Friday, April 23, 2010

Top 10 Indicators You Need a Break From BREAKAWAY

I do not want a break from BREAKAWAY and robotics, but there may be a few indications that we need a break.

The closing ceremony of FIRST Championship games in Atlanta included a Top Ten list of "Indicators You Need a Break From BREAKAWAY," and there were some funny ones. OKay, I admit some were funny, and some were true, so I had to reflect for a moment to realize that they are kind of humorous... like: "Build workshop is primary residence." Well, part of the build workshop has been in our primary residence since January, and I have often referred to the school's metal shop as a second home. This isn't normal?

And when I saw indicator #2, I thought, "Cool. I could totally go for that. I painted the RV in team colors. And I have seriously been thinking of pimping my ride with some sweet details. Why not bumpers?" This isn't normal?

And "Yes. Yes, I have been thinking about St Louis. Can we get there? What will they build? How many more T-shirts should they silkscreen? Which FRC events should we they elect to go to? Is there an aquarium?"

I think it may be time for me to reflect on my own Top Ten Indicators I Need A Break from BREAKAWAY.

10. We are exhausted. Yes, I still feel the energy and love robotics and FIRST, but we have been worn a bit thin, by the intensity of these work-school-laundry-robotics schedules. I need a nap. Several naps.

9. We are still trying to move in to our home. We have made great progress, but there are still unpacked boxes and empty walls. We need to reapply ourselves to being moved-in.

8. Every time someone does something well, or needs encouragement, my arms spontaneously shoot up and I pump phantom pom-poms.

7. That thingy, in my leg, that makes the muscle hang on... it's still not hanging on. Don't tell my mommy. She worries.

6. Maria has been tagging every clear surface with 2102 and Paradox illustrations.

5. I think I can dance. This one is embarrassing. I know I cannot dance, but for some reason I do not let this fact keep me from doing the Cha-Cha slide. In public. Before cameras, and people whose respect I hope to earn.

4. Every post about robotics has been a detrimental blow to Chickenblog readership. Actually, this reason sucks. I will never take a break from posting about robotics! Hence the new header.

3. The house is a mess. Oh boy. This one is serious. I used to at least pretend that I was trying to be a domestic diva, but I gave that act up. I love robotics and 2102 and FIRST, and given any excuse I will write, photograph, sew, and beg for this team... especially if I can get out of mopping and dusting.

2. The house is a mess.
I said that.
That's okay.
I think it bears repeating.

1. From Blogger: "FTP publishing will no longer be available after May 1, 2010
You currently have blogs that are published using FTP. You must migrate your blogs to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL."


Uh-oh. This one is a doozy.

Chcikenblog Chickenblog is going away. All the deep thoughts, and flowers, and hencakes, Betty, Chango, Joe, Benjamin Franklin Thunder Cat, and the Ratty-Rats, the quilts, Geeks... all of it.

But not for long.

I hope.

Geoff? Will this take long?

Geoff is taking a break from BREAKAWAY, so he can do... he can make... he can... you know... make Chickenblog come back slicker, and shinier, and bloggier than ever.

This may take a few days. This may get glitchy. This may make me really nervous. It will confuse me too, but I am familiar with that sensation. Mostly I just hope we don't make you nervous and confused. And I hope we don't *poof* leave the Interwebs, forever lost in cyberspace.

While Geoff is banging his head and sitting on hold with someone named "Josh" in Bangalore migrating the blog to a new custom domain URL or a blogspot URL,
I will be reassuming my role as a domestic diva, *ahem.*
Pray for me. For us.

For your viewing pleasure, I would like to leave you with an original work of art, torn from Alex's english notebook. (The very same notebook where he is supposed to be writing English notes.)

"Dostoevsky Esky Esky Esky" by Alex V2"

He's reading Crime and Punishment.
It's done in pen. The teacher took a picture of it with Flat Stanley.

I love this blog.
Please look for us on the other side.
We will be back.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Home Again

Everyone has heard the marketing quip... What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Well, it's a lie! A smelly, dirty lie. Okay, so the "smelly dirty" part is in the washer, but I am still disillusioned.
We came home with three loads of spirited laundry. Something that smells of fear, and cheer, anticipation, and earthquake-road trip survival... and none of it stayed in Vegas, baby. It's all in my laundry room.

Fortunately, before I was up to my nostrils in Vegas memories, we had the most amazing and comforting welcome home, Happy Easter ever. We drove west Sunday morning, and it was a doozy. The five 6 hour drive was plagued with high winds, and closed restaurants, then an earthquake... which, to be honest, we did not notice traveling at 67 mph in wind gusts, but still! Were we ever whooped.

But, the Bird House was open, and Ruth was in the kitchen filling the air with fragrant aromas. Holly and Rich were ahem... The Easter Bunny had just left, and eggs were hidden all over the backyard.

I am ruined forever. From now on, I will always secretly hope that after every road trip we are greeted by family or friends, and a beautiful and abundant home cooked meal. That the children will have fun awaiting them, that there will be chilled wine on the patio, cut flowers in a vase, and that all the cares of the road and long weekend will evaporate as we laugh and play.

It was nice putting off laundry. It was a relief not having to search for any open market, so I could throw together a healthy holiday dinner. It was comforting, after the melancholy of saying good-by to family, to be greeted by more family. Every detail and nicety was considered and thoughtfully planned, and our only expectation was to enjoy ourselves... and we did. Very much.

Since then, I confess, I spent an entire day doing next to nothing. Writing, downloading pictures. Trying to figure out why FB would not let me get into Lexulous... important nothings like that. What a luxury.

Then we started to reacclimate to our domestic climate. I started in on the laundry and dishes, bought cat food. Alex, Maria, and I went east to our old El Rancho neck of the prairie and we visited our favorite thrift shop. Now we have more forks, a new table cloth, shirts that fit Alex, and a little, metal Peanuts lunch pail that Maria cherishes. We also stopped at the tortilleria, and brought home some hot corn ones, and some jamaica flowers for punch.

Back home, Geoff reaffirmed his commitment to unpacking. And the first box he opened revealed something like a Christmas present! Not since 1997... that's how long it's been since our bread-maker was been out of a moving box. We packed it when the cord was destroyed, and it never came out until now. So, Geoff and Alex set to get it back in working order. All of those moves, six total, must have shaken stuff loose, because they had to do more than replace the cord. I think they kind of enjoyed themselves. And when I figure out how to crank her up and get her baking again, we will all be enjoying ourselves. Toast 'n' Jelly Days, coming soon!

I still do have chicks on the brain. It is spring, and I want chicks. But. Always with the big but. But, I have to get prepared, and time things, and be responsible... blah-blah-blah. Being an adult can be so overrated. Hopefully, signs and articles, and circumstances will align and Polish chicks, or Silkies, will be more than just hencakes on the griddle.

Now, there's nothing to stop me from making some salsa to go with those fresh corn tortillas. So I roasted one chile verde, and I have tomatoes and a jalapeņo simmering on the stove. Cilantro from the garden, a bit of white onion finely diced. Sal. Pimiento. Ajo. Blend, and go!

We're home.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We Keep Springing Forward

These are the kind of posts I enjoy stumbling across... some day in the future, I will see this and recall all kinds of things, big and small, and I will enjoy remembering them. I may wish I could go back, or I may be grateful just to have survived. In the midst of our busy days, errands, challenges, and successes... there are moments, there are ideas, feelings, and milestones that are worth noting, worth a pause.

We are doing too much, as the saying goes, but sometimes "too much" is too good to pass up, so forward we go. Pushing to get to FRC Las Vegas, and juggling to be in Atlanta too. My friend Karen was right when she said, We can do this, but it won't be pretty. I think on her wisdom and humor when I look around my home, wondering if we will ever finish moving in, if we will ever achieve the comfy-settled look of an organized and tidy home.


But only a small sigh, and not a desperate or grieving sigh. I actually feel energized and motivated by our goals and plans, the goals and plans of 2102, Robotics. The disappointment about delayed domestic settling and chick postponement is fairly fleeting. The inspiration and success of the Team is invigorating, and feels more meaningful to me than finding our Easter wreath, or pruning hedges.

So, what have we been up to? Well, we enjoyed the opportunity to give family a metal-shop and robotics tour and introduction. Alright, so it's not the typical way for families to finally make the time to hang out, but I think they had a pretty good time. Alex got a chance to share his knowledge of the robot controls, the new tower, and mecanum wheels. The team got a chance to meet Spencer, and to figure out that when they are featured on the morning news, it will be like sharing cool stuff with a friend, so no worries. I was kind of imagining Jacob, Jesse, and Maria in ten years... design, build, and marketing... 2102 Team Paradox in the year 2020.

Maria thinks she is part of the team already. And fortunately, they do find ways for her to participate, to be a Paradox. Her parrot-ox dress is ready to go to Vegas.

Her hat and apron are ready too. In San Diego she passed out about eight hundred chocolate Paradox eggs in the arena... something we call Paradox Gracious Chocolatism. She is ready and stocked to show her spirit in Vegas and Atlanta.

While Maria, Max, and Alex break down the Cupid Shuffle, I've been doing some sewing for the marketing team. My blanket stitch is getting good. And plushy parrot-ox parts are definitely part of our domestic landscape. These handmade plushies are for alliance building, and diplomacy, fundraising and team creative expression, and they are hugely popular at FRC.

Speaking of creative expression I finally unpacked a gingerbread house kit. One of the few I bought for Christmas. The ones I left in the garage, when I realized and accepted that we were never going to get around to decorating gingerbread houses for Christmas. Why not Spring, and Easter? Right? Shade the frosting pink, and sky blue, find pink sugar sprinkles and egg shaped confections, and voila! A spring cottage. Maria and William supervised me and the glue gun, and once it was assembled, they set forth with decor.

It turned in to a hectic night... Geoff trying to make Alex and Max's room in to a bedroom, Alex doing homework, Max industriously turning paper and tape in to the Grand Canyon for his Arizona state report, and me trying to be a marketing mentor-blogger-domestic queen of all... Someone should have stopped us, or intervened, or something... but Easter Gingerbread, markers, paint, laundry, bills, computer files, bed frames, vacuums, and other domestic perils happen. It's messy. It's not pretty, and yet somehow it's good. huh... It's a Paradox, really. Lots of chaos-mess-stress = good memories-humor-springing forward.

Now, don't get the wrong idea about my resilience and good humor. In the middle of the hectic-chaos-mess-stress, I was probably the messiest-stress mess of all. I don't recall dropping any f-bombs, but I am glad I was not standing near an open mic, or in the presence of rolling cameras. I do look forward to a long break, to robotic-homework liberty, to really and truly being moved in, to family time spent in the same room and time zone.

And in the meantime, thank goodness for family that willingly agrees to a get together in a greasy metal shop. And thank goodness for generous friends who make the time to bake amazing snicker-doodles and puckery sweet lemon bars, then wrap them in a dear kitty box, and send them to our home. Funny, Geoff thought the kitties were named SnickerDoodle and Lemon Square. This was one delicious moment, I will never forget... thoughtful and refreshing, giving me the steam to keep springing forward. Special thanks to Minou, Sam, and Em... those sweet, furry snicker-doodles.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring, It Sprung!

Happy Spring!

Did it surprise you?
It surprised me.
I saw it coming, but then I kind of missed the spring-eve anticipation, and then this morning WhAm! It's Spring.

You'd think, with no less than three calendars hanging in just one corner of the Bird House, I would be up on these things. Our calendars mostly say : Robotics. Go to... robotics. Meet for... robotics. Take dinner to... robotics. Make reservations for... robotics.

So, signs of spring must be elsewhere... let's see...

Hmmm... we cannot get enough.
I took almost every post I ever wrote about robotics and put them all in one post, so that it is like a massive Robotics index for Chickenblog. It was pretty much a nightmare trying to make the code work, because I am pretty much an amateur when it comes to code. But I keep trying.

And Maria... she's learning code. Look at all the words she is writing. Her writing skills are springing! I love our message board.

But, spring is outdoors. Right? Nature. So, outside I went, in search of the new season.

Ah, the morning light, the glistening dew. Here is spring. In the flowers. In the air.

And I saw the calla lilies, and Chango reposing in the garden bed. I thought how idyllic and good nature is, how lovely the forms and lines, the rhythm of the new day. And I was totally getting poetic and reveling in the nature high, and this seemed like a good time to photograph Chango. He was there, still and content... what a perfect opportunity to capture the essence of spring.

Nature is brutal.
I mean, come on... poetry, and dew drops on lilies... it's real nice, but nature has all kinds of plans and devices.
I'm just saying...

Chango, what are you... ?
Don't eat nature Chango, not spring. Not the very emblem of cute, fluffy-tailed baby spring.

Go back inside everyone.
Come on.
Spring is inside.
Let's go.

Blinded by grief, I point my camera in all directions, looking for something lovely to erase the graphic nature of events I have witnessed. Pictures of my ranchero boys. Happy memories of springs past, elotes, beseros, y sombreros. My thrift shop find, a sleek red handbag... perfect for no occasion I am likely to enjoy, but I like the possibility.

Then, salvation. Bill is sending me real life nature pictures. Action shots from Soquel-Cal, where the dear and the antelope play. The dear are my nephew and niece, Dominic and Marissa.

Ah, Nature. Here is Nature. At the lumberyard and garden center.

Thank goodness.

Bill says these reindeer are pretty wild, like buckin' reindeer. Seriously. You have to hang on for eight seconds. Don't get bucked off.

I'm telling you, Nature is brutal.
And spring, spring will spring on you.
You gotta be ready.
Just sayin'.

You're probably thinking I am trying to "look busy," just because Geoff says "Before we go to robotics, we should clean."

Spring Cleaning.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Never Give Up, Never Surrender

When I put those words on Chickenblog, in my profile, it wasn't because I am chronically optimistic, or whole heartedly ambitious, or even particularly perky. For me, Never give up, never surrender, is more than a great movie line... it's a great reminder of what I am striving for. I want to be resilient and daring, I want to overcome obstacles and navigate rough water. And when I lose my way, or get knocked down, I want to believe that those words will rise in my mind, and spirit, and get me on my feet again. I need support. I need encouragement. I need affirmations. Left to my own devices, I am a bit too attracted to feh and meh.

This has been a bad week. Not fatal. Not devastating. Just bad, which is not good. Know what I mean? Hmmm... just admitting this, actually makes it seems a bit better... less bad. Cool.

I was in the yard yesterday and from our bedroom upstairs, I heard Maria's rescue me now cry. I bolted in to the house and flew up the stairs. And even though I was flying, somehow I managed to tear the thingy that makes the calf muscle stick to the thing, which is in my leg... not sure if it was the gastrocnemius or the soleus. I am quite certain it was the one that lets you freely put your own weight down on your leg, which I can longer do. My leg screams at me, then goes floppy. Maria fell though a chair that broke, and scraped her back. Between my wincing and her crying, we were quite a pair.

Geoff is not working one hundred hours/week, and we are all getting reacquainted, which is good, but not as easy as it might sound. Post-crunch mode is always a bit of an adjustment, a combination of recovery and realigning. And now we have a secondary and almost equally consuming project... a little something we call Robotics!!!! Man, I love robotics. Man, do I need a robotics break. Mostly though, I love robotics. Geoff is logging some serious hours as programming mentor, and you may have noticed I have added my unique, sincere, amateur touches here and there. Anyway, our family-domestic Bird House Rhythm is kind of on hold, which is not easy. It might help if there ever was a Family-Domestic Bird House Rhythm, but whatever, it will happen. Right? It's not too late. I am really hoping it's not too late.

Okay. What was my point?

I am taking the high road. My complaints and laundry list of bad week evidence are done. I will leave the rest unsaid. I am going to accentuate the positive. I am going to make that leap of faith, and believe that if I do not give up, if I do not surrender, that we will be alright. We will find the way to heal, and to grow, to learn, to make do, to feel good, be good, and do good. Affirmations, jokes, hugs, band-aids, faith, sweat, Lexulous, and signs of spring... those blossoms of hope, love and courage... those are what I am going to focus on. Maybe especially Joe's nose. Look at it. It makes me feel better already.

Flowers are blooming, even a rose. Betty is happy. The cats are alive, and they are happy too. The children keep working, and learning, and making me proud. Geoff found the Tylenol. Delia and Ron will be in Vegas. William was offered a paying job, from his good work at his volunteer job. Alex recognized Japanese words and phrases when we watched a movie in Japanese. Max makes awesome wishes. Maria is writing and reading words (her own name, Max, Izzy, love, and more). The rainy season is mostly over and the leak in our roof didn't get too bad. Good stuff. Yup.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

She Has Not Learned A Thing

Yes. It's time for another edition of What Not To Wear I Wore It

Why? Because I do not seem to be getting the message about personal appearance, pride, dignity, pretty & casual vs. pretty casual.

To be fair, and to assure my mom that I do try: I am not a morning person to begin with, and the government's insistence that playing with our clocks twice a year "is necessary," really messes with my already hampered routine.

Speaking of hampered, despite appearances, none of these clothes was pulled from a hamper. I did sleep in the red, floral pajama bottoms and a tank. The flip-flops I added, after I got up. Even the kitty shoes could not have helped this ensemble. Thank goodness I have some sense of modesty, propriety... I grabbed Geoff's, clean, shirt from the dryer on my way out the door. I think it helped. Or did it?

Nothing was brushed. Not my hair. Not this image. Not my teeth.

Alex and Max are grateful to be getting a ride to school. Okay, Max does cringe sometimes, and I know I can make him really nervous if I ask about coming out of the car to meet his friends. Betty does not care what I look like when I come to feed her.

But this is a pointless survey. Asking two boys and a chicken whether I am "presentable" is hardly worthy evidence in a trial of my grooming habits and personal appearance.

What I really should be taking in to account is that I know people in this town, more every day. And I am very likely to cross paths with these people. And even though our clothes and pedicures are a superficial layer, their effect and impression can be anything but superficial. Like it or not, (and I am lecturing myself here, so feel free to leave. Go see if Ree has a new donut recipe or something. Don't tell me though. About the donuts. I don't need to know.)

... where was I? Oh, yes...

Like it, or not, Natalie, you have got to... to...

Hold on.
I am trying to put this the right way.

Natalie. Shape up. Long walks. Small meals. Buy an alarm clock. Use it.
Please see an optometrist... for goodness sake... thread-repaired glasses from 1994 are wrong. Leave your husband's shirts in his side of the closet.
And one more thing, and please don't take this the wrong way,
but maybe you don't need to share *everything* in Chickenblog.
Just saying.
Love, Your Inner Voice

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The List
This is not to be confused with a bucket list. This is a list meant to kick my posterior in to immediate action. A reminder. An organizer. A contract. My destiny. The ugly truth. A dare. High priorities for the month.

I did cross some things of the big list. And so I will add my "Best Foot Forward."

1. buy freezer paper, and shoe laces
2. buy food for dinner, breakfast, lunch, dinner :: repeat X 3
3. package and mail all kinds of stuff
4. prepare Greengoose for regionals 1 & 2
5. pick up Max's homework packet
6. get snack calendar for Maria's classroom
7. schedule parent conference with Ms Jane
8. turn men's medium T-shirt in to a dress
9. trim the ends of Maria's hair
10. email Daniel and get hair cut appointments for Max and Alex
11. get dishwasher repaired
12. find Japanese language tutor (He couldn't take Spanish?!)
13. incorporate yoga in to routine
14. incorporate routine in to life
15. pay bills
16. get Odyssy Odeyssy Odyssey car repaired
17. carve out personal time to contemplate navel
18. see # 13 :: find navel
19. learn French
20. find users' manual for the camera
21. read users' manual for the camera
22. apply knowledge to use of the camera
23. decipher Google's intentions for urls hosted by Blogger, but not using Blogger
24. rescue Chcieknblog C h i c k e n b l o g from Google-Blogger destruction mission
25. create new Chickenblog label for items that should be filed under "Disturbing, Yet Captiavating, But Mostly Disturbing"
26. host a discussion about why I am disturbed by many things that occurred in the seventies
27. clean the house
28. build a chicken coop
29. turn the garage in to the ultimate workshop and laundry facility ever created
30. clean the house again
31. reaffirm my commitment to never play Dynomite again
32. turn the compost
33. clarify that Geoff will be the one actually doing # 23 and #24
34. take cats to vet
35. think happy thoughts
36. make plan for spring break
37. make plans for summer
38. get school registration(s) signed, sealed, set
39. make time to see friends
40. see friends
41. visit family
42. host a giveaway

I bet there's more. There is always more, right? I registered a miniscule sense of achievement when I addressed part of #2, part of #10, and all of #6. Does this count as #35, think happy thoughts? No. I would like to aim a bit higher.

Truthfully, # 29 makes me excited. I have a vision.

This list is serious. It's so serious I am not even going to include a picture. Serious things rarely include illustrations. Isn't that sad? Okay, if I accomplish five things from the list today I will add a picture of something good. Something worthy of 3-2-1-0!

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Like Being Drunk, But Less Social
I really need sleep. The uninterrupted kind I have heard talk of. Not eight collective hours. I need eight consecutive hours of restful, cough-free REM.

Otherwise I am inclined to write unedited posts like this.

Sleep, I have read, is necessary for our mental health. Without good mental health, things begin to slip. When things slip it is possible that someone will completely forget:

1. Back to School Night (an evening for good mothers to demonstrate their love and dedication to higher learning for their progeny.)

2. To return books, papers, forms, sign-this materials.

3. To make motel or camping reservations for our robotic weekend in Lost Wages, Nevada

4. Floss teeth and pluck eyebrows... it seems my sinuses are not the only things congested around here.

5. Choose a school. Hope the school chooses us. Then enroll someone in a kindergarten.

When things slip it is possible that someone will be attracted to reckless ventures and irresponsible impulses:

1. Buy an egg incubator and hatch chicks.
2. Buy chicks.
3. Adopt a kitten and a hedgehog.
4. Drive to Oregon.
5. Get something dyed or lifted, tucked, sucked, or removed.
6. Give up.
7. Say what I really think.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Something in the Air...

Mom: sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*
Maria: Mmmhuh?
Mom: Something is a bit stinky.
Maria: I don't smell inthing.
Mom: I think it's your feet. (leaning in) sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*sniff*
They smell like Easter.
Maria: Then that means they smell wonderful!

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Friday, January 29, 2010

It's Either This or Quit
Here I go again. Every now and then I feel this powerful urge to quit blogging.
Enough already. I am getting so little done around here as it is, and even what is accomplished is uniquely mediocre. I don't even know what it means to be "uniquely mediocre," but sometimes talking fancy satisfies an itch.

So here I am in the midst of an "I should quit" crisis. Then I thought that I could not possibly finish blogging when my last post was a romp across the fields of Narcissia. So, naturally I have been trying to think of brilliant and insightful, humorous, sentimental, intelligent, thought provoking, creative and artful stuff. Something really good to blog about. I got nothing.

Okay then. Nothing it is. Here goes.

Some of my children have been academically remiss lazy negligent challenged absent indifferent uninspired. It's an issue. I am not proud. I am confounded, and also embarrassed and disappointed. Honestly, for me, it is not about the grades, which is perhaps a source of the trouble. My foremost interest is in maintaining their interest in learning, but schools have expectations and make demands (that are not always aligned with my ideals,) and so deadlines, percentages and goals must be met.

Well, that was not so much "nothing." It was actually a whole lot of something. Something I am sure will make a couple of people around here uncomfortable, but life is uncomfortable sometimes, right?

Besides feeling the angst and late nights of navigating academic frontiers, I have my own shortcomings to contend with. I think my biggest personal challenge is making thirty six hours fit in to twenty four hours, and making at least twelve of those hours actually productive. In other words: I am behind. I am neglectful. I am looking for a time machine.

I would like to go back to about December tenth or eleventh.

Maybe that wouldn't make any difference, but I do need to find a way to make a difference. I cannot seem to get over myself and the feeling that I am effectively, systematically failing. I want to be settled in our home, in such a way that I am not starting from the beginning, learning where the cheese grater is and where we put the three ring hole punch. I want all boxes unpacked, pictures, hung, trees planted, garden beds made and ready for seeds... why? Why, because I have achieved those things before. I have unpacked and settled in and made planters and set up house, but all of it was torn down... many times it has been torn down, and I feel like if I cannot get to that place where we are within a space close to balanced or semi-normal, that I will never succeed. Just making lunches and keeping a good supply of clean socks manages to fill my days and the rest is left undone or done very mediocrely.

Wishful, silly me keeps thinking that if it were still December, if we hadn't got so darned sick, then I could send Christmas cards and hang those lights. I want that. That idealized picture of peace in home, and home all clean, children joyful and thank you cards sent. Then, then maybe colds and homework and getting to the post office would not be so daunting... if the foundation were there, dependable and trusted, then I could build up. At least that is what I imagine.

Move forward. I know. I have to just keep moving forward. I may be afraid. I think I am scared that any progress, any success in making things beautiful and moved-in will result in another tear down, start over move. I think I do not know or trust how to be at home. I am confused. Gee, it's hard enough without being scared.

Yesterday I planted four bare roots trees. And I may have done it wrong, or at least not as perfectly as in the garden book illustrations. Mediocre Me. Two more trees and a lot of grapes need to get planted, but I need more wire baskets and holes. I also need to volunteer in Maria's school, reconfigure the barn, pay the bills, organize my office, thank Jennifer for a dear gift, get the cats to the vet, clean the moving van a lot, and send Euro-Valken swag to Wisconsin.

And that is why I should quit blogging. Because obviously I have too much to do and blogging is one of those things that gets in the way of getting real stuff done. And that is why I will not quit blogging... because under duress, I cannot resist the compulsion to hang my dirty laundry high on the line, where I can gaze on it and reflect and try to make sense of it all.

Oh dear. Look at it all hanging there and flapping in the breeze.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

The Chicken's Court and Extreme Makeover :: Barn Edition

So. Last we saw our feathered friend, she was hanging out at the kitchen door, eye-balling Maria's boots and making a heartbreaking appeal to be let in out of the storm. She wanted me to be sympathetic and kindly, willing to bring her indoors, and pour her some tea, offer her the recliner, let her hold the remote. She refused to get back in her coop and I refused to open the kitchen door, so she braved the 80 mph wind gusts and weird weather almost all on her own.

I figured she was safer at the back of the house as any place and I wasn't going to worry about her or Joe, too much, but then came the alarming upgrade... the news that the storm was packing not 60 mph gusts, but 80 mph wind gusts and then I didn't feel like a hard-nosed farmer any more. Even though I had been monitoring the situation closely and regularly securing their "shelter," knocking barrels of water from the nylon covering, propping it up, it was obvious that my perspective has become a bit skewed. In fact she was probably much safer at the kitchen door than in her coop, because her coop has become a horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town.

Exhibit A :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: West facing.

Prosecution: People, this is an outrage. This is not fit for a chicken, let alone a Lady. We can hardly make heads or tails of this cattywampus conflagration. Is it a shelter, or a scrap heap?

Defense: Hey. Hey. Settle down there. Our client has been working diligently and under tremendous duress, and she has made terrific allowances for Lady Betty Orpington. The family table was volunteered for a coop. They even brought Betty along on the Emergency road trip to Oregon. And what about the swift action taken to protect Lady Betty from those two freaky fowl who tormented her?

Exhibit B :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: East facing.

Defense:Oh, gee whiz. We motion for a recess.

Prosecution: Willful and blatant podunk farming methods. This is a travesty. This hurts the eyes, and gives new meaning to embarrassing.

Defense: Bad weather. The weather beat the tar out of the shade, which was put up in consideration of the pets. This unfortunate image was taken after two storms that came in succession and in the midst of a third storm. While it may appear as though the farmer has been thoughtless and less than skillful in her barn raising, please do note that she made every effort to beautify and enhance the environ. Her resources, both monetary and skill-wise are, obviously, limited. But her intentions have been noble.

Exhibit C :: The horrible, shameful, sorry sham of a shanty town-chicken coop and rabbit hut: South side.

Defense: Alright already with the parade of ugly. She will make amends. Honest. On the first clear day, when she isn't sitting at robotics or folding socks, or loading the dishwasher while trying to figure out Kanji characters and detangle her daughter's hair, or making enchiladas for thirty people... on that day, she will make all of this beautiful. And safe. And lovely to behold. And until amends are made and the Suburban Farm Guild is satisfied, Betty is more than welcome to stay at the kitchen door with impunity, coddled even, and of course adored.

Agreed. Maria and I even put Joe in our mini hut and set him next to Betty. Out of the wind and rain, together and content, for now. The winds are howling and the "shelter" gets uglier with every blast.

What was I thinking? Honestly, it looked better before the bad weather, but clearly we are in need of an extreme barn makeover. At least I know my heart is in the right place, and once upon a time I did make them a respectable home.

Don't worry Lady Betty. We love you.

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Update: At approximately 10:57 PM, Thursday, January 21, 2010, amateur farmer, Natalie, left her bed and covers to rescue one rabbit, Joe E. Bunny, and a Lady Betty Orpington, from gale force winds, driving rain, hail, lightning and thunder. Assisting with flashlight duty was William, kind and tenderhearted son. Her husband, amateur farmer Geoff, stood in the kitchen thinking supportive thoughts. Betty and Joe slept in the bathroom. Betty is reported to be asking for a canopy bed.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not One Bit of Progress
I hate to admit it. I hate for it to be true.
I have made not one bit of progress since my minor pity party post from yesterday.
It's sad.
It's true.
It's pitiful.

Maybe it's a bit harsh... maybe I have made some headway.
For one thing I took pictures around the house.
And I have been in the yard several times, checking drains and raising the roof. Not our roof. Over Joe and Betty's homes is a "protective" shelter and it has become more like a suspended pond as water fills up in the slack nylon. I get up under the shelter and push it from beneath, which causes a tsunami cascade of water to pour over the sides.

Yes, it's been raining.
Yes, there is mud and there are downed trees.
And yes, the rest of the nation must shake their heads and wonder why a little rain and wind can cause such a fuss. Why So Cal must be in the news at all just because of some precipitation.

Well, it's all relative. Consider our dry-droughty rain fall total last year was in the 5 inch range. Five inches es muy poco for a whole year. This week alone parts of our county have seen 2 inches of rain. That is a torrent in relative terms. And the wind has even kicked up a couple of tornados, and wind gusts of 60 mph. 80mph!! So, while this may be typical for some places, it is the atypical nature of these conditions that make it a rough ride, for us weather sheltered folks.

And the falling trees. Always a bit hairy, and, unfortunately, sometimes fatal. Once upon a time, a long time ago, some enterprising citizens thought they could cash in on a rail opportunity by growing timber for the railroad ties. Their tree of choice? Eucalyptus. It grows fast, tall too. So, they planted eucalyptus all over the county, which if you have ever driven around San Diego, you will remember seeing eucalyptus trees all over. Frankly, they grow like weeds. But they do not grow like railroad ties... meaning the lumber was not good for making those ties. So, no quick cash for the entrepreneurs, but lots and lots, of fast growing, quick spreading, good smelling, but local plant obliterating trees... trees that have an extremely shallow root system and tip over in water logged soil, especially in the wind. Also the branches snap like... like eucalyptus limbs. The end.

I have just one more flora trivia... I remember reading that humidity levels could be read by the look of pine cones. Tightly closed pine cones signified high humidity, and the open pines were dry and indicated low humidity. Like the eucalyptus story, I stored this tidbit away... maybe for a rainy day?

So, guess what?
It's true. It's visibly, amusedly true. And I realized it when I stepped out the front door and noticed my pine cone collection not looking like my pine cone collection...

One week ago I snapped a picture of my pine cones. At the time I was thinking of how much I wished it were still Christmas. How I still did not want to sweep away poinsettias, wreaths, pine fragrance, and snowmen dolls, peace on Earth and carols. It was a dry day and the pine cones looked just as I am accustomed to seeing them... open and almost parched in a grey dusted way.

Not today. Just where I left them, with one blown to the ground, they have shut themselves up. They are saturated with water. Just like our yard. Fascinating.

Is she still there?
Betty. Go home. Take shelter woman. Shoo.

I see.
Betty wants boots.
Dear Betty. Those boots are not your size, and think the pink would clash with your golden hue. Go home. I don't have time to coddle you. I have laundry to ignore, and other things to attend to... things left undone since yesterday and last year.

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