Things 1, 2, 3, and 4

Day’s Verse:
You don’t want to squander your wonderful life,
to waste your precious life among the hardhearted.
Why should you allow strangers to take advantage of you?
Why be exploited by those who care nothing for you?

Proverbs 5:9-10ish

Thing 1
Sun breaks yesterday.
Winter Garden

Thing 2
I tried making the cheesy bread Ben mentioned on his blog last week.
Crusty Cheesy Bread
I decided to keep the loaf sealed, rather than cutting it in quarters or half as the recipe said. You can see the result. Overall as bread it turned out well; the crispy crust, fairly light innards (although I still prefer the no-knead bread for interior lightness). As far as the cheese goes, it ended up with just a thick slab of cheese right down the middle. The recipe calls for you to flatten the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle the cheese, and then seal it up again. If I did this again, I’d probably roll the bread out a bit thinner and then do multiple rolls to get a swirl of cheese in the middle, like you do with cinnamon rolls. We enjoyed this bread with homemade tomato soup that I’ve had frozen since summer. I can hardly wait for tomato season again.

Thing 3
The first Bike Alliance teacher training is in 10 days. This morning just before I woke up, I dreamed I was back at WPI and I had overloaded my class schedule. I was overwhelmed with the number of papers I had to write. I felt panicky and unable to handle everything. Finally I gave up and started trying to decide which classes to drop so I could keep up with everything. Subconscious message, you suppose? I can tell you right now that every time I think about the first training in Mattawa — and, indeed, the next trainings in Lynden, Sedro-Wooley, and Auburn — my mouth goes dry, my stomach clenches, and a little voice inside my head starts screaming in terror. The voice keeps saying “I’m not ready I’m not ready I’m not ready” and then follows up with “and I won’t be ready, I’m going to fail, the trainings will be a total failure and the teachers will leave not having gotten anything out of it and I’ll look incompetent and…” –and it goes on. Whenever this happens, I take a big breath, tell myself, “Calm down, it’ll be OK,” and then bury my head in the sand.

Thing 4
The sand has, lately, been The Count of Monte Cristo, which weighs in at 1,400 or so pages and is thick enough that I had to prop it on something to read it comfortably. My prior knowledge of the story came entirely from the 2002 movie of that name. Let the record show that the movie is to the book what sugar is to a cake. The movie took the first 100 pages of the book and discarded the remaining 1,300 pages.

In the book, Edmond Dantès thinks of himself as an instrument of Divine retribution against the people who wrongfully imprisoned him; it’s not just a personal vendetta, but a God-given mandate. There’s no romantic Hollywood ending where he kills the bad guy and gets Mercédès back. Instead, the Count maneuvers the four people who betrayed him into horrible deaths (or madness, in the case of one) after taking away everything they loved. Mercédès and her son (not, incidentally, secretly Edmond’s son as the movie had it) end up destitute and miserable.
After doing an unnecessarily elaborate good deed, the 40-year-old Count sails off into the sunset with a teenage slave-girl.

Most of the time the Count is a character in the story, but the reader spends more time following the lives of people the Count is ruining than the Count himself. By the end the reader feels ambivalent: Whey the slave-girl says “Oh you’re so good, you’re an angel!” I have to admit I thought, “That’s not the term I’d apply!” The plot is dense, complicated, follows the history of at least two totally incidental characters in detail unknown to today’s novelists, and leaves the reader breathing a huge sigh at the end.

Now that I’m at the end, I can’t avoid the things I’ve been avoiding: Bonney Lake bike audit report edits and figuring out the nitty-gritty details of the teaching I’m committed to. Last night Ian reminded me, “You’re doing this because you want experience teaching bike classes so you can go out on your own.” Right. That’s right, that’s why I’m doing this. …I sure hope it’s worth it.

Food, Eyes, and Guests

Day’s Verse:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart…”

Jeremiah 1:5

I calculated my BMI today. Put in 5’3″ and 105 lbs, got out a BMI of 18.6. Given how very approximate those numbers are, this tells me what I already knew — namely, I need to gain some weight to be really healthy. Especially if I want to push myself athletically, build muscle, and perform well on my bike, I need to start building a healthier relationship with food. I like to bake, and I enjoy eating… sometimes. Other times it’s so much more complicated, in ways I don’t need to get into here.

The long and short of it is that I’m implementing a plan to eat something every two hours, no matter what. Some of those “meals” will be snacks and others larger meals, but either way, I’m going to be more deliberate about food. No more “eating when I’m hungry” — that pushes food into the background and gives me an excuse to skip meals. In combination with the very modest bike coaching I’m getting from Dan and my own strength training regimen, I look forward to a year that’s healthier and fitter than years past.

And I’m finally taking action to update my glasses prescription. I’ve had this prescription somewhere over 2 years, and bus numbers have started taking on that familiar blurry look that says “Time to get your eyes checked!” I’d really like to do laser eye surgery and dispense with glasses altogether (contact lenses still freak me out, the whole poking-into-the-eye thing), but my eyes have kept getting steadily worse. One of my great secret fears is going blind. I’d lose the huge joy of bicycling, and I don’t know that I could handle that. Fortunately, that’s extremely unlikely, on par with the fear of being in a parking garage when there’s an earthquake.

On to my last random thing: We’re having a house guest tonight! This plan just came together Tuesday evening, sending me into a frenzy of panicked preparations. The mattress on our spare bed is a $20 Craigslist special, not something I could remedy quickly, but I at least didn’t want to have Ian’s fuzzy Tigger sheets on the bed. We didn’t have anything alternative sheets, though. And the bathroom needed details like towels, shampoo, soap, a soap dish… Suffice it to say, I bonded yesterday with the home/bathroom section of Target. Now I’m as ready as I’m going to be. This visit is from a BAW board member in Spokane, and she and I are working together on the bike curriculum. I’m going to have a very busy 36 hours after she arrives.

For now, I have three hours to eat (again!), go grocery shopping, clean my bikes, and read The Count of Monte Cristo, my latest book. It’s 1400 pages; I’m on page 400-ish, and finding it at least as compelling as John Grisham or Tom Clancy, and far better written.

Kids Everywhere!

Day’s Verse:
Come home, hope-filled prisoners!
This very day I’m declaring a double bonus—
everything you lost returned twice-over!

Zechariah 9:12-ish

…except here, by the way. Don’t get any ideas. No, I say “kids everywhere,” because I was just scanning Facebook’s list of “people you may know and want to be faux-friends with.” What struck me: how many of the people, say, from high school I saw with kids in their pictures. Not just infants, either. Toddlers. Some of my peers have a couple of children. They’re apparently off having these really normal lives getting jobs, marrying, starting a family. Which is lovely. But I still don’t think of myself as old enough to have kids — especially plural — even though theoretically Ian and I could have a 6- or 7-year-old pretty easily at this point.

We got married young. That’s part of it, I think. When we got married, the prospect of kids was so far away it wasn’t even a blip on our horizon. We planned to spend up to 5 years in Massachusetts, far from family, and children didn’t fit into that equation at all. We attended churches with few people our own age, and kind of lost track of our peers for a while (at least I did). Then, in 2009, we moved back and joined a church with lots of people our age. And in the next year, it seemed like all of them had a baby. Like everywhere I look — children. Our friends are no longer couples with no responsibilities; they all have kids and can’t hang out without thinking about where to leave the offspring.

Now I feel like our families keep watching us expectantly (and patiently exhibiting the self-control required to not say this aloud), thinking, “They’re back in Washington. Ian has a good job. Katie’s at home doing… something. What’re they waiting for?” Of course, I’m not getting younger… as the guy who did my bike fit back in July said: “Katie, you’re 26. Your back isn’t what it used to be*.” Gee, if my back isn’t what it used to be, guess I’d better hurry up and have kids before the rest of me falls apart, too.

Really all I had to say was that it’s strange seeing my peers having families. That is all.

* This is patently true. Even after 4 weeks of PT 2x/week, and continuing to do the stretches & exercises from those sessions, my back continues to be sore most of the time.

Tragedy, God, and a Big Furnace

Day’s Verse:
So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? […] Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture […] None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.
Romans 8:31-39

This post has been percolating in my brain for a long time, and now it’s finally coming out. No one specific thing has precipitated these thoughts. I’m finally ready to talk about what I’ve been thinking about.

One of my favorite Bible stories comes from the Old Testament, in Daniel 3 (Note: all Bible verses are from The Message). In the story, three young men get in trouble for praying to God rather than a statue the king, Nebuchadnezzar, set up. Nebbie hears about it and is pissed off; he decides to toss these three guys into a humongous furnace to punish them. He says, “Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” The reason I love this Bible story is the reply that the three guys give:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (verses 16-18)

The king tosses them into the furnace, which is so hot it kills the unfortunate guards who have to get close to toss the three guys in. But amazingly, the three victims don’t burn up — God rescues them by sending an angel to protect them from the fire. The king, seeing these guys walking around in the fire, calls them back out. He’s understandably astonished that they survived the mega-fire, and he decides to worship God instead of the statue.

What I really like about this story is not the outcome, but the three guys’ response. They essentially say, “God can do anything, and we trust that He’ll save us. But even if He doesn’t, we’re still not giving up on God.” That “even if He doesn’t” speaks volumes to me. I admire the faith that these three guys had, faith that gave them calm and confidence even when they were propelled into disaster. They didn’t throw up their hands and say, “Gee, you’re right, we’re afraid God won’t save us, so we give up.” Of course they were afraid — who wouldn’t be, when faced with certain death? But that fear didn’t weaken their faith. These three guys knew God’s character. They trusted that, whether God chose to save them or not, God would work good from the situation. That doesn’t mean their personal good; they could be ashes, and that would have been sad. But they knew that even if they were toasted to a crisp, that wouldn’t stop God from orchestrating good from that evil.

This story throws us right into the question of tragedy that haunts…well…pretty much everybody who has thought about God and the world. The question, of course, is: “If God is so good, and He can control everything, why does He let bad things happen?” I continue to struggle with this, because there’s no trite answer. So many times I have prayed and seemingly seen no response from God. So many terrible things have happened in the lives of people I know, in the country, in the world, with God seeming to stand by watching — helplessly, some people would say, or perhaps uncaringly. The “why, God?” question comes from deep inside and reflects our sense that these things aren’t fair, they aren’t right, they aren’t what God should want if He was really love. Continue reading “Tragedy, God, and a Big Furnace”

As It Should Be

Day’s Verse:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:42

This is what our garage looks like right now, after I spent the morning cleaning it.

Garage Bike Space

Notice how the car occupies 50% of the space and the bikes occupy 50% of the space? This is the way garages should be organized. Forget hanging your bikes from the ceiling to be taken down a couple nice days in the summer, or burying your bike way in the back behind so much stuff you can hardly get it out. No, bikes as vehicles should be easy in-and-out access the same way a car does. And of course if you have to choose between parking a car in a garage and parking a bike in a garage, the bike should always win. After all, cars withstand the elements much better than bikes do.

Today I also closed two bank accounts and consolidated the money in one account; obtained a pull-up bar (for hanging from at my PT’s behest, I hasten to add, before you think I’m getting all athletic or something); and mounted said bar in my office doorway. I always feel absurdly proud of myself whenever I complete a project like mounting something. Something about pulling out the drill and level makes me feel all handy and talented, even though as home projects go this is about as simple as it’s ever going to get. The evidence suggests my forearm screw-turning muscles are not in good shape.

That said, I’ll also comment that yesterday we had a wonderful day completely unrelated to the garage, bikes, or pull-up bars. After church I took a nap. Then we made twice baked potatoes and lemon meringue pie (I saw it on the menu at Metropolitan Grill and simply couldn’t resist). Rachel and Ryan came over, and we all ate and played Gloom and watched Murder by Death. We all had a fun time hanging out, eating, and killing characters off. A good time was definitely had by all.

Satisficing

Day’s Verse:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13

How do you shop? Do you go to the store, find a product that meets your needs, purchase it, and leave without agonizing about it? Or do you prefer to shop around, comparing similar products from different stores ad infinitum? When I read Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, the author’s discussion of these two different types of people really struck me. She described the first type as satisficers. Satisficers find a product that meets their criteria and move on without agonizing about whether they could’ve done better elsewhere. The second type, optimizers, find a product that meets their needs, but then thinks, “But if I just keep looking, maybe I’ll find something better somewhere else,” and so they keep shopping around to find the best deal.

In the context of the book, the author talked about women who are satisficers as meeting a guy who was pretty good but by no means perfect, accepting him as a good option, marrying him, and generally feeling satisfied with their choice. They didn’t tend to chafe as much in their marriages because they had settled on a spouse and, even knowing he wasn’t perfect, weren’t agonizing about whether Mr. Right was out there somewhere else. Women who are optimizers, on the other hand, tended to either keep dating and rejecting guys because those guys weren’t 100% of what the woman was looking for. They keep holding out for Mr. Right. Or an optimizer would marry a guy, but then end up feeling dissatisfied because she felt like she could have done better if she’d kept looking a little longer. Not surprisingly, optimizers often ended up single and dating indefinitely, while satisficers tended to end up married to pretty nice guys.

The author, herself an optimizer, didn’t say “You should try to be a satisficer.” She did, however, talk about how women tend to create these huge laundry lists of characteristics that a potential spouse must have. For example, if I was single and I created a list of characteristics my ideal husband would have, it might look something like this (in no particular order):

  • Medium to tall height, preferably not more than 4″ taller than me (but definitely not shorter)
  • Brown or black hair
  • Slender
  • No facial hair
  • Athletic
  • Very into biking (and can do bike repairs)
  • Smart
  • Considerate
  • A Christian
  • Polite
  • A good cook
  • Funny
  • Responsible
  • Reliable
  • Has a good steady job
  • Willing to help with chores
  • Creative
  • Likes to read
  • Wants kids
  • Loves Bernese Mountain Dogs
  • Likes hiking, snowshoeing, and backpacking
  • Good photographer
  • Dresses nicely
  • Etc.

Now, this list is just a very short version of what could probably go on for pages, if I kept wracking my brains. Ian has some of these qualities, sure. Does he have all of them? No, and here’s the important thing: No man alive has all these qualities. If I’d held out for a guy who had all these characteristics, I’d still be looking. As it is, I’m happily married to a guy who has many of these characteristics, particularly the important ones — responsibility, considerateness, politeness, reliability. Essentially, I was able to say, “I’ve found somebody I can live with, who meets most of the important criteria I have. I’ll go with him.” Satisficers like me take a good deal and move on, not worrying about whether it was the exact right choice. Optimizers, on the other hand, continue looking for somebody (or something, depending on the situation) who meets every one of her criteria… and, in most cases, she’ll keep looking forever and never feel satisfied.

Why do I bring this up (aside from the fact that it’s generally interesting)? Because a mere 5 days ago, I mentioned I was interested in getting a Fast Bike. On Monday, I test-rode the 2008 Jamis Xenith Pro I found on Craigslist. The owner, Lucy, is on the same bike racing team as my physical therapist. That irrelevant piece of information aside, I found the bike to be a good fit and a good price, and I liked Lucy — she’d been AmeriCorps and is going into Peace Corps. I paid her $750 on Monday, took the bike, and on Tuesday had Kirkland Bike Shop go over it. They gave it two thumbs up, so I wrote another $750 check and put it in the mail that afternoon. Now, less than a week after starting to look around, I own a new carbon fiber Fast Bike.

Fast Bike

Dan, my PT, recommended taking my time and scouring the internet for a good deal. He said, “You’ll love this bike. You want it to be perfect.” Several other guys I respect recommended a similar course of action: Spending a good long time looking, looking, looking for the best deal on the best frame I could find and then separately doing the same thing for the other components. (See where the satisficer/optimizer thing comes in?) They’re totally right; I don’t need a Fast Bike any time soon. I have until July. I could spend the intervening months test-riding bikes at bike shops, continually checking online for good deals, accumulating high-end components and ridiculously good prices, etc. But I, being a satisficer, found a solution that met my needs — the bike fit, it has excellent components, it’s carbon fiber, it’s well-cared for, it was in my price range — and so I went with it. Will I regret this purchase? Very, very doubtful. Because as a satisficer, I’m comfortable with the fact that I did well and now I won’t waste any time agonizing how I could’ve done better. You can always do better. Why worry about it?

Now please excuse me; I have a winged bike to fly.

“Breezy”

Day’s Verse:
The great day of the LORD is near—
near and coming quickly.

Zephaniah 1:14a

The weather online says it’s “breezy” outside. When I came down this morning, our 6-chime windchimes had 2 chimes still attached. The strings holding the remaining 4 chimes had snapped*. I wouldn’t call that merely breezy. Or if it is, I don’t want to find out what they describe as “windy.”

Wind aside, Rachel and I are going to take a ferry ride across to Kingston for lunch today. She’s never taken a real, honest-to-goodness Washington State Ferry (the Alki shuttle doesn’t count) despite having lived here for years. For shame! How could you live here all these years and never see End 1 or End 2? Or lean into the wind on the front of the ferry and almost get lifted off your feet? Or see the other ferry going the other way and say, “There we are”? Yes, they’re a bit shabby and most have seen better days, but Washington State Ferries are an institution that I love almost as much as the mountains. At least if the state has budget problems, the mountains won’t get cut.

*In the interest of full disclosure, one of those chimes fell off a while ago. The other two have fallen within the last couple days.