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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Monday, April 12, 2010

You, on Vacation

Before I start making our summer plans and dusting off our passports, I wanted to open up a new theme and create a new label for Chickenblog: Postcards. What it will be is... a snapshot of you, or something you saw, from your vacation or travels, even if it's from a staycation.

Why? You maybe asking. Or, you may be going back to your Google search, because you didn't find a "chicken yodel Easter card" here, and you never will, so do please move along.

Why, is because someone sent me a digital postcard from her vacation and I absolutely love it. On her blog she posted about heading to Hawaii. I love Hawaii. I miss Hawaii. And I practically highjacked her comments page with my rambling Hawaii nostalgia, including a li hing mui shave ice craving. Some blogs I can comment on and be practically anonymous, because I am one rambling-nonsensical voice among hundreds of brilliant and relevant voices. As I am easily amused, I comment anyway, but evidently sometimes I get through.

Where was I?


Okay, so, I was thinking it would be great fun to get more digital postcards like the one Bitter Betty sent me, when I was fantasizing on her vacation.

She got the li hing mui shave ice! And she sent a picture. Isn't this awesome? Yes, she is. And I just about fainted from amusement, and then from envy. Ah, Bethany. This was about the coolest thing ever. And inspiring too.

So. Going some place? Want to make me faint from amusement, and/or envy? Want to answer a few questions and then have your postcard and interview posted here on Chcikennblog Chickenblog?

Hmmm. Maybe I am only a rambling-nonsensical voice, but honestly, I hope someone thinks this could be fun, and wants to give it a try. I would love to see where you are heading this weekend, this summer. Will there be chickens? Are you going some place new? Do you take pictures of yourself? Is this the same ol trip you always make? Would you like me to think up an assignment for you? Give us your best shot!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I wish I had never bothered. With the stats, that is. Checking the daily-weekly-monthly numbers of readers, skimmers, lurkers visiting Chickenblog was slightly amusing, kind of interesting, and ultimately intimidating. I learned that Sunday and Monday are slow days, not too many visitors. I learned that most visits to Chickenblog come on Tuesday. Like today. Today is Tuesday and there may be ten or more people here. Seriously. Wow. Wow.

I mean whoa. Like when you drop your head, turning it slowly and sort of sigh disappointedly, whoa. Actually it could be horse talk too... like when you pull on the reins and say firmly "whoa!" It could be like bringing a horse to a quick stop, because it feels like that is where the blog is headed: A complete stop.

After three times checking stats about Chickenblog, I also leaned that readership has plummeted. Dropped. Nose-dived. Tanked. Imploded. Evaporated. *poof*

Where did every body go?

Ah come on. No one really believed I was writing this blog for the heck of it, right? Regularly dragging my brain through html and proofreading my own deep thoughts and other musings, just so I can have an excuse from scrubbing toilets? I am in it for the book rights, the movie contract, the ad revenue (eighteen cents to date). I've been blogging so Ellen would catch wind, and ask me to bring my favorite robotics team on to her show, so she could bestow plane tickets to Atlanta on them, and give me dance lessons. I've been thinking how to sound interesting, modest and super cool for my Fresh Air interview. This is my job people. I am not going down without a fight. *power fist in the air... cheesy grin on face*

Just kidding.

Or am I?

Just kidding.

I don't need a job. I have Molly and McGee to fill my time with productivity and interest. And children, and laundry, and Betty.

Oooh... look, Molly is preening.

Maria did not want to miss the executives' meeting yesterday. She loves this team. Gee, do you think I've had some influence on her? I honestly do not dictate art assignments for her, or drill her on the Paradox dance. She has an internalized passion, that is self-motivated.

I didn't want to miss the executives' meeting either. I keep showing up, uninvited, and they are starting to accept it. I was even offered a private mentor's swearing in ceremony, as soon as Isaac can locate his wand. I hope he wasn't kidding. I plan to mention it, casually, to Terry. I crave ceremony.

This post is mostly random. And I am okay with that.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

And Now I am Mucking Around With The Code. This could IS Disastrous

Poor Chcikenblog Chickenblog, it has me for an administrator. So while some blogs have new headers that change with the holidays and passing seasons, we have a classic, timeless look (read: My dear sister-in law gave me this cool header and I still have not learned how to update these things.) While some blogs include graphics, icons, buttons and catchy ads, Chickenblog is sleek and streamlined (read: Who'd want to advertise here? Seriously, anyone? Hello?) There are blogs with multiple pages and internal links... well, I just tried to forge something like an internal link and I think I may have mucked things up but good. I am so unskilled. I am the Patron Saint of Mediocrity. My effort ----> effectiveness---->results = dismal

All of these failings are bad enough, but up next is a migration from using Blogger's FTP to publish Chickenblog to something else. I am already giving up on trying to explain this... how can I explain something I do not understand, right? What I do know is that if I do not make the switch, the upgrade, the migration, then *poof* no more Chickenblog.

Excuse me a moment, while I cry.

Geoff assures me he will make everything work.

And he will. No matter how long it takes. No matter how many time he has to be on hold with someone in Bangalore, he will save Chcicken Chickenblog. But I wish it were me. I wish I could wrap my head around the ins and outs of the World Wide Interwebs, the mysteries of code and publish, domains, URLs, FTPs... and trust me, I do try. But when I try, I get the kind of mess I made just now, and trust me it is ugly. So, I have to leave it the pro. It's a small comfort to my self esteem that it is no slam dunk for him. He's not looking forward to the task ahead. Don't tell him I said so, but I probably should make him chile rellenos to show my gratitude. It's the least I can do.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Funniest Great White Chicken With Dreadlocks

Yes, the "funniest," "great white" "chicken" with "dreadlocks" was reportedly seen wearing "snake stomping boots" at the "Chicken Blog Worst Mommy Blogging Contest." Anyone feverishly searching for these key phrases may, or may not, have found everything they were looking for here, at Chickenblog.

Other key phrase searches include:

"Star Wars Lego People"
"Chicken Polish" ( the breed, I hope, and not a cleaning product)
"Fall and Can't Get Up"
and "Sparkle Me Clean"

I think anyone searching for "dreadlocks" or "sparkle me clean" had to have left sorely disappointed.

Have you guessed? I decided to dance around in the blog stats... a mine field of ego crushing numbers and facts related to how many people read the blog, where they come from, what they like, and what they were actually looking for.

Staying Long?
No wonder there are so few comments. 83.3% of visitors to Chickenblog stay less than 30 seconds.
I guess it doesn't take long to figure out that I am not going to help anyone 'sparkle clean.'

Building a TreeHouse?
Oh. I bet people are hoping to get treehouse tips, not realizing that these posts are about our days renting a house that was surrounded by trees, where we felt like we were living perched in a treehouse.
Sad note... the landlord built his Tuscan dream home there and took out every single beautiful, mature, lovely tree. It looks like somebody dropped stucco on Isengard.

Just kidding. I could never harass someone for misspelling chcieken. I misspell chieken every single time. Ironic, don't you think? So, if you are looking for chieken, then welcome!

Dude, change your thesis.
Who was trying to score information for their term paper?
"... related studies and literature of a roasted chicken and who discovered the roasted chicken"
Let me help... I may have a few servings of Roasted Chicken literature:

Shakespeared: From roasted chickens we desire increase,
That thereby dinner's rose might never die...

John Rooster Milton: A good roast chicken is the precious lifeblood of a blogger spirit.

Mary Hen Shelley: It is a farce to call any roast chicken virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own seasonings.

Shockingly, there are very, very, very few people who come around Chickenblog looking for information on robotics, or building robotics, robotic competitions, or what to wear to a robotic competition, or how to get to a FRC.

Why Tuesday?
This post might not be read by anyone. Tuesdays are the busiest days, with the most visits to Chckinblog Chickenblog.

Maria wrote her name. I do not know who wrote the quote, but I find it applicable and comforting.

I'll see you tomorrow.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

And Now For my 1,500th Post
Natalie + blogging + Blogger = fail

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Must Glue-Cut-Glitter-Stitch Something

It's almost overwhelming how crafty I feel. Not sinisterly coiling a handlebar mustache-kind of craftiness. I need to make something.

Maybe I should sinisterly coil my own mustache. Bitter Betty is crafty that way.

Unless I clean my office/studio/nerve center first, I will be putting the cart before the horse, but it's almost overwhelming how crafty I feel and I cannot wait. Something whimsical is bursting to get out of my head. And inspiration is calling.

And if my crafting is justified and purposeful, something hyper organized for say... next Christmas, then I can have fun and relish that elusive sense of accomplishment.

I'm going to do something. Seriously. Must. craft. create. make. I'll download Lady Harvatine's "O, Holy Night" and start basting and snipping to her lovely voice and the ukuleles strumming...

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Here it Comes... The Christmas Extravaganza

A second storm blew in this morning and it brought with it rain and a blast of Christmas inspiration and the energy to actually accomplish a few of the things that I have been dreaming of. The rain was so beautiful. It drizzled for a long while, but in the middle of breakfast it came down in great, satisfying sheets of water. It was our first Saturday-home-eating-pancakes with the kitchen door open rainfall. What a great start to the day.

So. I washed dishes. I did laundry and took out garbage. I showered. Seriously, this has been an amazing day. Is it the weather? Is it finally being in recovery mode? I don't want to over analyze it, but it does matter. When one feels inspired, ready and able to make pancakes and tamales on the same day, it's worth figuring out what forces are at play. I even unpacked more boxes, let Maria paint with real paints, cleaned after making tamales and sewed a patchwork scarf.

And what about this bird cake? Cute.

Hencakes have been around as long as Chickenblog, but a blog friend at "A Cup of Coffee..." shared the genius idea of using a squeeze bottle. We are totally hooked on the squeeze bottle. She gave Chickenblog credit for inspiring her first Zacky-cakes. I just love it when good stuff goes around.

I passed the bottle to Geoff. I knew he would appreciate this creative outlet. Sure enough, out comes a Klein-cake. Not to be confused with a Khan-Cake. No, this is a pancake inspired by the mathematical certain non-orientable surface... you know a surface with no distinct "inner" or "outer" sides. A Klein-cake.

Yup. That's how we roll in the A.M.

Not to out do Geoff, but I too dabbled in the realm of mathematical polyphysic-calculated with integer coefficients thingy. It's pretty much a familiar yet confounding paradox of heat with doughy snowiness. Maria ate it before we could calculate it's relative parameterization. Oh well.

Back to basics. Hencakes. Hencakes, with added flax seed, will brighten your day.

But what about the Christmas Extravaganza?
I was just feeling really perky and excited, because I accomplished so much today and it kind of feels like it will all serve to make this Christmas the best ever. That is all. Thank you, and Good night.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Meet Mr Chris Opperman

All week I have been posting about my thoughts on gratitude. Each day I have focused on one thing that I am thankful for. Well, back in September something happened that exemplifies so many of the things that I am thankful for, it's a beautiful and poignant example of what makes me thankful, and it began with a letter I got over the Internet. When I opened the email I gave it a quick scan, and I was immobilized with the surprise of seeing dear, familiar images, but in a wholly new context.

I really was stunned. Someone had painted my children, my nephew, my hen, and I was awestruck by the gentle and heartwarming way he painted these favorite subjects.
I still feel amazed by the paintings. I gazed at them... a lot of questions were forming in my mind, but a lot of time passed before I could stop looking at the art and read the accompanying letter.

This image of Max and his cousin Nick is very dear to me. The part I recognized was from the day we celebrated Maria's derpday... Max and Nick were sitting together at the edge of the pond, gently letting fish swim in to their hands. They were so quiet and patient. Max held Nick to keep him from dropping in. I think even without the photograph to remind me, I could never forget how special their cooperative and kind activity was and how lucky I felt to witness it. And now here it was in someone else's hands and he too saw the unique scene... he honored their play and wonder.

By now I was teary.
I read the letter.
"Hello Natalie
...I stumbled upon your blog while looking for images of chickens, and immediately liked the type of photos you take. I made a few paintings of some of the images, which I attached along with a picture of me (under very hot lighting). I hope you are not cross with me for using your photos without permission. I figured that perhaps you might like photos of the paintings, and an apology.

Without being too forward, I would like to know if it would be okay if I use some of your photos in the future...of course I will first email you before I use an image. There is an atmosphere in your photos that creates a aaahh moment...donít know how else to describe it, English is not my native language. If a picture paints a thousand words, these photos tells volumes. Iím a very nostalgic person and really miss my childhood....the best years of my life...only I did not realize it then. I love painting people with character...old people etc. and my favourite...children of course. They act so natural and paintings of children stirs memories of ones own childhood...perhaps a way of reliving oneís childhood and no care in the world...your only concerns..playing, eating, sleeping and a lot more playing.

I hope you have a most blessed day

Kind Regards,
Chris Opperman"

Now I was really teary, and I remember I ran to wake Geoff and drag him to the computer.

His paintings take me to the moment, to the place and emotions I felt when I clicked the button on my camera. I can enjoy my own thoughts and feelings about events and moments that stir me, but it is amazing to have someone far, far away, a stranger, take these images and process them and still capture the essence of what I was seeing and living. Does that make sense? I am moved not just by his painting skills, but by the connection we have made, though we have never met... he can paint the elusive, intangible elements that I remember and feel from these scenes.

"My name is Chris Opperman and I live in the most beautiful country in the world...South Africa of course. In 1989 I had a freak accident where I fell and broke my neck. Since then Iíve been paralyzed from the neck down. I became a student with Amfpa in 2002...that is the Association of Mouth- and Footpainters.

I am currently working on my website where people can view/buy my work, or request a painting on order. For the time being, I still have a Myspace account, where some of my paintings are featured. Unfortunately, it is not quite up to date, as I still have to add the paintings of the past two years. I think I will be doing that today, while I am at it. If you visit MySpace, you will be able to see some of my work under Pics. The Association of Mouth- and Footpainters in South Africa has its own website Association of Mouth and Foot Painters. You can look under Artists, and then under students, where you will find me in the third row from the top with my bandanna."

Today, every day, I am thankful for opportunities created by computers and the Internet for people to find each other and become friends, exchange ideas, offer support and knowledge, share art. I am thankful for art, and I am thankful for friends new and old, near and far. And I am thankful for the feeling of awe and respect that some people can stir in me... Thank you Chris. You are talented and inspiring. I am glad you reached out to us and you are welcome to share your beautiful work with Chickenblog any time.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Special Delivery

M is for Most generous.
Most kind.
Most delightful.
Most unexpected.

This is the bed that Geoff and I saw in a resale shop. I think it was about 18 months ago, and we knew we were not going to find a better fit for our romantic and feminine daughter. With no place to put it, but the garage, we brought it home. You know how excited I was about putting this in a room for Maria... a room of her own? I waited her whole life to make a beautiful room just for her.

Waiting. In the middle of waiting there can be so much angst and frustration. And I think it is strange how suddenly it can seem that the waiting is over, and now we find ourselves where we were waiting to get. Home. What a journey. What an arduous and challenging journey, and yet we are done waiting and the things we stored in our hearts, and garage, can be unpacked and fulfilled, put in place and enjoyed.

The difference between preparing a baby's nursery and setting up a little girl's room, is that one is all about anticipation and personal choices, and the other is all about knowing who will live there and what she would choose and love. Maria loves pink. And for several months she has been acknowledging that her color preferences also include red, "which is like dark pink," and green and yellow and orange and blue. She delights in the realization that we do not have to restrict our color favorites to one shade. She swoons over lace and ribbons, tulle with sparkles are cause for dancing, flowers make her sigh, rainbows and hair bows make her exclaim her adoration.

There is no end to the manufactured glitter and glam in the decorating world, but I wanted to create a room with homemade touches and natural femininity, where her own imagination could build a fairy tale and rainbows. I imagined gathering the art and furniture from here and there, seeking vintage charm and meaningful images to surround her. I was busy packing and moving and keeping things, as best I could, in working order, so I was not sure when or how I was ever going to achieve this vision. Yet the vision of a homemade room, with personal touches and Maria-esque flavor was always on my mind, right down to the quilt I hoped to make for her bunny bed.

We were still learning how to find one room from the next, still opening closet doors and discovering the best corners of our Bird House, when we heard the first knock on our door. It brought the first package.

My heart my paused.
My thoughts paused.
I remembered a blog giveaway, a contest. I remembered something about vintage sheets cut in squares for quilt making. I remembered when I left a comment on the blog, thinking "I have no business coveting fabric in the middle of this moving madness."

Maria and Max didn't pause and they eagerly assisted, opening the big package in record time, while I tearfully began to comprehend what had happened. Tearfully, because I can never get over how kind "strangers" can be, because I was stunned by how delightful and perfect Tara's gift is. Tears because it was all so very unexpected. And thankfully, Max and Maria knew these were happy tears. They were stunned and delighted as well, as I explained where this beautiful gift came from.

Thoughtful, busy, talented and generous Tara did not send me cut squares for me to stash away until I could maybe some day make a quilt. She knew my situation and she sent us something she had already made herself. Pink and yellow and green and red and orange, feminine and charming, vintage and handmade, and complete with an M for Maria. The pink M monogram has a bunny print, a perfect match for the bunny bed.

Doily heart... so sweet.

No one knew about the bunny bed waiting in the garage, and it had been a long time since I wrote anything about wanting to decorate a room for my daughter. I wish I could really convey that sense of enchantment I feel about what Tara did, how she brought magic to our home. She rejuvenated my dreams and gave my hopes flight... And you really mustn't think I am over stating this, because sometimes when we least expect it, when we are struggling, we can be overcome with gratitude and wonder and it's good to try and find the words to express that joy and awe.

Thank you Tara. It's so beautifully made. I love the soft fabrics, the nostalgic look of those sweet prints. All combined, the old sheet squares make such a comforting and gentle quilt, sure to keep Maria smiling, even in her sleep. It is just what we needed, in so many ways.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pumpkin Cat

When we finally got around to carving our pumpkins, everyone was very excited and eager to participate. William carved hands all around his pumpkin. It came out very cool. Alex scraped his pumpkin head and gave us a bare bones chill. Max's pumpkin was scraped too and he cut out a grinning Jack O'Lantern. I tried to make an owl... wide eyed and alert. We were scooping and gutting pumpkins for hours. Maria thrilled at using the word "guts" in every sentence.

She also thrilled at the prospect of designing and carving her own pumpkin... "All by myself." She got busy right away and whipped up this picture as her design submission. Apparently "All by myself" does not preclude getting someone else to carve.

We love Pumpkin Cat. All of him. Six legged cats are uncommon, yet frightfully appropriate for a Jack O'Lantern. I do not want to over analyze this. We simply love him.

In the end she went another way and drew her own owl on her tall pumpkin.
Did you guess "spider" on the owl's forehead? I did, but it is not a spider. "It means love," she said, surprised at my interpretation.

Cue spooky music. Roll in the fog.
They looked great lit up.
We still have some roasted pumpkin seeds.
We still have a few pumpkins set aside for pie.

Creativity with squash... wonders never cease. And if you agree, that there are wonders all the time, everywhere, then you may enjoy the always interesting blog Wonders Never Cease by the wonderful Rebecca Ramsey. Love the variety, the introduction to any number of new subjects and tidbits.

Thanksgiving comes before Christmas, so I may be putting the cart before the horse, but you should take a peek at the "Silliness that (sort of) Rhymes" happening at Cart Before The Horse, the blog that is "Jo's little corner of The Cart." Let me get out my thesaurus... the art happening in this blog is whimsical and fanciful and imaginative. It makes me want to build and paint and sew and create tangible evidence of the activity in my own imagination.

One more discovery. I am in over my head being a gardening mama myself, so I have not had nearly enough free time to immerse myself in this blog, but soon! Every time I sneak a peak at GardenMama I feel excited. Nicole's blog is a visual stimulus for falling love with the world.

Now laundry.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Look Me Straight in the Eye...

Tell me the truth... do you miss me?

I miss blogging. I also miss having everyone in the same house and having our computers and sofa and clothes and washer and dryer in the same building. I miss furniture. I miss our dryer. I did not know I was missing our dryer until I tried out the one that the previous residents left behind... it spins and makes noise, but no heat. Rip.

And don't ask me why this move is going so slow. Don't ask me. Come on. These things are complicated and probably actually boring to hear about. We are going just as fast as we can. We still have a couple of weeks left on our lease, so at least that is on our side.

What's today? Sunday? October? I am all turned around. So. No later than Thanksgiving, I think some things will be grooving again and even Chickenblog will be updated and possibly interesting.

Thank you.
And good night.

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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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Friday, August 21, 2009

Not Whining

Last week I saw Julie and Julia and it was great. My only false step was in eating theater pop corn and not having a good dinner plan, because watching all that beautiful food and then going home to cold cereal or leftover spaghetti was... well it was just plain tragic. The movie was great because of the performers and because of the food and the whole blog connection, it was a fun escape in to kind of a familiar place, with plenty of opportunity to laugh and relate. I very much enjoyed learning about Julia Child, not the one from SNL. Do I need to say Meryl Streep was supremely good? Well, yes, she was supremely good. So was Amy Adams; she's quite capable of bringing depth to the roles she plays.

The only criticism of the movie I have read is that Julie Powell "whined." She got a little self-absorbed and in her blog she hit "publish" when her failures and personal trials were getting the best of her. None of this is kept out of the movie and some critics take issue with the weakness of the character. I could take issue with it too... it's not pretty to see a grown woman cry over aspic or torture herself over what readers think or say or don't say. It's disappointing to watch a capable woman get needy and weak and flustered and overwhelmed and... oh wait... gee... maybe she's human. Yeah, I recognize how unpleasant our my human frailties are, but nonetheless they are real. I think when we don't share those same weaknesses, when we cannot relate specifically to why a spilt aspic is cause for tears, then someone else's whining can be irritating, but the thing is we do all have weaknesses of character and we do all at some point lose perspective or need to express our frustration. And for every person that does not understand Julie Powell's crisis, there is someone that can totally relate, someone that will feel connected to the honesty of the moment.

This is not a blow-up movie with hostages or aliens, neither is it presented as a documentary about the ideal heroic figures of the last hundred years. I am not saying it is a movie above reproach, but the criticism that Julie Powell behaved like a flawed person is weak, it lacks empathy or an ability to see and accept a person in full light. And maybe it helps to understand blogging to understand the movie and the character of Julie Powell. Like Julie Powell I started blogging in 2002. We weren't the earliest pioneers, but the Blogosphere was a pretty wide open frontier in those days. Blogging is not journalism... well, it can be journalism, but most of us bloggers are telling a personal story. Blogging is new frontier in writing and it does not have the same parameters or rules, as we expect from traditional essays, magazines or short stories. Blogging can be raw and honest, it can be personal and newsy, and it can be insightful and intelligent and I could go on and on with more examples, because blogging is anything.

Because blogging is anything, there is a lot out there that will never be meaningful to me, so I don't read it. And there is a lot out there that will never be meaningful to you, so you know... don't read it. It's interesting to consider what "should" and "should not" be published in a blog. Remember there are no guidelines or definitions in this medium and though critics may decry all the "whining," there are many who embrace the open and honest conversations about the small joys, personal trials, doubts, fears, successes and reflections. I think it is interesting to see how all of this publishing and expression will get sorted out. Blogging presents a tremendous shift in our social culture and our ways of communicating. A lot of bloggers are unlocking their diaries and leaving them out on the coffee table... this is weird stuff, and some of it is very interesting. Anyone uncomfortable with vulnerability and emotions might want to be careful when navigating the Blogosphere. And I know as a blogger I am constantly feeling for the walls, for the limits of what to say and what to keep to myself, and I have hit "publish" when I was less than heroic and then regretted it because I felt whiny and wide open... but then someone says thank you or I understand and then it makes sense to be honest, to reach out and admit how human I am.

We are accustomed to getting our news and information from "real publishers," from established sources like magazines and books, but I think those sources are a bit untrustworthy... untrustworthy in the sense that their ultimate objective is to sell you something. I am the first to admit that a glossy layout from Martha Stewart makes the world seem shiny and bright, but the luster fades when I try to apply the stylized, censored, edited version to my real life. Oprah's publication is loaded with advice and pearls of wisdom, but every other page is a sales pitch for favorite things and Fall fashions and stuff to sell, and that doesn't included the actual ads, so all the feel good messages, for me, get lost in translation and ultimately I feel disconnected. I'm cool. I like buying stuff and I like to wishfully plan a beautiful meal or decorate my living room for success and aesthetics, while saving the whales, but I need other sources and resources too. I like to read about the real experiences of people, their setbacks and successes. I like to know that there is a greater possibility that what I am reading in someone's blog is true, their truth, and that I am not getting a filtered version with good lighting and heavy content editing.

I don't think Julie Powell whined too much. She just told her whole truth, and sometimes it was less than glamorous and sometimes we wanted her to be a better person, but I think an honest person is better... better than a fictionalized, dressed up version of the truth. Not all obstacles are in a battlefield, not all battles are fought in trenches, and not all stories are tragic or meant to change the course of justice or include a huge pointed message about the will to live. Thank goodness.

All week we have been swinging from crisis to crisis and I have been less than glamorous, and I just thought I would point out that I have not posted a single whiny post. I am so proud. And yes, I do appreciate that *bragging about not whining* is almost as irritating as actually whining, but it's my blog. So there.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello Chickenblog

For an entire week I could not focus on what to post to my poor neglected blog. It was not due to a lack of subject matter. I think I had reached a point of sensory overload, and this was before we headed to Comic-Con! I have been existing in polar opposite states of mind and emotion, simultaneously, and consequently taking care of a lot of important things and neglecting a lot of important things. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah... whatever!

Things are looking up!

There is still tremendous opportunity for sensory overload and even physical exhaustion, as we have begun something new in our lives... something that will certainly require a new Label. It will be a new chapter in Chickenblog.

I can almost hear readers saying, "Spit it out already woman!" But I need to take this slow. I have to mark my words and be sure of myself. You cannot see that my hands shake, that my heart beats a bit faster, that there are fears to suppress. Plus, you try making a separate and momentous announcement in a post about thundering nerds, geeks and comic-book joy... this is hard and weird. I kind of like it though... it gives me something to fiddle around with and hide behind while I subtly and cautiously share our news.

***Geoff read this and said "Everyone's gonna think you are pregnant."
I am not. Or am I? Just kidding. Honest. I really am not pregnant. Not even a little bit.***

Dear Comic-Con, I love you. You are strange and creative, you are the released energy and joy of thousands of talented and enthusiastic souls who gather together to share their passions and labors, their zaniness and zeal. You are overcrowded, loud and offensive. You are inspiring and hilarious. Comic-Con you are fun. Thank you for being your true self. Love, Natalie (Who wants to return next year in her own super-heroine costume.)

From left to right: Spongebob Squarepants, Mister Crabs, Plankton and Emily! Emily is the designer, engineer and builder. Using a very limited supply of LEGO's Duplo blocks she brought these comical characters to life. Regular readers know we are devoted LEGO fans. My views on Spongebob are worthy of a separate post! Emily's creations were awesome and LEGO staff and other Conventioneers were stopping to admire and appreciate her sweet skills. Which brings me to another thing I love about Comic-Con: There are celebrities there and sighting famous people is fun, but the real stars are Emily and the sixty year old woman dressed as AliceIn Wonderland and the guy who made a cape out of a bathroom rug and called himself "Budget Man," a superhero for the economic downturn?! So called "unknowns" steal the show and get to shine when they release their alter-egos on humanity, when they build things and make things and share things in a place that celebrates imagination and skill.

LOL... Maria wasn't sure where to focus, since there are about 42 distractions per square foot! I hope Emily keeps designing and building. I hope she retains her engineering super joy all her life.

Guess who we found!

Okay, so it wasn't too hard to find Waldo, but can you find Stan Lee? I did! Seriously, I am not sure why I recognized this comic book legend. I knew he is the creator of Spiderman and Ironman, but I had to read a bit to learn that he also created Thor, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Hulk! I must be a bigger Geek than I realized.

Ah, here's Ironman now! More fan love... just like Tony Stark, this guy made his iron suit. So cool.

Still BIONICLE fans. Still LEGO enthusiasts. Alex, Max, William and Maria appreciate the set up Lego has at the convention, and so do I. Back home, at Garage Mahal, we have enough bricks to open our own convention and yet there were no objections to hanging out, building, seeing what's new and enjoying the sights and sounds of Lego hoopla.

Spur of the moment contest... a prize to the first person to name these two women... full names and where they appeared! Maria recognized that they were "Pretty and nice," which is why she rushed over to meet them.

Besides walking the convention hall floor, buying robot stickers and having a refreshing lunch at Bondi, we also made sure we got seats to see and hear Ray Bradbury. Legend. He had some stirring and inspiring things to say about life, something he loves, and he also moved me to tears when he spoke about hope. They played footage of Walter Cronkite introducing him and Mike Wallace interviewing him forty years ago, the night of the lunar landing! I loved his passionate beliefs and ideas about education and fostering a love of reading in the youngest children.

I think it was during his talk that I became impassioned myself. Our family has been on a difficult path... one created by circumstances and fate, by our beliefs and choices. We have been waiting to buy a home of our own. We passed on fraudulently absurd loans and homes priced like gold. We endured harsh criticism and unsound advice. And I whined. It's true. Chickenblog has been witness to all of my anger, frustration, grief, embittered wrath, tearful woes and rental rants. Some of it was not nice. All of it was challenging to live through. We have been ripped off and we have been disappointed.

The sore points and the injustices are real and obvious, but something else has been happening. Something silent, yet pervasive. Something hiding out in the open that has been tripping us up and causing incalculable damage... we've learned to be doubtful, suspicious, unhappy, sad and without hope. It's not that we are entirely without hope and happiness, but we have become too accustomed to feeling and acting like victims, to anticipating the next sad event, the next unfortunate outcome. Sometimes this behavior comes in the guise of wisdom and prudence, and experience. So, we have gained a lot of wisdom and prudence and experience and I do not doubt that we made the best choices we could with what was available. But now we need to turn up the hope, believe in the possibility of things turning out good. It is possible that everything, or most things, will be alright. Right? This is going to take practice.

We are in escrow. It just comes out in a whisper. It feels fragile, delicate. Like it could fall apart and blow away. The Blue House may become our home. Very soon I hope to say more, to say it louder and more confidently. This step in the process, on the path, is not easy, because we have grown too accustomed to doubt and trepidation, but we have taken the next step and the next one after that and we are going to keep moving forward and it is possible that everything, or most things, will be alright. Hopefully.

So many readers, friends and family have been beacons of light and hope on this path... thank you. Thank you for kind encouragement and gentle consolations. Thank you for believing this day would come.

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