Barely Legal: 18 miles

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks since my 16-miler. Lots of good, fun things. Also lots of stress and work with school. I even managed to pick up a shift at work-work.

To start, Halloween was uneventful, but it was followed by the beautiful wedding of my friend Stephanie.



And she had a photobooth there as well!




Pretty uneventful couple of days following that. I managed to make it to the polls on election day, despite scheduling difficulties.

I also took a brief trip to my hometown. I visited my friend Teddy and my grandmother, while enjoying the foliage.




I’ve been running quite a bit. I did actually have a terrible run while on my trip. I tested the limits of my treadmill tolerance and found them. I cut a 10-miler short to 9 miles, which is so rare for me. But as Jess says, you have to have a few bad runs to enjoy the good ones.

I actually had a panic-stricken weekend as I got stressed about all of the homework I had on top of the test (which is actually this Monday) and all of the other things going on in my life (like my 18-miler). But I took a step back, rescheduled a few things, and got my head back on straight. And I ended up having a great week!

My 18-miler was a bit of a strugglebus, however. I started out by driving the route and leaving water bottles and snacks for myself at strategic locations (3,6,9 miles). It was raining just the tiniest bit, but there was no rain in the forecast, so I decided to chance it. And it was cold. So I set off, and the rain picked up. I almost turned around. But finally it cleared up and I carried on.


The toughest moments were just before the 9-mile turnaround point and the 17th mile. At both of those points, it just seemed like the run would go on forever and I would never make it. All-in-all, it was a pretty flat route, not too many cars, and the temp was cold but not intolerable.





At the end, I was so happy to be done that I jumped for joy! But really, I was just sore and quite tired. I spent the rest of the morning recovering with food, an ice bath, and a shower. Then I got ready for a show that evening!

I met Rhea at the mall downtown where we grabbed a quick dinner and then walked to the theater. It was a great show, and so awesome to catch up with her.


Also, bonus walking around the mall, combined with my run steps, added up to over 45k steps…a new record!

But because I didn’t get home til after midnight, I slept in and just had time for a short recovery run before Rebecca came over for some Doctor Who.

The rest of this weekend will be spent studying, running, and heading to a Mexican-themed birthday party.

Moving On – About this Blog

On the anniversary of the start of my term with the AmeriCorps NCCC Pacific Region Class 17 Team Leaders, I am updating this blog for the final time.

As the previous post (written in December) indicates, I left my AmeriCorps NCCC service early (after only 2 months) due to my mother’s diagnosis with Stage IV lung cancer.  At the time of this writing, she has passed away.  I am very grateful for the final months I had with her, and I wouldn’t have had those without leaving NCCC.

Even though I was only with AmeriCorps NCCC for a short time, I continue to reflect back on it as one of the most meaningful experiences in my life.  I learned so much about teamwork, self-discipline, healthy habits, organization, and time management.  But above all that, the best thing I took away from the experience is all the friends I made there, particularly from the other TLs (whom I knew best of all).

After I left the program, I continued using this blog as my personal “Life After AmeriCorps” experience.  However, its original purpose was to document my time in NCCC, and I find that the more recent posts distracted from the AmeriCorps NCCC posts.  I have now removed all of the posts written after I left the program.

So, if you just came here to read about the AmeriCorps NCCC experience, read everything written in September and October.  Posts in August represent my planning posts, and the post in December is my “explanation of why I left” post.

However, if you know me and want to keep up with my life from January 2011-Present, check out my new blog, From A to Z.

New Year, New Beginnings

After months of silence, I decided to put fingers to keyboard today in honor of the eve of 2011. It’s easy to talk about life when circumstances are good, but not as much when circumstances are tough. Two months ago, my life was ripped apart when I found out my mom is sick with cancer. I don’t know exactly how long that I’ll have with her, but it is short enough that I needed to leave AmeriCorps immediately. That drive back to Virginia was one of the longest weeks of my life. I was crushed by the news that my mom only has a short time left, and also by the separation from friends and team mates that I was leaving in Sacramento. Mostly, I was in shock mentally and exhausted physically. The NCCC lifestyle is incredibly taxing, and this both added to and surpassed it, leading to a sort of crisis I have never before experienced.

Upon returning home, I was relieved to see my mom and all of my wonderful friends (many of whom I consider as close as family) here in Williamsburg. The care and support offered by every one of my friends here was overwhelming, but a great comfort to be sure. It’s been a joy to see how our little community has come together to be there for my mom and me. This has been one of the most special times of my life, in that regard.

Mom and I have also gotten the opportunity to do some talking, some crying, some planning, and a lot of exciting events around the area! We spent a weekend at the museums in DC, a day at the Norfolk Zoo and the riverfront at Yorktown, and an afternoon in Richmond with my grandparents. We’ve hosted a holiday party and seen tacky lights around town, and I saw my first production of It’s A Wonderful Life. We even got a white Christmas and two fun-filled evenings – Christmas Day at Ginny’s and the following day at Will and Terri’s for dinner and games. It’s been a pretty magical holiday season, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Despite what I lost in Sacramento, I gained so much more. And what I’ve discovered is that those two months with my fellow Team Leaders were enough to build friends for a lifetime. The only thing I really lost was the relationships with my team. But what I gained in returning was an incredibly close connection with all of my friends in Williamsburg that I would have missed had I continued with NCCC.

There have been other developments in my personal life as well. I connected with a really wonderful guy right as I was leaving W&M. In fact, we really got to know one another on a Spring Break service trip down to North Carolina. However, given that both of us were graduating a few months after that, it seemed improbable that we would have the time to enter into a relationship. Sure, we hung out most weekends – going to movies and other events – and he took me to the W&M “prom” in the spring, but we really didn’t know where things stood by the time we parted ways in May. We wrote letters and talked a little over the summer, but when he finally confessed how he felt about me – right after I arrived in CA – it came as a bit of a shock. Still, I had wanted to date him last spring, so we decided to give long-distance a try.

Of course, all of this happened as I was in the throughs of my 14 hour work days at AmeriCorps, and we were 3 hours apart (9 when he left for Corsica a month later). We didn’t have much opportunity to talk then, just due to those complications. However, when my AmeriCorps experience ended so suddenly, I was granted the opportunity to really connect with him – as much as Skype calls can offer. It was a positive consequence of the bad news that brought me back home. As a result, we have gotten closer than ever, and I was actually able to see him earlier this week in his home in NJ while he was back on holiday. Without going into all of the details, it was a wonderful visit, and we’re following that with a trip to Barcelona in late February. That will be the only other time I see him before he returns in May, so though we’re getting off to a slow start, I feel good about it all. I could really go on and on about him and how great he is and how wonderfully he and his family have treated me… But I’ll try to contain myself so that I may close this entry and not keep you reading for weeks. I’ll just say that he is a terrific guy and a wonderful boyfriend, and I can’t wait to see him again!

I’m also here to write some New Year’s resolutions that I intend to take more seriously than I ever have. I feel as though I am at a very serious crossroads in my life. This time is so precious and so important that I need to prioritize it so that I don’t waste it.

1. Cherish my friends, family, and close relationships above all.
2. Improve my health and financial organization so that I may remain in a position to accomplish number one.
3. Practice patience and appreciation of the little things. Life is too short to waste it getting angry or frustrated, or to miss the roses.
4. Challenge myself mentally and physically to be the best that I can be. Particularly, I’d like to read more, practice my guitar often, and train for 5k run.
5. Never shy away from telling those around me how much they mean to me. Never put off a phone call or letter.
6. Increase the documentation of my life through journaling and photography, and spend less time on facebook and other sites.

With these, I hope to make this the best year yet. I have some long-term plans that will soon be in motion. I have wonderful friends who mean the world to me. I have am in a relationship with a great guy. And I have confidence in myself that I can take anything life throws at me and find the positive.

What’s Behind Door Number One?

In AmeriCorps NCCC, there are a lot of secrets. We like to do our best to surprise our teams in fun ways with important information! When we did Team Reveals last week, it was a scavenger hunt. For our first round project reveal, which was tonight, the methods were a little more varied between teams. But I’ll get to that in a minute…

We’ve had a great first week as Green 5! Trainings took up most of our time. Some highlights included our Hands of Peace exercise with the combined “Green 3/5ths” mega-team, building a sweet box (to be decorated more later), and a scavenger hunt around the city! I found out that I am an owl, along with 3 others on my team.

The AmeriWeek ended on a positive note as my team traveled with Green 6 to the Bret Harte Elementary School community garden to build it today. We dug fencepost holes and a lot of other patches of soil. The highlight of the day as far as volunteer appreciation was the free Chipotle lunch! Also, they asked us back for an event to talk to the students about NCCC.

After work we planned to visit a pumpkin patch, but the bad weather got in the way. However, I still had important information to pass on, so my plans changed. Instead of turning into the parking lot, I kept going and my team was like … Whats going on? And I feigned innocence claiming to be looking for a place to turn around… Soon, I got to the rocket ship playground and I parked the van. I told them … Get out of the van and follow me. Then I literally ran and hid in the playground. Eventually, they found me. Then I put up my mash board and we played! The message I gave them was that the staff wouldn’t tell me the project unless we did it with MASH. It was great, and they got it on video! After, we talked about it… And eventually we ended up at the Dessert Diner with 3/5ths. Fun!

Note: No “personal” stuff included, as it’s a public blog.

From Pods to Teams

So, I feared with this blog that as life started to get busier here in AmeriCorps NCCC, I would be unable to find the time to update. Since I last found the time to write, so many things have happened. With my pod, I helped with the Pack Test, learned about community relations, van driving, CPR/First Aid, and ARC Disaster Services. After four hectic days, the TLs planned and executed some pretty epic team reveals. In this process, our pods (temporary teams) are broken up and reassigned to their Unit and then their Team. My team had to unscramble their first clue, and then go to a series of locations around campus where they had to complete several photo challenges. I tried to make it straighforward, but also fun! I think they had a pretty good time, and they eventually met me in the kitchen where I had warm chocolate chip cookies! We had a pretty low-key team meeting, and called a rain check on Laser Tag for another night.

Some other team reveals included bobbing for apples, singing songs, running after sasquatch, finding a silver sword, and getting kidnapped in a van! It’s a pretty fun and hectic event. I was so glad that my clues were easy to follow so that there was no confusion… I only wish I could have seen them as they were completing it!

Since the official formation of Green 5, they have done nothing but impress me! They are always timely, extremely communicative in trainings and discussion, and very respectful of one another and me. They are also just really awesome and interesting people so far. I am really looking forward to the year with them, especially because one of my team members has a guitar. We had duty last night at 7:30 that lasted until midnight. The whole thing was a bit hectic because all CMs were moving into their new rooms (on the same hall as their new teams), and I was pretty tired, but we had fun hanging out together!

Today has been a bit calmer. I’ve spent most of the day doing laundry, making copies and writing schedules, and providing food for myself and others. I have a to-do list about a mile long, and I am still working on it. But I am feeling pretty good about things… I was going to do more exciting things than paperwork, but I needed a day of rest (relatively). Tomorrow, I am going to run my first 5k ever. I’m both excited and nervous.

Lost in a Sea of Training

I have somewhere to be or something to be doing at practically every moment in the day, and not really enough time to do all of the things that I absolutely must do (which says nothing for the things that I would like to do).  Now, I like being here, and I’m glad to be a part of this program.  But today, right now, I am exhausted beyond the point of no return.  And still yet today, we have to cook, serve, and clean up dinner for all the Corps Members over in 943.  I still love it, but sometimes there can be too much of a good thing.

So far, my Pod has been really great.  They’ve shown up on time to every muster and training, prepared and dressed appropriately.  They’ve been attentive and respectful in training sessions, and they have all taken my advice and direction seriously.  Not that I’ve had to give them too much direction yet, but there are quite a few things that I need to tell them at any given time…  Usually, it’s just places to be or things to bring.

As of today, all of the pods have completed two rigorous days of training and in-processing which has included uniform issue, physicals, NCCC Policy, different types of projects, and paperwork.  Even with all of that, they still have a very small picture of what this organization is all about.  We ask a lot of them, but it seems like most of them are in this program with a positive attitude.

I guess the word of the moment is intense.  Everyone’s got a pretty intense level of stress, the training sessions are pretty intense for the Corps Members, and enforcement of the rules is REALLY intense.  Here’s hoping we make it through the next few days safely and soundly.

Tomorrow we cheer our Pod members on as they take the endurance test necessary to be on a Fire Management Team (FMT).  Oh, and there’s a lot of paperwork in my near and distant future, always.

Phase Two: CTI

So, it’s been a long, fun, and relatively peaceful five weeks of TLT during September (and the beginning of October), but all that changed today.  Finally, we begin to do what we came here to to: serve America through support of Corps Members and the service we all do together.  The Corps Members arrived today, mostly from 10am – 4pm.  Each unit had specific tasks: Blue and Gold (plus a few) ran shuttles between campus and the airport, Silver coordinated luggage and tours of campus, and Green facilitated the in-processing tables, along with the staff.  And let me tell you … it was a whirlwind of a day!

We started the day right with PT – Sweating to the Oldies 2 with Richard Simons, complete with 80’s attire!  The set-up for the day started well enough …  I got there early to get some help cutting the sheets of laminated safety cards (took me 6 hours yesterday to make, but only about 30 minutes of people with scissors this morning).  Then, before I knew it, the first Corps Members arrived …  Someone named Sam was the first to arrive.  My specific duty was to run the ID badge station with Meg.  During the day, she manned the camera (with occasional assistance from others to change the background of the photo), while I manned the paperwork table.  This table was probably the most hectic thing you could possibly imagine.  In a random and erratic fashion, every person (and I do mean that I met every single Corps Member today) had to do the following things at my table : 1) Sign the sheet by their name 2) Get an ID badge and sign it 3) Get a lanyard and put their keys/card/ID in it 4) Have me sign their check list sheet 5) Figure out where to go next.  Now, that scenario isn’t so bad, except there was only one list, limited sharpies to sign IDs, and a wait for the badge to print.

So, at any given time, I had between 2-6 people all at my table, all at different stages in this process, all asking my questions.  Oh also, the other half of the room was the staging room for tours, as well as the seating for lunch – so it was LOUD and chaotic.  It was madness, I tell you, utter madness.  I didn’t stop talking for the entire day.  And that’s a lot of talking, even for me.  I’m sure every single TL had a different experience.  But that was mine, and that’s all I can report.

Following that, we started our first community meeting, full of intros, speeches, and announcements.  I won’t bore you, except to say that there were a number of technically difficulties.  During that chunk of time, we also set up tables from dinner and listened to outside speakers from the Police Dept and the US Forest Service.  Then finally, we enjoyed a lovely spaghetti dinner, and chatted with one another for awhile.  At 8pm, it was time for hall meetings, facilitated by the TLs on my floor, during which we discussed important issues not already covered.  The day starts early enough tomorrow that I am ready for bed almost immediately.  But before I sign off, I need to reflect on a few things.

So far, I am really impressed by the Corps Members I’ve met.  Also, I am feeling really positive about my role in the program.  The interactions that I have had with Corps Members have all been positive and respectful.  I feel very supported by the staff, and by that I mean that I get a strong sense of “team.”  We’re all playing on the same team, and staff members and TLs all seem to value that relationship.  As Debbie said, we’re all in this together!  So, I am all set to go for this morning.  The only internal debate I’m having with myself is whether or not to go to the “formal” breakfast or not.  There’s still a little food in our kitchen, and I might value the extra sleep.  We’ll see!  Goodnight, world!

Birthday Blog

So, let’s recap the past two days.  Yesterday and today have been a bit less structured due to our need to do prep work for when the Corps Members arrive (Thursday!!).  We’ve had “unstructured” time to plan things for them on our own, and to have meetings with staff and other TLs to plan things for them together.  We had a few last-minute training sessions, such as scenarios, in which we had to resolve real-life issues acted out by the staff.  Then, we had a pot-luck lunch, which was a celebration in honor of the end of TLT.  It’s been an absolutely crazy month, during which we received intense amounts of training and did so many fun things with one another.  I love this TL family.  Everyone’s amazing, and I wouldn’t trade this time for anything.  So after the delicious eatin’, we had a more formal celebration in which the NCCC Staff and Unit Leaders gave us words of wisdom and encouragement.  In particular, my UL told us this metaphor about guard rail construction, that compared the hard ‘n’ fast training we’ve gotten this month with how guard rails are tested.  I can’t remember exactly how she phrased it, but it gave me confidence.  Fast forward to dinner … when Green Unit made some pasta and pesto, and it was great.  Then my mom called me at exactly 9pm, because it was my birthday on the East Coast (so cute!).  And I think shortly after that, I went to bed.

This birthday started out on the right foot!  During PT stretches, they sang happy birthday to me.  Then people gave me birthday hugs.  Then we went running, and it was our last running day before the CMs arrive!  Then we got ready and had morning training, where we got the final CTI schedule and our pod member lists!  They made an announcement that it was my birthday there, too.  Then we had the afternoon free to have meetings and prep time.  We went to Panera, and then I had time to go get my car washed, make a run to Target (splurged on Seasons 3 & 4 of HIMYM and the new Maroon 5 CD, Hands All Over), and get back in time for afternoon training.  We discussed the duty schedule/responsibilities and room/kitchen inspections.  Fun times.  Or actually, the part of being a TL that is most like being an RA (which never appealed to me, but I’ll do it and make it awesome).

So, the evening has been devoted to final calls to pod members, finishing up door decs, and eating the most delicious dinner so far in TLT (chicken parm, pasta, and Kristina’s amazing bread).  And then, a funny thing happened later in the evening.   I received a call from my UL at around 7pm, which is unusual, but I didn’t see it until around 8pm, at which time I called her back.  When I spoke with her, she told me she was still in her office (also unusual), and I should come over.  Not knowing what it was about, I headed over (not worried, though).  When I got there, it turns out she had gotten me a little giraffe hand puppet when she was at the store earlier that day, and she wanted to give it to me.  So cute!  Not at all what I expected, but I don’t really know what I expected.  But that’s the nature of this whole program – expect the unexpected.

I can see clearly now in Yosemite

What a crazy, awesome weekend!  It seems as TLs, we can never manage to sleep in.  Our Yosemite crowd (about 20 of us) departed from campus around 7am, which meant that I had to get up in the 6am hour.  It’s only a problem because I was up late last night organizing my new room and hanging out with the late-night crowd (because they were being loud right next to my new room, and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em).

Jack and Michelle joined me in the car ride down there.  We had a successful trip – stopping at a grocery on the way to the park for some delicious picnic items.  The drive was absolutely beautiful, and we made great time getting down into the valley.  It’s so different at this time of the year compared to when I visited last May.  In the spring, the water discharge is much greater due to the snow melt.  The river was so low – we could see the rocky river bottom!

We met up with one other car right around our lodging in Curry Village.  After a quick break for lunch, we decided to rent bicycles and go for a ride around the valley.  We made it up to Mirror Lake (which is a dry sandy pit in the fall), and we ran into Mikey and ChrisNic, also on bikes.  Due to a fortunate accident, we got an extra hour of biking for free, so we continued our journey around the river and the valley.  We got a little lost (but not really), and I may or may not have popped the chain off of my gears (which hypothetically took three of us and a stick to fix), but it was lots of fun!  Also, it started drizzling on us, but we had a great time regardless!  Other afternoon adventures included snacks at the food pavilion, puzzles at the lodge, and a few trips to the general store.  Somehow, after all that, we got keys to our cabins and all ended up in the FMT room to hang out for the evening.  After such a long day, we all crashed pretty early, which was actually really nice.

The next morning, my car (plus Dani) decided to drive up to Mariposa to see the Giant Sequoia groves.  We got some great photos on the drive out there.  And the actual hike was absolutely breathtaking.  These redwoods are, in a word, majestic.  Also, they’re really shockingly old (hundreds of years). The hike was pretty easy, and we got a BONUS.  On the way up, close to our turn-around, we saw a bobcat in a tree, holding a squirrel, being harassed by crows in the air and a coyote on the ground.  It was the ultimate stand-off.  We stood there for at least 20 minutes watching as the cat tried to find an exit strategy, but eventually we moved on with our hike.  It was pretty epic!  At the bottom of the trail, we had a lovely picnic and then headed out of the park.  To mix things up, we took the southern exit out of the park.  Also on the way back, we stopped for bubble tea and smoothies – a treat that’s new for me.  This evening, I’ve just been catching up on paperwork and other responsibilities.  But all in all, it was a great weekend!


So after a week at Mendocino, we have returned to Sacramento.  I feel weirdly off the rhythm of camp, and so haven’t posted yet today – and now it’s after the day is over, but I’m still up, so it’s still Friday.  That’s my rule.

Today was crazy.  We were throwing together pieces for our team debrief slideshow part of the morning, and because we had some free time, I was so much slower to get ready.  By the end, I was still rushing around to get to the meeting on time.  Then we met, and that was fine.  Ran over to the other building for the Tools & Safety meeting – gave myself a few more responsibilities.  Then ran back to get my STUFF!  I am officially responsible for a laptop, GPS, and VAN!  And the most exciting part about the VAN is that it’s the Green Unit’s vehicle from Mendocino, and it IS actually green!  So that was part of lunch, then we had another two trainings – about feedback and the online portal.

After that, we were technically done for the day … except that Green Unit took an extra-special photo shoot for the first community meeting.  I’m pretty excited about them!  And since we also got our new, permanent room assignments, I moved in!  It took me 9 trips up two flights, but at least I got it done (like ripping a band-aid) and I got to stay in the same building.  It’s the little things…  I finished just in time to head to the REI store, where I found some pretty great deals.  We made it back just in time for dinner, and I spent the rest of the evening setting up my new room.  Now that I will be here for the rest of the year, I actually organized stuff and put decorations on the walls.  I don’t have a desk in this new room, which is a bummer, BUT I do finally have a dresser that fits my clothes.  I get wireless, am right next to my kitchen (at least for a week), and have an awesome new roommate.  It’s a very positive change.

Tomorrow (too soon from now), we’re going to Yosemite.  I’m also going to start adding photos to this blog soon – so look forward to those!