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.

Volunteer Miscommunication

Day’s Verse:
“All day long I have held out my hands
to an obstinate people,
who walk in ways not good,
pursuing their own imaginations…”

Isaiah 65:2

Today I pretended to be an HR manager and wrote drafts of 18 job descriptions for activities we want volunteers to do. This is somewhat amusing, since I have no experience or qualification that makes me the right person for this task. Occasionally I will be doing something on the volunteer program and suddenly feel completely overwhelmed. Often this happens when I’m trying to talk to one of the staff people (not a specific one) and getting the sense that we really aren’t speaking the same language at all.

For example, during my presentation of the overall volunteer program, I specifically said, “I’m envisioning having the Volunteer Coordinator [me] function as an HR manager: I’ll write job descriptions, recruit volunteers for the positions, interview them, and train them. Then I’ll pass them off to the appropriate staff member to manage and schedule the volunteer’s efforts.” Yet afterward, all the staff people I’ve talked with still envisions me as the single point for volunteers, and themselves as magically benefiting from volunteer work without interacting with volunteers.

Take this hypothetical conversation for example:

Me: We’ll need to have volunteers report to the staff person who’s in charge of that type of task. So if you’re the staff person in charge of the newsletter, volunteer reporters would report to you.
Staff person: What’s happened in the past is that nobody on the staff wants to be responsible for volunteers. It’s not in their job description.
Me: Right. And in the future we’ll need to have staff people think of working with volunteers as part of their jobs. It’s not free having volunteers — we have to spend time away from our assigned tasks to manage volunteers.
Staff person: Sure, but the difficulty is that nobody has time to work with volunteers and also do all their own work, which is why we need just one person [me] to do it.
Me: [Giving up on trying to explain that I need the staff people to be managers of volunteers too] So on this next task…

It’s times like those I start wondering if I’m in some pipe dream, and my whole role of “creating a volunteer program” will just fade away when I’m gone. Nobody wants responsibility for volunteers, even though the staff says they want to have volunteers. There’s plenty for volunteers to do, but again, nobody to manage them.

Sometimes I just feel so tired when I think of the remainder of my AmeriCorps tenure stretching out ahead of me.

KDOG

Day’s Verse:
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.

Isaiah 64:3

Not a radio station, but a nonprofit group!

I think I’ve mentioned my interested in turning a vacant lot in my neighborhood into a park, preferably a dog park, as the Community Action Project I have to do for AmeriCorps.

On Saturday I talked with my friend Karissa, who’s a civil engineer and knows a thing or two about getting projects put together and implemented, about my park idea. She said that I should expect it to take a year or two, depending on whether the permitting had been started, to turn it into a park. Well! I have 10 months as an AmeriCorps intern, so my CAP wouldn’t get finished in that time if I took the project on, but I didn’t feel overly deterred. After all, it’s a very worthwhile project and I like the idea of having a mini-Marymoor closer than Redmond.

Today I spoke with a very informative, knowledgeable woman with SODA, the group that runs the Marymoor off-leash area. She set me straight: One to years is a major underestimate. Many dog parks take four or five years to get implemented, and some take much longer than that. Dog parks are difficult to create because people say, “Why should we have a park just for dogs?” The answer is: “It’s not a park for dogs, it’s a park for people, the same as a ballpark isn’t a park for balls and a bike path isn’t a path for bicycles.”

As it turns out, Kirkland citizens have already formed a group to push for a dog park in my town: KDOG. The effort to create an off-leash area in Kirkland has gone on for the last — gulp — eight years, with little success. The current iteration of the Kirkland off-leash group, however, seems persistent and well worth talking to. Tonight they’re going to be at a Kirkland City Council meeting, and I think I’ll go meet them.

Should be informative, if nothing else. I’ve never been to a City Council meeting before.