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A Week Under Stress

September 11, 2020
Picture of smoky orange sky in Salem, OR.

Dark orange skies in Salem, Oregon, all day on Tuesday, Sept 8, 2020.

9/11/2020

This week has been a vision of a hell that I never imagined possible in my lifetime, especially not while living here in Oregon. Pandemic. Wildfires. Unemployed. Alone.

I need to write about this week, and I am simultaneously considering a rush to my basement to dig out the precious items I want to save, should the need arise to evacuate. Things irreplaceable: my grandmother’s antique Chinese lacquer box, which holds a great-grandmother’s amethyst ring. The many scrapbooks, of and by my grandmother (scrappy journals detailing her art adventures and mantras for living); of me as a baby, child, and teen; of Crow. Crow’s glass octopus, paid for through layaway and their own earnings. The series of rainbow belts earned by Crow in their journey to black belt in Kenpo Karate. What else? There must be innumerable items that I would be saddened to lose and would hold regret for leaving, though I understand the importance of practicing detachment. Letting go is important, too.

Picture of dark clouds covering the sun in Salem, OR.

Smoky clouds on Tuesday meant daytime, such as it was (see main photo) did not come until mid-morning.

This week has been emotionally challenging, anxiety-ridden, and stressful.

I drove home from Ashland Monday under clear skies and awoke Tuesday to a world in flames. The sky an hour after sunrise was dark, smoke-filled, not yet orange. Later, the sickly yellow-orange light was disorienting, a surprise since I normally have a strong constitution and good sense of balance. I felt dizzy looking out the window and nauseous. Similar to what I imagine car-sickness must feel like. Therefore, I occupied myself with computer tasks, faced away from my windows. Focused on constructive tasks to steady my vision and the world.

I learned the fires east of Salem had exploded overnight, leading to mass evacuations and the eventual burning of towns along the Highway 22 corridor, plus the loss of my favorite campsite and natural areas in the Detroit Lake/Breitenbush area. I was there only a month ago and had hopes of a last, late-summer solo camping excursion to sit and contemplate my future by the soothing roar of the Breitenbush River. Campsite no. 14. My mind imagines the devastation of the place, the grand trees now matchsticks, the ground charred and blackened, the wildlife terrified and running for their lives, or dead because there was no escape from the searing heat of the wicked flames. I sorrow for this scorched world.

Woman overlooking Mt Jefferson in Oregon.

A view of the Santiam Corridor to Mt Jefferson, all likely in ashes now.

Later Tuesday, a fire erupted in the northern part of Ashland, and I became worried for Crow, Karson, and my few friends who live in the area. Crow and Karson came under Stage 1 evacuation orders (“Be Ready”), so they decided to pack up and head out to their respective parents’ homes. Crow packed plants, food, computers, quilt, clothes, and cat. There was, however, no way to evacuate as roads north were closed because of the fire. It was a relief when Crow texted they were back home and making “tea and bacon”.

I brought up my cat crates and suitcases from the basement storage, preparing for my own “Be Ready” evacuation (just in case). Unfortunately, the sight of the cat carriers was enough to drive my cat, Snow, into the bathroom cupboard, where she has been hiding for the past four days. I am working to coax her out, but she is nervous. I wonder if this is her in-born instinct to “hide” from what her senses must rightly perceive as a threatening event.

Picture of Butter Mochi on the stove.

The pan of Butter Mochi before I dug in.

In the late afternoon on Tuesday, I made a new dessert, Butter Mochi, and then stress-ate a third of the pan. Unfortunately, I forgot to consider the ramifications of eating that much processed sugar after having a relatively clean and processed-sugar-free diet for the past six months. I woke up in the wee hours of Wednesday morning with congestion and a cough: asthma attack. I attribute the attack in part to the sugar, an inflammatory for my bronchii, and in part to the particulate matter in the air. Thankfully, my inhaler was close by and my breathing soon quieted.

I woke up Wednesday morning, determined to reach fresher air. A friend mentioned air purifiers, so that became my additional quest, as there were none available in Salem. The internet said there was a “limited stock” of air purifiers at a Walmart in NE Portland. I headed out. I found beautifully fresh, blue skies in Portland, bought the air purifier (one of two left on the otherwise empty shelf), then headed home to clear the air in my apartment after a brief visit with a friend in Tigard, where smoky clouds were just beginning to roll in. A comfort food dinner and all was as well as could be expected.

Picture of a Korean meal.

Tuesday dinner: Korean-style rice bowl with pear sauce, homemade kimchee, and peeled rambutan. Cheerfully colorful and blissfully healthy!

Home again, I hunkered down, wandering between Facebook, news media, texting to ensure friends were safe, looking through photos of my favorite places and grieving the tremendous losses of place occurring. I purchased renter’s insurance, took photos of all the things on my bookshelves and around my apartment, contemplated quantifying the contents of all the boxes in my basement.

Today the weather is somewhat improved; although still smoky, the light outside almost normal (i.e. not sickly yellow). I found a bundle of three half slices of bacon in my freezer. Happiness! I started cooking them, then realized that frying foods is not recommended right now, with the apartment buttoned up and windows shut. I created my own poor interior air quality. Whoops! Ah well, turn the air purifier on high, enjoy my bacon, eggs, and potatoes and damn the consequences, which can’t be much worse than a stroll outside right now.

—————

I am back at the computer, having found most of my grandmother’s scrapbooks, my and Crow’s baby books, a few favorite stuffed animals and books, and the antique Chinese box. I still have a few things to find in the basement, the car is packed with camping essentials, and my suitcase is loaded with a mix of work clothes, sewing and knitting projects (yes, these are important), and a few beloved books and videos. As I look around my home, I can vaguely imagine the deep sense of loss I would feel at coming back to find my plants, antique furniture, musical instruments, clothing, and boxes of memories—the stuff of life—gone, vanished in a fury of wind and fire.

It has been a stressful week.

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If you are able to help those in need who have, in fact, lost everything, please contact your local Red Cross to volunteer or donate.

5 Resources for Acing Behavioral Interview Questions

July 15, 2020

Image illustrating how to answer interview questions.

There are many online resources to assist with interview preparation.

Prior to any interview, or even before you start job searching, sit down at your keyboard, create a list of the most common interview questions, and write out your answers to these questions. Then re-read and rehearse these each and every time you have an interview appointment. Be aware that some of the questions may be worded differently; part of the ability to successfully “pass” an interview is the ability to pivot when confronted with a question that is not worded exactly as you practiced it.

Here are five curated articles that have been valuable to my own job search:

  1. Most Common Behavioral Interview Questions
  2. Questions and Three Options for Answering Them: Bad, Good, Great
  3. Unusual Questions to Prepare For
  4. How to Answer “What is your greatest strength?”
  5. How to Respond to Interview Questions Using the STAR Method

Last tips:

  1. Be sure to study the company’s website, so that you can align your answers with what the company and position seek in an employee.
  2. Go prepared with questions of your own, to show you’ve done your homework and bring genuine interest and enthusiasm to the role

Good luck!

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This blog post is part of a 7-Day Content Sprint I am participating in through ProBlogger.com.

What I Learned from a Failed Interview

July 14, 2020

The word Failed in red with a line through it.
I have been out of work since April 1, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (I was prepared to laugh and say, “April Fool’s”, but it wasn’t a joke.)

The two months following were filled by fruitless job searching. I received multiple rejections, or no response at all. In early June, I digressed into writing a business plan and let go of the idea of having a “real job”.

Then it happened: I answered a call from an unfamiliar phone number. Following a few brief questions, I was invited for an initial interview via Zoom. The company I’d applied to had values which mirrored my own, the position would engage my curiosity and skills, and getting the call was a boost to my self-esteem.

The first interview featured fun and engaging questions. The three interviewers liked that I am a passionate motorcyclist, and I felt that I’d “succeeded” in this interview. Sure enough, the following week I was invited to come for an in-person (physically-distanced) skills interview.

When the day and time arrived, I met with two of the team members. I felt at ease during this interview because I am confident in my skill sets and knowledge base. Plus, I knew I had a “Plan B”, which erased my usual nervousness.

Following the interview, I spent the weekend celebrating with my kid who had just graduated college. I went home and continued writing my business plan. Late in the week, I got a call that I was invited to come and meet the team. “Wow, neat! They really do like me. Okay, I can work for this awesome company and still run my new business part time.”

A few days later, I was on the road again to the third interview. The team’s lead had said the interview “wasn’t a big deal, we just want the team to get to know you”. Very democratic.

I had the interview: two remote team members on Zoom, four more in the room.

After an hour, I was thanked for my time, and I walked out feeling that I had blown the interview. Sure enough, the following week I got a phone call that the team liked me but that they’d “decided to go in a different direction.”

Between Interviews 2 and 3, what happened?

I had four long hours on my drive home to reflect. I was halfway home when I had an “aha” moment; even though I did not yet know I’d lost the job, I knew I’d failed the interview.

I had been too comfortable, and I had not practiced or been prepared. Essentially, I failed because I forgot my professional pitch and rambled on as if these folks were already my friends, instead of continuing to view this as a test that I needed to pass. It’s okay to be likeable, but we also need to maintain professionalism.

Here are my top takeaways after reflecting on this experience:

1) Prepare Your Pitch. Read through your professional pitch, tweak the verbiage if needed, then practice out loud to a friend over Zoom or by phone, or to yourself in the mirror. Then practice again. And again.

2) Stay Focused. If you get nervous and stumble over your words, try to substitute quickly and move along. Remember that each 10-second pause may seem like 30-seconds to your interviewers.

3) Remember to Breathe. Given the above, it is okay to occasionally pause, take a deep breath, and continue. Pacing and timing are all part of how you respond in an interview. Sometimes nervousness creeps in, and it’s okay to take a moment to center yourself.

4) Be Uncomfortable. Do not be lulled into false comfort. The people interviewing you may be friendly, but they are not yet your friends. Even if you are told, “This is low-key, don’t worry”, let those words put you on high alert: boost your game, do not sink into laxness.

And finally:

5) Common Behavioral Questions. While this step does not apply to the above experience, the majority of interviews include common behavioral questions. Prepare in advance by writing out your answers then practice reciting them. Be prepared for alternate wordings of the questions so you’re not tripped up.

There are many resources on this topic; my next blog post will detail some of the best advice I’ve read during this process. Stay tuned!

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This blog post is part of a 7-Day Content Sprint I am participating in through ProBlogger.com.

Black Lives Matter, and I Will No Longer Stay Quiet

June 2, 2020
As a blogger, I have been silent for almost two years, since I don’t currently have a motorcycle and felt weird posting about random shit, even though my intention for the blog initially was to post about motorcycling and random shit.

Lately, I have been excited about some projects and ready to refresh the blog and start posting again.

In this moment, however, it is difficult to share “happy” stuff, when so much is wrong on a national level. I am tired of being a passive witness to inequalities and oppression. I am sad and angry, in particular about the recent murders of innocent human beings by police, and by institutional racism and the many injustices that are heaped on people of color in this country.

There is egregious, systemic oppression of minorities and specifically Black people in America, ongoing for more than 400 years. It is far past time to make this stop.

It is no longer enough to continue thinking of ourselves as “not racist”. If we are not actively assisting communities of color by supporting equity, inclusion, and equality, then we are passive, and therefore, we support the culture of racism that we have grown up with.

Believe me, this is a very uncomfortable feeling. I have always believed myself to be “not a racist” and yet, what I have done to make things better for others outside my immediate communities? While I promote kindness and compassion to strangers, it is the work of disabling the mantle of oppression where the rubber truly meets the road.

If you are interested in being an anti-racist, join your local NAACP chapter and get active.

Sign the #JusticeforFloyd petition. Every name added builds momentum around the campaign and makes it more likely to get the change we want to see. After you’ve signed the petition please also take a moment to share it with others. It’s easy – all you need to do is forward the link.

Listen to Van Jones speaking with Conan O’Brien about the George Floyd killing and what comes next: https://youtu.be/62opaXeyWZY

Find something on this reading list for white allies: http://bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES

The time is now, as much as it ever has been.

Stay safe, and get active…
LRRL

Shaking Out the Cobwebs

April 26, 2018

I can’t remember the last time I rode. October-something last year? It’s been too darn long, for sure, but I am a fair weather rider and today was as perfect as it gets here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Now you get to hear me toot my horn a little. Today I did something I have never done before. I replaced the battery in my bike, with only a little over-the-phone help from my friend, Tony, and some prior verbal advice from my PDXSR buddy, Jim Redbird, notably to READ MY MANUAL. And by all means do not remove the gas tank (that’s a whole ‘nother story…)!

I’d done a test run about three weeks ago, to figure out how to remove my seat, my upper fairing, and taken a look inside where the battery lives. Today was fairly quick, except for a less-than-brief interruption to run my car in for an oil change.

I only took a couple of photos, and a video when Big Red fired right up; woot!

Here is the where the former battery isn’t:

battery slot

And, here is the dead battery:

old battery out

And, here is my bike running:

(Sorry, this space empty because WordPress wants me to upgrade to include video. I wonder how long that’s been a thing?)

Suffice to say, the new battery works, so I hopped on Big Red and headed out into the county for some non-ethanol fuel and about 60 miles of riding fun near the end of the day. Big Red purred like a kitten, I got to smell new-mown fields and cherry blossoms, and enjoyed fairly empty country roads. . . the closest to paradise I’ve been in some time.

Hope to see you on the road!

Ride safe, y’all!

 

 

 

Portland Cars and Coffee

July 12, 2017

A friend in Eureka, California, somehow found out about a motorhead club called Portland Cars and Coffee, sending me a link to a Facebook event for “Motorcycle Day”. Because my days of the week are kind of screwed up, due to a Wednesday through Sunday work schedule, I assumed Motorcycle Day was Saturday, July 8, and I showed up bright and early for the meet-up. Not on my bike, but that’s another story…

Turns out I was there for German DTM, and there were rows and rows of gorgeous BMWs in the outer lot of the World of Speed Motorsports Museum where the event takes place every Saturday during summer. Walk into the main lots, and, holy sh$t, the cars will take your breath away. Add in a few rebel Japanese and American models, a few bikes, and a stunning display of vehicles was a feast for the eyes.

I’ll hit Motorcycle Day this weekend, and take my “good” camera…. 😉

Until next time, enjoy these images.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Seeking Women Riders for Input on Riding Gear

December 17, 2016

Road Runner magazine is requesting input on gear from women riders. Okay, the guys can step up and do the survey too, but this seems super important for the ladies to take on.

Women, here’s a link to the article. You can click and take the survey. Time to speak up to gear manufacturers and let them know what you like, don’t like, and how you think gear can be improved.

That’s all for now, folks!

Side Tracked by Spectacular

February 2, 2016

The next day’s ride-to-work did not materialize as planned: it rained during the night, leaving slick, wet roads. I had too much stuff to carry the few miles to work, and truth be told, I ran out of time to load up the bike that morning. (Insert thought: “If only I had a bike with hard cases… how much easier it would be to commute!”)

The weather cleared beautifully during the work day. I was sorely tempted to keep the bike close by, but with another storm expected the next day, I opted to shuttle her back to a dry parking spot in a friend’s garage across town.

As I headed south from home, I noted that the day was ending with a seriously gorgeous sunset, and what the hell, there was no deadline to put the Seca away, so I veered west to the newest section of coastal trail, south end. And got to see this:

Sunset at Noyo Headlands South Trail

Seriously, who can resist a sunset like this?

I sat and contemplated the clouds for a short time before heading out again.

Motorcycle and sky

I watched the colors change for a bit, then mounted up to get the bike inside and myself home before dark. But, then, you know how the colors get richer as the light fades? I was sure glad I’d grabbed the phone…

Sunset on the Pacific Ocean

Last look at a spectacular sunset.

Short ride. Spectacular view. Lucky me.

Until next time… cheers!
LRRL

First Ride of 2016

January 27, 2016

The weather and roads cleared enough today for me to get out on the bike, albeit for a short—very short—ride. Still and all, breathing the rain-scrubbed air from atop two wheels was pretty damn fine. I took the bike out of storage and she’s at my house tonight, ready to go should our expected clear skies manifest tomorrow. One never knows this winter…. all I can do is hope for the best.

Here are a few pics as I am ready to roll:

lilred herself

I’m not very good at this selfie thing… 😉

bike from the saddle

I seriously need to look for a new windscreen.

Bonus photo, from a walk on New Year’s Day (because neither of the above photos is particularly satisfying):

waves and cormorants

Big waves offshore at MacKerricher State Park.

Happy New Year, fellow riders (and readers). I hope to see you on the road this year.

Keep the rubber side down!

–LRRL

Gratitude

November 26, 2015

Today I am reflecting on sorrow and gratitude both, for challenges I am experiencing and the growth that, with mindfulness, will be the outcome.

Today I offer gratitude for this moment, for family and friends who care about me, and I open my heart to the beauty of this world.

Today I offer gratitude for the community I have found through riding, that I have a running bike and money for fuel, and for the profound sense of awe and awareness in the present moment that occurs when I ride.

A friend shared a wise, wonderful video that I am passing on. I encourage you to take six short minutes out of your day to watch this, and to meditate on the beauty that is present in each of our lives, no matter what else is going on.

Ride safe. Be peace,

lilred