Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big News Day
A picture is worth a thousand words... here are at least thirty-four thousand words for 2102 Team Paradox, San Dieguito Academy, and NBC News in the Morning.

Go Robotics!



































Thank you Spencer and Nicole!!!
Thank you NBC!!! Thank you FIRST!!!
Thank you Team San Diego!!! Thank you SDA!!!
Thank you teachers, parents, and mentors!!!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Strands in the Web

After nearly seven years of blogging, and reading other blogs and perusing the Internet, I am pleasantly surprised that I can still be surprised. There is good news, and there are inspiring stories, new ideas, funny insights, helpful suggestions, silly jokes, entertaining videos, pointless ponderables... it's all out there waiting to be discovered and sharing the surprises is one of my favorite parts of blogging. Sometimes I think I could retire from actually contributing new material and just spend my time pointing out all the talents, the industrious people, highlight those that do marvelous things and humble things and hilarious things.

Last night I swept the chicken coop and did lots of toting, baling, hauling, shifting and shoving, and between trips from the front yard to the back, I would see Grandma's geraniums. Sigh. I do not like geraniums. There. I said it. Maybe I have said it before, but even thinking it makes me feel ashamed. Geraniums have so many qualities to admire... colors, full and frilly petals, lovely leaves and most of all their hardiness. But still, honestly, I do not like them. It's the smell. Mmph. Not nice. Not for me. But these are Grandmother's geraniums and she tended them and propagated them and moved them from home to home and replanted them in bigger pots, and so even though I do not like geraniums, I do love Grandmother's geraniums.

All through the blogosphere people are posting about signs of Spring and what is happening in their gardens. Alas, my garden is really Garybob the landlord's garden, so I am going to point out other gardens for you to enjoy... like the flowers in bloom at "The Big Yellow Farmhouse."
Alicia Paulson has posted all sorts of photographs and reflections on Spring in Portland.. get Cozy with Posie for garden inspiration and virtual neighborhood walks.
I honored Earth Day by sweeping fallen leaves and moving earthworms to a spot safe from the hens... Turkey Feathers enjoyed time in her garden planting seeds in the earth and inside under a grow light.
And to make all of our flowers happy some gardeners go the extra mile... I am talking about "honey super cells..." well, no. Not me. Warren, at Home Among The Hills is talking about bees and beehives and wax and silky cocoons. It's all there. It's all good.

It's almost risky visiting bloggers like Amanda Soule... supposedly I am cleaning house and doing errands, but when I see her patchwork quilts and wool needle felting... I get completely lost in a dreamy state of wishful thinking. And of course reading one crafty blog only leads to opening more pages from other talented, inspiring crafty bloggers, so naturally I found myself visiting Anna Maria Horner, her latest post reveals special news about their growing family. She says "Little=Happy" but I always find big inspiration in her art, decorating and fabric designs.

Speaking of felt birds and bees, do you know where babies come from? Do you know how to make a baby? I had to look when "Oijoyphoto, The Blog" posted Como Hacer un Beb and I was not disappointed.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

A Whole Lotta Random... With an Update (Please See Below)***

This is purely an exercise in avoidance playing catch-up... a mix of items for my to-do list, musings, deep thoughts etc, before I clean the house, save the world and make breakfast. I was going to post photographs from all of the houses we've visited in our endless quest to stop renting. I thought it would be slightly amusing to share the many places we are not going to buy, however, on careful consideration I decided this might not be such a hot idea. There are several ways it could go wrong. Just picture for yourselves things like dining rooms, tiled pools, wide open lawns, tidy gardens, low ceiling fans, assorted carpet shades, torn out siding, laundry rooms, lots and lots of queen palms, leaky roofs, closet size kitchens, chef kitchens, closets the size of small kingdoms, and a front entry that opens to a tiny kitchen... variety, a spectrum, a dizzying array, and a distant, remote possibility that one of these gems could be ours!

Geoff is out of town for a geek convention. Yesterday was all about getting him ready for his week away and getting us ready to join him for 1 day. Bear with me here. I wanted to update the blog, but I felt I should try to parallel process, so I will blog about what needs to be accomplished before I drive to the big city with the 4 children. The chickens will stay home, this time.

The List
1. go to bank and shuffle, shift, swap and cover... I was trying to be light and vague, but it almost sounds like a euphemism for a crime. I am going to withdraw cash for gas. That is all.
2. go to cell phone kiosk and buy replacement charger for Geoff's phone. Must remember to haggle. Kiosks are like malls... concentrated shopping centers, where someone wants you to remodel your image with purchases. feh.
3. there's something else...
4. leave more messages begging school district to return my calls and answer our request for transcripts. Bureaucratic b@$#@*d$.
5. purchase the big chicken feeder.
6. buy a stylish, hot-mom outfit to wear in big city. Not sure there is room in to-do list for wishful thinking, but if #4 works out, then anything is possible.
7. lens cap. Must buy new lens cap. My camera does not have an attachable one, so I knew this day was coming.
8. get gas. This really should be #1, or it's game-over before #2.
9. pack.
10. clean. It's unavoidable.
11. there's something else... but I'll think of it tomorrow, in traffic, on my way to big city. It'll probably be really, really important and vital.

I wish I could say I've been away from blogging lately, because life is so fulfilling and enriched with activity, but that ain't quite it. For one thing, my missing lens cap is keeping me from carrying my camera around, and the little camera is not producing the quality shots I would like to crop, frame and cherish. Another hold-up has been anger and frustration with someone who insists on being a crushing disappointment, thoughtless, inconsiderate, selfish... uh... sorry, I was going to lay-off this whole topic. Pardon. Well, you know, things are busy and I just have not had a whole lot of note worthy news.

12. I just remembered: Bury Rooster, the parakeet. He died, which is why he needs to be buried. It should have been done a while ago. Don't ask. Or ask: It's called denial, and I need denial to carry me through.

Last night we had an epic combination battle. Alex, Maria and I had water toys and William and Max were armed with Nerf launchers. We were all over the front yard, getting wet and pelted with Nerf darts. There were no teams, no rules and no tears. It was all out anarchy. There were human shields. There was laughter and squeals. We ran, ducked, dodged and danced. You shoulda been there. It was that good.

Well. There you go. Now it's time to defunk our junk and get the day rolling. Drop us a line, sing us a song, tell us about your days and dreams. We're here, drying-out, waiting and listening.

***Please note, I expect tons of feedback on this: "An Engineer's Guide to Cats." All of you cat lovers, engineers, geeks, friends, friends of geeks, friends of people with cats... all of you! Just come back here and tell me you laughed out loud. And thank you Anne. This was the best gift ever!

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Aloha Hamakua
Hilo Hanakahi words and music by Keola Naumu

Hilo Hanakahi
I ka ua Kanilehua

Puna paia `ala
I ka paia `ala i ka hala

Ka` i ka makani
I ka makani puwehuwehu

Kona i ke kai
I ke kai m`oki`oki

Kawaihae i ke kai
I ke kai hwanawana

Kohala i ka makani
I ka makani `pa`apa`a

Waimea i ka ua
I ka ua Kpu`upu`u

Hmkua i ka pali
I ka pali l koa`e

Ha`ina ka puana
I ka ua kani lehua

Only a few memories from 19 years of visiting and loving Hawaii and ohana.
"Hilo Hanakahi" Gary Haleamau with JJ and Darlene Ahuna

Hilo of Hanakahi
Where the rain is in the lehua forest

Puna of the fragrant bowers
Fragrant with the blossoms of the hala

Ka` a windy district
Wind that scatters the dust

Kona, land of calm seas
Sea marked with sea lanes

Kawaihae has a sea
A sea that whispers

Kohala has a wind
A gusty wind

Waimea has the rain
A cold pelting rain

Hmkua cliffs
Cliffs where the bird soars

This is the end of my song
Of the rain in the lehua forest

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Is She Is or Is She Ain't?

I can almost make light of this. Almost. If there were other indicators that our life is headed for calmer waters, if things were just a bit brighter and shinier, I might not burst in to tears every time I hear Amelia yodel in a cockophonous manner. 6 a.m., 0'dark hundred in military time, is her warm-up performance, and today she has extended the concert to a late morning matinee. She? She?! Would it even matter if she started laying eggs this very day? No, as long as she crows, none of our neighbors will give a flying fowl what she lays.

We can agree or disagree about whether or not I am funny, but there is no disputing that I try to use humor as a defensive shield. Even with that in mind, I find I cannot see the humor in this. My shields are down and so is my spirit.

Okay, maybe it's a little bit funny, but only as a dark comedy, or tragic comedy, but it's not going to be the least bit funny when I have to send Amelio away. Maria still asks us to bring back Pip. The way she sees it, Pip was a good guy and his time-out has gone on long enough. I don't even know where to go, or how to do it. I am a lousy farm girl. Feh.

They love Amelia. We all do. I wish we were home.

It could be worse. I know that, but somehow I find no comfort in the thought that other people are hurting, sad or are worse off. Even news of the oh-so predictable housing bubble debacle offers me little joy. I need some escapist, trivial, lighthearted diversion... maybe even something super Geeky...

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Maz, Lea, Agua y Memorias

I should have learned to speak Spanish. I wish I were fluent. My mother insisted it would benefit me. My tias and tios implored me to learn Spanish, and mocked me too. I absorbed enough to ache for more. I learned enough to know that I am missing entire stories and insights. I understand enough to feel a profound connection to phrases and concepts, to emotions and spiritual convictions that I am powerless to explain en espaol or English.

I believe I am as much a part of Mexico and my family, the piedras del campo, as I am a part of my own children, my life in a suburban home with suburban experiences, but I do not know it.. I have always wanted to write about Mexico, El Valle, about border crossings and crossing cultural borders, about tortillas de harina, Seris, Opata, iglesia, and being an outsider here and there. I never have, not significantly, because I was afraid of messing it up, getting it wrong, missing important details, overstating insignificant bits. My story might be false memory and lies. My story might not ring true, or it could be too true.

I used to dream of knowing enough Spanish to glean the truth, the whole story, and I knew my abuelo was the source I needed to visit for those stories, for the genealogy, the adventures and history of a family and region, for a time rich in intrigue and improbable truths. I used to dream of writing all of it down and knowing the stories so well, that no one could doubt that I belonged too. No border or barriers, no lack of knowledge or cultural missteps would deny me access to that elusive feeling of belonging.

When I was a very little girl I was taken to El Valle de Tacupeto, 2 or 3 times. I don't know. I remember eating oranges and my first recollection of the smell of a cut orange is standing at La Mesita, with my Mom, waiting to board a small plane. I was there for my 5th birthday and received a harmonica. What happened to my harmonica? My brother Bill was a baby, we went to church, there was a wedding and a death. The river was flooding the dirt roads that cold winter. It seems like the river has always been flooding the roads.

I went 3 more times when I was a bit older... 11, 12, then 14 years old. By this time my parents were divorced, and I was traveling with my abuelo, then my tia Magali, then my tio Elias took us. Those first times were by bus. From Tijuana we traveled through the night for 12 hours to Hermosillo. It was hard to wake-up for the check-stops. I was always fearful of the bus leaving without us. We would be alone in the Sonoran desert, which wasn't really any less familiar than that bus. In Hermosillo we would wait to board another bus. The first bus was like a tired, old Greyhound. The next bus was like a tired, old, dangerous school bus. Not yellow and swept, but blue and red and yellow, dusty, crowded. We sat on fruit crates in the back. Were there live chickens on the bus? Is that my memory or something lingering from an old movie? I think there were live chickens. There were twine wrapped boxes, which served as luggage and there were stops in the middle of nowhere, so we could pee in the bushes. There were hours of narrow dirt roads, and river crossings. The entire journey was at least 20 hours long. One trip finished in the bed of a large truck, when the bus came to one river it could not cross.

On our last visit to El Valle we drove to Nogales, Arizona, crossed and continued to Hermosillo. No more bus rides. No more Sonoran summers and Sonoran heat. We went in November. Where is the bridge, the one over the river? Is it Rebeico? Is that where we cross, where the bridge is like a passage back in time and memory?

The new roads cut the travel time down to 16 hours. It's such a luxury traveling in our own car. This long ride is one that my abuelo made by horseback. There were no roads then. There were Yaqui to hide from. On this trip to El Valle we faced nothing more daunting than cattle in the road.

My grandfather was a musician and he travelled with a band, playing from pueblo to pueblo. Music for dances. Music in the placitas, for weddings and festivals. His father had traveled too and came home with a Bible. My bisbuelo Gabriel gave his land for the church. The church that shares the backyard of my grandparent's home today. And when my abuelo Ismael gave up being a musician, he came home to herd cattle, to milk vacas and to plant the mule-plowed fields. I remember shelling peanuts for planting, eating watermelon from the field, washing potatoes, picking chiles. I remember chewing on stringy, sweet cuts of sugar cane and watching my grandmother grind corn for tortillas.

When I see cows, I see vacas and I hear a guitarra. I see the nata scooped from the top of a pail of fresh milk... fresh, sweet cream. I can taste the cheese my abuela makes. The white rounds of cheese, the salty cheese crumbled over a bowl of beans. When I see vacas I think of my abuelo walking to the family ranch, El Ojo de Agua, early in the morning, returning with a pail of milk for our breakfast. It's a song, words I cannot speak, but the tune is in my soul.

We ride through many towns to reach home. Bacanora, the town, not the drink... though they are synonymous. Sahuaripa. And Arivechi. We get closer and closer. We see the Cerro Cabezn.

After Bamori comes El Valle de Tacupeto, and abuela and abuelo. There will be hugs and kisses and welcome. It is a comfort to find a familiar door and familiar faces, the same walls and trees, the sound of coros coming from the church, the certainty of a place that comes to me in my dreams.

November 2003. Alex in his abuelo's embrace. Home in Mexico, where we will cook by fire, and sleep on burlap cots. Where the doors are unlocked and every neighbor is familia or at least knows who I am related to... hija de... nieta de... sobrina de... Everyone knows the relations and connections. Home in Tacupeto.

They were married for 70 years. They have 8 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. I have never said it, but I feel a kind of pride and specialness, because I am the first grandchild. It doesn't matter, not really, but when I was a child it gave me tremendous pleasure to think of it. I held to a secret belief, unfounded by anything but my romantic imagination, that being first entitled me to something good, to a promise and security. Maybe someday I too would have a rancho and vacas, grind, corn, keep chickens, make tortillas. The clouded line between beliefs and knowledge can be untested, and now that I think on the truth, and not my childhood fantasies, I am amused and saddened. I am not sure why.

Catre. I wasn't sure I was saying this right... catre... cot. We slept on them for weeks at a time when we were children, spending summers in Tacupeto. My brothers and I each had a burlap cot to sleep on in the open patio. I remember we would pull thin sheets over our bodies, then turn on our flashlights to see what might be crawling across the ceiling. Think of the suspense and squeals as we lit a creepy crawly scene of overhead cockroaches, mosquitos, scorpions and beetles. We'd scream and pull our sheets over our heads! I do not miss the anxiety, the fear of something falling in the dark night, but I miss catres. I miss sleeping on the porch, hearing burros bray and abuelo snore. I miss waking in the morning to the music of crowing gallos, more donkeys, cows calling to be milked, and the beautiful rhythm of my abuela's hands making tortillas. There is more love, beauty and will, in the sound of my abuela's hands clapping masa for her wonderful tortillas, than in any symphony.

Her tortillas were never rolled out, but were formed between her soft, capable hands. My grandfather kept an ample wood supply available for cooking and baking, for heating water. And my abuela kept the fires burning so she could feed us tortillas, beans, enchiladas, gallina pinta, pozole, atole, empanadas. Food is more plentiful now, than it was in those summers when my brothers and I sustained ourselves with tortillas, beans, beans and tortillas, and either watermelon, or chiles or potatoes... whatever was being harvested at the time. And leche and leche con Nesquik. Markets and pantries are not what we are accustomed to here.

It is a strange gift to know hunger, or at least to know longing for something more. Now, when I cannot decide what to eat or what to buy, I can appreciate how ridiculous my quandary really is.

The summer that my tio Memo was growing chiles, chiles was all we heard about, saw or ate... besides the usual staples, and chiles were everywhere. We even tried our hands at picking chiles, a job whose appeal was lost very quickly. My cousin, RosaMaria and I were passing the hot, humid afternoon together, looking for places to be, for diversions. Times like these often found us down at the river, wading, or up to La Mesita just for the stroll, but on this particular day we were hungry. Having had fried chiles, roasted chiles, chiles con huevos, chiles con frijoles and every other kind of chile dish, we thought, "Why not raw? Crudos."

It was a good question, but not a good idea to execute. These chiles, mild, almost sweet when cooked, proved to be so painfully, fiercely hot when we bit into them, that we were overcome with the pain. It began on the tongue, a burning, like embers. Then we quickly realized that the sensation was moving to our throats, to our noses and up to our cheeks, so that our heads were blazing with cactus pricks, with fiery torture. Water only spread the fuel. We ran to the little store, and we stared at each another in painful sympathy when we came up to the shut doors... shut for siesta meant no chicle to cool our torment. I wonder if we told anyone. Our agony would have been a great amusement for everyone else.

My abuelos have a home in town. It is made of adobe, like all (most) buildings, and it has a walled yard. In this picture Geoff is walking toward the river, away from my tia Armida's home and towards my abuelo's home. This is the way RosaMaria and I travelled back and forth between our houses. With summer rain, the road can become a river itself, emptying out down the way, passed Ma' Juana and Pa' Chico's little house... where their little house once stood.

My great-grandparents, the ones that raised my abuela when she was orphaned as a baby, lived in a small adobe facing the church. I used to sit with Ma' Juana, in her cool, thick walled home. With a gourd she would draw cold water from a clay pot and serve it to me in a tin cup. The room where she cooked was dark from smoke, from years of fire cooking. In the corner was dry corn, and stalks of cane. I remember when she butchered a hog and was in the yard mixing soap. Soap that smelled of pork rinds and felt as greasy... eeew! I was so enchanted with her. She was small, her hair was long and still mostly black. She slept on a cot too, and had no more than 2 or 3 chairs, a small table. I promised her the moon and the stars. I wanted to bring her a prism, so she could have rainbows dancing on her bare walls. Pa' Chico was almost as small, but no less strong. He walked to his rancho too, every morning and it was further than Ojo de Agua.

In the walled garden of my abuelo's home is an orno, a clay oven, flowers, trees, and the pila where abuela used to wash clothes. I washed clothes there too. One side was filled with water and the other side had the lava rock that was there to beat the clothes upon, and water drained into the garden from the little hole at the end. Everything was hung in the sun and brought in before the monsoonal rains in the afternoon. My great-grandmother's soap was famous for getting clothes very clean, but with hunks of pork in it, one had to guard it from hungry dogs. It was poisonous of course. I like bacon, but I can honestly say I was never tempted to sample the soap.

When I was 11 years old, and my abuela did all of the washing, I loved to be by her side and watch her bale water over the sudsy clothes. It smelled good near the lemon tree, and felt cool with the water splashing. She washed and hung all of our garments and they dried quickly in the sun. They came very clean with her vigorous scrubbing on the worn stone of the pila. How many times had my dresses and p@nties been dashed and wrung by hand?

My abuelo brought us home on the 2 same busses we had ridden to El Valle, and we arrived in Tijuana so early in the morning that the sun was only beginning to show. We each had our own duffel to carry from the bus to the street, where we would await a ride from my tio. It took both hands to manage my duffel and besides this heavy load, I was really not all together awake. That may account for the fact that it took me a moment to realize that my p@nties were around my ankles, having slipped down. I hauled them up in a flash. I was confused and embarrassed, the bus terminal was mostly empty and I consoled myself that no one witnessed. And I resumed the task of dragging my bag, trying to keep up with my brothers and abuelo, and my undergarments slipped again. I caught them between my knees, shimmied them up, and shuffled carefully, keeping my legs locked together. Mine was a slow, awkward and mortifying gait, that I could not properly explain to anyone. It seems that 5 weeks of thrashing my underwe@r clean on a stone made of lava had completely undone the elastic in them.

Returning to El Valle with my own children, my husband, was one of the best times of my life. I happily found that very little had changed... some of the few changes were sad, like not being able to sit with Ma' Juana and Pa' Chico, or to chat with my tia Ventura... she and I liked to read Reader's Digest en espaol together. And it would have been a great privilege to visit Maria del Guero... she was one of the oldest woman I think I ever met and she sewed my clothes on a pedal machine. Her patterns for my dresses, skirts and blouses were in her head, she measured me with her fingers. I was keenly aware of the blessing that I could return to this place and still find both of my grandparents... still healthy, still smiling and eager to shower us with their prayers and affection.

I looked on this visit as a tremendous gift, for myself and for the boys. It was their second time in El Valle, and I loved that they were so receptive and enthused about all of the things and sights, the people and experiences that I held dear. We did and saw and treasured as much as we could.

We explored and hiked. We filled our pockets with flint and other pretty stones, crystals and pottery shards. Bits of our past.

We used to hike to this place, to swim. Oh my. The water was just as muddy and uncertain, but it was so hot and the walk home so far we drank this water too. It was delicious. I love how thinking about an event or place can lead to more curiosity. As much as I remember, I am aware of how little I know. How far is this place and how do I spell the name of it?

We sat together. We remembered other days, other nights, other faces and their laughter. I remembered how wonderful it is to sit together... just talking, just sharing each other's company.

I just got a call... everyone is back from Tacupeto, abuelo's funeral. There are many more memories I plan to write about, many more pictures I want to share, but right now I am going to my tia's house, where my abuela is.

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