Thursday Things

1. I am officially a competitive climber! Well, kind of.


Last Saturday, I participated in my first ever climbing competition. It took place at First Ascent Avondale, where I’ve climbed a couple times in the past. The comp ran for three hours, and during that time you were free to climb any of the 53 routes set for the comp. The routes ranged in difficulty from 5.6 (very easy) to 5.13 (very hard) and had a certain point value assigned to it based on its level of difficulty. Once you completed the route, you earned the points assigned to it, and if you flashed the route (completed it on your first attempt without any falls), you earned a 10% bonus on top of the route’s stated point value. The judges took your five highest scores and combined them to form your final score.

I signed up for the recreational division, but apparently climbed too many hard routes, as I found out after they posted results that I had been bumped up to the intermediate division. I came in second to last, since most of the people in the intermediate division climbed 5.10as and higher, while I climbed mostly 5.9s, which had lower point totals (not that it matters – I don’t have the skill or strength to climb anything beyond a 5.10a at this point anyway). But regardless, I still had a really good time. The routes at First Ascent are set QUITE different from the routes at Brooklyn Boulders, and it was fun to try something new.

2. I think we’ve established quite well that I love birds, yes? If we haven’t, I’ll just state it for the record, clearly, once and for all: I love birds. They make me happy. I also will whine to no end about how I wish we had more birds in Chicago, or, more specifically, how I wish we had more birds like I had in my yard growing up: goldfinches and house finches and chickadees and blue jays and catbirds and mourning doves and cardinals and tufted titmice and downy woodpeckers and red-bellied woodpeckers and, on lucky occasions, bluebirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks, orioles, and redheaded woodpeckers. So many pretty birdies! Meanwhile, I consider anything that isn’t a starling, sparrow, robin, or pigeon to be exciting around these parts.

WELL. I’ve recently started working on identifying birds by sound rather than just by sight, and have come to realize we have a lot more birds in my neighborhood than I gave the city credit for! In the past week and a half, I’ve seen and heard both chickadees and mourning doves, but what I hear most often (aside from robins, that is) are actually cardinals! Now that I know what cardinals sound like, I hear them singing their songs all the time.

(When you hear this, look towards the top of the trees, since that’s where cardinals tend to hang out in my experience.)

Anyway, in addition to that, I know that cardinals also just peep, and on Sunday, I was in my apartment getting ready for church when I heard a very loud peeping. I looked out the window, and:




A lady cardinal came to visit me!! Not only did she come to visit, but she came to harvest the stringy bits left over in my planters from last year to use for her nest!! (I actually had a lady house finch do the same thing a couple of weeks ago, to my endless delight. I’ve been trying to figure out how to attract birdies without attracting Chippy the Squirrel, and it appears I’ve hit on something with my laziness at not removing the coconut liners from my planting troughs.) And then she came back on Monday morning, too! I told her to tell all her friends and invite them, as they are all MORE than welcome to take as many stringy bits as they need to construct their homes.

Seriously, though, you have no idea how happy this made me. In nearly four years of living in the city, all I’ve wanted is to be able to see birds from my window like I could growing up, so this just makes me burst with joy.

3. In much sadder news, this past Sunday, aside from the cardinal spotting, was not a particularly fun day for me. I’ve known my church has been in financial trouble for quite some time, but they just recently revealed to us how dire the situation has become. It’s so bad that, short of a literal miracle in the form of about $1 million or so falling from the sky, we pretty much have to sell our building in order to avoid bankruptcy.

I could write untold numbers of blog posts on the reasons why we’re in this financial situation, on the anger and hurt I feel towards current and past leaders and parishioners who put us in this state, on the gut-wrenching injustice of it all *shakes fist at sky*, but for the moment, I just want to bemoan the absolute lack of any concern for the historic preservation of churches in this city. We have a few options of what we can do to preserve our parish in the sense of the (very few) people who continue to attend my church, but none of them involve preserving the building, which is now over 125 years old (and, unsurprisingly, the cause of many of our financial problems, as 125 year old buildings don’t generally come equipped with regenerating roofs or self-fixing stained glass windows). Regardless of what happens (aside from that $1 million falling from the sky option), the church will, at the absolute best, be completely gutted, if not torn down entirely. We have no landmark status, so nothing prevents anyone from tearing it down and putting up a couple characterless, unimaginative, hideous modern three flats in its place if they so chose. I don’t know. I find the whole thing very upsetting. Regardless of how you feel about religion, Christianity or otherwise, I think nearly everyone can agree that any house of worship, regardless of which religion claims it, tends to top the list of beautiful architecture in a place. The care and concern that goes into building a church (or synagogue, or temple, or mosque, or whatever) far exceeds the care and concern that goes into building a house, or an office, or a school (or at least a school these days…I’d make a solid argument for the beauty of school architecture in the past), at least from my perspective, and to tear that down to make some sweet, sweet cash is just something I find morally repulsive, not only from a religious standpoint, but from a respect for the past standpoint and from an appreciation for art standpoint.


But I don’t have an extra $1 million lying around (hard to believe, I know), so there’s nothing I can do :/ And that just sucks.

Do you have an extra $1 million lying around you want to give to my church? Haha. One can dream…
Any other ideas on how I can attract more birds to my deck without attracting less savory creatures (i.e.: squirrels, raccoons, rats, etc.) at the same time?

11 thoughts on “Thursday Things

  1. That is really cool you did that competition! Is that numbering systems (in the 5s) how all climbs are rated? What does it mean?

    Congrats on your visitor! YAY! I hope she stays! That reminds me to post about the bird that keeps making a nest at our house even after we keep taking it down. Ha ha.

    Isn’t it funny how your realize there are way more birds around than you see once you listen to their songs?!

    So sorry about your church 😦 I think places like that should not be torn down, too. It’s really a shame how we don’t seem to value longevity in buildings here. Well, that is another argument, but it’s along the same lines – we should build things to last and not be so eager to tear things down.

    • Climbing routes are graded in one of two ways (at least in North America). If you’re bouldering, the grades use the Hueco System, which rates routes on a scale of V0 (extremely easy and beginner friendly) to V16 (extremely challenging, probably only accessible to professional climbers). For top roping or lead climbing (what you probably envision when you think of climbing – one person in a harness, another person (or system) belaying the climber), routes use the Yosemite Decimal System. The YDS is actually used for both hiking and climbing, with classes of 1-6, class 1 being an easy, flat hike, and class 6 being an El Capitan sort of climb. Class 5 is where you find rock climbing, and that’s broken down into subdivisions that rank the difficulty of the climb, from 5.0 (I’ve never seen a 5.0 in a gym — I’ve never seen anything below a 5.6 in a gym, so 5.6 is a very easy climb) to 5.15c (once you get to 5.10, they subdivide the subdivisions, so you have things like 5.10c, 5.11b, 5.12c, etc. A 5.10c would be harder than a 5.10a or 5.10b, but easier than anything 5.11 or above). Of course, these aren’t road races–there’s no USATF certification going on here that says a marathon is always and only 26.2 miles, whether you run it in Los Angeles or New York. Unlike races, where distances (and therefore, to an extent, difficulty) follow a standard, all climbing grades are subjective and decided upon by the route setters or other climbers who think that a route is a certain level of difficulty and grade it accordingly. I’ve flashed (climbed to the top without stopping on my first try, without receiving any guidance from anyone on how to climb the route) a 5.9 and then gone to the route immediately next to it, also rated at a 5.9, and not been able to make it beyond halfway. But once you get into climbing, you can get a general idea of what’s going to challenge you (for me: usually 5.10a or above), what will be easy for you (anything 5.8 or below for me), and what is completely beyond your ability (5.11 or above for me), and choose which routes you want to climb accordingly.

      I haven’t seen her come back yet, but I keep hearing cardinals singing in the neighborhood, so I’m hoping she’s around here somewhere. Regardless, it was still such an exciting surprise to have a birdie come to my deck!

      I COMPLETELY agree. I’ve always been very passionate about historic preservation, whether it’s a church or a house or a building or whatever, and it just infuriates me how much quicker we are to tear everything down and put up something brand new instead of appreciating what we already have and investing our resources in renovation and maintenance instead.

  2. So you are such a hardcore climber that you actually mastered out of the recreational group! That’s pretty awesome in itself!

    In wildlife news, I noticed yesterday that there are at least 20 turtles living in the small run-off water pond by my workplace (after I saved a baby turtle). How I’ve missed this before I have no idea, but then all I could think about was that dirty turtle smell.

    I’m sorry about your church. Many many churches are truly beautiful buildings and I do think steps should be taken to preserve them. And I agree with Kim that things should be built to last.

    • Haha well thanks! “Intermediate” feels like too generous of a term for me, but if that’s what First Ascent wants to label me as, who am I to tell them no? Haha.

      Oh my goodness, that’s a lot of turtles! That’s kind of cool that there’s such a big colony of them, even if they do smell bad haha.

      Ugh, yes. If only there were a way of convincing the people with power here to believe that as well 😦

  3. So sorry to hear about your church. I wholeheartedly agree with you on the frustration of sentimental buildings being torn down to make room for some kind of money-generating plan. Certain things can just never be replaced. =(

    On a positive note, that climbing competition sounds awesome! You are big time now!!! Are you planning on seeking out more competitions in the future???

    • If only there were some way to turn emotions into dollars! That would solve this problem pretty quickly. I wish things didn’t have to be so much about money all the time 😦

      I definitely want to keep doing climbing competitions! Or at least low key ones like the one I did at First Ascent haha. It was a lot of fun to climb with a purpose and hang out with other climbers.

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