Under the Weather

Last Friday, I stayed home from work with Benji and his upset gastrointestinal tract. That, thankfully, only lasted a couple days, and then turned into a cold that seems to involve mostly coughing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I now get to experience firsthand the joys of whatever virus this is. It’s mostly deep lung coughing and generally restricted airways, with a little bit of nasal congestion and an overall sense of extra tiredness.

There’s no good time to get sick, of course, but we had a release last night at work. That’s a particularly unfortunate time to come down with something, when I have to start extra-late at work and do a lot of extra preparing for the release.

I’m also bummed because, after several weeks of relentlessly cold and wet weather, we may actually have a few days when I would normally want to go outside. Maybe I’ll feel perkier tomorrow, but I know that today I barely dragged myself out of bed to work. I didn’t want to take a sick day, but I’ll leave work early.

Tomorrow’s another day.

Live Note to My Blog

Yesterday at work I got to do some… well, not exactly creative writing, but writing that was more creative than usual. Our marketing department it starting a blog–I guess they heard it’s what kids are doing these days?!–and I get to be one of the occasional contributors.

Yesterday I wrote my first post for them, and it reminded me of how much fun it can be to write with fewer constraints. I got to use a more playful, casual tone when taking about a new feature and I didn’t have to worry about getting all the technical details perfectly documented. So novel! (Actually it was more in the 50-word story length, nowhere near a novel.)

Anyway, it reminded me of how much I love to write and that I do have this poor, neglected blog that only gets a couple posts a month these days. I’m sorry, little blog! I still love you. I know the only reader left is my mom, but I’m not giving up on you.

I hope we can see more of each other in the future.

Easter-Time Happenings

Happy Easter! Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I was thankful to spend the first half of the day with a group of my biking friends doing a super hard ride. I don’t know why it felt so much harder than previous rides, but I felt like I got a great workout… at least, I trust that’s what that leg-burning feeling means.

I also accidentally gave myself a chainring tattoo, which didn’t wash off in the shower. I figured would look real great with my skirt at church on Easter.
Chainring Tattoo
Luckily I had some dark nylons that hid it pretty well, I think.

After Benji got up from quiet time, he and I met my friend Ellen and her Norwegian buhund Lakka at Bridle Trails. We had one of our nicest Bridle Trails walks to date, having such a good time that we walked all the way from one end of the park to the other, a good two hours in the woods. The extra daylight has really helped out with this activity.

Bridle Trails with Benji, Ellen, and Lakka

On the walk, we saw our first trillum of the season… and then lots more! I love trillium; they are so delightfully Washington.
Bridle Trails Trillium

We also helped Lakka practice lots of tricks, and Benji practiced doing those tricks, too. He’s decided he wants to be a dog, which I’m okay with because he’s far more obedient as a dog than as a kid.
Benji and Lakka: all the way up
This was Lakka and Benji practicing “all the way up,” the command to get up on a log.

Benji and Lakka: find it
Benji hid a piece of cheese in a woodpecker hole and told Lakka, “find it!” Which she did, with alacrity.

All in all, an excellent, if exhausting, day.

Sunday proved no less tiring, but also nice enough. Benji and I started the day with “empty tombs” — donuts with donut holes on top. You remove the donut hole and voila! There’s nothing inside, just like when Jesus rose from the dead!

Here’s our family looking real classy at the photo booth after church.
Easter 2018

And, despite cold temperatures and spitting rain, Benji participated in the church Easter egg hunt, where he got a super-extra-bonus egg. Thank goodness most of the eggs didn’t have candy.
Easter Egg Hunt Prize

After quiet time, we went over to my parents’ house for an Easter dinner with Ian’s parents and grandparents. It was nice. Benji even ate some stuff.

And, last but not least, I came up with an April Fool’s joke that continues to amuse me. I did a test run on our bananas…
April Fool's Googly Eyes 1

…and then I was able to do it to mom and dad’s fruit without them noticing (at least, until someone pointed it out).
April Fool's Googly Eyes 2


The season is changing. We get to watch it happen a little bit at a time when we go to Bridle Trails, a wonderful benefit of consistently going to the same place every week.

Last week, we noticed the first pussy willows and carefully petted them. We also saw our first flowers — it reminded me that I want to get a plant identification book to bring along occasionally.

We keenly anticipate the arrival of trillium flowers, as there’s a trail in the park called the Trillium Trail. Benji seems to be under the impression that we will only see trillium on that trail and nowhere else. I hope he’s in for a surprise!

The Geopolitics/Diplomacy Game

I think I’ve mentioned that countries have replaced planets (mostly, for now) as Benji’s area of interest. This is slightly more interesting to us, too, because after three years of planets we had started scraping be l the bottom of the barrel as far as planet books for kids go. There are lots, it’s true, but we also read lots.

Anyway, we’re on to countries of the world! Benji has spent hours poring over our old have of Take-Off, which hails from my childhood, and consequently he’s learned Europe with West Germany and Yugoslavia, etc. He invents different games about countries, like having one in each continent marked that we have to guess.

Well, last night he came up with a new game: the geopolitics/disputed border game. In this game, he and Ian are two countries that are fighting about a border. They want things like access to imaginary rivers or to the real stairs. I’m the UN, and I come in and offer various possible compromises until I come up with one they both agree on. Borders are represented with pillows laid on the floor.

It’s a decently fun game, even for adults, but we had a hard time not laughing at the fact that we were playing it at all. What kid plays geopolitics and diplomacy?! … But it’s much better than some of the fairly boring planet games, so I’ll take it.

Dollars and Sense: Book Review and Response

Ian got this book from the library after hearing an interview with the author on NPR. Long after, actually, given the wait time on new library books… Anyway, he read it and what he told me about it convinced me to read it, too.

I like to think we make reasonably good financial choices. We try to save some, after all, and we love within our means, not gathering a lot of debt.

What this book did was open a window into how we–all of us–think about money wrong almost all the time. The book explored the behavioral psychology of financial decisions, spending most of the time covering the pitfalls we all make.

According to the book, these are the main ways we think about money wrong:

  • Relativity: We think of how much we’re “saving” when buying stuff on sale, when we’re actually still spending money. If you were going to buy the thing anyway at full price, then great, you did actually save. On the other hand, if you only bought the thing because it was on sale, then you’re still out that cost. But we compare the same price with the nominal original price, and in so doing are tricked into thinking it’s a deal. Really, the “original” price is irrelevant: only the sale price matters. Takeaway: Don’t look at sale vs. original; instead, only look at the current price and think in terms of it costing you that much.
  • Mental accounting: We tend to sort money into categories like entertainment, living expenses, etc. When it seems like there’s extra money in one bucket, we tend to spend more because it’s “extra.” Actually, there are no buckets: it’s all just your money, and spending it is spending it. Takeaway: Mental accounting can be helpful when it keeps you from over-spending, but watch out when it feels like you can spend extra. There’s only one bucket: your money.
  • Pain of paying: We feel actual pain when we pay for stuff, moreso when we pay with cash than a credit card, and much more than paying online with something like Amazon one-click. This actually helps us choose not to spend. The easier and more painless it is, the more likely we are to spend without thinking. Takeaway: It’s not a bad thing to have some pain when spending. It helps keep us in check. Don’t always make it easy to spend.
  • Anchoring: We are influenced into thinking of the price of an item by seeing other numbers, even miners that have nothing to do with the item. So if you see a car listed at an MSRP of $30,000, you start thinking that’s what it’s worth. If you get it for $27,000, you then think you’ve gotten a great deal. But you could see the same vehicle listed for $20,000 and you’d think the vehicle would be worth less. Takeaway: Seeing an initial price makes us base other pricing and expectations on that… even random numbers!
  • Endowment effect and loss aversion: We start to feel a sense of ownership for things, even for things we don’t yet own. Once you start feeling like you own a thing, that makes it harder to give things up — or harder to not buy them.
  • Fairness and effort: We’re working to pay more if it seems like someone worked hard on something. Conversely, we expect to pay less if something seems easy (even if it’s not) or takes a short amount of time. For example, when a locksmith comes and opens the locked door for you in 30 seconds, then charges you $200, that doesn’t seem fair. But we don’t take into account the expertise required to do a job quickly and efficiently or all the time it takes to attain that expertise.
    Self-control: How easily we give in to concerns about money in the present rather than prioritizing future self. For example, you can defer your annual bonus to your 401k, out it can be deposited into your checking account. Since it’s a bonus, you didn’t count on it, and it makes sense to save it for the future. But it’s hard to see the value to your future self, while spending the money in a new TV will definitely make your present self happy… For a while.
  • Overemphasizing money: How hard it is to compare price of a product with actual value/how much it actually makes your life better. Money is so abstract, and our global economy so complicated, it’s really difficult to say how much value something provides. For example, I’ve been looking at buying an $80 computer mouse for work. I’ve gotten to try borrowing one for a while and I really like it… But is it really worth $80?
  • Pay for experiences. To answer the question above, perhaps; some things may be worth paying more for, if they make the an experience more enjoyable for you. For example, going to a fancy restaurant and having the sommelier describe the wine may help deepen your enjoyment of the drink. Paying more for that kind of language and rituals can bring greater value, as can paying ahead and then anticipating the experience. expectations, such as planning and issuing for a vacation ahead.

After reading this, I really have been thinking about choices differently.

For example, the book talks about setting yourself up so you can’t make bad money choices. It cites the efficacy of taking retirement savings out of a salary before you ever see the money, so it feels like it was never there and you just live on the smaller amount.

I’m that vein, the bonus deferral example I mentioned earlier is real. I deferred 100% of my bonus without knowing what it was but knowing that, while we didn’t need it to live right now, we very well might appreciate that extra in 30 years.

… Then I learned what my bonus was and I thought, “Dang! I could have done some amazing upgrades to my bike with that!” But it was already gone into my retirement savings. I guess I feel glad about that, in an intellectual way, but I still kind of wish I’d gotten the bike parts, too.

I know that I’ll be thinking about and mindful of these mental traps for a long time. I definitely recommend this book for insight on how you–we all–think about money, and how to use those thought processes to our advantage rather than our detriment.

Long Road

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. -Phil 4:8

It’s felt like a long and difficult month, with extra-big failures, sickness, snow, work stress, relationship anxieties, and more. It’s been easy to keep repeating this litany of misfortunes to myself, affirming my misery. Perhaps not surprisingly, I’m having a hard time sleeping and body image issues keep coming up, always signs I’m feeling anxious and out of control.

What combats this downward spiral? Filling my mind with “things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Actively focusing on and being thankful for those things. Not dwelling on the bad, but finding the good.

In that spirit, I’m thankful for:

  • My job. I get to have a job! And it’s one I love, that suits me to a T, and that I excel at. It takes the help of a lot of people–Ian, our parents, our friend who watches B during the week–and I’m also thankful for all those people who make my going to work possible. And, despite tight and constant deadlines, this is the first time I’ve really felt the pressure as anxiety over achieving my deadlines…and the only time I’ve made a serious mistake. I hope to keep that to a minimum!
  • Our family’s health. Sure, we get viruses, but we don’t have any ongoing health problems. Our immune systems work. We all can expect to get up and have a normal day most days without interference from physical infirmity. That’s a huge thing to be thankful for that I know I take for granted all too often.
  • The weather. I’m going out on a limb here, but I think the Seattle area is one of the most beautiful places to live, bar none. I mean, granted, I haven’t been everywhere else, but I know what we’ve got here. We’ve got mountains and oceans, some of the only temperate rain forest in the world, and it’s green year-round on this side of the mountains. And our “unseasonably cold” weather the last 10 days is warmer than the high temperature in many parts of the country.
  • Friends and family. I’m so thankful I get to spend most Saturdays with Dad doing fun and challenging rides that he spends a lot of time organizing each week. It’s so great having someone I know will help push me, but who won’t abandon me when I’m slower. We look out for each other. And then there’s our other ride buddies, guys who show up consistently to Dad’s rides, some of whom we’ve known for years, and who have become my good friends. I’m thankful for those relationships, especially when it brought me Mike Cohen, who’s been my commute buddy from Seattle to back home since I started at my job downtown. I’m thankful for those relationships and that time spent, even as they’re changing.

There. In every circumstance I’ve been telling myself things are terrible, there’s something to be thankful for.

But then there’s also this, which my coworker and I made for future use (what? doing paper and glue craft projects at work isn’t work?! I say it’s “building morale,” so there). I’m sure we won’t ever need to use it. As I always like to say, “We never make big misteaks.”