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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Monday, March 08, 2010

This Is Getting Bigger

Updating Our "Robotics to Atlanta" campaign:

Thank you. Gracias. Mahalo. Dankeschön. Toda Raba. Domo Arigato.

Your support and encouragement are fuel for our souls. The good things transpiring have energized me, brought me to tears of joy, and redoubled my determination to never give up, never surrender!

I have learned from SDA Foundation that earmarking donations for "Academic Council-Robotics" is very important and this is done in the PayPal section. Checks work too! These can be sent to me (email me for details) or directly to the Foundation.

Please make checks payable to SDAF-Robotics and mail directly:
P.O. Box 235109
Encinitas, CA 92024

In other news: The ratty-rats are fine. Betty is laying. Joe is still the world's oldest rabbit. Max is happy that this is conference week. William, Alex, Geoff and Max thought Avatar should have won an Academy Award in every category, including "Best Use of Sigourney Weaver," "Best Foreign Language," "Best Movie Ever Nominated." Geeks.

Please keep praying, meditating, cheering, searching, supporting and celebrating with us. Thank you.

photo credit to Denise B.

Welcome to Chickenblog. Today I want to use this space to recognize, celebrate and promote FIRST and Team Paradox, of Team San Diego. If you regularly read this blog, then you know I love Robotics and all things Geek. If you are new to Chickenblog... welcome to our family scrapbook, where for almost eight years, I have been chronicling our ups, downs, ins and outs, my deepest thoughts and other musings. This has always been a personal space, that has slowly expanded and grown. Now I want to go to another level in communication and outreach. I need your help to achieve my goals.

In the last twenty four hours I have learned that dedication and heartfelt spirit can take a Team a very long way, but to get to the next level it takes daring faith and a willingness to reach out to the world for that extra push. I want to make the push. I cannot contain my emotions, or my determination to get 2102 Team Paradox to the next level.

At FRC, this weekend, Team Paradox played Breakaway with diligent, tireless determination, and courage. Our robot held together and we are already preparing to breakout at our next regional competition.

Were we discouraged not to make it to the final rounds? Yes, but we were not defeated. In the arena, across the grandstands, no one could miss the team that never sat down, that never stopped cheering, that never surrendered. Team Paradox cheered for the underdog, for the math, for the mentors and parents, for the kids from across town, out of state and across an ocean. We cheered for the love of working together to build a robot and to build relationships with our families, our schools, our community and the world. And we did not stop until the end... and not really even then.

We cannot ever lose, because there are so many ways to win, when you are a part of FIRST.

This journey began when the team started over three years ago. Many of those founding team members have graduated and gone on to universities, but they have not moved away all together. Team Paradox has a lasting and supportive core of members that return to mentor, support and stay with the Team. When Alex joined last year, he was coming from another school in the district. He was warmly welcomed. Last year, in San Diego we got our first taste of how amazing FRC is. The regional competitions have no equal for sporting-engineering fun. Wild, intense, fun.

This year we have more new members than ever before, and the team is as strong as ever. The energy and determination of the freshmen class, combined with the experience and dedication of the rest of the team is a winning combination. We have mentors that are as steadfast and focused as the students, willing to step in, or step back. The mentors have staying power. The team is supported by teachers, parents, siblings, the community, and some great sponsors.

Last year we broke new ground and became an award winning team. In San Diego and in Phoenix, Team Paradox 2102 won the Spirit Award :: "This award celebrates extraordinary enthusiasm and spirit through exceptional partnership and teamwork." We believed we had as good a chance at earning this award again... no kidding, you have not seen spirit until you have been with us through sixteen hours of regional competitions!

Back to this year's FIRST Regional Competition...

We did not make it to finals.
We did not win the Spirit Award.
It was getting down to the wire, wrap up time.
Then something wonderful happened.

This year's Regional Engineering Inspiration Award to 2102 Team Paradox!

I think we experienced all of the emotions last night, but mostly joy and shock. We were over the moon to be there. We were totally stoked to take home such a distinguished award. But the biggest news of all spread slowly. We were a bit confused actually... things got kind of surreal as it very slowly dawned on us that the "Regional Engineering Inspiration Award" includes an invitation to Finals in Atlanta, Georgia.

One more time: The Regional Engineering Inspiration Award includes an invitation to Finals in Atlanta, Georgia.

Check. Double check. Confirm.

Can this be for real?

Well, it can be for real. We can go to Atlanta and compete in the FIRST National Finals, but we are going to have to redouble efforts that have already been extreme. The students, teachers, mentors and families have given their best and it has paid off. The design team excelled. The build team excelled. The marketing team excelled. We gave 100%, so we could excel... we just didn't know it would take us this far!

Team Paradox is about outreach, in our families, in our schools, in our communities, in FIRST.

Team Paradox is about experienced members guiding and encouraging new members, so that our future is as strong as our foundation.

Team Paradox is about believing in science and math, art and community, believing in our students, and loving all of it!

Team Paradox is about supporting and nurturing everyone on the Team.

I will never forget the power and awesomeness of these last few days, and I do not want to stop here. I do not want our memories to be a blur. I do not want to pass up an amazing opportunity. We need help to get this Team to Atlanta, to the Olympic Stadium. Our resources and energy are nearly tapped. We have one more regional to get through. These are huge events that take a lot of money, time, effort and brain power to coordinate. Please help us.

I need your help to achieve my goals. All of this is going on while the students are in school. They have homework, testing, classes... the works, and unfortunately the school does not support the Team as "a team." In the eyes of the school we are "only a club." No disrespect, but "teams" get a lot of attention and support from their schools, and we need support. Our mentors, the teachers work their day jobs, and then they give all of their "free time" to Robotics. This next level, that we are so hopeful to reach, needs more support, for us to attain it.

Chickenblog has a few readers out there... right? Hello. Hello? If you are out there, please leave a comment today. Please say "GO ROBOTICS!" Please move a ton of traffic here. Please suggest ideas and give advice. Please give me contacts and suggestions. Please step forward with your skills and connections. Please help us raise funds, get sponsors, and bring a winning team to Atlanta. We need you. Anything might help.

We stood and cheered for all forty eight teams in the arena, today I humbly ask you to cheer for us.

Thank you.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010


The tsunami warnings might be enough cause to stay out of the water. And mostly the beach was empty, except for some desperate tourists, determined to make the most of their vacation, and these guys...

This sport depends on big waves and wind action, so before, during, and after storms is when they are most likely to be seen in the surf.

The tsunami warning certainly made me extra cautious, but what really kept me out of the water is urban runoff.


Some spots are worse than others, but as a general rule, I avoid most So Cal beaches before and immediately after storms, when the worst of the polluting offenses are at their most concentrated.

Maria and I watched from the comfort and safety of Geoff's car. There were four guys riding waves, flying around. There were also three people jumping waves, romping in the surf. In swimsuits. Think they're form out of town? Uh-huh.

I guess sixty degree water temperature is warm by comparison (hey, it's only thirty five degrees Fahrenheit at Woods Hole, MA), but with the fifty nine degree air temperature, and the chilling wind, I cannot say I was tempted.

Storm surge and rip tides make it rough. Tsunami currents make it even more unpredictable.

Fortunately, the worst of the threat to Hawaii seems to have passed uneventfully. It was interesting watching the live webcams of Hilo Bay, the reef appearing to rise above the water, the changing color.

I am just relieved that the CNN reporter couldn't squeeze any more drama or trauma out of the evacuated vacationer she had on the phone.
Good for you Wisconsin Man on vacay. No worries bra.
He was totally low-key and matter-of-fact.
Warnings worked.
People went mauka.
No madness or hysteria. But poor Miss CNN kept asking about "emotions" and "fears" and "biggest worries."
Wisconsin man said he was in to his third cocktail.

Surfing I have tried. Being pulled by a giant parachute while on a board? Not so much.

The sun broke through as I was taking these pictures. That was about two hours ago. Now it is raining again.

I was already out in the South Side to warn Betty about the high surf.
She can't swim.
No, we are not that close to the beach, but there are a lot of deep puddles and the gutters were still flowing after the first rain. She needs Wellies.

Seeing the ripple effects of Chile's earthquake brings their disaster much closer. It's a small planet. I feel their pain, and hope that we can respond to their needs, give them comfort. And I am reminded that we need to revisit our personal plans for earthquake safety, and post quake calm.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

There is something very mixed up about love... about how I show it. I tend to play it one of two ways. Either I express myself liberally, with emotional abandon, or I stay quiet and still. And sometimes when expression and emotion are most deserved, most true, I am most restrained. Very polar opposite. Very much confounds me.

And sometimes these two poles do what magnets cannot. They come together. My quiet, private love wants to come out in to the open and declare itself, which is how I wind up with obtuse posts, like this :: Personal, yet public. Emotional, yet restrained. Undeclared, and composed.

My heart is heavy for friends, and for family. This has been a difficult week. Those loved ones that I hold dear, may be far away, but the sadness I feel is close, heavy, and tangible.

When Maria was a baby her great-grandmother Marjorie sent her Emily, a doll she knit herself, a doll that has become one of Maria's favored babies. Emily arrived with a soft pink smile and charming details, like bows, and ruffled sleeves. It is the kind of doll that maybe should have been put on a shelf, protected against use. But Maria took such an immediate liking to her that we let her love her baby doll. She has loved Emily liberally, with hugs and proximity.

The love shows. Emily's dress has a small stain, so do her pantalettes. The yarn in her black hair got a small snag, and she is covered in little bits of yarn fuzz... what are those called... the little balled up dust threads that cling to sweaters? Then came the tragic day when Emily's smile came undone. Maria cried. She really cried. She was devastated, even a bit horrified.

You would think I would have done anything in the world to fix it. Fix it right away. But I didn't. I meant to. I meant to find a matching thread and a very wide eyed needle. I meant to take away Maria's disappointment and mend the loose threads, but I kept putting it off with all the usual excuses... packing, cleaning, errands, moving, moving, moving, unpacking, holidays, other plans and other projects. It isn't that I do not love Emily, and Maria, and Marjorie, and handmade gifts. I love them. I thought about Emily all the time, and I felt pangs of regret every time I put off making her all better. I loved quiet and still, when I should have loved liberally, aloud and declared. With words and actions. Delivered. Mended.

I am sad. I am disappointed in myself.
It's not just about the doll, obviously.
She was so easy to fix. And yesterday, when I stumbled upon my small crochet hooks, I did not realize that they would be exactly what I need to get the job done. And today it seems so poignant.

I pulled the embroidery floss through, making a new smile with the same thread that Marjorie used when she knit Emily. She made Emily. It never ceases to amaze me that she could make yarn in to such a sweet gift, a gift which I know is reflection of her love, her thoughtfulness, her way of living. Maria watched me and was very pleased to see Emily's smile returning. She held my arm as I tugged the threads through and finished, and Maria, said, "Won't she be glad that Emily is all better?"

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Easy As Pie
If we had grown the wheat ourselves, rendered lard, planted an apple tree and built our own oven... then made the pie... it was about that easy to make the Blue House our very Own Bird House.

And last night, easy as can be, we did make a pie and we ate it in our very own Bird House. It was apple. Max peeled and cored the apples. He thought it would be another month before the house sale was complete. Was he ever surprised when we arrived at our picnic destination.

We got our keys yesterday. I put three pumpkins on the bench by the front door. The first essentials basket is unpacked... the cow cookie cutter is a virgin, a gift from Holly's last visit to Wisconsin and a reminder of family, love and traditions. Those pretty coasters were a gift from a thoughtful and brilliant woman I know and they remind me that friendships make life much, much better. The batteries turned out to be the wrong size for the flashlight... made me laugh. The Frekvens is the Ikea gimmick I have stowed away for two years and now it will finally have a job: turning one room into two, for brothers who will share living quarters. Cranberry candles and pumpkin spice candles, so we can chase away the empty house smell. A gardening handbook... worm themed, so I can start doing more than just dreaming. And our bird chart, because I will be spending a lot of time just lazing about and identifying bird species... you know, in my free time!

It is a big blue house with a big green yard. Betty-Chica will need track shoes to get around this place. Do you remember my blue, baby figgy? Well, the momma figgy lives here. I shouldn't explain. I take the fifth.

Language is inadequate. I cannot adequately describe my struck-to-the-core giddiness. Another brilliant friend commented on a recent post: "I've never known you without the wistfulness of yearning for a birdhouse of your own again. Who will you be now that you've become all SETTLED?" The answer is I do not know, but I feel a light has been turned on, and I feel relieved, eager and energized. I am delighted to have this new chapter open up before us and I am happy to delve in.

Language is inadequate, but here are some words that spring forth...


Someday I would like to put them in order, elaborate. But for now, I really must get busy putting other things in order!

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Making Lemonade

Some of you thoughtfully inquired about the Blue House. Here is a new sneak peek.
1. I think we may need a real name for this Blue House... we seem to be making progress!
2. We have seen great highs and great lows, and you should thank me for sparing the blog all of the drama and anxious episodes.
3. Lemons, figs, roses and Torrey Pines.
4. We know what to do when life gives us lemons!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miss Swiss

This is where I would like to be. It is the place I imagine I could lose the tension in my shoulders and the furrow in my brow. It is where my sense of awe and wonder were awakened. When we left I knew that I would return, if only through these pictures, because I love to wake up my sense of awe and wonder. I knew these images would trigger a healthy heart rate, relaxed breathing, and calm my mind.

All I have to do is focus on the memories.

Remember the details.

The tensions of today, the things I did and did not do, the worries about what is wrong, what can go wrong, what went wrong... I need to put all of it aside and remember Switzerland.

I miss all things Swiss... all the things we saw and did.

Even the things we did not do... I could ride from lake to lake.

I would happily take the drive again, from Triberg to Brienz. Through those tunnels, and round and round the mountains.

I need a Swiss nap.

I would like to walk in a garden, pick peas, pull weeds...

Shhhh... I think I might actually be meditating.

Peace of mind.
And farm animals... I am feeling better already.

I can almost hear the lake lapping against the stone wall.
Excuse me while I put my feet up and enjoy this moment, again.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Comfort of Family

Their friendship goes back over fifty years, to El Salvador, the church they attended in Los Angeles. My grandmother Eunice and my tio Bill. They share the same birthday. So wonderful to see them together, for all of us to be getting together, but bittersweet too.

It had been much too long since the last time Maria saw her uncle Kai, so it took about thirty seconds, maybe longer, for her to warm up to him. Ever since their day together she has been dictating her best friend forever-thank you and love letter that she wants me to send him. I better get on that.

When I emailed my aunt Liz about coming north, about hoping to have a visit, I never imagined we were going to have as nice a visit as this. Alex, Max and Maria swam a lot... here are Alex and Maria with my cousin Lisa in her Boomer's pool. Boomer is the adorable corgi, guardian of the swimming pool.

Should I clarify? It's not that I did not expect a nice visit... it's that Lisa really went out of her way to make it a very nice visit, and on such short notice. We could not help but linger and delight all day. Even as we were leaving Maria was inviting herself to "... come back tomorrow!"

She thinks it's her pool... just kidding...

We know whose pool it is!

I will tell you what I love... I love my family, and I love it when everyone can spend the day together and be totally at ease. No need for judgments or formality, just kindness and unconditional love. I love that my tio's voice recalls comforting and dear childhood memories. I love that we were able to be in such good company.

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