Random Thoughts

Since my last update, I’ve mostly spent the time feeling really lousy. Benji, Mom, and Ian all got a nasty cold that consisted mainly of a really sore throat, bad headache, aching neck, and general exhaustion.  

I thought I’d dodged that bullet, but evidently not; my bullet was just delayed for a while. It was nasty enough I even took one day off work. The really under the weather feeling took a solid seven days to go away, and only yesterday did I start feeling a little perky again. Unfortunately, I’m not better: the coughing remains, and kept me awake most of last night. Which is a real bummer.

 Fortunately, I still have an Albuterol inhaler my doctor prescribed when I had pneumonia, and she confirmed I should use that when the coughing gets bad. I was concerned it would keep me awake last night, so I didn’t try it for a long time, until I realized I would be awake anyway from coughing. So I tried it and finally got to sleep. Next time I won’t wait!

That illness kind of dominated our weekend, so we didn’t get much done and Ian didn’t get any time to chill. Now I’m on the mend, hopefully both of those will change.

Speaking of on the mend, the weather seems to finally be realizing it’s spring. We had a lovely day over 70° yesterday, our first in more than eight months. The tops of my knees actually saw some sun, which was shocking for all I’m involved!

Alas, that was likely a fluke, and we’re back to rain again this afternoon. After 45″ of rain since October, I wish we could send our water somewhere else where they need it. My rain/commuter bike has gotten lots of miles this year, and I’m hoping when I finally switch to the fast bike, I’ll actually be fast thanks to all that resistance training.

There’s lots of other stuff going on, but it will have to wait for another bus ride!

Big Boy Behavior

This morning, Benji just dressed himself while I was brushing my teeth.

It was sure a growing-up moment. I told him he needed to put clothes on before we watched our 30 minutes of videos; he disappeared, and a few minutes later came back completely changed into perfectly appropriate school clothes. Some things may be on backwards, but overall, a job well done.

The other day, we were at mom and dad’s house, and Benji was playing with dirt and water and some trucks. On the way home, Benji told me that the trucks were making cement for Moss Town. In Moss Town, people build their houses on cement (I didn’t tell him we do that too), and he told me all about how they needed special cement, how he was making the cement, and what Moss Town people would do with it. He quite matter-of-fact and he had clearly developed a full imaginary story in his head that I only heard part of.

In general, it’s getting to be more fun and more challenging in proportion as Benji gets older.

At school, Benji doesn’t want to sit in circle time and he doesn’t want to participate in the dance/movement time. We’ve been pondering how to get him to at least behave at circle time–sitting still when you don’t want to I’d an important life skill!–and we’re going to try a behavior chart with rewards for times he succeeds at sitting still the whole time. 

When the teacher told me Benji was disturbing other kids be being too wiggly and bonking into his classmates, I felt like a total Mommy fail. I know Benji can sit still, even when he doesn’t want to; reading him stories, I’ll tell him to keep his bottom on the chair and he can stay for an entire (short) chapter. But at school he chooses not to. 

I think it’s a matter of properly motivating him. He doesn’t see any reason to sit still, so he doesn’t try. I’m hoping that fun prizes will prove incentive enough.

Thinking about it, I realize that is probably true for everyone. I just have different motivations. I don’t want to be embarrassed or bother other people, whereas? Benji doesn’t care about that. I wonder how much of our “good” adult behavior is really just enlightened self-interest like that. Huh.

Easter Weekend

Saturday morning I did a bike ride with Dad. The weather held fair, so we rode fast bikes, and fortunately the group was pretty mellow. Even so, we only did 65 miles of the stated 82-mile route, and that was good for me, too, because I got a cold from Benji and was definitely not feeling frisky.

But with riding to and from the ride, I ended up getting in about 82 miles anyway, still my longest day of the year so far. But May is coming, and that means we start riding centuries. I’d better avoid any other cold viruses!

Hat Weather
Saturday I got to break out my hat for the first time this year. I wore it to weed the front yard, also for the first time this year. That really needed to happen sooner, but hey… the weeds are happy to wait for me to get to them.

Sunday was Easter! Christ is risen — He is risen indeed!

We’ve been talking about Easter a lot, reading the Easter story with Benji. He’s acted it out with props at Mom’s house many times. I think he gets it. On Easter morning, I drew on the daily board a picture of a sunrise with “Happy Easter!” written on it.

Benji came and modified it to this:
Easter Chalkboard
On the left-hand side, Benji drew Good Friday, when Jesus died. He drew dark skies and a tomb with a rock still in front. Then, on the right-hand side, he drew a tomb with the rock rolled away. (You do have to use your imagination, as with all art at this age.)

We had an okay Easter church service, but unfortunately, due to a pervasive viral infection shared by four of our family, we had to cancel our planned family dinner. Instead, we took a long nap at home (two of us, anyway), and then Benji and I went back to my parents’ house for the afternoon. We walked to a nearby elementary school and played on the playground for a while. We even had a fun walk home.

Easter Dash with Papa

Easter Walk with Nana

After dinner, Benji drew some planets. Because what else would you draw, I guess.
Easter Planets

It wasn’t the Easter we planned, but it was probably the Easter we needed. Everyone is feeling a little healthier this week, I think.

That’s good, because on Thursday I have my first publish to production at work, which means staying late at work.

Accomplishments

Gracious speech is like clover honey —
Good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body.
-Proverbs 16:24

I have to celebrate this occasion: I started at work January 23. Yesterday, April 7, we published my first release notes, written entirely from scratch by me. This is a big deal because release notes are one of the projects we have with a hard and fast deadline, and they can be a lot of work.

Many companies’ release notes look like this:

  1. Add new wizz to the existing functionality.
  2. Improve gadget to expand functionality.
  3. New feature: doohickey now lets you do another thing.

    And that’s pretty much it. Easy enough to pound out in an hour.

     Our release notes, on the other hand, are fairly detailed documents that include a compelling “sell” of the feature followed by screenshots and a brief description of how to use it/where to find it. To write a release note for one user story, I:

    1. Review the technical specifications, which describe how the feature should work.
    2. Go into the test product environment and try out the new feature, playing around until I have an idea of how it works.
    3. Write an outline of why and how, along with questions for the PM.
    4. Meet with the PMs individually and review all their features, ask questions, understand the feature.
    5. Write a draft of the release notes and send it to the PM to ensure it accurately reflects how the feature works. Lots of screenshots, lots of “I have a quick question.”
    6. Write more, edit more. Repeat several times.
    7. Find out the are several new stories I didn’t know about and the release notes draft is due in two days!
    8. Send out draft for review by entire technical team and upper management. Don’t sleep that night at all.
    9. Over the next week, get comments back. Hound PMs for comments on their stories and incorporate changes. Pray I didn’t make any technical errors.
    10. Receive copy edits from other writers and incorporate edits.
    11. Publish release notes to production about 5 pm and stay late at work to check everything went out correctly.
    12. WHEW! Now all I have to do is update the Help Center content with the actual new information in the next two weeks. That has to be done before the release, which is always two weeks after these notes go out.

    As you can imagine, after all this, these notes get pretty comprehensive. I’ve seen times when release note content served as the verbatim foundation for the Help Center topic.

    This was my first release writing the notes entirely on my own, and I had 13 stories to master before writing. My boss warned me that I might get overwhelmed and if I needed him to pick up some of the work, he could step in. I told him I thought I could handle it, and I’m glad I have it a shot, because now I did the entire thing on my own and I feel really proud of myself!

    Now I have two weeks of crunch time updating Help Center and trying to finish up another project I’ve been writing on the side. I may be offline for done of that time.

    I made lemon bars with Meyer lemons to celebrate. I would have liked lemon meringue pie, but alas, didn’t have time to make one. But I’ll take lemon bars and the sweet, sweet taste of success.

    Strange Freedom

    This week is spring break at our preschool. Normally this would mean extra scheduling at daycare and shuffling of other childcare planning, and my trying to minimize time at work so I can get home to relieve Ian.

    This week, however, we do something totally different. Mom took Benji to California for two nights to visit our family there, while Ian and I find ourselves footloose and fancy-free for two evenings.

    Last night, on evening one, we splurged on time and watched an entire 90-minute Classic MST3K. We enjoyed salmon for dinner without any whining, and that’s it. Pretty exciting.

    This morning I had thought of sleeping in – I normally get up an hour early so I can get all my stuff done and still have time with Benji in the morning – but instead I just left for work an hour early. This may not seem luxurious, but having the freedom to choose – that is luxury.

    Tonight we plan to go out to dinner and maybe play some board games, our idea of a date night. I’m looking forward to it.

    I had forgotten how easy everything is when I only have to take care of myself. But at the same time, things are so quiet and so flat, completely without the surrealistic absurdity so effectively (albeit unintentionally) propagated by our little person. I’m not yet tired of the ease and convenience, but it wouldn’t take long for me to start missing the kid in our life.

    Biking and Working

    I haven’t mentioned biking lately. When I started at Tamarac, I worried about fitting biking in with a full time job and time with my family.

    Biking helps keep me calm and grounded, as well as healthy and fit; it’s where I have friendships forged by shared (self-inflicted, to be sure) suffering, and I push myself mentally and physically. It brings me a deep satisfaction that I don’t find anywhere else and is one of the foundations of how I think of myself.

    In short, biking is very important to me. Before I took the job, Ian and I spent a good amount of time strategizing how to allow me to get in the biking I need while balancing Ian’s mental health time and my family time.

    It’s been two and a half months, and I think we’re finding a balance that works for now: During the week, I commute home by bike three days. I follow a training plan I put together to do intervals or other targeted riding, so it’s not just the same slogging along every time. On the weekend, I ride on Saturday, making sure to get home before Benji gets up from nap at 3:30 pm.

    When I commute, I normally ride my pink bike. I built it up as a commuter bike almost 10 years ago (disc brakes before it was cool!) and it continues to serve me beautifully in that capacity.
    Snowy Pink Bike

    Now, some of my biking buddies assert that bike weight doesn’t matter. They say it’s all about the motor (how strong your legs are), and that a slightly lighter bike doesn’t make much difference in how fast you go, especially over flats. I’ve ridden my pink commuter bike 20+ times on this route now, and I set myself a goal of averaging 18 mph on my commute consistently. When I started riding, I averaged 15 to 15.5 mph when riding steadily, a heart rate of in the 150s.

    I’ve been following my training plan, including taking rest or cross-training days and riding in heart rate zones that feel pretty easy, and working hard on my Saturday rides.

    Last Monday, riding alone on my pink bike with probably a bit of a tailwind, I averaged 16.6 mph.


    I had a kind of side-wind that may have at times been a tailwind or other times been more of a headwind. It’s a little hard to say if that helped or hindered me. But that seems pretty indicative of my commuting pace at the moment. On the long, flat Burke Gilman/Sammamish River Trail section, I averaged about 17.2 mph.

    But on Friday, I took the fast bike to work (this is my view as I approach the bus stop by my office; that’s my fast bike on the front of the bus).
    Fast Bike, Slow Bus
    I normally don’t even ride on Fridays, resting my legs for a big Saturday ride. But the weather got to over 55 degrees and not raining — how could I resist? For the first time I tried taking my fast bike on a commute. I left all nonessentials at work, including a set of clothes I now have to bring back home, and carried the essentials in a small backpack.

    While I’m sure it’s true that slight differences in weight may not matter, what I can say is that I averaged 18 mph on my fast bike, keeping my heart rate in the same zones as I normally on my steady commuting days. On the flat section, I averaged 19.1 mph, almost 2 mph faster than my regular commuter bike. And that was with some notable wind, most of it not in my favor.

    That bike is faster in so many ways, it’s hard to say if weight definitively made a difference. Whatever the case, I’m willing to keep calling my Cannondale “the fast bike.”

    I hoped to ride it this weekend, but yet again, nasty weather precluded that. My pink bike has gotten a lot of miles this winter, what with having the rainiest winter ever. On Saturday I had to be home in time to go to a friend’s wedding, so Dad kindly started our ride an hour earlier than usual. With that start time, we spent the first hour riding in rain. My feet soaked through and I couldn’t feel my toes. You’d think I’d be better at this whole thing after all the practice I’ve had this year…

    Anyway, despite the rain, three other people besides me and Dad showed up.

    I embarrassed myself by being a complete wimp, and I wasn’t able to hold the pace when everyone started riding into the mid-20 mph range. The very things that make that pink bike a wonderful commuter — the weight, the rack, the fenders, the heavy-duty tires and wheels, its very frame durability — all drag me down on a ride like that.

    Plus, later that day, I also found out that it’s not my favorite time of month… and that seems to always make it harder to ride. I read in my Bicycling for Women book that blood doesn’t transport oxygen as well at some times of a woman’s cycle. One of the things I struggled with yesterday was just feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath, or that I was breathing really hard for my level of effort. Perhaps that’s partly the deal.

    Anyway, that’s biking right now. I think it’s going well; we’ll just keep figuring things out as our needs evolve.

    The Wisdom of Silence

    I was just reading Proverbs 10 this morning. I think it’s a good idea to read Proverbs periodically; as I mature and go through different experiences, the same words say different things to me. This time, as I read Proverbs 10, I got a very clear message: 

    Talk less. Listen more.

    I’m terrible at listening. I interrupt constantly, I don’t wait to hear what other people have to say, and I tend to think my ideas have the most merit. 

    This isn’t the way to wisdom.

    In Proverbs, Wisdom is depicted as a woman standing on the street, calling for us to pay attention. I can imagine us in our cars speeding by, intent on our own lives and thoughts, uninterested in this external voice – especially since this voice tells us to seek moderation, patience, selflessness, discipline, and service. She calls us to seek and fight for the objective truth; to run from self-indulgence; and to listen to the wisdom of history.

    Not exactly popular sentiments these days.

    Also not something I’m likely to come to on my own, while listening to my own voice. That’s what stood out to me, this time around: I, as much as any prevaricating president, prefer my own reality to God’s. The path of Wisdom turns from such murky ways and instead follows the clear way of God’s Word. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light,” and I do believe Proverbs points us in that direction.

    Anyway, philosophy aside, I felt convicted to talk less and listen more. You can hold me to it.