog as I’ve tried to describe my morning commutes…therapeutic, slow, wind, and birds.

Shortly after I’d passed the last of the 3 clotheslines, I was stopped by two friends (one driving, one walking) at roughly the same time. They knew each other, too…so we all chatted, shook hands, etc. for a minute or two. It was great seeing them. It was a chance meeting that wouldn’t have happened if two of the three of us hadn’t been walking. Fellow Walker Sightings (to date): 16

P.S. I didn’t spot any glaring trash this morning. Although I did see a tiny bird trying to fly off with a not-so-tiny piece of plastic wrapper. He tried a couple of times to get off the ground with it when I interrupted him. Yesterday was the potentially controversial litter pick-up day. Just off Main Street…on a campus lawn…I saw a beer can (Natural Lite). My first inclination was to pass by…What if someone saw me carrying it & jumped to some far out conclusions? I resisted, though, picked it up and carried it to the library. I’m pretty sure I walked faster than normal, though, to limit my beer can exposure by at least a few seconds.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One Big Ball

Yunno how sometimes you have several balls in the air & it makes life crazy and stressed…and how there are other times it’s just one big ball? Right now, for me, it’s one big ball. And that ball, which is work-related, was on my mind from beginning to end during this morning’s walk. Oh, well. If I have to have a pressing work-related thought, I’d rather have it walking along on a clear, cool, sunny morning. This morning’s weather definitely had a calming influence on my soul. Too bad I was running late & couldn’t enjoy it to the fullest. Lord willing, my one big ball will disappear by lunchtime tomorrow. Can’t wait.

P.S. Found a clear plastic bag near the sidewalk behind the library. It had a bit of candy residue, I think.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


My one word for this morning’s walk to work is “sunshine.” I know I shouldn’t soak it up like I do sometimes. I didn’t even use sunscreen on my (bald) head today. It was the perfect combination, though, of room temperature and the warmth of the rays. If I’d been driving, I might’ve had one arm hanging out the window getting those rays. Walking gives me a chance to get ‘em all over.

As you may have noticed, this entry is being logged on a Saturday. It’s hard working Saturdays, especially on beautiful days like today. Occasionally, students will throw a Frisbee around on the front lawn of the library, which is just plain cruel. Don’t they realize that some of us are stuck inside & can only look out at others enjoying themselves. That’s the end of my pity party. I actually hope that most people are not working today and that they’re outside having tons of fun. Lord willing, I’ll be doing the same thing soon.

Honks from Passersby (to date): 5. Fellow Walker Sightings: 13. Saw one of my closest neighbors (a student) walking to campus. I knew he did, I just hadn’t seen him until yesterday. Good for him.

P.S. I vaguely remember picking up some trash this morning, but can’t remember what. Yesterday, I found a pair of socks on the lawn of the athletics bldg. I suppose I could’ve washed ‘em and donated ‘em to Goodwill, but didn’t.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Driven to Distraction

Weather Report: Fallish. The cool air was refreshing. I forced myself not to wear a jacket, even though I easily could have.
I tried to pray during this morning’s commute. I was staying on track early, using my utility pole method (see March 17 entry), but then got stopped by a passerby. It was a good friend, and I enjoyed the brief visit. If I’d been driving, the visit would’ve never happened. But I couldn’t get my mind back to a prayerful mode afterwards. I can be so easily distracted, it’s not even funny…especially when I’m trying to pray. My prayer focus (while it lasted) was for patience—patience for my wife, particularly, who’ll be home with all the kids today…teaching them, training them, playing with them, running errands with them, and so forth. She needs God’s patience every day. And so do I. This friend I mentioned earlier, who had no idea I was trying to pray, offered me a ride. He probably knew I’d refuse, but was being nice anyway. I told him I was enjoying the cool weather, which wasn’t just a flimsy excuse. Ride Offers (to date): 6

P.S. I cleaned up a piece of duct tape from in front of a downtown business this morning. It’s the kind of thing that would’ve been swept up in a couple of days, but thought I’d beat them to it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


One of the landmarks I can’t help but notice each day on my walk to work is a beehive. A neighbor just around the corner keeps bees. He has about three hives, colonies, or whatever they’re called. All I can see is the boxes, like the one in the photo. Of course, the bees seem to hide away all winter, but when it’s even mildly warm they start coming and going. I always like to take a quick peek to see if they’re active. These are the same bees that hang out in our yard when the flowers are out, so in a way they seem almost like friends. The reason the bees are especially on my mind is because for the first time in almost a year my neighbor’s privacy gate was closed…so I couldn’t see the bees. There was a small consolation, though. A neighbor to this neighbor officially got into the bee business himself about a week ago. His box/hive is set farther back from the sidewalk, so it’s harder to actually see the bees, but at least there’s no 6 foot fence to keep me from looking. Ride Offers (to date): 5

P.S. Found a McCafe cup (large?) in a parking lot across the street from campus. If there’s ever trash I walk past it’s the stuff that accumulates in this parking lot. I tend to focus my litter efforts on campus, but that cup was just too much to pass by. And thankfully there was a public trash can only a few feet away.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

See You At Lunch?

On this morning’s commute I took time to not to pray, so much, but to meditate. To meditate on four words--four little words I say just about every day before I leave the house. In fact, I say it several times (one time per family member). “See you at lunch.”

Surely, in the history of mankind, about a million fathers have said those four little words before leaving home, never to return for lunch, for dinner, or ever. I bet at least one of the West Virginia miners who died earlier this week said those four words on their way out the door…or something similar, to a wife, to a son or daughter… “See you later.” “I’ll be home before dark.” “I’ll be home in time for supper.” I spent my walk time today wondering whether I should say things like that, as harmless as they seem to be. And, if not, what kind of farewell would be more true, more real, more godly? I’m reminded of A.J. Jacobs’ “Year of Living Biblically,” during which he tacked “God willing” onto the end of his every use of the future tense. Why? Because to him it just seemed biblical. “For what is your life? You are a vapor.”

P.S. I picked up a two foot length of clear ribbon from the hill behind the library. And I’ll pick up more trash tomorrow…God willing.

Monday, April 5, 2010


On the walk this morning I noticed a radical change in the trees. On Friday—no fluff. Today—fluff. I call if “fluff” because I don’t know what the technical name is for that pre-leaf stage that trees go through. All I know is that the fluff can mean only one thing: shade. I live for the shade on my walk to and from work, particular at lunchtime when the sun’s directly overhead. Up until now, there hasn’t been many breaks from the sun on my commute. Now, at least, there’s hope.

P.S. This morning I found half a wrapper from a snack-sized package of Cheez-its…on the sidewalk alongside Main. I don’t typically do the litter thing in view of so many passersby, but I’m steadily getting more comfortable with it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

National Walk to Work Day?

I was noticing a lot less traffic on the roads this morning, when it dawned on me that it wasn’t because everyone was walking…it was Good Friday. Perhaps it was a combo of the two. It’s interesting to me that a Walking-To-Work-Day observance would fall on a day when a number of people aren’t even working. Oh, well. There’s a bit more P.S. than normal, because litter became a focal point on this morning’s commute.

P.S. Picked up the most interestingly-shaped bit of trash I’ve ever picked up before. It was a wedge-shaped, plastic holder for one of those ready-made sandwiches. In this case, it was Ham & Cheese. I found it just around the corner from the house. I don’t usually like doing trash removal so early in my commute, because I have to tote it around. It was so in your face, though…fairly big and right in the middle of the road. I couldn’t help myself. As usual, I walked past much more trash than I picked up. It doesn’t usually bother me too much. I find myself caring about it more and more, though. Usually, I limit myself to one litter removal per morning…for a particular reason (more about that later). Walking through the downtown gazebo area, though, I spotted not one but two Subway bags full of trash. Right there on the lawn, making our downtown look a bit slummish. I actually tried walking past them—after all, I was already carrying my one-piece-of-litter-per-day. I took one step past them & just had to stop. I turned around, bent over, and grabbed ‘em.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Stress Reliever

Walked to work without a jacket of any kind today. So, so nice. The breeze which was in my face half the time was gentle and only slightly cool—just enough to say, “Hey, wake up.”

I was thinking on my way in about how stressful this week’s been…mostly work-related. Thankfully, walking is considered one of the better stress relievers. Things were different, for me, in Austin. I had a 20 minute commute straight through the heart of downtown, which meant a lot of stop lights and a lot of cars within inches of mine. It was actually a stress inducer, not reducer. Of course, as a librarian, I don’t have a ton of stressful weeks…but when I do, I’m glad my pedestrian commute never requires me to change lanes or slam on the brakes.

On a related note, I spotted something I hadn’t seen yet this year…someone biking…and not just for exercise. The rider was wearing khakis & a backpack, like he was on his way to work or school. It was a pleasant surprise. Our town is anything but a bicycle culture. I still remember the student (years ago), when finding out what church my family was thinking about visiting, said, “Oh, you don’t want to go there. That’s where all the professors who ride their bikes to campus go to church.” And he wasn’t kidding. Whoever thought that bicycling (and perhaps walking) places would be so countercultural? Anyway, be “weird” with me tomorrow & observe National Walk to Work Day (April 2nd)!

P.S. Picked up a plain white straw from the sidewalk near the corner of Main Street. It looked like it’d been mowed over a few times or like someone had chewed it up and spit out out…a few times.