Monday, April 30, 2012

VOTE FOR ME!

https://apps.facebook.com/lbstorycontest/contests/202727/voteable_entries/46917587

This is a link to a story on Facebook.  It's the story of the year I made my mother a quilt.  This story, in all its 500 word limit, luridly detailed glory, is entered in a contest to win $500 worth of Lion Brand products.

If I win, I will make a BIG, GIANT donation of Lion Brand yarn to the St. Mary's (Eugene) knitting guild.  The costs of the yarn we use is going up, and we are relying more and more on donations.  Can I even say how much this will help us?

This is Hawaii Six-Oh, the quilt I made.

It's Hawaiian themed.  Look at that nautical detail.  Oh, did I mention it's a guestbook quilt?  As in, everyone at the big party signed the white patches?  Oh, yeah.  

Here you can see both the orange thread used in the entire project, as well the binding about which I am very vain.  
If you are on Facebook, please vote for me!  I think it would thrill my mother, which is always a Portuguese girl's dream, and it would literally help church ladies to help sick people and children.

How awesome is that?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I Go Running and Buy New Luggage

On Saturdays, M and I often go out for a breakfast diner date.  It started back when I was in residency and doing overnight shifts.  He'd pick me up from the hospital and we'd go grab a bite and I'd go to sleep for the day when we got home.  Nowadays, it's a charming holdover, a reminder of the days of incredible sleep deprivation.

Sometimes, I run home from breakfast.  After I get some carbs in, I decide to work them off.  Today I turned in five miles.  They weren't my best miles.  They were slow and kind of ugly, and I have decided it's time to junk my 10K playlist.  All the music is just too slow now.  So I need to go get a strong round of 80s music.

In other news, I have finally replaced my hosteling backpack.  Oh, I'll keep the Horrible Ugly Green pack for a few years yet, in case I need a pack with great lumber support which to run from the zombie apocalypse.  But sadly, it has outlived its usefulness as a traveling item since I avoid checking luggage whenever possible.  It's carry-ons for me these days.

I settled on the Osprey Porter 46.  It's a carry-on sized duffle with backpack straps.  It narrowly beat out the Rick Steves Convertible Carryon.  It made me a little sad to not love the convertible carryon, because I am a total Rick Steves fan girl.  (He's just such a delightfully loveable dork.)  And I wanted so much to like it with its fabulous pocket locations, built-in laundry section, and a secret document pocket in the bottom.  It had a secret pocket!  So cute! But alas, the backpack straps killed it.  When I packed it with every single thing that was on my packing list for this summer, it was far from full.  But it's a soft-sided bag, so even with the load secured by tie down straps and the sides cinched as tight as they could go, it was very floppy.  It flopped when carried as a suitcase.  It flopped in backpack mode.  When I put it on my back, the straps cut into my narrower girl shoulders, and started rubbing raw spots.  That's actually pretty bad news in a back pack when I know we'll be carrying our packs for longer than 30 minutes.  So sad.  Maybe just a simple sternum strap could have saved it...

So I tried the Osprey Porter 46, which has stiffer foam sides that compress the load so it doesn't flop.  And the straps have a sternum strap and suspension clips (like my hosteling and backpacking backpacks do) so the load balances off my hips and doesn't touch my shoulders.  After 30 minutes, no raw spots.  It won because it doesn't cause me discomfort.  Oh, the first world problems, right?

So that's it.  The saga of finding new luggage is over.  Now it's just a matter of finding time to make myself a snuggie sack for the hostels and getting all the rest of the fundraisers pulled together.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I Fix Bicycles On A Very Productive Friday

I tossed my hybrid up on my roofrack earlier today and headed out to do chores.

And then I turned around and came home after doing the first chore because I had forgotten my coupons and I was hungry.

Thirty minutes later, full of brown rice and kale and tofu, I headed out again, coupons in hand.

In preparing-to-take-15-teens-to-England news, I made a killing on sheets to make a new snuggie sack (a sleep sack, like a sleeping bag liner, so I don't have to touch potentially sketchy hostel sheets).  My new snuggie sack will be a DYI that cost $9.99.  The cheapest pre-made sack is $30 with a scratchy thread count, so Bargain Shopper me wins again!  I'm rather ferocious that way.  Take me tag-saling with you.  Seriously.

Then I went to LifeCycle, where they endeared themselves to me for pretty much all eternity.  First, one of the mechanics waved as I walked in.  Aww!  They remember me, and they don't run away screaming when I come in!  Then he picked up his baby who was crying tears everywhere.  He had her stashed under the workbench for her nap.  He handed her a Park tool (while he was holding her and watching carefully) and she was a happy camper.  Then the guys sold me brake pads, but not regular brake pads from the front of the store.  They sold me brake pads out of the mechanics' stash in the back.

Let me tell you, I feel so. cool. now.

Then I went off to the Barn.  Getting the pads off was the easy part, and I had a fleeting moment when I thought this would be much faster job than I'd thought.

That was before I discovered that the screw that adjusts the tension was stripped and also attached to a piece of metal that was bent.

My quickie job turned into a 2 1/2 job which involved me taking the whole brake off the bike, bending the metal back into shape, and putting it back on, and then adjusting everything, including the cables.

End result: the wheels spin freely.  They stop when I squeeze the brakes.  They start again when I move the pedals.  Brake win!

In other news, I may be nearing the end of the new-luggage-locating adventure.  After spending some weeks lamenting the outlived usefulness of my poor hosteling backpack, I have one more bag to do a neighborhood walking test with.  I think this one will be the winner.  More to come when I have the return slips printed for the other contestant.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fixing Bikes

I started taking a bike class at the U of O.  I've often wanted to know more about how my bikes worked and what all the parts are and how to fix them a little bit so if things went bad 30 miles into a century, I could whip out my multitool and Mcguyver myself a good enough fix to get me through the day.  

So far I have learned that bikes are extremely dirty, and that whenever I get the workbench and a vise and a truing stand for my garage, I'd better have one of those containers of Orange-Off degreaser handy.  

Last week, I cleaned out the bearings on my wheel and learned how to remove my cassette.  I say things like "cassette" now instead of referring to "the rear gears on the back of my bike".  

See how much cooler I am already?  

This week, we learned one of those things I've always wanted to know.  Brakes. 

My hybrid brakes are just about bald, and I had a hunch it might not be too hard to replace them.  So we learned how to do brakes.  

Granted, I was working on cantilever brakes on a shop bike, because my roadie was at the Trek doctor getting its derailleur looked at.  But now, I know how to do two types of brakes, and replace cables. 

One girl has this beautiful Specialized Allez, and it was the demo bike.  When the instructor clipped her cable to show us how to run brake cables, I thought she was going to faint.  I don't blame her.  A little warning, sir!  All was well in the end.  

So I'm going in for "study hall" on Friday with my roadie and my hybrid, and I will replace my brakes and tune my rear derailleur with its new hanger.  It'll be so much fun.  I might even start playing around with truing my wheels... 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two-wheeled Relationship Problems

I think my bike and I are having some serious relationship problems and I am not sure we will last the summer.   
The Day I brought The Trek 1.5 home.  How many high hopes I had for you, Bike.  

Yesterday, I was climbing Lorane with the Hutch's Bikes Monday group, and shifted down to my granny gears.  I heard an ominous chattering, like there was something hitting my spokes.  I thought perhaps I had gotten a twig or a branch caught in my rear derailleur.

No such luck.

One of the Hutch's guys, who was behind me, shouted "Shift!  Your derailleur is hitting your spokes!"

I shifted up and climbed the rest of Lorane in the "spinster aunt" gears (which are harder than granny gears). At the top of Lorane, we looked at my derailleur and discovered an almost-total crack running through the hanger.  That was it.  I was out of the ride.  For the non-bikers, if your derailleur hanger falls off, there's nothing connecting your chain to your wheels.  Best case scenario, you stop.  Worst case scenario, your chain gets caught in your spokes as you fall and you crash on a hill or in some other terribly inconvenient space.  Rescue is at least 30 minutes off as your husband has to race to the bike shop to get the cars to come save you, while you swear profusely at your bike.

Notice in that scenario, I didn't even cover the possible injuries.  Having actually broken bones on a bike (not to mention the inevitable road rash and little cuts and scrapes), I figured I don't need that karma.

Note: NOT a current picture.  Calm down, mom.
This is what happened the last time I tempted karma.  To this day, I can only give you a 45 degree thumbs up.


M bailed with me, and we limped back to the bike shop.  The Lorane highway, which is a bad road going up, is a pot-holed federal disaster area going down.  I totally slowed traffic because it was just too dangerous to go down near the side of the road, so I blocked the center.  It must have been five minutes before I could find a place level enough to stop and allow cars to squeeze by me.

Yeah, I don't think I'll be descending Lorane again.

We got to the bike shop without further ado, except that my throat was really dry from all the swearing I did.  Yeah, you don't think I know that kind of language.  My knuckles were white, even after unclenching.  My palms had big red swaths imprinted with my bar tape pattern.  My hand is still sore this morning.  (Granted, it is the broken bone hand, so it could just be telling me the future...)

Bascially, this bike has really twitchy steering (which I'm convinced contributed to my Big Crash in Vermont with the broken bones, as well as the Cottage Grove Clumsy Crash), oddball balance, and a geometry that is more suited to a gorilla- short legs, long torso.  (I'm all leg with a little bitty torso so short that I shop for jackets and shirts in petites and for pants in tall.)  I blame the Bike Shop in my hometown doing such a crappy non-job of fitting, but the end of the story is that I just don't trust my bike anymore.  Oh, Bike, our relationship is coming to an end.  Sorry.  It's not you.  It's me and my short torso and inability to trust.

Meanwhile, I have been test-riding some other bikes.  I rode a Lexa SLX, and didn't like it.  It's okay, I guess, but it's built for plush, not for speed.  I hated the drops, and the store didn't seem eager to suggest changing the handle bars.  "Yeah, geometry has changed" is not the answer I want when what I'm looking for is perfect fit.  I'm already on crummy geometry.   Sorry, Trek, but it is looking like my next road bike is not going to be a Trek.  It'll be my first non-Trek road bike since I started riding seriously in Seminary.

So sad.  I loved my Treks.

I test-rode a few Felts, and the women's model was dreamy.  I'm on a smaller frame (a 51 instead of a 54) and have smaller handlebars, and all of a sudden it felt like I had no shoulders at all.  I had no idea how uncomfortable my shoulders had been.  And riding the smaller geometry has driven home how stretched out and twitchy my current bike is.

I am unfaithful to my recalcitrant, troublesome red-and-white Trek.  And I think the end of our relationship is nigh.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Luggage Requirements are an Airline Racket

It's really not just me.  After some hardcore, serious research involving screeching indignantly in a high pitched voice with my co-workers who share the same problem (and looking at my research from the trip when I bought the Beloved Ugly Hosteling Backpack), the results are in.

Airlines really HAVE made their carryon requirements smaller.  My hosteling backpack WAS a carryon size years ago, back in the day when we could insert things lengthwise.  Airlines ARE trying to trick you.

We used to be able to bring an elephant.

Now we can bring chihuahuas.

Sneaky airlines.

I now shall proceed to mourn my Beloved Ugly.  It has served faithfully and I shall hang on to it with hopes that when I make a sabbatical I can do the several-months-long traveling trip that I have always wanted to do.  I love that thing.  It is such a pity it no longer fits the requirements.  It is simply too tall, and as we taller than average people know, the world of airline travel is simply not made for us.

Because of this, I have had to replace the Beloved Ugly with a new bag.  I've got a Rick Steves Convertible Carryon and will be checking out an Osprey Porter 46 at REI later today before I make my final choice.  (Yeah, I over-research all the time.  But this means my itinerary will be exhaustive and informative, and since some of you are entrusting me with the happiness of your child for 12 days, this bodes *very* well for you.)

Ach.  Luggage requirements are so complicated these days.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Packing Priest

Some people think I have a tendency to obsess.

I prefer to call it "Planning Very Carefully".  Considering that I will be helping lead a trip of 16 teens to England this summer and will be entrusted with all their lives and well-being and eternal souls, I think this might be a good tendency to have.

I decided that I should do a trial of the luggage I was planning to take so I could demonstrate to the kids what an appropriate hosteling backpack was, so I pulled out this horridly ugly but beloved green thing.  I've taken it to England, France, and Australia, and my sister took it all over Europe, and another friend took it to a Habitat for Humanity build in rural Thailand.  It's awesome. Sadly, it is not able to serve me this summer.

After I did some checking... it's too big.  We are limiting our group to carry-ons only.  It clocks in at a little over 26 inches tall and 15 inches wide.  Carry-on regulations these days are 22 inches by 14.

This bums me out.  Back in the days before baggage fees, I had no problem with fudging the carryon requirements.  That will simply not fly these days because fellow travelers are ruthless little piranhas, grubbing for every inch of space for their own, overpacked bags of junk.  

And I decided it would be extremely embarrassing if the leader got her bag kicked off the plane for being oversize.  So now I am bag shopping for a bag that meets carryon requirements.

Hopefully, this will work out in the end.  I am slowly collecting a stable of luggage that has outlived its usefulness... like the large suitcase we were given for a wedding present that we used on our honeymoon and then for each move... and for nothing else.  And an array of duffle bags.  I think I might have a bag problem.

Wish me bon voyage!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting My Cyborg Parts Programmed

I went to Portland yesterday to get my cochlear implant processor mapped.  Eugene doesn't have a Cochlear center, so it's an all-day trek now (2 hour drive, each way).  Thankfully, I love to drive my Beetle all by myself so I can play really loud 80's music and Johnny Cash and Broadway musicals without worrying about anyone saying "HOW CAN YOU PLAY THE MAN IN BLACK RIGHT AFTER DEBBIE GIBSON? YOU HERETIC!"

My tri club would hate me if they ever had me put together the playlists for the day.

So, mapping is the process by which a specially trained audiologist creates the programming for my processor.

Get it?  Essentially, for some (probably genetic) reason, the cochlei hair cells don't work in my head.  So I have a flat magnet encased in titanium under my head skin and on top of my skull, a hole drilled in my skull, and a tiny coil of electrodes snaked into my cochlea.  The electrodes connect (wirelessly, thanks to the magnet) to a processor, which is then programmed by the scientists to make the noises we hear every day into a series of teeny tiny electrical signals that shock my hearing nerve into stimulation.

I like to tell people that I'm shocked by everything I hear.

Of course, being an Episcopal priest, they think I'm shocked by everything I hear ANYway.  But I'm really, literally, shocked.

Anyway, I went to OHSU, and got there early enough that I got to ride the famous Portland tram that connects the two campuses.  The tram is cool, but I did have a few of my white-knuckle moments.  Specifically, I looked over the edge to see just how high.... yeah, we won't be doing that again.  And then the tram, when it first takes off, swings a bit.  Like a gondola.  When you are plenty-hundred feet up in the air.

Considering that hospitals treat people who are in danger of dying and stuff, I appreciate the irony of subjecting them (and the science people who fix them) to imagined death several times daily.

Hey, I'm not being melodramatic.  Being high up in a small room which is waving back and forth in a high Portland wind while passengers strategically position themselves around the open-air transport to balance its precarious weight and work together to survive is legitimately adventurous.

Except that there was no high wind, the gondola only rocked once or twice, and everyone stood around texting or taking pictures.  But that's exactly the same thing, right? 

Sadly, yesterday, we could not map.  We discovered that my processor has some very serious errors in it, and it is in dire need of repair for proper function.  Happily, I'm also due for an upgrade, so we are going to ask the nice people at the insurance company to buy me a $7,000-plus device.  And some of the accessories.  

That always works well, right?

At least this one is totally waterproof.  Not that I'll start swimming with it (at least, not in open water, though I may be tempted to try it in a pool environment and finally get some swim coaching!), but in Oregon, that's great news, right?

We also did a baseline hearing test- so the audiologist could see how well I function.  You can't really compare "normal" people to Cochlear implant people, mostly because normal people are so hard to find, and if you ever do find them, they wouldn't agree into a booth and take an audiological test just to satisfy my curiosity.  But at the end of the day, I test within the top 2% of Cochlear implantees.  I love getting A-pluses on tests.  And I notice the tests are changed.

They used to involve a long section where I repeat words like "Baseball, ice cream, snowman" as the audiologist reads them to me.  The sentences used to be things like "The penguins played on the beach with a ball".

Yesterday, I was repeating words like "shotgun, carnage, gin".  The sentences started out with the regular stuff like, "She started the engine of the car" and progressed to "She wondered if it was okay to open the door".  I guess the hearing testing scientists are preparing me for the zombie apocalypse.

So now we start the fun process of trying to get a new processor, which would come with a remote control, which I guess I could strap on my wrist.  If only they made it look like a watch!  And connected it to my heart rate monitor!  And added a GPS!

And a little laser aiming device for the shotgun I will acquire when I steal the car as the zombie apocalypse sets in.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holding It Together in Holy Week

Between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, I will have officiated or preached at something like 16 different services, with zero repeats.  Whew.

Huge shout out to the Altar Guild and all the Deacons and Lauren at the office for making all the magic happen.  This, in the middle of the week when the Office Manager is on maternity leave, the Priest-in-Charge is on paternity leave, and the Parish Administrator is with her family.  So I'm the sole remaining full-time employee trying to hold it down for the week.  I think the Universe Gremlins are snickering.

So far, I have prevented the church from burning down.  Good job, Assistant Priest.  We had a little moment on Sunday when one of our prayer stand candles flared up. (Someone had dropped a lihgting stick into the votive.) Little flickering lights are okay.  Leaping orange flames and black smoke are a little disturbing.  The flames were about 6 inches high before I could blow it out.   Your priest at work.

I have made ricotta pies.  This is a Portuguese delicacy that some evil people (like my best college friend!) call cheese cake, but it is not cheesecake.  It is not a batter.  It does not cook in a water bath.  There is no graham cracker crust.  Cracks on the top are a virtue.  And it's SO healthy, with tons of protein and electrolytes and stuff.  You can eat it for breakfast-lunch-and-dinner, and we do.

I know that I have real friends in Oregon now, for sure, because when my friend was on her way over to bake ricotta pies with me, I was making dinner and had M shove some stuff in the corner instead of organizing my closets and arranging my shoes in pairs like I do for guests.  You are a true friend if you get to see stuff shoved into corners.  We also played Zombie Fluxx, the best card game ever.  I won twice.  Because I'm sneaky and lucky, even though my luck extends only to card games.

I made it to a boot camp workout at tri club.  I notice that our Fearless Leader is all about the form and the fun... her husband (being military) is all about the strength and the tough.  Except he does have great taste in 80s music.  His playlists sound pretty much like my own, which is a frightening thought.  His workouts are tough, but always interesting.  I haven't done pikes since cheer camp.  It was actually a very cheerleader friendly workout yesterday... Y-T-A moves on the TRX and Pikes.  What's next, jump lines?  JAZZ HANDS?

I also hauled myself onto the bike today, which was heroic, considering yesterday's workout.  I am shopping for a WSD bike, to accommodate my super-short torso.  I have really long legs and a short dinky torso.  I've learned this makes bike fits interesting.  I decided to pedal to Jesus Christ Superstar, which I watch every single year during Holy Week.  Try riding fast, hard intervals every time Caiphas speaks, or 5 second sprints for every jump in the dances.  It makes for a really, really fun bike workout.

And then there's the part of Holy Week that my male friends never have to think about: what clothes go from day to evening in the church world (or Needle Arts Potluck Thursday to Maundy Thursday services... really, Tim Gunn, what does one wear?), and how to tame one's hair from wet to dry and organized in 15 minutes.  I have a lot of hair.  It takes a lot of taming.  It's truly complicated in a way that only the Portuguese may be able to understand.

However, the end result is that I get to eat ricotta pie and coconut cake for potluck in 10 minutes, and that will be brilliant.  Unlike the rest of the responsible universe, who give UP sweets for Lent, Lent is the only time of the year that I eat Cadbury Creme Eggs.  And I only eat Peeps on Easter.  So the sugar high fuels the Easter.  Oh yeah.

In other news, I am researching meal plans to start next week to whittle off the next 10 pounds of the remaining pudge.  I suspect I'd have less pudge if I stop doing things like putting chocolate chips on my yogurt.  But I have found a recipe for 44 calorie chocolate chip cookies!  I'll put those on my yogurt instead.  I'm now down about 12-14 pounds from my all time high in CT, but still have 8-10 to go before I'm at the top of my "fighting weight".  I have a big season planned and want to look hot in tri gear.

Oh, and go fast and everything, but at the end of the day, triathletes are really exceptionally vain and don't let anyone tell you different.

Happy Easter!  Almost....