Rain Garden Angst: I Need Help

Day’s Verse:
It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

OK, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned our rain garden plans, but here’s the skinny. Every winter, our back yard miraculously transforms from a pleasant grassy space to a wetland. Migratory birds stop there. Frogs ribbit. Sedges and reeds proliferate. When Carmel is over, she comes back muddy to her knees. Some of that is hyperbole, but not egregiously so.

All this to say that we have a drainage problem in the back yard. Happily, my friend Karissa is a civil engineer, and has some experience with drainage and construction. Because she’s a wonderful person, she’s helping us design and dig a rain garden that will help reduce the boglike aspects of the yard. Actually, we’re just going to be moving the boglike aspect and making it more visually appealing by specifically planting water-loving native plants in the wet space.

I’m pretty excited about this, actually, because I love the idea of capturing the water rather than shunting it into the storm drain system (a la French drains) or letting our yard remain an impassible, not to mention unmowable, morass for 9 months of year.

We made good progress in the planning stage, but as the dig date approached, I balked and postponed. I have so many details I haven’t figured out, and I don’t know how to figure them out, either. To wit:

  1. What do we do with the 15 cubic feet of dirt and grass we’ll be removing from the rain garden space?
  2. Who will help us dig this rain garden? We have a 50-foot long trench to dig, plus that 15 cubic feet of dirt to move from the garden area itself, and although I can ride 150 miles, I can’t dig worth beans.
  3. Where is the special rain garden dirt mix coming from?
  4. What native plants should I choose, and where should I get them? How do I plant them and keep them alive?
  5. Where is the doggone drainage pipe from the downspout in the back of our house to the storm drain? Need to find that to deal with the garden overflow, since it won’t be big enough to deal with all the water that flows into our yard.
  6. What do we do with the two perfectly healthy small ornamental evergreens we’ll be uprooting?

I am feeling overwhelmed because this is completely outside of my experience. I’m good at bicycling and teaching bicycling-related material; baking and eating baked goods; reading and, sometimes, writing books; using computers; and writing and editing. I don’t know anything about digging, construction, gardening, landscaping, or anything else that might be useful for this project, and I’m punier than a 98-lb weakling when it comes to upper body/digging muscles. It’s humbling and stressful at the same time.

Thankfully, I don’t exist in a vacuum. I think I have enough friends to help with the digging, and surely some of them know about this other stuff that’s outside of my ken. SO! If any of you knows an answer to any of my questions, or if you’re available September 24 and have a shovel that needs some love, please let me know ASAP.

Berry Pie Time, At Last

Day’s Verse:
I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It’s God’s gift.
Ecclesiastes 3:13-ish

Blackberry season, at last! The first time this year, Rachel and I met up last Friday afternoon and picked blackberries. It was hot; I got sweaty, scratched, and covered with those little dried bits of blackberry flowers that stay on the berries — in short, exactly what I expect and hope for when going out blackberrying. We each ended up with a bit over half a gallon of berries. Even so, most of the berries we saw were still green and unripe, and some of the vines even still had flowers on them — in late August!

My use of choice was, of course, berry pie. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to make my favorite deep-dish, so-good-you-swoon pie this year because we’ve hardly had any berries, and the ones we do have are too expensive to buy in large quantities (the recipe calls for 11 cups of mixed berries, not an insignificant investment). Thus, blackberries are the perfect berry for this pie. This time I made a peach-blackberry pie in our 3.5-quart Le Crueset pot; the pie has to be cut with vanilla ice cream or you risk berry overload. In short, heaven.

And we finally found some good-sized heirloom tomatoes to turn into tomato soup, which I’ve been craving since summer started. I’m drooling just thinking about that, plus some no-knead bread and (of course) sauteed squash… My future looks delicious. I may mention that both the berry pie and tomato soup are foods I associate with much earlier in the summer — easily late June, early July. It’s indicative of our bizarre weather that only now are we actually getting summer produce.

In other news, almost three years ago, I signed up with this website called WarmShowers.org. It’s a site that links touring bicyclists with people willing to host them. Ian and I figured we could host somebody at our Marlboro apartment. Then we moved… and bought a house… and I updated our information, and forgot about it. And then yesterday, for the first time, I got an email from a touring cyclist who needs a place to stay! He’ll be here Friday night, which should be interesting because we’re also having other friends are coming over; I think I’ll make lasagna with squash in it, enough for everyone. Anyway, I’m excited to actually get to do that. We have this big house, yard, and garage, and — most important — extra shower. I like the idea of sharing this with others.

Auburn & Burien TTT, Plus New Nutrition and Scoliosis Treatment

Day’s Verse:
Life’s a corkscrew that can’t be straightened,
A minus that won’t add up.

Ecclesiastes 1:15

Well, gosh. Where has time gone? I can hardly believe it’s been 10 days since I last blogged. On the other hand, enough has happened that I could well believe it’s been more like a month.

Quick health-related update: I went and saw Emily Edison, a sports nutritionist, today (I now have two alliterative-name healthcare people in my life. Just sayin’). Wow, so much information to assimilate. Yet I think it may be the best $185 — the visit was definitely not covered by insurance — I’ve spent in a long time. I’m going to see her again in a couple weeks, by which time if I follow her recommendations, I will have revolutionized my eating. For some reason talking with her about food and my eating disorder made me a bit teary, which was odd.

I also am in the midst of getting an appointment with a scoliosis specialist. I found the doctor I’d seen back in high school — his name is Wally Krengel, and he now works for Seattle Children’s Hospital. Because he works for Children’s, they don’t readily make appointments for anybody over age 21, and definitely don’t see people over age 30. Dr. Morrison’s office had faxed a referral to his office, but when I called to make an appointment, they told me he didn’t work there anymore, and I needed to have it faxed elsewhere. And, last but not least, Children’s did have me in their system — as Kathleen Sullivan. I can’t get them to change my name without documentation of the name change. Ha! So that’s in the works: I have to wait until my request for an appointment is approved (hopefully!) by some high-up scheduling manager, and until Dr. Morrison’s office sends the referral that includes my maiden name to the right office. All this so I can talk to Dr. Krengel and hopefully get him to agree to weekly PT visits as palliative care for my scoliosis. If he does that, then I get to start the real fun of trying to convince the insurance company to agree to pay for it.

In happier news, I earned some money these last two weeks! I started up teaching again, albeit on a limited basis. As you may recall, I do work for two Bicycle Alliance grants: CPPW (Communities Putting Prevention to Work, a broad-based anti-obesity effort) and OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a Safe Routes to School initiative aimed at getting kids walking/biking to school specifically). The OSPI teaching stalled for five months thanks to the Great Buy American Fiasco. The CPPW grant initially only scheduled two trainings, so it was always a secondary concern; it’s OSPI that has 27 school districts to train. Neither of them scheduled any trainings during the summer, partly thanks to the Buy American issue, and partly because PE teachers don’t work in the summer and contractually aren’t obligated to come to trainings during that time. That’s really a shame, because summer is still the best time to do the training. All that to say that, although I’ve been hearing rumors that the OSPI grant coordinator has hammered out some solution, my work for the last two weeks came from CPPW.

I taught August 17 and 18 in Auburn, at the same site where we did the fateful late-March monsoon training. This actually turned out to be a boon, since I already knew the area, had a road ride route scouted, and generally needed less time for setup than at a totally new site — all beneficial after almost 5 months off.

It was a difficult training, for a few reasons:

  1. I didn’t remember all the material perfectly. It’d been months since I thought about this, after all, so transitions weren’t real smooth and I repeated myself too often. I didn’t have details at my fingertips anymore, and I didn’t remember what was happening next very well. The Feet First trainer, Lisa, was also rusty on her material, and she and I have only taught together once before. That made it a bit tricky to start.
  2. We had three students, all male PE teachers, none loquacious, and one tending toward taciturn. These guys had not chosen to attend the first training, and were less enthusiastic than the first batch of CPPW trainees. Even with a higher level of enthusiasm, though, it’s just hard to get a good discussion going with only three people. One of the trainees hadn’t ridden a bike since elementary school, and he’d specifically avoided bike-related classes when doing his PE degree in college. He confessed to me at the end that he’d been dreading the training (no wonder he was late!).
  3. I co-taught with a newly-minted LCI named Mark, who volunteers for the Bicycle Alliance and gave his time for those two days for free. That was extremely generous of him, but it’s always rocky teaching with somebody for the first time. Each LCI tends to have his or her hobbyhorse, too, issue(s) that the LCI just feels MUST be covered — even if it’s not 100% relevant or necessary for that specific audience. Not having taught together, I didn’t know what Mark’s hot-button issues were, and we didn’t have the kind of rapport that would let me cut him off gracefully.

For those various reasons, I exerted a lot of energy on the training, and came home exhausted at the end of each day. Getting up at 5:00 am and commuting to/from Auburn each day probably contributed, too (I cannot BELIEVE people do that commute on a regular basis! How awful!). However, I think it was a success overall. The guys all expressed a greater level of enthusiasm about teaching the unit at the end; they gave high marks on our mostly-useless evaluation sheets; the guy who was dreading it asked how much an introductory-level bike would cost and where he could get one, and told me he felt much more confident and at ease; one of the other guys was already planning how he’d use his experience with the unicycle club in the unit. We also certified one of the teachers as passing Traffic Skills 101, and he did very well at the additional handling skills, which Mark taught par excellence.

A couple days after the class finished, I talked over my experiences with Mom, and we came up with some alternative ways of covering some of the material that I felt went less than smoothly.

On August 23 and 24, I taught for CPPW again, this time in Burien. I’d already gone down to the site, Cedarhurst Elementary School, the previous week to scout out the roads. The downside of teaching at the school was that it didn’t open until a bit later than I’d like, so I felt frazzled for time as we set up. The room, however, was perfect, and we were ready when the participants started showing up.

We had three participants schedule for that training, too, so I was ready with some modifications to how I taught for very small classes. Good thing, because only two people showed up. The third guy, who’d missed the previous week’s training, managed to also miss this week’s training (food poisoning one week, car trouble the next; I expect to hear he has to wash his hair or something next time). John, the Bicycle Alliance CPPW coordinator who has attended every one of his trainings so far, got a flat tire on his way there and had to replace all four car tires, making him 3 hours late. Fortunately, I didn’t actually need John there, so we just went on without him.

This training went more smoothly. It helped that I’d just gone over the material. I also taught with Jen from Feet First, and she and I have taught together often enough to do it smoothly. I didn’t have a co-LCI (what’s the point, with only two students?), so I could do whatever worked for me without negotiating. BWAHAHAH. Anyway — The students were also more familiar with bicycling. Both had done STP at some point, even if it had been many years in the past, and were familiar with traffic principles and bicycling principles in general. Both were women, although only one was a PE teacher, and it was actually really great to have all women in the training. I’d like to do more all-women classes.

So the Burien CPPW training went better. We finished early on both days; the first day, I did additional Traffic Skills 101 material with the one student who wanted to do certification in the extra time. She passed with flying colors. The second day, I left at 12:30, a record, and I felt anxious that I’d left out something important because it was so early. Anyway, it went well, and by the end, the PE teacher (who just dropped her daughter off in Pullman for her freshman year as a Coug) was calling me “dear.” Success?

Now I have a few weeks until the next training. Nothing is scheduled, but CPPW needs one more training, and OSPI should be starting up mid-September. I had forgotten how good I feel when I can leave knowing I’ve had an impact on how people ride, getting non-riders to think about bicycling… And how many hundreds of students are impacted? It’s amazing to think about, really. In the meantime, I have a PT appointment, I meet with Emily again, and I will be riding my bike plenty. Most of all, I need to reconnect with some friends I haven’t seen for most of August.

Ashland Bike Ride Media

Day’s Verse:
Run to me, dear lover.
Come like a gazelle.
Leap like a wild stag
on the spice mountains.

Song of Solomon 8:14

If I picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth? Here are some videos I took of riding in Ashland, Oregon. This blog post will give you the impression that I went to Ashland for biking. Although the biking was exceptional, we were actually there for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’ll put up another post about the plays and that experience, so stay tuned. Meantime, on to the media from the two hill climb rides I did in Ashland.

The first ride, I went out to the delightfully-named Dead Indian Memorial Road and did hill repeats. I guess you can call it a repeat if you do it twice, right? The interesting thing was going from down low, which has these sere hills, some scrub oak, and various other similar dry, hot-weather plants, up to higher elevations that are populated with gorgeous pines and evergreens. Here’s a video from lower down.

And here’s a video of the same road, a few thousand feet higher.

The next day, I rode up Mt. Ashland. The metrics don’t sound that impressive — 50 miles roundtrip, 5000 feet or so of climbing — until you realize almost all the climbing was in 15 miles going up the mountain. I now understand how different climbing 5,000 feet spread out is compared to all at once. Anyway, the ride was truly spectacular. Here are videos from that ride. They really don’t capture it; I kept getting these amazing glimpses into the valley all the way to Mt. Shasta off in the distance.

Here’s the lower-down video:

And here’s the video a few thousand feet higher up.

Definitely go take a look at my Flickr set for some cool pictures of Ashland and our drive down Highway 101. There are some very neat pictures there. Here are a few I just have to share.

You don’t see these at home. I cautiously walked across the cattle guard, not trusting myself to ride across it safely. How dumb would it be to crash on a cattle guard?
They Don't Have These At Home

This was the road lower down, heading toward Mt. Ashland. There was no traffic because partway up, one of the bridges was closed. Happily for me, the closure was for paving, which was essentially finished — they just still had equipment sitting around. I went around the road-closure barriers without any trouble. The result of that, though, was virtually zero traffic on that road, before or after the bridge. People saw the road closure signs and avoided it. Great for biking!
Mt. Ashland Road: Lower Down

Here’s the view from the top of Mt. Ashland facing…um, I guess south. That’s Mt. Shasta off in the distance.
View from Mt. Ashland

And finally, a vignette and accompanying picture. The story: When I got to the top of Mt. Ashland, I rode by a little boy who enthusiastically hailed me. There was nobody else up there — just me, this little boy, and his mom. And their black lab, Joy. Anyway, I stopped and asked the boy’s mom to take my picture at the top. The boy, who was incredibly gregarious, immediately gravitated to my bike and started examining it with great interest. He talked nonstop. I quickly learned that his name was Ian. He really wanted to be in my top-of-the-mountain picture, so here it is: Me and Ian at the top of Mt. Ashland.
Katie & Ian at the Summit
After that, he got fascinated with my bike pump and I let him carry it off in order to get a picture by myself. Turns out his little bike had a low front tire, and he immediately cottoned on to the idea of using my pump to put air in his tire. Unfortunately, the valves were incompatible and I had to leave without putting air in his tires. I rode down, taking one hour what had taken me two and a half to do going up. Boy it was fun.

Sometimes I really wish I could just ride and never stop.

More Seaside Pictures!

Day’s Verse:
God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.

Psalm 8:9

Here are pictures of the day for the last few days.

Sunday: None, because I didn’t bring my camera with me at all! Also, we spent almost the whole day reading, with the occasional walk thrown in to keep our limbs from ossifying. I read almost the entirety of Three Musketeers. All for one, one for all! And thank goodness Milady was killed in the end, that b*tch.

Ian at Kinni-Kinnic Lodge

One Sandal
I went for a really nice bike ride on Tuesday, over to Oswald State Park. Here’s the route:

I mention this because there were some AMAZING views on the hill above Manzanita, and I took some pictures with my cell phone (which has the equivalent of a pinhole camera, so the best I could hope for is blurry-but-recognizable). Unfortunately, those will have to wait until we get home because I have no way of getting them off my camera here.

Abandoned Sandals
Check out the other pictures I put in my Flickr album, though — we saw some really cool sea life this morning during the low tide. We saw a limpet with its antennae out!; a sand dollar that had MOVED and left a track!; and of course lots of sea stars, hermit crabs, barnacles, anemones, and crab tracks.

I’ll probably post some more pictures from today. Dad and Mom came down yesterday afternoon, and Dad and I are going for a ride that’s supposed to have some nice views. We’ll have a better camera along, so I hope to capture some of it.

Happy 8 Year Anniversary, My Love

Day’s Verse:
I am my lover’s and my lover is mine.
He caresses the sweet-smelling flowers.

Song of Solomon 6:3

Dear Ian,

Can you believe we’ve been married for eight years? On the one hand, it seems so long — I remember when we first got married, two years seemed like an eternity. On the other hand, it feels so short — in the grand scheme of things, I trust that this will only represent a small fraction of the years we’ll be spending together. Plus, the time has flown by so fast! It seems like only yesterday that we walked down those stairs at Woodinville Alliance, hoping not to trip and fall on our faces. (After which Mr. Anderson spilled punch on my wedding dress, and the stain is still there today. And then on the drive to the Sorrento, the balloons twisted off the Prius’ antenna, which I imagine is somewhere in Lake Washington even now.)

So much has happened in the last eight years, it’s hard to believe. We’ve graduated from college, obtained real jobs, rented apartments, purchased a home, bought a car, and done all sorts of grown-up things. But it’s not the grown-up things that come to mind when I think of our marriage. It’s those other things.

The way we can allude to a quote — not even quote it, just refer to it shorthand — and be on the same page. The way you know a million tiny facts and are ALWAYS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING, doggone it. The unfortunate orange fish experiment in Year 1. The dismal, expensive basement apartment in Trowbridge Road, our first home. The amazing Christmas Day Dishwasher & Dead Rat Disaster of 2010. The trip where I met you in London, we went to Edinburgh, and then your credit card was canceled because the number was stolen. Riding all the bike trails in Massachusetts (I’m pretty sure a similar feat in Washington is impossible, but I’m game if you are). Your meeting me in halfway and in P-Town at the end of the MS Cape Cod Getaway two years running, back when 75 miles felt like a long way to ride. Backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail that you endured out of love for me.

Countless hours reading books together on the couch, including the time that glass globe caught a book on fire in the Marlborough apartment. Going for walks and hikes, probably thousands of miles of walking at this point, many of those miles in snow or rain. Watching Smallville and howling over how awful it was, but still watching it. Watching MST3K for the first time with you. Two fabulous, relaxing, luxurious train rides in place of airplane flights. Innumerable flights from Boston to Seattle and back, especially the one where we were delayed by snow on both ends, but happily it was the only time we’d ever sprung for first class seats, so it wasn’t bad. You teaching me to play cribbage and me winning occasionally! …And trying to play Set with you, but never winning. Ever. Playing strategy games that I have no real hope of winning, but enjoying because we’re together. Food flare-ups in the toaster oven, “a sensation altogether new to me.”

So many small moments that, added together, produce our life together. Ian, I would not be who I am today without you. I am so glad you are in my life, and I can hardly wait to spend the next years with you, laughing, loving, learning together… and, of course, making an interocitor. I love you.

Wimbledon Commons (I & K)
Do you recognize this young couple? It feels like only yesterday that we were taking this picture together in a chilly London park.

Seaside Vacation: Day 1

Day’s Verse:
I have God’s more-than-enough,
More joy in one ordinary day
Than they get in all their shopping sprees.

Psalm 4:6-7

Here we are in lovely Seaside, Oregon, compliments of Ian’s parents. We arrived yesterday evening, and after unpacking the car naturally went straight to the beach, where we reveled in the atypical sunniness (clouds have since moved in, but should clear by the afternoon). Expect more pictures than words for vacation-related blog posts.

Ian and Tillamook Head
Ian’s first step onto the beach for this vacation, with Tillamook Head in the background.

What Vacation Should Be
This is what vacation should be.

Ian into the sunset
Ian immediately wanted to go touch the water. Handily enough, he had worn his waterproof hiking boots and stomped fearlessly right into the waves.

Check out my flickr photo set for more pictures. I’m posting more pictures on flickr than I’ll be putting up here, so it’s worth checking out each day we’re on vacation.