Merry Christmaaaaauuuuggghhh!!!

Day’s Verse:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27

Here’s how yesterday started:
Christmas 2010
Ian and I woke up happy, looking forward to the day. We took this picture in front of our first Christmas tree (which we’ve dubbed the Christmas bush). We gave each other presents. I prepared some dinner rolls for the evening. We loaded up the car with gifts and defrosted berries and decamped for Mom and Dad’s house, where Colleen made crepes, which we topped with the berries, yogurt, and powdered sugar. We exchanged gifts (Colleen and Jordan gave me an enormous cookbook of just cookie recipes — I can hardly wait to get started). We gave away a lot of Mom and Dad’s money to charity (water-related charities benefited greatly this year). Then Dad and I went for a bike ride while Ian stayed home and made scalloped potatoes. Our families were coming over to our house for Christmas dinner, the first-ever Christmas we’ve hosted.

The entire tone of the day changed when I arrived home from my bike ride. Ian was in the kitchen making miserable noises and desperately working on the potatoes. Turns out, the source of Ian’s distress wasn’t so much the potatoes as the fact that he discovered why the flooring in our kitchen was starting to peel up around the edges: Water. In the subfloor. Not under the sink, but coming from the dishwasher. When you stepped on the floor, it squished like mud. This all came to light about an hour before our families were supposed to arrive. The house still needed all manner of prepping, and we couldn’t do anything about the dishwasher immediately aside from not running it, so we rushed around getting ready for dinner. We’ve never tried to entertain nine people before; this brought to light the fact that our silverware came in a set of eight, and we have no more than 4 of each set of matching napkins. Also we only have the one oven, which is a real limiting factor. Then people and food started arriving (the Fergusons showed up earlier so we could do Christmas present exchanging with them — Deborah is going to help me with our back yard, and Gary’s going to help me fix our leaky toilet, both fabulous gifts), and it felt like the next thing I knew, every surface in the kitchen had food on it.

Dinner went pretty darn well, considering we had to wash everything by hand. Even with nine people, we hardly made a dent in everything. Mom’s 18-lb turkey hardly looked touched; same for the spinach salad and its toppings. In fact, the only thing that did look touched was dessert: Happy Birthday, Jesus! Birthday Cake (actually chocolate cherry jubilee cake, which we only make on Christmas; before cutting it, we sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus) with vanilla ice cream and a pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Everybody made good inroads on those.

Between dinner and dessert and for a bit after dessert we played Apples to Apples while we took turns doing dishes and Gary finished carving the turkey. Mom pulled me aside briefly and pointed to the toilet in our downstairs bathroom. The tank was sweating copiously, with water running down the sides and pooling on the floor. She’d put down a towel, but it was wet, wet, wet. The toilet itself wasn’t leaking; the water was just so cold and we had so much moisture in the air from all the cooking that it kept condensing and running down. We left the towel there for the time being, there being not a lot else to do.

Just when everybody was starting to feel the evening winding down, talk turned to our soggy floor, which had continued oozing alarmingly all evening. Gary produced a toolbox and with some finagling he and Dad extracted the dishwasher from its nook. First we noticed that water was quickly dripping from where the water intake hooked to the dishwasher. Turning off the water to the dishwasher solved that problem. We further extracted the dishwasher and that’s when we saw this:
Dead Rats
Gary: “Rats. Literally.”

At this point — finding a rat nest with dead rats inside behind our leaking dishwasher while standing on the peeling-up, soggy kitchen floor, with Mom having also just pointed out the water underneath the toilet in our downstairs bathroom — I think I went a little crazy. Fortunately, Gary and Ian extracted the rats and their nest and threw them in the garbage. Everybody packed up their food and headed off. We dug out our box fan and started blowing air on the kitchen floor. Then we went to bed, exhausted. I can hardly believe it was really all just one day from getting up and giving Ian his gifts all the way to finding dead rats behind our leaky dishwasher. This will certainly be a Christmas that goes down in family lore. The Year of the Rat.

What the Coffee Shop Proprietor Said

Day’s Verse:
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.
1 John 3:18-20

Yesterday I walked into a coffee shop near 34th Ave and Meridian, near Fremont (I’m never 100% sure of where Seattle neighborhood borders begin and end; I’d have described it as Fremont, but it might be Wallingford). I had ridden my bike 17 miles from Bothell, was meeting a friend at his work nearby, and planned on riding another 17 miles home again shortly. My friend was still engaged, so I decided to kill some time eating something bready and delicious from this coffee shop nearby (there’s always a coffee shop nearby around here). I walked in, all bike-kitted out.

Me: [Pointing to an oatmeal raisin cookie] I’d like one of those big huge cookies.
Proprietor: Are you sure?
Me: [Puzzled] …Um, yes.
Proprietor: Because it’ll make you fat.
Me: [Speechless]

Even now, I’m really not sure what the proprietor was trying to tell me. None of the explanations I can think of are positive. I wish now that I had said, “You’re right! I don’t want one of your cookies. I’m going to another coffee shop instead,” or something along those lines. Instead, I paid my $2.25 (I’m telling you, if I could charge $2.25 for my cookies, I’d be rich in no time), got my cookie and left. I stood out on the veranda enjoying the meager Seattle sunshine and when I glanced back in and saw the proprietor doing something nearby, I didn’t even give him a smile.

I did smile later, though, when my friend arrived with my missing scarf. As it turns out, his roommate’s girlfriend (or mom; he wasn’t totally clear on that point) had seen the scarf in the mailbox and brought it in, thinking it was a Christmas present for one of them. The scarf has been sitting in my friend’s roommate’s room this entire time, apparently unbeknownst to the roommate. When my friend asked if his roommate had seen a scarf, the roommate said no. However, the authentic Scottish Ferguson tartan scarf is safely home again after a little over a month of adventures. I’m sewing a tag with my name and phone number on it after this.

Oh, and the cookie hasn’t had any negative effects. Yet.

Illuminate

Day’s Verse:
Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change.
2 Peter 2:8-9

Christmas on Saturday puts churches in a strange position: Church the day before Christmas and the day after Christmas? No church the day after Christmas? Our church made a call and they aren’t having church next Friday or next Sunday. Instead, last night at 5:00 Journey Church had its Christmas service. Last year we attended the Christmas service, but it was only Ian’s first time at the church ever. This year, we’ve both been volunteering at church for a while — Ian doing media stuff and me doing coffee; we’re playing out gender roles oh-so-nicely — so we helped with the service last night. Turns out they had everybody arrive at Kirkland Jr. High at 1:30 pm, and the place turned into a hive of activity for the next three hours. Two other ladies and I spent most of that time putting snack foods onto plates in pretty arrangements. Ian spent that time getting to play with the bank of stage lights the church rented. I’m thinking about switching what I help with.

Anyway, the service went well. It was complicated from a logistics standpoint, but they kept it short and simple from a participation standpoint. Three people, including the pastor, talked about light and the meaning of light; they left us with the idea that God gives us the gift of being able to help change peoples’ lives and that each person is the best Christmas present. We sang a few traditional Christmas songs and saw this video (which I think they showed last year, too):

Upside Down (Christmas Eve) from Crosspoint Church on Vimeo.

And then they had a reception-type thing after the service. That’s when all those bits of food came into play. Five people took trays and circulated them through the crowd, coming back every so often for refills. People ate…pretty much everything. My personal favorite food of the night: The homemade mozzarella and bacon pizza. Yum. Those little brownie bites from Costco came in a close second, though. Cleanup was pretty easy for my team, and by about 7:00 I was ready to go. I’d ridden my bike there, as Ian had a meeting earlier, so I rode my bike home again. It was dry but fairly windy, a pretty OK night ride, actually… If only I hadn’t had so many bacon pizza bites.

This morning I was supposed to meet up with my counterpart, Sander, from Feet First and go to Bonney Lake to do more bike audits around four schools. Yesterday, however, I checked the weather and saw to my dismay a 90% chance of rain. I called Sander and we formulated a plan that has resulted in our canceling the trip to Bonney Lake today. I’m happy about this. The deadline for the bike audit report isn’t until the end of January, and I’d like to spend this week with family and friends rather than on Bike Alliance stuff. Maybe next week, if any day looks sunny and reasonably warm, I’ll stir my stumps and make the trek to Bonney Lake. In the meantime, I plan on finishing Christmas shopping (this year somehow it’s snuck up on me, and I’m woefully unprepared), wrapping Christmas presents, and playing.

Spoiled Soup and Sunny Days

Day’s Verse:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2

ARRRRGGGHHH!! I woke up at 5:30 this morning with a start, realizing that the delicious clam chowder we made last night — with enough leftovers to feed us for days — was still sitting out on the counter. Ten hours later. We forgot it after finishing The Rocketeer. It had such excellent flavor, and I spent about three hours making it (although the last few hours were just simmering with the occasional stirring). And now I have to throw it away. I feel queasy at the thought of the waste of the food and money, the hours of cooking it, and most of all how much I looked forward to having it as leftovers, since soups are always better on the second day. I guess I’d probably feel queasier if I ate the soup, but it’s sure hard to convince myself of that right now. DARN IT. I should’ve just put it into the fridge while it was warm, rather than letting it cool on the counter.

Aside from cooking potentially food poisoned soup, I spent a good portion of yesterday on Bicycle Alliance work. I’m drafting the first of 6 short reports on my observations of bikeability around schools in the city of Bonney Lake. The rest of the daylight hours, of which there were few, I spent on a 30-mile ride around the Eastside. The sun came out and it was a glorious brisk day for a ride. Once home, I made the ill-fated clam chowder, which Mom and Dad came over and enjoyed. The sunny-but-cool temperatures made it an excellent evening for warm soup. After Mom and Dad left, we watched The Rocketeer, which is always a fun movie.

In my down time, I’ve been reading both the book about fantasy and real life and a book called Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. I can’t speak to it much, as I’ve only read a few chapters, but I will say this: They’re no C.S. Lewis. Oh, for some well-written Christian literature. Seems every book I’ve been subjected to for church has ranged from tolerable at best (Boundaries falls into that category) to horrific at worst. Why is it so difficult to find high-quality, well-written Christian writing?

Anyway, today is going to be full of Fergusons. Ian and I are spending the day at the Pike Place Market with his parents, followed by dinner with them and then our annual Taproot Christmas play. I do enjoy having the luxury of spending time with our families whenever we want. …or whenever they’re in the country.

Long Time No Post

Day’s Verse:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11

It’s been over a week since I posted anything here, as you’ve probably noticed. Why? Well, a variety of reasons:

Actually, I’ve found it somewhat astonishing how quickly time can go when I’m not working. When I think back on my days during the last week, I’m not 100% sure where all the time has gone — but I haven’t spent it sitting around, let me tell you. Take yesterday as an example.

I got up and worked for an hour on Bike Alliance-related stuff, creating an agenda for the bike classes for PE teachers I’ll be teaching starting January. By 8:45 I was out on the road, riding my bike to the Bellevue Transit Center to drop off a swipe card. They have secure bike parking that you can access by card, but it costs $50/6 months and I only used it maybe a half-dozen times in the last six months. Since I don’t have to commute to the Bike Alliance regularly anymore, it really wasn’t worth it. On the way home, I stopped at Kirkland Bike Shop and bought a pair of pants to replace the pair I was wearing. The old pair had worn through where my butt touches the saddle; it had 2 holes in one knee; and the fabric was wearing through at both knees. I received those pants for Christmas in 1998. Anyway, replaced those and then did an exchange at Sur la Table. The wire on our $16 cheese slicer broke, and apparently they don’t make replacement wires (?! Lame design if so!) so Sur la Table gave us a new slicer.

Then on to Mom and Dad’s house, where I looked for wrapping for Ian’s white elephant gift for his work party (no luck). I killed some time there until my 12:00 doctor’s appointment. The appointment took about an hour (15 minutes of which was actually with the doctor); then I had to wait to make another appointment. They were short staffed and the place was crawling with people, and I felt a bit bad for all the staff trying to run around and keep up. I know that feeling. Anyway, the doctor also recommended physical therapy for my back, so I went to that office (in the same building but 2 floors up from my doctor’s office) and it took a while to do that whole jazz.

By the time I got home, I was pooped. But my day wasn’t nearly done! I had an urgent email asking me to come pick some stuff up, so I rushed off to do that, and on the way home stopped at the Bothell library to pick up Boundaries, by Greg Cloud and John Townsend, the book the women in my Journey Community are reading.

When I got home again, I realized I needed to print stuff for the Bonney Lake bike audits I’m doing today, so — since we have no printer — I had to go back to Mom and Dad’s house and borrow their printer for a while. I rode my bike and lubed the chain at their house, too, since they have a bike stand. That took a long time; printing Google maps like this one can be challenging. Finally home again for the evening, Ian and I tackled our Christmas tree. We’d brought it in and set it up the previous night, but even the thought of lights and decorating just tired us out. We put it off until tonight. Our Christmas sphere, despite not looking like a particularly traditional Christmas tree, turned out nicely nonetheless. Finally, I finished the day watching an episode of Babylon 5 with Ian, and the sitting still sure felt nice. I slept pretty well.

…all that to say this is why I end up not blogging. All the time I spent at my computer was Bike Alliance-related, and I didn’t have a huge amount of down time despite having only one appointment on my calendar.

Today’s looking interesting but not likely for a blog post: I’m meeting a guy from Feet First at 9:00. We’re driving down to Bonney Lake to begin evaluating roads around 3 schools for walkability and bikeability. Now I wish I knew more about road design. Anyway, we’ll see what happens. At least I’m getting paid a reasonable wage to do it!

Goodbye, Favorite Scarf

Day’s Verse:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21

Wimbledon Commons (I & K)

See the nice scarf I’m wearing in this picture of me and Ian at Wimbledon Common in March, 2004? It was brand-new in that picture; Ian gave it to me in when I met him in London after his IQP finished. It’s the Ferguson tartan, and Ian got it on his trip up to Edinburgh. After he gave me the scarf, I hardly wore anything else. It was wool, and therefore a little bit itchy, but it was fabulously warm, great for biking (believe it or not) because it stayed warm when damp, and of course it was very stylish. It kept me warm through 5 Massachusetts winters and I came to be very attached to it.

You’ve probably noticed all the past-tense, the way this sounds like a eulogy. That’s because on November 19, I wore the scarf to my AmeriCorps graduation and forgot it at the Hood River Inn. I realized my mistake the next day and contacted the Hood River Inn and the AmeriCorps organizers. The AmeriCorps organizer got back to me and said yes, they found it, and had given it to another intern who lives in Seattle to return to me. Whew, boy was I relieved! I contacted the Seattle intern and we devised a plan for me to obtain the scarf on November 26. He would leave the scarf in his mailbox, and I’d come pick it up on our way to Seaside. Alas, when I got to the mailbox, it was open and empty — no scarf to be found. The intern confirmed that he’d put the scarf into the mailbox… but somebody else, apparently, took it out. I called the post office nearest his house and talked to the carrier on that route. He didn’t see the scarf in the mailbox, and he said even if he had, he wouldn’t have removed it. I have to assume the scarf is gone, and I hope whoever stole it is staying warm with it.

It sounds funny that I’m mourning the loss of my scarf, but it’s true. It hurts that I lost something Ian gave me all those years ago, a reminder that he’d thought of me when we were apart and a symbol of my new family name. Then, too, I used it all the time — even in Washington, it was the right weight for many winter days. Also, I’m having a hard time forgiving myself for forgetting it in the first place; for coming up with an idiotic retrieval plan involving leaving the scarf in a public place; for not just waiting to get it back from the intern in person… Goodbye, favorite scarf. I miss you and I am sad that you’re gone.

PS – Oh, yes, Ian and I did get back from Seaside. We made excellent time, actually. Yesterday I did all sorts of things around the house, since I haven’t heard from the Bike Alliance on a contract yet (arrrggghh!). Today I have a bunch of errands to do. I can see that if I didn’t have a job, I’d get bored very quickly.

Seaside Day 8: Fort to Sea Hike

Day’s Verse:
Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
1 Peter 2:16

Yesterday Ian and I did our most ambitious hike yet: the Fort to Sea, from Sunset Beach to Fort Clatsop and back. I call it a hike, but in places it was much more of a stroll, a walk, a perambulation, or a tromp. Here we are at the start, feeling fresh and frisky.
Fort to Sea: Start

We started by walking through a wind-ravaged clearing, crossed an amazingly elaborate pedestrian bridge:
Fort to Sea: Bridge

…and then spent a couple miles weaving through cow pastures, literally:
Fort to Sea: Cow Guard

Then, after tunneling under Highway 101, we transitioned into a some more woods and farmland.
Fort to Sea: Farmland

Good thing some genius invented trail mix. Ian carried the trail mix baggies in his jacket pockets because we didn’t have a backpack and I had used all the extra space in my camera bag with 2 PB&Js and 2 apples. I also carried a water bottle strapped to the back of my camera bag (the tripod holder, when empty, fits a Nalgene perfectly!), and Ian hand-carried another Nalgene. Next time, we’re bringing a proper backpack.
Fort to Sea: Trail Mix

After the farmland, we entered woods, but the trail remained well-maintained and graveled almost the whole way. Almost immediately we found a nice pit toilet and signs: 3 miles to Ft. Clatsop; 3 miles to Sunset Beach. Halfway there, and they gave us a potty break! Then we followed a meandering stream along the side of a valley, eventually climbing to the top of the valley for an overlook.
Fort to Sea: Overlook

The overlook was about 2.5 miles from the ocean, but it looks very far away. We gazed out for a while, ate trail mix, and moved on. The trail changed to a wide graveled road that led us almost all the way down to the road. We cross the road, meandered for about 1/4 mile (just long enough for us to wonder whether we really were near the visitor’s center), and voila!
Fort to Sea: Ft. Clatsop Visitor's Center
When we went inside, one of the rangers asked if we had a national forest pass. We were confused: Why would we need a pass? We’d just walked here from somewhere else, didn’t plan on doing anything on national forest land, and intended to turn around and walk back. Once the ranger understood our plan, she agreed we didn’t need a pass after all, but she said she hoped we’d come back and see the fort some time. So now I’ve been by Fort Clatsop twice and never seen it yet.

We used the visitor center’s facilities (aahhh, water to wash your hands!), ate lunch, and did the whole hike again — backwards! Actually, we took a the Alder Creek Loop up to the outlook, but after that it was all the same, and we didn’t walk backwards at all. too risky. Instead we walked normally and talked about number theory and different types of elves in Middle Earth. The cows had moved and were standing around one of the pass-throughs, which made us nervous. They kept eyeing us suspiciously, like they thought we’d come to steal their hay or something. We crept through carefully, only getting partly covered in 1:1 cow poop:mud goo. My boots need a good cleaning.

Here we are after 12.25 miles and 4 hours, back where we started:
Fort to Sea: End (Ian)

Fort to Sea: End (Katie)

Overall we agreed the Fort to Sea trail was a really excellent one. It had lots of different landscapes, from pastures — which you saw up close! — to lots of different types of forest to water meadow to regular meadow. Enough landmarks appeared along the way to keep it interesting, too. First you walk 2 miles and get to the Highway 101 underpass; then another mile and you get to the halfway bathrooms; another 1.5 miles takes you to the overlook, etc. It felt less like 6 miles each way than only a mile or mile and half to the next interesting point. Also, it was quite flat compared to the Tillamook Head hike, sticking closely to valleys and not needlessly hurtling over high points just for the heck of it. That made it a fairly easy 12 miles, coming in at just under 4 hours, excluding stops. I’m pretty sure we’ll be doing that hike again.