Being an Orca

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 14:7

At least I assume gathering in a pod and moving around together for a while means I’m an orca. Otherwise I guess it means I’m a Northwest Service Academy AmeriCorps intern participating in our first, but by no means last, “pod meeting.” On Friday, all the interns in my “pod” — most everybody in Washington State — gathered at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. One of the interns, Jenni, and her significant other stayed with my family Thursday and Friday night. They drove from Okanogan and needed a place to stay rather than spending 12 hours driving and 8 hours in Seattle.

The meeting had its high points. I always enjoy the Pike Place Market; no matter how many times I visit, the excitement and vigor always infect me. Showing Jenni and Sam around a bit before the meeting started reminded me of how remarkable and unique the Market is. We test-tasted some fabulous chocolate, watched cheese as Beechers employees stirred it and of course tried a sample, and then wandered through the arcade and sampled some Chukar Cherries, chocolate linguine (we agreed: a little weird, and I can’t imagine eating them with ice cream as dessert…or eating them at all, honestly), and, of course, dried fruit. We also saw a Newfoundland puppy, young enough to be terrified of the Market but almost full-sized and thus impossible to manhandle, hiding under a delivery truck. The owners were trying to yank it out, and it had dug its feet in and was cowering away under the truck as they tugged on it. It looked like the dog had slipped out of its collar somehow.

Anyway, that’s the market — all sorts of little vignettes that you constantly walk in and out of. Eventually we met up with the other interns at Athenian Inn restaurant, ordered food, and spent almost two hours catching up. I enjoyed seeing my fellow interns again, since between times I’m very much off doing my own stuff, but I had forgotten how different I end up feeling after spending time with my peers. My priorities are aligned on such a different plane than theirs that sometimes I’m kind of amazed we can relate at all, but we can and I enjoy it when that happens.

After eating, we walked to the SAM’s Olympic Sculpture Park and absorbed some culture. I always forget how much I enjoy art, although I don’t pretend to understand it. That’s the only point during the day when I wished I had brought my camera, but then I remembered that I worked just over a mile from there and the sculptures would still be there. As 2:00 neared, we meandered back to Pier 56, where one of the interns had arranged for a speaker to talk to us about fundraising. I’m embarrassed to admit that I may have dozed off during that talk, but the room felt so warm, and staying awake at 2:00 pm is difficult in general — well, it happens to the best of us. I found the part of the discussion I stayed awake for interesting, though.

That pretty much marked the end of our AmeriCorps-able hours. It seemed everybody wanted to start drinking at 5 pm, so I went with them and — take this as you will — was carded for the first time in my life, when entering a bar with everybody else. I endured about 2 hours of that but when people started closing their tabs and talking about moving on to a different bar, I gathered up Jenni and Sam (both much more cheerful than earlier in the day) and we trundled down to the International District, where I had to pick a thing up from work. By chance we caught the 124 bus, which I’ve heard is the most dangerous Metro route. Hmm. Yes. Anyway, after that brief stop, we scooted to the Transit Tunnel, where we picked up the 255 to within a mile of our house. Happily the 234 appeared right then, so we caught that to within 1/4 mile of our house. A brief stop at Safeway for some late-night snack food for Jenni and Sam rounded out the travel for the day.

By the end of the day, these last 2 weeks had started taking their toll. Two weekends ago, we thought Grandma Sullivan would pass away (she’s still hanging in there, by the way); last weekend, I endured the LCI Seminar assisting; and in between I had two exhausting, grueling weeks at the Bike Alliance, where I felt totally run off my feet and overwhelmed every single day. Let’s not even mention the tabling I did with a couple other Bike Alliance employees on Wednesday in Tacoma from 7 to 9 pm.

Suffice it to say that by Friday evening “tired” didn’t even start to describe it.

In Business

Day’s Verse:
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

Yesterday I got my FIRST EVER box of official business cards. I’m seriously so excited, it’s totally out of proportion with the cards themselves.

Another thing that excited me today: I saw a bald eagle by Enatai Beach on my commute this morning. Then I nearly crashed into the fence between me and the freeway because I was craning my neck to see the eagle.

And, speaking of first ever things, tomorrow we have our first ever Pod meeting where all the AmeriCorps interns in Washington (with a few exceptions) meet and do…stuff. It’s that well defined. The great news is that I don’t have any responsibilities beyond getting myself to Pike Place Market at 10:00 tomorrow morning. Can do!

Like a Day Off, But Not Really

Day’s Verse:
Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Psalm 37:5-6

It’s 10:41 and I’m not at work yet. This is very strange, but nice: I’ve gotten all sorts of things done that I don’t have energy to do at the end of the day. I got up and shaved my legs (feeling the breeze in my leg hair as I ride isn’t an experience I anticipate eagerly), washed some dishes, washed the sheets and remade the bed, cleaned the bathroom thoroughly, and made two loaves of chocolate chip banana nut bread. Generally these chores don’t bother me, but most workdays I arrive home so worn out that I can’t summon any more energy to actually do them. Now I’m thinking about doing some basic, routine bike maintenance — re-lubing my bike chain, wiping my gorgeous pink fenders down, and pumping up the tires.

By the way, if you own a bike and don’t ride it very often, there’s a quick once-over you should do before riding. It’s called the ABC Quick Check.

A is for Air. Check the pressure in your tires with a gauge or by pressing with your thumb if you know how it should feel. Add more air at least every week if you ride frequently.
B is for Brakes. Squeeze the brake levers. You should be able to fit your thumb between the handlebars and the levers when they’re braking all the way. Another brake check is to squeeze the front brake lever all the way and rock your bike forward so the back wheel comes off the ground; then squeeze the rear brake lever all the way and drag the bike forward so it skids a little bit. That confirms your brakes are working.
C is for Crank, Chain, Chainrings, and Cassette. Basically this is the entire drive-train of the bicycle. Back-pedal the bike and listen/watch the chain as it goes around, monitoring for any odd noises. This checks the cassette and chainrings. Rub the chain: Your fingers should come away clean. Keep the chain metal-colored, not black or rusty. Finally, grab the cranks and try to wobble them away from the bike a little bit. They should be firm and not go side-to-side at all.
Quick is for Quick Releases. Check the quick releases on your wheels, brakes, and, if you have it, on the seat post. A correctly adjusted quick release should point away from your direction of travel and, when you close it, should leave a white imprint on your palm but not be agonizingly difficult to open or close.
Check is for…Check. Lift your bike no more than 6″ from the ground and drop it (gently). Listen for any unexpected clanks or rattles. Checking also involves going for a short ride before taking off to shift through the gears and do a general check to confirm it feels right as you ride.

Whew. Now that I have that LCI-inspired material off my chest, we can get back to my regularly scheduled blog.

Unfortunately, the flip side of still being here that at 10:40 tonight I probably won’t have gotten home yet from the tabling event I’m helping with in Tacoma. Also having a shifted work day today means tomorrow and Friday will also get totally thrown off. I also have about 6 hours to make up for the day I took off when Grandma Sullivan was in the hospital last week, and the AmeriCorps time sheet system continues to confuse the heck out of me. I’m just trying to make sure I get in 8 hours every day or 40 hours for the week, and then sort out the rest later. That’s harder than it seems, since nearly every week some unusual event comes up and requires me to put in some strange hours.

Charles River and its regular 8:30 to 4:30 my internship ain’t — and I’m really OK with that.

Happy Thought

Day’s Verse:
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Cor. 13:12

This year I agonized over what to do for Ian’s birthday (which, for the record, was January 25th). Our living situation means that we really don’t want to accumulate more stuff, since we’d immediately just have to try to find somewhere to store it. Actually, as a quick aside, it’s kind of nice to not accumulate possessions as much. I’m really good with that. That said, buying Ian some thing didn’t sit well with me.

Then I went to my AmeriCorps training and met Kit, another intern who has worked for years with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We talked about it on and off over the course of the 10 training days, and by the end I had decided what to give Ian for his birthday: A week in Ashland seeing plays.

This works because we actually really enjoy attending plays. Ian’s a theatrical guy, as many of you know, and when we lived near Boston, we would take a trip in to the city every 6 months or so to see some play or other. On top of that, Ian’s parents are long-time supporters of Taproot Theater, and seeing Taproot’s Christmas play is a Ferguson family tradition.

Despite all the theatricality in Ian’s personality, though, he’d never been to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I contacted Kit for some advice on what we should do, and this last weekend Ian and I finalized our plan. It includes 5 plays, one day trip to Crater Lake, and a guaranteed visit to an ice cream place highly recommended by Kit. We’re camping at a nearby KOA campground and planning biking as a primary means of transportation around Ashland.

This is the happy thought that gets me airborne these days.

Finishing and Starting

Day’s Verse:
[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Cor. 13:7

The weekend, and my two last-minute presentations is — are — auughh, no parallel structure…! — over! Truly, my weekend activities have sunk to a new low indeed when I start looking forward to Monday.

Over the course of the weekend, I kept a list of things the LCI Coach did that I disliked. I planned on writing a long letter to Preston Tyree, the Education Director at the League of American Bicyclists, about how incompetent I thought the LCI Coach was. I even thought about posting my irate correspondence here on my blog as an open letter.

Fortunately, some small, socially adept voice inside me (it’s very small) told me that even if I decided to write a letter to Preston, posting said letter here would probably not help anything. “Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it loving?” kept echoing through my head, and I had to admit, “No, no, and…no.” Ah well. Besides, I finished the weekend intact, if frustrated and disgruntled, but in one piece. Better yet, the LCI Coach said that he would report back to Preston that I should be upgraded from LCI-in-Training, which is the designation I got upon completing my seminar in October, to a fully-qualified League Cycling Instructor. That means I can teach classes on my own if I want to.

Even though I may come out of this weekend as a full LCI, I’m not sure it was worth it. One way to tell would be to do a pros/cons list.

Pros:

  • Practice guiding students on the road – very helpful and confidence-building for when I actually teach on my own.
  • Review LAB curriculum and “procedures” (if the random smattering of activities associated with classes could be considered such).
  • Meet a dozen nice Seattle-area cyclists.
  • Build relationship with Cascade Bicycle Club.
  • Maybe become fully qualified LCI, if he remembers to contact Preston.

Cons:

  • Work with this particular LCI Coach.
  • No sleeping in any day all weekend — I woke up at 5:30 and had to not only get rolling immediately, but pack lunch, snacks, dinner, and clothes both days.
  • Longer-than-8-hour-days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • Missing most of the warmest, sunniest weekend yet.
  • The stress of creating presentations at truly the last minute.
  • No opportunity to spend time some QT with Ian or to make some delicious yeast bread, both of which I try to do on a weekly basis at least.
  • No long rest for my legs.
  • Monday feels like the middle of the week.
  • Generally high stress levels the entire week before, and during the event.
  • I can’t count any of those 20+ hours towards my internship at all, even though me being an LCI is very beneficial for the Bicycle Alliance.
  • And, of course, working with this particular LCI Coach.

I have to say that, in summary, it was probably not a wise decision to agree to assist this weekend. I did get some benefits from it, but the costs far outweighed those benefits.

And alas, finishing the weekend only meant starting the week — a week that, as usual, is stuffed to the gills with AmeriCorps and internship-related activities, so there’s no real break in sight.

LCI Seminar Trainwreck

Day’s Verse:
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Oh my goodness. It is so much worse than I thought or expected, and I already had extremely low expectations; it really is like a train wreck in slow motion. I’m not going into the full extent of the awfulness here right now, but let me just mention one extremely disturbing development: The LCI Coach is the person who teaches an LCI Seminar and he’s responsible for training new LCIs. The LCI Assistants, of which I am one, serve as extra eyes and ears for the LCI Coach in assessing the new LCIs as they teach. At least, that’s what I was led to believe.

Last night, however, the LCI Coach mentioned sort of off-hand, “I have assigned a few presentations to the LCI Assistants, and I trust they’ll volunteer to cover those.”

Let me just say right now that when I did my LCI Seminar in October, I spent hours preparing for my two presentations. I created lesson plans, I designed handouts and printed enough copies for everybody in the class (something this LCI Coach and the organizer of the Seminar both seem incapable of, but that’s a different story), found props, and practiced over and over to refine the amount of time my presentations took. Ian got really tired of hearing me talk about bike nutrition and bike fit, but even with that preparation, I felt a little bit anxious. Happily, my preparations paid off and both my presentations went beautifully; everybody loved them.

That said, imagine how I feel when last night, with no advance warning (despite my having emailed the LCI Coach and the seminar organizer in charge of the event asking if I should prepare in any way) or any time to prepare, I found out that I would be responsible for a group presentation today (Saturday) and an individual presentation on Sunday. And the LCI Coach specifically mentioned that he wanted “assess me” because he’d never seen me teach before, since I took my LCI Seminar in Boston with a different Coach. Yet that Coach passed me as an LCI-in-Training just fine. Why do I need more assessment?

In short — I know, I know, too late — I am seething. I agreed somewhat spur-of-the-moment to help with this because I thought it would give me a chance to review LCI need-to-know information before I start teaching bike classes myself. Also, they offered $100 for the weekend (not exactly a prime motivation since I’m spending over 20 hours on this activity in 2.5 days). Now I’m ready to walk out, not just over what I described above, but over a number of other issues. Only my concern for the other LCI Candidates, one of whom was in tears because of the other issues with the seminar Coach when I encountered her in the bathroom yesterday evening, makes me willing to go back. Boy am I glad I didn’t pay money for this like all the LCI Candidates.

I’m just keeping my eyes on the goal: Monday, and getting one class under my belt so I can shed the “In Training” part and become a full LCI. When I get to go back to work at the usual time without any breaks after this grueling weekend, and I’m confident I will feel only the deepest relief that Saturday and Sunday have passed.

Here Goes Nothin’

Day’s Verse:
“Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you…”

Jeremiah 1:5

This entire weekend I’m spending as an Assistant LCI for the LCI Seminar Cascade Bicycle Club has organized. 20 hours in 3 days. Perhaps you remember the misery I went through back in October when I took my own LCI Seminar. Which raises the question: Why am I doing this again?