November Thoughts

The sun comes up in one minute, at 7:22 am, today. It sets at 4:26 pm, but odds are we won’t see it for any of those nine hours and six minutes, thanks to the (likely) thousands of feet of cloud cover above us. Granted, that cloud cover seems to be coming down as fast as it can, drenching everyone in the process.

On days like this, everyone on the bus steams and drips and tries to keep their dampness to themselves — at least a token gesture that’s appreciated, even if in practice it’s utterly futile. Little streams meander off every umbrella and down the floor.

On days like this, traffic snarls to a halt, an ocean of watery red lights reflecting off wet black tarmac and wet dark cars. Colors don’t exist beyond the well-lit confines of our bus; outside, through the foggy windows, we see red taillights, white headlights, and gray everything else.

On days like this, people who moved here from warmer, sunnier climes–pretty much everywhere that isn’t Alaska–start feeling depressed. They remember the California sunshine, so reliable even in November, or of the bright dazzle of sun glinting off snow, or the bursts of autumnal leaves backlit with glancing afternoon rays. They forget the misery of drought, the constant shoveling of snow, the endless raking of leaves. How can we live this way for another five months? they wonder.

What I think of is the glory of the Olympic Mountains, dark indigo and white in the distance, with water gray-blue below and the sky coldly blue above. I think of the evergreen trees coating the rolling Cascade foothills like a dark green blessing, hazing off into snow-capped peaks. I think of the silhouette of hillsides vanishing into mist. I think of the joy of Christmas lights twinkling through the dark and reflecting off of rain-wet roads, doubling the glitter.

I don’t think about all the wet, dark tomorrows. I think about the bursts of clean-washed beauty that come between the rains.

Yes, my heart sinks at my inevitable damp clothes, my soaked-through rain jacket, the need to stuff shoes with newspaper every night and hope they’ll dry before morning. But I love this place, and every day, rain or shine, I am thankful to live here.

Labor Day, School, and So Much More

The New Car

Yesterday marked the one monthiversary of buying our Bolt.

New Bolt!

Since we bought it, we’ve figured out that:

  • My bike fits in the back, but only with the seats all the way down and the passenger seat squeezed all the way forward–leaving room for only the driver. Clearly before we replace the Prius, I need to get a hitch-mounted rack for the Bolt.
  • The car has at least 300 miles per charge. Ian drove it for two straight weeks, just about 300 miles, without a charge.
  • The radio turns on every time we turn the car on, and so far we haven’t found a way to turn it off.
  • It feels like riding a bike: You’re very aware of ups and downs, since you’re paying close attention to energy usage; and it has a hand brake paddle on the steering wheel that lets you slow down or even come to a full stop without ever touching the foot brake.

Ian and Benji use the car the lion’s share of the time, since during the week I exclusively travel by bus or bike. It’s the first time I’ve actually wanted to drive the car… but not into downtown Seattle. I can’t believe how many people are actually willing to sit through the misery we call a commute in their single-passenger vehicles.

It’s been quite the month.

Labor Day Weekend

Benji, Dad, and I had a very fun Labor Day weekend, hitting Alki Beach and Twin Falls on back-to-back days.

Twin Falls

Twin Falls 2017 - 1

Twin Falls 2017 2

Twin Falls 3 - Benji on a Rock

Twin Falls 4

Benji at Twin Falls 2017

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River

Twin Falls - Snoqualmie River 2

Alki Beach

Alki Beach 1

Alki Beach 2017 - 2

Alki Beach Labor Day Weekend 2017

Alki Beach 2017 - 3

Alki Beach 2017 - Tidepools

School

Benji’s half-day kindergarten at ORCS started on September 11.
First Day of ORCS Kindergarten
I think it’s going well, although to be honest, I hear very little of how the day actually went. All I can really say is that Benji goes, and then I see him in the evening and he probably has a craft and is tired-hyper. But anything in between — going to school, having lunch, doing the afternoon with someone — I just trust is happening.

But overall, from the little snippets I do hear, Benji is liking half-day kindergarten. We’ve started keeping track of our reading hours, and so far it’s about an hour a day. He also said he likes having his best friend Will in class with him, and his two favorite parts of the school day are free choice and recess. Just about right. I tried to ask about academics, but aside from being really excited about doing colors this week, I haven’t heard much.

So far, Benji’s remained astonishingly healthy, but he’s been sniffling and sneezing lately, so I expect that’s about to change.

At Benji’s 5-year doctor visit we determined he’s totally normal in terms of physical growth and such. The doctor did refer us to Children’s for an assessment of large and fine motor skills as well as speech. That’s still pending.

Meanwhile, we’ve had two weeks of school and no pattern set yet. Next week will be another week with no pattern, but starting in October things will hopefully settle down.

Work

My work has gotten increasingly busy. I like it, and I haven’t dropped any balls yet, but I’m starting to get close to full capacity. I have a secondary project that I’m really excited about, but it’s taking a long time because release notes and release-related content updates always take top priority. This release cycle, which finishes on release night on October 19, has a number of big stories that require quite a bit of time to document.

I’ve been bringing my work laptop home on the weekends in the hopes of getting some work done, but somehow I hardly ever do. It’s work I love, but weekends are so full, especially with wanting to spend time with Benji and Ian since I don’t see them as much during the week; biking; and (importantly) catching up on sleep (hopefully).

What a Week!

Read whatever intonation you want into that title, I’d say it’s accurate.

Sunday

Benji listless and droopy. Took his temp: 102F. Administered Tylenol and videos. Ian left to drive to totality zone. Benji slept and drooped and I gave him more Tylenol. Had 100% exposure to his virus in the first 15 seconds of his feeling really bad.

Monday

Had the day off, which was good, because it was busy and Ian wasn’t around! Benji was feeling better, but his throat was really sore.

But Uncle Gerard was here for a visit, so Benji glommed onto him and I didn’t have to do much.

Hopelink donation and food bank tour. Benji still a little sick after 102-degree fever on Sunday (and maybe Saturday.)
Hopelink Food Bank Tour

Eclipse.
Eclipse 1

Eclipse 2

Eclipse 3

Eclipse Tree Pinholes

Play with Gruncle Gerard.
Benji and Gruncle Gerard

Tuesday

Ian test-drove a Bolt and loved it. We decided to buy one. Started the process of buying one and getting all the details sorted for that. With a regular car you don’t have to worry about installing a fueling station at your house, but with an electric car, you do! Sadly, PSE ended their charging station rebate program last year, so no free charging station for us.

We plan to go on Friday after work to do all the car-buying paperwork.

Wednesday

I start feeling under the weather. Take a bus home and by 9:00 pm have 102-degree fever and vomited once (dehydration and hunger, I suspect; careful consumption of liquids and calories resulted in no further such episodes. Still… ugh). Clearly not going to work Thursday.

Thursday

Sick all day in bed. Fever remains through afternoon, though feeling a little better by evening. Fever goes away by evening and doesn’t come back, but tonsil area of throat getting extremely sore. Can’t swallow much. Benji complained on Monday of it hurting to eat, and he was RIGHT! Oww! Blaze through our strategic apple sauce supplies in no time flat.

Still not going to work, but a very kind coworker dropped off my laptop so I could do work on Friday.

Friday

Home Sick
Feeling much better although still can’t swallow at all. Subsisting on sherbet, smoothies, and apple sauce.

New Bolt!
Good thing about being home was I could meet at 1:00 pm to do car paperwork! This was extra-good because it took like two hours with everything, so I was glad we didn’t start at 4:00 pm. Pretty darn excited.

Struggled to swallow enough pasta to prepare for a bike ride of some sort the following day. Only a few weeks out from P2P, this was to be a major peak week of riding. Determined not to let stupid sickness stop me.

Saturday

Decided to join Dad for his super-hilly ride and just see how long I can hang on. What I didn’t realize until 45 minutes before the ride started was that the ride began not in Woodinville (a 5-minute ride away) but in South Kirkland (a 25- to 30-minute ride away). Needless to say I rushed off in quite a panic and fortunately remembered everything, but arrived at the start a little less fresh than I might’ve hoped.

I liberally dosed myself with Advil during the day and that helped keep the sore throat tolerable. Swallowing Clif bars was not exactly a joy, but I didn’t cry in pain, either. I saved that for the hills, which started and pretty much never stopped.

It was as good an approximation of P2P as I’ve done this season, although previous years we did more. It’s not been my best year, and I expect to be even slower on P2P than previous years… but with all the illnesses, especially the summer ones, and my job and our family dynamic evolving, I’ll just consider finishing a success this year.

In any case, on Saturday I just felt grateful to have enough energy to keep riding and not get dropped, and finish the ride (as much as anyone finished). In fact, overall, I felt decent — not super fast or strong, but certainly able to keep going. Now I just have to manage not to get sick between today and September 9…

Also, Benji and I got CSA veggies and found rainbow glass chips in the parking lot.
CSA Rainbow

Then, after I put Benji down for bed, Dad and I took the Bolt out for a spin. The dashboard lights up at night.
Bolt Night Lighting

Sunday

Church at Newport High School with a zillion other people. Hot. Benji ran around while we quasi-listened/quasi-made sure he didn’t vanish. Astroturf bits got all over our shoes, pants, and blankets. Tried really hard not to get them all over the inside of our car.
Church in the "Park"

Got home and collapsed for a while.

…Need I say explicitly that our family of routine-lovers is looking forward to a nice, normal week this week?

Solar Eclipse!

Today has been a heck of a day.

First thing in the morning, we donated Benji’s entire giving jar, saved up over the course of a year, to Hopelink. It amounted to $55.50. We also got a tour of their food bank and the warehouse, and Benji got a good idea of what his $55.50 will do.

Then we watched to eclipse, which was the coolest thing I’ve seen, bar none. I carefully traced the pinhole image of the sun at consistent time intervals to capture the change over time. Benji, my uncle Gerard (who flew up from San Francisco to see Benji), my parents, and I all shared a couple pairs of viewing glasses as well as using the pinhole camera.

Between watching the eclipse, Benji colored a rainbow with chalk. When he finished, he had adults tell him what color we thought each was. Because Uncle Gerard was here, we skipped over obvious color names like light blue and went instead to nomenclature as sea foam.

There was great discussion over a color I would have just called pale pink, but which Benji wanted to call skin. We pointed out that skin came in lots more colors than just pale pink. Ultimately Uncle Gerard’s submission, peony, prevailed.

But after the fact, we were discussing Benji’s inclination to call that color skin. We joked that, really, we should have called the color alt-white, given how the current political climate is going.

After that, Benji built a Lego set and then napped. While he did that, Uncle Gerard and I went for a nice little walk.

Overall, a very successful day off work.

Poopier Things

About a month ago, Benji find he’d saved about $30 in his allowance. That kind of cash doesn’t sit around for long; we promptly went to the toy store to blow that wad on Legos and Douglas stuffed animals.

While we were there perusing the stuffed animal selection, what should we see but a large-ish plush poop emoji with a happy smile and hearts for eyes. Benji immediately latched onto it, not for himself, but because he felt that Daddy needed this stuffed poop. Could we please buy it as a present for Daddy?

I said we had to have some holiday or some reason to give it to him. Not surprisingly, I thought idea of giving the poop emoji a permanent home was pretty crappy. I wanted to find a way to squeeze out of it… But I also kind of wanted to see what Ian would do if presented with such an excretory gift.

He wanted to know when Daddy’s birthday was — January. Oh. That’s a long time.

What about Christmas? Oh, December is still a long time.

Finally I took pity on him and admitted that our wedding anniversary was on August 9, not that far off. I said that we could buy it for Daddy as an anniversary gift representative of our marriage. (Don’t worry, that’s not actually the case.)

We agreed to not tell Ian about this plan, and amazingly, Benji only ever mentioned it when we were alone.

Last Wednesday after I got my tattoo, I was home earlier that usual. It was the perfect opportunity! I whisked Benji off to the toy store. The entire way there he fretted that someone might have already coughed up the dough for the poop. I couldn’t decide if that would be good or bad, in the long run.

Fears aside, the heart eyes poop remained available. Sales of plush poop emojis must have been a little constipated since we last were there, but we got things moving again with our purchase.

I had them gift-wrap it, which was amusing–the teenage boy doing the wrapping had no idea how to wrap a plush triangle–and off we went home to deliver our load.

To his credit, Benji managed to not say what it was, and he let Ian open it. When Ian got the wrapping paper off, all my doubts were blown out the window. Ian literally was speechless for minutes, and then he started laughing hysterically for longer. I have never seen him so surprised, astonished, or delighted at a joke. It was well worth the cost of the poop just for the first five minutes after it came out.

And that is how we now have a plush poop emoji, which Ian generally shares with Benji.

What My Tattoo Means

As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a tattoo this week. This is something that’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been thinking about how to share about what brought me to doing it.

For several years, I’ve kept having the idea of idols in my life popping up. There’s this concept of idols as put forth by Timothy Keller in Counterfeit Gods that says an idol is basically anything that becomes the top priority in my life, supplanting God. Idols are usually good things–family, work, exercise–that soon become all-consuming things, things that define who we are. When that happens, their goodness becomes twisted and ruined.

When God is in His proper place, first in my life, the fundamental foundation of who I am–a beloved child of God, always imperfect but always covered by grace–remains true no matter what happens in my day-to-day experience. When an idol starts to supplant that definition of myself, I start to waver. That’s when start I having to earn or prove my worth, when I start to feel like I need to do more, work harder at whatever my idol is, prove I’m worthy of love.

For a long time, then, I’ve been feeling God nudging me and telling me that my Saturday bike rides are too important in my life. I’ve long reserved Saturday morning to midafternoon for a big ride, and I’ve been feeling like God is telling me that I’m willing to put them above the well-being of my family, above my own well-being, above other important relationships. That that aspect of biking, the riding hard and fast and long with a bunch of guys I know, has become too big and important in my life.

As with any idol, biking is a good thing. It’s healthy, and for me it facilitates mental health, too. Even going for big Saturday rides is a fine thing; it’s great to get out and push myself, and many of the guys I ride with are my friends who I only see on Saturdays. Before I got my job at Tamarac, it was also one of the few times I got to be away from home and Benji for an extended time, and simultaneously have adult conversation. Saturday rides have played an important role in helping me stay healthy and sane the last five years.

But every single Saturday, all year long, regardless of how the week went or the emotional status or anything else, really? Especially since I started working at Tamarac, I have much less time with my family than previously. I don’t need the escape from home or social outlet (although these guys are still my friends!) nearly as much as I did before. Now what I need is relationship time with my family and our friends.

For a long time I haven’t been interested in listening to God’s nudges about this. But on July 5 I got sick with this fever virus, and it didn’t go away for a full 11 days — including two Saturdays completely off the bike. Despite my best efforts at eating to maintain muscle mass, I did lose fitness. I’m substantially slower than I was before, and I can’t just hop on my bike Saturday morning to crank out a quick 100 miles.

I pondered this reality last Saturday while I was not riding, but was keenly aware that Dad and several of my buddies were doing a one-day STP. They were all off doing a hard ride and getting stronger and faster, and I was at home pulling weeds and shooting squirt guns. I realized then that, while this sickness doesn’t end my season, it probably ends my season with those guys.

Through the day, I went through so many emotions: Frustration and disappointment and discouragement as I compared myself to them; slowly moving to acceptance and the reminder that comparing myself has never made me happy and anyway, I had a really great time with Benji and Mom and squirt guns. Finally I reached the point when I accepted that God was right: I needed to reprioritize my Saturday riding. It could no longer be paramount in my life, not now and not ever.

It took literally taking away my fitness for me to accept that my Saturday efforts–riding 20 mph for 100 miles, or climbing 10,000 feet in 100 miles, or doing something equally challenging each week–while fine goals, they can never be the most important thing in my life.

I shared this with Ian, and we had a talk about it. I felt so unburdened and freed! In that moment, I let go of comparing my riding mileage or speed or climbing to others. I let go of having to be my strongest, fastest self every day and every season. I put God back in His place and reordered everything else right:

Jesus
Others
Yourself

(Trust me, this is coming to the tattoo.)

This is only one example of where I’ve had to make a significant course correction in my life. Anorexia and vulnerability are two other areas that jump to mind, plus lots of marriage-related moments.

Every time, I’ve had to come back to this truth, which I first really started to absorb in Henri Nouwen’s wonderful Life of the Beloved, as I mention in this (surprisingly insightful) post:

I have value because I am God’s beloved. He loves me not because of what I’ve done but, by grace, in spite of what I’ve done. I am beloved. Nothing I do, no amount of brokenness, will stop the grace-filled love God has for me.

The tattoo is my reminder to make that truth my North. I want to remember every time I look at it that I am beloved and that God freely loves me over all the ugliness in my heart and all the nasty failures of my actions. It’s a powerful truth that changes how I live at the deepest level. I don’t want to forget it, and now every time I look at my arm, I will remember.

And about biking? This week, my first week healthy, Ian and I decided together what kind of bike ride would work for us as a family. It looked like this.

I rode alone. I left at 9:00, an hour later than usual, and I played more with Benji than previous Saturday mornings. My ride was short, by summer standards, but I did get out. And when I got home, I took Benji for a walk in the woods and some playtime at Blyth Park while Ian got a nap. We are all happy.

Except for my hands, which got sun burned because I didn’t put sunscreen on them and I took my gloves off because I was too hot. But I kept my arm covers on and my arms–and, more importantly, my tattoo–remained un-burned.