Chicken Blog by Natalie

You Are Not Alone

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 04/08/2022 - 09:52
Good Morning. Forecast says today's high temperature will be 90 degrees Fahrenheit, or 32.22 Celsius. It was at least the same, yesterday. Fortunately, it all cools down, again for the rest of the week. I was about to link to the article, out this week, about the new IPCC report and how people are a factor in climate mitigation. Oddly, though the subject is urgent, pressing, I can't even bring myself to read more than the headline. News Flash: The Earth is in crisis and we, People, aren't doing enough to turn things around. It's too hot to rally. Also, I've alloted myself 25 minutes to sit in the dark office, musing about any old thing, before I go back into the kitchen with the special spray bottle of UnGoo solution. Last night I tackled about 45% of the cabinets and both windows. Pictures from my brother's BVI vacation keep loading into my computer. I guess that's something Whatsapp does? It's ten degrees cooler in Road Town, British Virgin Islands than here at the Bird House... in case you were wondering. What I have been wondering is... will we take a vacation this year? I feel the draw, the wanderlust, somewhere in my being, to travel, to get away, but home still feels like the safest bet. I won't deny I am (have become moreso) increasingly cautious. Overcautious? It's not something I am enjoying... being worried, trying to think of every possible red flag for possible concerns. I think my over-thinking is a red flag. A warning sign that we should definitely take a vacation, switch things up, make an adventure, get away.
Oh, hey, the comments, on the last post, those were helpful. Thank you. I should take key words from those, and have them embroidered on pillows, framed and hanging around the home. Thank you! I have been re-reading your wise words, and kind, encouraging messages. I want to take them to heart, and be mindful.

Imagine these neatly stitched on soft linen, framed, and hung on the wall beside a shelf of fresh cut flowers. The shelf might be dusty, there could be a stash of laundry on the floor beneath, but take these words to heart, and...

Be Gentle With Yourself

You Are Not Alone

It's The Lovely People In Your Home That Family Are Coming to See

And this. This advice resonates with me. It's simple and I can appreciate that it would work for me, and it also pushes me to level up to match my thinking with my actions, by being consistent, diligent, even if in small increments. Laura Bray wrote, "For me, the trick to my homemaking has been to keep myself from doing too much at once. I put on a timer for one hour, two or three days a week, tackle one area, and when the timer goes off, I walk away. I just keep cycling through my home, focusing on one area each week, so I know I will get back to whatever I didn't finish. It's surprising how quickly things become "ship shape" this way." This! I want to adopt this habit, internalize this practice, and as I re-read it over and over, it is feeling like an affirmation, encouraging, wise, good.

Domestic Perils, Again

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 04/05/2022 - 10:46
The dried lavender I kept in the hall was too dry. Do you know what I mean? It still smells amazing, but bits were going everywhere, and it was dusty, but of course you can't dust dry flowers, because the bits go everywhere. Anyway, I was taking them out to the compost, when I remembered that herbs, like lavender, rosemary, oregano, make good nest box material... pretty, and practical against pests. I left the whole bunch on the counter top. The hens fuss with it, and the flowers, those bits, go everywhere, but in a pleasing way. And even over all of the farm smells, I can smell the beautiful lavender. I like this kind of tidying up, where one good deed leads to another. Our hall is looking better, dusted and refreshed, and the hens, certainly, appreciate the touch of elegance dried flowers bring to their space.
If you have been following our quandry about the cat drama... we think we have figured something out. But, first let me go back: There were was some high energy antics on the porch, and a pot fell over. It may have hit a cat, or maybe the plant stand hit a cat. We know for sure that the noise and scare of it freaked all three of them out, and they scattered and one of them made a distressing wail. We checked each of them for bumps and breaks and they seemed ok, but they were not. Sakamoto hid. He would not come out of hiding, not even for food and that is simply unheard of! Feynman was incensed, hissing and growling, puffing up mad! And he positioned himself, always between Sakamoto and Cairo. Cairo was utterly confounded. And this tense stand-off and drama was what we had to deal with for days. Feynman was dogged about keeping Cairo away, would chase him, attack him. Sakamoto was only concerned with staying out of the way, and Cairo looked increasingly victimized and distressed. We tried seperating them, re-introducing them with treats and affection. We had to keep them in different rooms, and rotate them, and everytime we thought things might be improving, Feynman would dig his heels in and react to Cairo like he was the worst kind of villain. It was a stressful 4-5 days. Increasingly we had more frequent moments of peace, of possible reconcillation. And the good news is, we do have a cease-fire.

Here is what we have figured out: We believe Feynman must have very very poor vision, and under duress, he is wary of many things, including the black and white cat, that he seems to believe has broken into our house. If he and Cairo are nose to nose, it's as though nothing was ever wrong, but when Feynman sees Cairo, at a distance of, say, 2-3 feet away, he is wary, suspicious. Now we notice Feynman can even be circumspect about us, or things that appear suddenly. He startles easily, and stares at people, or even high contrast patterns... like our bathroom floor, or Cairo, the black and white cat. When we adopted him the woman in charge of their care assured me that his weepy eyes were just a reaction to the environment, he's fine, she insisted. Well, the weepy eyes have never stopped being messy, concerning, and when the vet saw him, he didn't think any treatments we going to make a difference. But Feynman has always had half-closed, drowsy, weepy eyes, and I think we will ask our vet, again, to take a look. And this is the point when I imagine Professor Feynman with some spectacles, and I think he would look darling. Black rimmed glasses, nothing too heavy. If you've read all the way to this point, and kept track of all of the characters and plot, then I should like to send you a prize, maybe a Chickenblog Merit Badge. I should come up with something like that. Thank you for reading this riveting tale!

Well.

I intended to post more. I have a load of pictures, deep thoughts, and other musings, all ready to go, but really what I should be doing is more of that tidying, dusting, refreshing. My Mom and Dad are coming to town, soon, and other family, too. And Geoff and Max are still plugging away at their work, and... it's busy here. Really really busy. One more thought... the more I clean, the more I find that needs to be cleaned. It's almost a shame I started in the first place. (Just the kind of twisted reasoning that gets me in a mess, I am sure.) I went in for scrubbing our kitchen cabinets, and they got gummy. So I ordered the special cabinet cleaning, goo-gummy solvent and tried again, and it's helping, sort of. Wow. It's likely I don't have a point to make here. But maybe, please, say something encouraging, something to give me courage and faith, because I am surrounded by domestic perils, and daunting tasks, and I don't see how I can ever achieve the kind of shiny success I am after, and I do wonder if I can get close to bringing order, if we shouldn't put the place on the market, and move to an Island, live in an open, rambling house, that isn't very big, or too precious, or a treehouse? I don't know. This may just be blatant, overt avoidance. When's lunch?

Make More Merrier

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 04/01/2022 - 10:54
The more the merrier, and making makes us merrier, and the more we make, the... well, you get the idea. Supposedly a good title for blog posts will increase traffic and ratings, and give more polish and sophistication to your blog. Clearly, I am not on that path. All I was trying to express, was that we were at it again, a happy work party, making flowers, and planting flowers, sprucing up, and even soldering. We want to make as many paper flowers as we can, for decorations. The soldering is for these very clever little mushrooms that Alex, Bambi, and Geoff have been devising. Now, they are assembling them and they look wonderful. Pictures, soon, I promise. It was a beautiful day, and fun, too. Hey, how amazing are our friends? Invited over to "work," which felt a lot more like play, because everyone made it fun, and so much was accomplished with a good mix of laughter, catching up, and sharing news, ideas, plans. If things continue like this, relatively safer for gatherings, I will be so thrilled to start up more of Maker events! All of the old barrels I've amassed over the years were moved to the driveway, so we could fill them with new plants, and lots of flowers. I think I mentioned that my gardening energy was totally sapped after 2020. It feels so good to have more intention around the garden, to be growing flowers, even some veg, and to get these barrels full of life and cheer, again! I am changing, growing, and adapting, too... I was always in charge of my gardening. I did the hauling, lifting, planting, weeding, watering, planning, but it's not as easy as it used to be, for several reasons, which I won't dwell on... Anyway, suddenly, the work was getting done, and I wasn't in charge or doing it all on my own. I wasn't even directing. Bambi and Alex were taking the initiative, and Maria, an actual Junior Master Gardener, and member of the Native Gardens Club, was overseeing the planting, making sure root balls were gently cared for, and soil was loose, then gently patted down. Bex, and Alicia were mindful, fast learners. Bambi and Gordon were terrific. Suddenly, the barrels were filled, and pretty, and everything smelled good, felt good. I just took pictures, and delighted. Friends! And family, and all of this lovely busy-ness. What a brilliant balm, and tonic.
Alicia, Bex, and Maria

Geoff popped outside for a while. He is still tied to his desk, until mid April. Ruth came by, and she had paper flowers already made! Diana and Lucas were over, and we talked about all sorts of things, including good places to eat, ordering tunics, and Diana buying her first bicycle at The Yellow Jersey, Madison, Wisconsin. Leslie came, Bex came with her friend, Alicia, and Spencer brought Owen. Carol and Grace and Michael were a lot of help, and good company. Okay... I feel so happy about this, about how nice it is to be around friends, doing just about anything, I really do want to re-start the Picnic Days. Gordon and BambiOwen and Spencer, checking out the selection of Japanese snacks and treats.This poor tree often looks at the end of its life, but Gordon trimmed it up, and the improvement is appreciable. Diana was the master of seperating the flowers petals. She had the patience and gentle touch to pull apart the delicate layers of the two ply napkins, and the results were sumptuous flowers, like peonies! Owen tried his hand at flower making, too! He did great! Everyone does. If you would like to try, we have a tutorial. All you need are napkins (Ikea's are terrific,) string and scissors. Here are Bex and Leslie... either looking up medieval dresses, or the address for the Indian restaurant that is so amazing! We were having some very good talks about amazing food places.
Gordon, soldering, and smiling. I am smiling back.

Hello? It's Me

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 03/31/2022 - 13:09
Hello. There has been a long string of unfortunate events, for me, for friends, for acquaintances, for distant relations, and total strangers. I feel them keenly. My thoughts and heart are preoccupied with our collective trauma, with world events, and the long lasting effects of all of the stuff we have faced, endured, witness, suppressed... it's been too much. I worry about us, you, and me, and the total strangers. I am concerned about the pandemic of depression, the ache of pushing through one crisis after another, and so little relief. It's never felt like this before, not on this scale, not in my experience. I have had practical strangers pour their hearts out to me, desperate for relief, caring, sympathy, healing? Even that televised slap (if you don't know, just be glad) felt like a metric of distress, of mental collapse and broken communication. So much hurt, exhaustion, strain, and our reactions can be be misplaced, displaced, to retreat, or surrender. I have retreated, for better or worse. It was partly a pity party, I'll admit. And maybe that's just as well. Maybe it's better to sit with my thoughts and feelings, rather than blurt it all, or come out fighting. Anyway, I was enjoying blogging regularly, feeling like, if nothing else, at least I had a tidy and up to date blog. I recognize that writing helps me sort the tangles and details of living, even distills the hard bits, so I can see clearly all of the good, the beauty, the successes. When too much sad and stressful, disappointing things overwhelmed me, I couldn't take thinking about it, let alone trying to put it into print. Someone reached out to me, offered a virtual hug, and a reason to smile. And it made a tremendous difference. Little is solved, as far as the things that I have been grappling with, or concerned about, for my friends, for those strangers, but I went through about two weeks of snapshots on my phone, and happily, there is plenty of evidence that I have seen beauty, and good, and successes, and I want to put a pin in it... hold it down, and come back here to remind myself, to appreciate the progress, the smiles, the sweet. Sweet, like our kitties, napping together, and the view from that bathroom window. The window, on that day was a source of intrigue as heavy machinery has been grading the, now, empty lot, and they took a way a ginormous palm tree. I am sorry for the birds, but the process was riveting. Amelia, thank you for befriending me. Bambi and Alex, taking steps toward matrimony. They are firm about keeping things small, intimate, and I respect that... but I can't help taking pictures! I love what I see... two dear people who have the gift of bringing out the best in each other. Even when I get too blue to blog, I can't give up Instagram. I love taking pictures, and the convience of having them all in order, with notes and details, is irresistible. I have been trying to keep up with some of William's projects, recording and sharing them, including the paper moon, the cart... more, lots more. William has been a gentle hand on my shoulder, equally nudging me forward, and supporting me. He helps me get a lot of things accomplished. Maria, and Max, too... diligent and hardworking, making so many strides in their pursuits. Maria attended the FIRST Robotics Competition in San Diego, and enjoyed both robots, and seeing the team recognized for some personally gratifying achievements, plus we saw many dear friends. I will post about these moments, soon. Max is pushing through the long crunch season, like Geoff. The company's annual drive to complete a new game is more intense than ever, and it's not an easy introduction to "9 to 5." When Max clocks out, he is more than ready to game, read, write, walk, and converse with his siblings. He's ready for the break that is coming soon. We all are! We are popping out... I still wear a mask. I figure, as long as Maria has 'exposure to COVID' notices from school, and has to test, I will wear a mask in public. Other than worries about getting sick, the outings are helpful, even if still a bit strange, tiring. It was always a concern of mine that any time spent isolating, in lockdown, would be too convenient for me, too easy, because of the car crash PTSD, all I ever wanted was an excuse to stay home, away from crowds, noise, busy corners, and taxing stimulus. Now I find it harder than ever to be in a car, or crowd, to navigate things and activities all around me. And about the crowds... our town is a favorite of tourists, but has always quieted down in the fall, until summer holidays, but not since COVID. I guess people are seeking out the beaches, restaurants, trails, and sights, more than ever, and we have been quite astonished at the year-round hustle and bustle, even at the local market, the places where things used to be winter-mellow. A week-day hot chocolate, a stroll around garden centers, the corner table at the taco place we all love, these are nice. And maybe, soon, we can bring back our Picnic Days. I do miss those. Small wheels that pivot... the cart is looking better and better. I am glad Geoff enjoys his projects, and helping with other people's projects, and I am glad he can still work from home, so he can step away from the desk, stretch, and clear his head for a moment with other things besides, graphs, and code, and new platforms.
Bambi, Alex, Tori, Armand, Max, Maria, Lucas. I like this last picture when they obliged me a group photo, and some of them have the "how many pictures is she going to take?" expressions.

Every Saturday... Dungeons & Dragons. Dungeons & Dragons & Friends & Laughter & plans, engagement, support. This time Tori had some special treats to celebrate the groom, and the bride, and friends, and dragons. Tori's cupcakes were both delicious and beautiful.

Maria is sticking with her love of school, with following her curiousity and love of learning. No signs of "senioritus," thus far. She was so glad, thankful to get a chance at the screen-printing, to go to the Regional event for robotics, to read The Poisonwood Bible, and now The Grapes of Wrath. Math is going well, so is English, and government and economics. She is thinking of going to prom, maybe even grad-night. I am pretty sure all of these things are going to be upon us in, seemingly, no time, and then it will be graduation time. Twelve years ago, Maria showed an interest in embroidery. I set her up with a hoop, needle and floss, and she caught on readily enough. But it didn't hold her interest for much longer than it took to stitch that one flower. My own experience with sewing was similar. I dabbled as a girl, but never got proficient, never stuck with it. But the skills sort of stuck with me. I have found that all of the lessons and passing interest in things have come back in later years, and have helped launch renewed interest, and the patience to improve and enjoy... crochet, embroidery, quilting, handsewing and mending, even making clothes. I am glad she tried embroidery, and I was even more glad that I didn't press her or force it. On her own, in the Fashion Design class, she's picked it up, again, and I love what she's making!

I've seen a meme, or quote, something, going around Instagram... an audio clip plays, of someone telling us that we don't have to perfect our hobbies, that there's no rule that says we must become experts to enjoy our pastimes. It's brilliant, I think. I have wasted too much time concerned about how good I can be at something before I am worthy of it, before I can say I enjoy it, or can share it, or claim any ability, or attachment. I used to hold too much favor for the idea of natural talent, and I would give up or feel embarrassed for things I wasn't good at. For certain, I am ready to celebrate anyone else's amateur status, their effort and enthusiasm matters more than the results, for me. Now, I am increasingly eager to give myself the same grace. I play ukulele. I play infrequently, and badly, but when I play, it makes me happy. I bake, occasionally and I have made some delicious cakes, and some really ugly ones, but I like doing it. I have ridden my bicycle 4,540 miles... not in a jersey, or with special shoes, never in a race, or on a course, but happily, and surprisingly regularly. I like to think that if we all just dabble, and play, try new things, whether we are fair-to-middling, or even kind of awful, but happy, amused, engaged, and if we encourage each other in play, expression, in exploring... it might help, it might bring some of the relief, caring, healing, that so many of us are seeking.

One More Quarter

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 03/16/2022 - 15:01
It's almost the end of the third quarter of Maria's senior year. Any day now she may hear from a school, about admissions. Or not. If she feels any tension around that it's from me being excruciatingly casual, reminding her to check her email. We ordered a cap and gown. She's considering going to prom, and Comedy Sportz. This weekend is the last FIRST Robotic's Regional Competition of her time as a Paradox. There's going to be one last movie night for Japanese National Honor Society. There are clocks already counting down, but neither of us is ready... each for our own reasons and with our own reactions, but we talk about this and agree, it's come too soon.
With one semester thrust into online, two years ago, then an entire year of remote learning, a lot has been lost for this class. Maria lost a year of Japanese class, and had to double up, but still had to take the AP test. She missed friend time, and socializing at school. Just this week, since the mandatory mask rule was dropped, she's learned that friends have piercings she'd never seen, moustaches, smiles! The laid back and open culture the school was famous for is gone, because of COVID, and school shootings, vandalism, and yet it's still a resilient, courageous and beautiful school, there is still hope, and enthusiasm, caring, curiosity. She doesn't want to skip a day, she doesn't want to miss out.

For me, it's about how much I loved the time when Alex, then Max were in high school. I knew their friends, and teachers, I could volunteer, support staff, mentor. Twice a year parents would be introduced to their students' teachers and classes during Back to School Night, and it was so cool! I loved sitting in Max's chair, visiting the shop where Alex learned metals, meeting their teachers, getting a sense for what kind of semester they would be having. And then, run into my own friends! Finally, being a part of a community, living in a neighborhood, it was an increasingly dear experience to see all of the familiar faces, have hugs, and laughs, and build more connections. No more Back to School Nights, and when this last one was online, just sitting at my desk watching videos, I cried.

I am very fortunate. A lot of the connections to the school and staff that I made while the boys went there, have lasted, and between this and Robotics, and Book Club, I still have opportunities to volunteer, to meet students, connect with staff, support the school. I'd like to add, that I am thankful to Alex and Max... during their years at the school they made good, and lasting, impressions with teachers and staff. They are still recognized, and that's always made a nice introduction, start, for Maria.

This week I am hanging out in the screenprinting room. Maria needed a teacher's signature for a field trip so I went with her to the Arts & Humanities Building... probably haven't been in there in over two years! She could show me in her English classroom, then Fashion-Design. I could see the desks, the bulletin boards, and books, the view from the second story windows, the art on walls, her's, her classmate's... and I teared up. Again. I know... emotions. I was raised to suppress those, and feel apologetic, but I can't, not any more. I am emotional. At 55 I may know myself well enough to say, "This is who I am." And it's all too hard to suppress these days, so who am I kidding? I am sad that so much of the beauty, the learning journey, has been isolated from us, and I am sad that this wonderful journey of being a Mom to young folks, in grade school and high school, in clubs, and on field trips, going new places, making new friends, that for us, for me, is coming to an end... not over, but certainly transitioning into a realm that is far removed from these kinds of spaces and opportunities. I have loved it, all of it, even the tricky parts. It has been worthwhile and a privilege, too. Maybe I cry from a kind of happiness, too. At graduation, I expect at least one student will quote Theodor Geisel, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Certainly, there is a great deal to smile about. I loved loved loved this quiet visit, slipping into rooms, getting close up with art and school culture, and listening to Maria's voice as she described what happened here, or there, where she sits, where her friend sits, even the pause in her voice, waiting for my impressions, and repsonses.

I would like to thank every teacher that has had any tolerance for phones in the classroom. Actually, I happen to know that phones are an essential tool of the classroom these days, but still... I really appreciate that somedays I get texts from Maria. She updates me on events she needs to attend, or asks for a number for a student form, or even to help her recall dates, places where things took place, related to school or functions, or things coming up. She shares moments from Homeroom, from activities, like Culture and Pride Day, and pajama day, and Senior Java. Just now I am texting her about heading back to screen printing. Gotta get those shirts done for FRC!
Culture and Pride Day... the student's answer to vandalism, and racist hate crimes. Maria texted me all day, concluding with "This is a good day." She bought the sunflower in support of Ukraine. Simon bought an armful, and shared more with Maria, and she shared her's with Acorn. Maria said it was heartening to see sunflowers carried around all over campus. One more quarter, and if it can be as good as it's been, or better... that would be wonderful.

Our Last High School Senior

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 03/15/2022 - 13:10
It's almost the end of the third quarter of Maria's senior year. Any day now she may hear from a school, about admissions. Or not. If she feels any tension around that it's from me being excruciatingly casual, reminding her to check her email. We ordered a cap and gown. She's considering going to prom, and Comedy Sportz. This weekend is the last FIRST Robotic's Regional Competition of her time as a Paradox. There's going to be one last movie night for Japanese National Honor Society. There are clocks already counting down, but neither of us is ready... each for our own reasons and with our own reactions, but we talk about this and agree, it's come too soon.
With one semester thrust into online, two years ago, then an entire year of remote learning, a lot has been lost for this class. Maria lost a year of Japanese class, and had to double up, but still had to take the AP test. She missed friend time, and socializing at school. Just this week, since the mandatory mask rule was dropped, she's learned that friends have piercings she'd never seen, moustaches, smiles! The laid back and open culture the school was famous for is gone, because of COVID, and school shootings, vandalism, and yet it's still a resilient, courageous and beautiful school, there is still hope, and enthusiasm, caring, curiosity. She doesn't want to skip a day, she doesn't want to miss out.

For me, it's about how much I loved the time when Alex, then Max were in high school. I knew their friends, and teachers, I could volunteer, support staff, mentor. Twice a year parents would be introduced to their students' teachers and classes during Back to School Night, and it was so cool! I loved sitting in Max's chair, visiting the shop where Alex learned metals, meeting their teachers, getting a sense for what kind of semester they would be having. And then, run into my own friends! Finally, being a part of a community, living in a neighborhood, it was an increasingly dear experience to see all of the familiar faces, have hugs, and laughs, and build more connections. No more Back to School Nights, and when this last one was online, just sitting at my desk watching videos, I cried.

I am very fortunate. A lot of the connections to the school and staff that I made while the boys went there, have lasted, and between this and Robotics, and Book Club, I still have opportunities to volunteer, to meet students, connect with staff, support the school. I'd like to add, that I am thankful to Alex and Max... during their years at the school they made good, and lasting, impressions with teachers and staff. They are still recognized, and that's always made a nice introduction, start, for Maria.

This week I am hanging out in the screenprinting room. Maria needed a teacher's signature for a field trip so I went with her to the Arts & Humanities Building... probably haven't been in there in over two years! She could show me in her English classroom, then Fashion-Design. I could see the desks, the bulletin boards, and books, the view from the second story windows, the art on walls, her's, her classmate's... and I teared up. Again. I know... emotions. I was raised to suppress those, and feel apologetic, but I can't, not any more. I am emotional. At 55 I may know myself well enough to say, "This is who I am." And it's all too hard to suppress these days, so who am I kidding? I am sad that so much of the beauty, the learning journey, has been isolated from us, and I am sad that this wonderful journey of being a Mom to young folks, in grade school and high school, in clubs, and on field trips, going new places, making new friends, that for us, for me, is coming to an end... not over, but certainly transitioning into a realm that is far removed from these kinds of spaces and opportunities. I have loved it, all of it, even the tricky parts. It has been worthwhile and a privilege, too. Maybe I cry from a kind of happiness, too. At graduation, I expect at least one student will quote Theodor Geisel, "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." Certainly, there is a great deal to smile about. I loved loved loved this quiet visit, slipping into rooms, getting close up with art and school culture, and listening to Maria's voice as she described what happened here, or there, where she sits, where her friend sits, even the pause in her voice, waiting for my impressions, and repsonses.

I would like to thank every teacher that has had any tolerance for phones in the classroom. Actually, I happen to know that phones are an essential tool of the classroom these days, but still... I really appreciate that somedays I get texts from Maria. She updates me on events she needs to attend, or asks for a number for a student form, or even to help her recall dates, places where things took place, related to school or functions, or things coming up. She shares moments from Homeroom, from activities, like Culture and Pride Day, and pajama day, and Senior Java. Just now I am texting her about heading back to screen printing. Gotta get those shirts done for FRC!
Culture and Pride Day... the student's answer to vandalism, and racist hate crimes. Maria texted me all day, concluding with "This is a good day." She bought the sunflower in support of Ukraine. Simon bought an armful, and shared more with Maria, and she shared her's with Acorn. Maria said it was heartening to see sunflowers carried around all over campus. One more quarter, and if it can be as good as it's been, or better... that would be wonderful.

Transformation

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 03/14/2022 - 13:34
This post is all about the primary bathroom, the one adjacent to our bedroom. We have transformed it, and I don't want to look back! I was very deliberate about taking some before pictures. Deliberate, but reluctant, because I was finally ready to admit something I had suppressed for a very long time: I did not like our bathroom. Until the stone tiles began crumbling apart, there wasn't anything so awful that I felt justified in complaining about it, or even imagining changing it. But our hardwater made the glass shower doors a headache to clean, and the tiles too. And the big tub was increasingly troubling... it was inconvenient to clean, we had some doubts and concerns about the weight of all of that water on a floor that extends unsupported, so that I was always anxious about using it, and when we did use it the water would cool quickly. It was a waste, unfortunately. Our faucets (and this is an embarrassing admission) were corroded and the valves stopped working properly years ago, so they were a real hassle to shut off. Big mirror (a favorite, repeated choice by the previous owner)... did not like. The egg-shell light fixtures... did not like. The blinds, self-destructing... ditto. Even having two sinks was mildly irritating. So, I didn't have pictures, not happy ones, of the bathroom. Maybe I have some from the stormy night when we were so concerned for the goats that we let them "sleep" in the shower. Once we knew Mike was coming, I began making choices for the new bathroom, and that was when I started to see that I was really really really eager and excited to make this room completely new, different, ours. Mike arrived in January, and before he started on our bathroom, he repaired the hall skylight, which became an attic access, and he repaired the upstairs guest bathroom, where we had another skylight and water damage. Oh, and the window... I almost forgot about the big window he replaced. While he was doing all of that work, I was immersed in paint chips and tile samples, and the headaches of supply chain issues. A few times I shared about that journey, picking tile, deciding on a look. I've learned that remodeling is a privilege, and for me something of a torment, because I do it so mindfully... so full of concern about not doing a poor job, wasting money, time, effort. It feels like this is my big chance, don't blow it! Geoff wants me to just go for it, and he's not critical. It's my own internalized worry monster that plagues me with doubt, insecurity, constant fretting. And then, just when I could breath a sigh of relief, I would learn that our order was cancelled, because something was out of stock. It was getting closer and closer to demolition time, and time when Mike would need materials, and I was still trying to figure it out. Finally, we got tiles, and I was dizzy from staring at options and figuring out every variable... but privilege has its price! Oh, and the wallpaper! That was wishful thinking... just one statement wall with William Morrison's Strawberry Thieves. Geoff will indulge me anything, and Mike is master of many trades, but they each turned me down flat on hanging wallpaper! We laughed long and hard when I gently, hopefully, inquired, and they both answered in the same certain and absolute terms, "No. No way."My last job in the old bathroom was to clear out! By early February, the demolition was in full swing. No turning back now! Beneath the tub was a hatch, an access meant for shutting off the water valve to the tub, which, by the way, was never installed... anyway it was very handy for dropping demo mess to the ground floor outside, so most of the old tile didn't have to be carried through the house. And then William cleared that heap away!Mike used the tub framing lumber to build a stem wall for the shower and the shower bench. Ok, my two big design thrills were the bench in the shower and the alcove shelf on the outside of shower wall. Absolutely tickled to have Mike make those for me, and then I was stoked about putting in built-in tile shelves for shampoos and soaps... no more metal stand that always seems to turn into soapy rust. And! He installed a safety grab, which is just me acknowledging that we are not getting any younger. He raised the shower head... good for my taller husband. And... and without a massive tub to climb up and into, we could finally walk over to the three windows in that corner and easily look out! We have discovered that the best and unmatched views from any part of the house are at this spot! We can even crane our necks and spy the ocean. I am not saying this was part of my design choice, nonetheless, I guess I am taking credit for this wonder. Mike works clean, but it's still a messy process, and he works fast, but it still took time. I admit, I am still restoring our bedroom, and there were moments when it all felt inconvenient. What am I trying to say? It was hard, but it wasn't. Does that make sense? I do think I have a high tolerance for disruption, and clearly it was all about to pay off... Eventually, through hemming, hawing, fretting, and polling... I settled on paint, and curtains, and a new cabinet, and everything got closer and closer and closer to being really lovely, and I was even eager to share glimpses of what was becoming something I felt excited about.Instead of replacing the vanity, Mike painted it for us, and rebuilt the counter for one sink. Geoff and I have never crashed nor clashed around any bathroom, no matter how many sinks there were. More counter surface has far more appeal. I feel like I am rushing this post now... like, I was going to document every detail and date, and delivery of supplies, and trips to the hardware store, and record the times when I had to make one more decision, but it's done, and behind me, and I survived, and honestly... why look back? I just like stories, and I know that I learned things that will be helpful in the future (because we are building an accessory dwelling unit this year) and I will appreciate my own notes on this process, those lessons. But, yes... let's just see it done!! Technically, it's almost done. When Mike can return, he will add baseboards. But: Ta Da!The fireplace is a spaceheater, and my Valentine's Day gift to Geoff. He likes a warmer room for his late night, after work shower, and the chair was one we've had for a long time. Either of us can pass sleepless insomnia time comfortably, without disturbing the other. William assembled my Ikea cabinet... at last, intentional storage space, that can be closed, pretty. The dark walls are Behr Deep Breath. The lighter walls are Behr Clear Pond. The cabinets are Behr Dragonfly. The shower curtain, and the drapes, are from Target, so is the vanity mirror. It wasn't a snap, but I love it like it's magic! And I made a fun reel to show the magic of transformation. A nice development has been that I feel comfortable in the room, and there's space, obviously... it's a big bathroom, so I brought in my yoga mat, and free weights. I have been doing activities from physical therapy, and letting the room remain calm, and inviting... it's a luxury, a gift, and I am so glad it's done. I love this transformation.

Where Did The Time Go

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 03/11/2022 - 10:57
This may be the peak of my daffodil season! I have been so happy about these, about finally finally planting bulbs, even when I was embarrassed that I let them get a bit oogy, and I thought they were destined to rot in the ground. Even when I was second guessing my meauring skills, whether I buried them too deeply, or too close together, whether squirrels would dig them up, or a blizzard would destroy them, even though we have never ever even had an inch of snow. Next year! I love to think of next year, or this Fall, actually, when I plan to plant twice as many. I want to fill this whole section with daffodils, and I want other varities, like the pale ones with orange cups, and the ones that are fragrant. Oh, just lots and lots. And more grape hyacinth, and what are those other classics... Crocuses! I hope I remember that this is worth the wait, worth the planning and small effort, and likely there is a bigger lesson in this, something about the value of acting on hope, applying effort and labor to intention. So, for the record, the Gardening Journal (that doesn't really exist, yet) I planted the bulbs on December 28, 2021. And that's when I should plant more, again, this year. I'll mark it on the calendar. Oh! What if we aren't in a pandemic, and people are hanging out, and all sorts of wonderful progressive things are happening, like peace and healthcare, and civil rights, and then I could have a birthday party and invite absolutely everyone, and we would fill the bed with bulbs, and I would send friends home with bulbs, and we'd eat tacos and roller skate in the driveway.
It's funny, I can't take my plans, even my fantasy plans, out of the driveway. Everything good, in the last two years has been in the driveway. I'm kidding, but not. I used to ignore the driveway. I used to think it was only a too large space that we were stuck with, practical, but oversized for its purpose, and wasteful. But since lockdowns and COVID and all of that, I adore our driveway, our wide, open, spacious and generous driveway! Our movie nights, and campfires, and stargazing, the picnics, and craft camps, even future events, have all revolved around the asphalt pad in front of our home. I may have a plaque made to commemorate the love and company we enjoyed here, the days and nights when this was a safe, welcome space for our loved ones to gather, and we endured, and we comforted one another. I even miss the nights when we fumbled through how to manage social distancing... to play games, or share food, or celebrate special occasions. Those gatherings are fewer and further between. Maybe, possibly, we can see real hope, a real chance to come out of The Stay At Home Season?

Paul and Janece reached out for a campfire gathering this week. And I was happy to move the chairs around, make some hot chocolate. We sipped chocolate and shared news, laughed, just our usual easy friendship pleasures. Our young ones are in their last semester of high school. And I can't believe how right I was when I declared that these years would fly by, and I would ask "Where did the time go?" Oh, my gosh, where did the time go?

In the midst of conversing, my attention was diverted, and I found myself admiring my pretty friend. I wanted to tell her, to interrupt the conversation and say how pretty Janece is. Instead I raised my phone to take a picture. She turned to face me. Later, I wrote about what I was thinking, to save the moment. I am glad I did. After the sun had set and we sat in flickering light and shadows, they shared news with us. Our friends are moving away, heading out for a new experience, for a chance to make life easier. Naturally, I have the best hopes and wishes for them, but not before I object, and protest, and wish that there was some other way. Ten years, I thought is a long time, but ten years is a flash, a snap in time, when it's spent with friends that you click with, with friends that in short time become more like family than people you met through blogging. Their calling is born of necessity, but they are embracing it, taking the adventure, and I hope to be a best kind of friend... one that supports them, and helps them move forward, and one that will always hold space for them, to stay connected, to share whatever new attachments we can make. Well, those are my noblest intentions, and aspirations, but I will always think this is one of the cruelest results of pandemic, of politics and economy and billionaire greed. I am disillusioned... no yachts, nor rockets, no tax evading corportate avarice, however shiny or glamorous will ever compare with families in safe homes, and children in good schools, with affordable healthcare for all people, and working a job should mean that you can thrive, not barely survive.

Sigh

I meant for this to be all about flowers and found nests in the nasturtium, my pretty friend, and looking forward to plans, to spring and summer and fall, again. I want to be looking forward, but just now, all I can think is where did the time go?

Hello, Out There

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 03/10/2022 - 11:08
We returned to the Zoo. Geoff was hopeful about joining us, but crunchmode is still crunching, and so his fun has been deferred, again. This is probably what started our old tradition of celebrating birthdays, or any occasion, over days, or even weeks. We can't let scheduling conflicts, work hours, school demands, or anything, completely derail our fun, so we are very flexible with dates, and happy to extend birthday celebrations over multiple days, with multiple special activities. William's ultimate hope and plan is to return to the museums in Los Angeles, particularly La Brea. Anyway, we are very lucky to be near an amazing Zoo, and we are loving our passes. We beat the crowds, and had another fun outing, another chance to celebrate William's birthday. It's a big Zoo, and we saw all new animals, like takin, big cats and big eagles, okapi, hippos, and polar bears. William and I became enchanted by the takin (sounds like "rockin.'") They are a bit amorphous, which is not a typically flattering distinction, but then they have these distinguised horns framing their moose-like faces, and... I don't know, they're just endearing, somehow. The sign at the Zoo mentions that they can "leap up to 6 feet," and considering the size of them, how stocky and heavy they look, my fascination only increased, and I tried to imagine a takin in full flight. We were at the zoo between rain showers, and everything felt refreshed, brightened. The view from the Bashor Bridge, of Balboa Park, the Tower, and Downtown, is always stunning. Two hours of walking and learning, observing, talking, of clouds and sunshine, and we left happy, already thinking of how nice it will be to come back, again. We headed to South Park for lunch, which was almost perfect... the "between" showers part of the day was behind us, and we got literally drenched eating our lunch al fresco! We were almost done eating, when it got to be too much, and we had to dash for the van! But what an excellent lunch! We can't wait to get back to Shwarma Guys, and the rest of South Park that we left unexplored. One thing I couldn't skip was The Book Catapult. William, Maria, Max, and I popped in, and we were not disappointed.
This is the kind of bookstore that makes a city a destination. The staff are always engaging, welcoming. Our friend, Susie Ghahremani's mural leaves me feeling like we've had a little visit! And books! I always find a title that is compelling, irresistible, and whatever I am looking for they are happy to find, and they'll order books, which they can hold in the store, or ship. I ordered a book, Collective Wisdom, by Grace Bonney, and the bonus is I get to return to South Park when it comes to The Book Catapult.

I guess this post was just a chatty catch-up. The news, still bleak and heart-breaking, can consume my thoughts, so I am here... in a virtual space of fond recollection, and hopeful anticipation that some online friends will chat, too. Hello, out there!

Make Joy

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 03/08/2022 - 09:48

The healthroom is almost almost complete. So close! For me, the hardest part was making paint and tile choices, but now comes the second hardest (slowest) part and that's putting everything back togethter! All of the things that were in the bathroom were packed, and shuttled and crammed into our bedroom, mostly, and then I spent weeks and weeks pretending that none of it was a problem... not messy, dusty, stressful, cluttered, trip-hazardy, nada. Now I am in restoration mode, and I am slow, but at least I am being intentional... I am deep cleaning, purging, trying to be mindful about what stays and what goes, and so, I hope that when I get things in order, and looking good, they will be genuinely good, organized, only the "brings me joy" things will remain. I want to confess that "I am embarrassed about my pace, about the extent of the dust and stuff," but life has been one thing after another, and suddenly, I am older, injured/pained, slower, a bit pandemic stunted, and the kindest thing I could do is say, "Ok. But I am still trying."

Say hello to Reginald. Reginald, Fairie Saint of Self-Regard. I am certain that this dapper llama would have only kind and patient things to say about how I ought address myself, what phrases and expressions I utter when contemplating my existence, worth, and self-view. Oh, and say hello to my chamomile! Didn't I say I want to grow chamomile, to have enough to cut and bring inside? Haven't I dreamt of the day, and sighed aloud, to have a garden, and flowers, and a home of our own? How ever do I manage to get down and muddled in my thinking, when there are flowers growing outside my kitchen window, and a blue arched niche, where I can set a pitcher of soothing blossoms? There is dust here, and stashes of things I need to manage, and chipped plates, and clothes that need mending, and sometimes, really quite often, I find something more compelling to do than sort my books by color. I am so fortunate.
I am very happy to share that one of William's many projects is complete! The two sinks in our primary bathroom were taken out, and could have gone to a landfill, but I had this hare-brained idea about them being nest boxes, and William took me at my word! You guys, look what he did! The pitched roof, and paint! We kept the hardware in. I was his assistant when he was squaring it all up for the roof. He added the fence boards, so they would have privacy from the goats, a little more coziness. I love the green paint, which is the same paint he's using to finish the cart. Naturally, the goats were the most interested in the new furniture, especially Grace. The chickens lay most of their eggs in the goats's hay manger, so it's only fair that the goats might eat from the hen's nest boxes. I planted an egg in the nest, to give the hens the idea. Then I planted a hen on the nest boxes to give them even more hints, but Willow did not catch on. It will take time. If they never take to it, I might plant herbs in the sinks, or employ the whole thing in a roadside stand where I sell art and eggs, lemons, passionfruit, chamomile, and tacos.
The days go on. No one needs me to mention war, to link to climate change perils, or count the dead from COVID. It has been one thing after another, and then some. We need a vacation. I bet you need a vacation! It's been too much, and how many times have I said that since... 2016? Complaining, even listing the hardships, is a strange thing. Some people do it so readily, and even seem to elicit support, empathy, a good-humored laugh in solidarity. I keep biting my tongue, surpressing, downplaying, hoping I will be cured by optimism, relieved by denial. And the days go on. I would have lost the bet on things getting better. Thank goodness I come across words and expressions that help me live with all of this... this harrowing stuff of war and hate, of racsim, disease, distrust, and too, the indescribable beauty of an egg, and painted walls, cut flowers, of friends sitting around a campfire, in relative peace.

"I am washing my face before bed

while a country is on fire.

It feels dumb to wash my face

and dumb not to.

It has never been this way

and it has always been this way.

Someone has always clinked a

cocktail glass in one hemisphere as

someone loses a home in another,

while someone falls in love in the

same apartment building where

someone grieves. The fact that

suffering, mundanity and beauty

coincide is unbearable and

and remarkable.

~Mari Andrew


An egg! In the nest box! Remarkable. What good and clever hens. This one someone did all on her own.

Wherever you are, whether safe and content, or struggling, or both, I hope you find an egg in a nest, or that you can paint a wall, eat a delicious orange, hold a baby, put on clean socks. I hope that you find a YouTube channel that makes you laugh until your sides ache, or that you share a phone call with a friend, and it makes the day feel lighter, more promising. Good things are better shared.

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil is interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and terrible boredom of pain." ~Ursula K. Le Guin
Take joy... look for it, and exclaim, and share it, make more of it, make more of it than seems necessary, because joy is essential. I should paint these words on every wall, or at least keep them close at hand, and ready to slay the foes of art and happiness.

2102 in 2022... It's A Paradox

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 03/03/2022 - 14:33

Caution: You Are Entering a Robot Zone!

It's been a long spell since the last update on FIRST 2102 Team Paradox... I did mention Kick-off, the start of the build season for 2022. There was the last Maker event we jointly attended. Oh, how I miss those. There was the end of season party in 2019, when Maria, was a freshman, and Championships, the same year! And the San Diego FIRST Regional that lead to Houston! Good memories. The 2020 season started off with a lot of promise, team effort, a good Kick-off, and outreach. Unfortunately, things kind of fell apart with the arrival of COVID. It was disappointing, and though the Team made spirited efforts and kept things active and noteworthy in 2021, Maria took the year off. Okay, I know that was a lot of links, and a lot of twists and turns... I won't be hurt if you skim over all of this. We love robots and the young folks that design, manufacture, assemble, and program them, the same young folks that write grants and fundraise, design their look, and manage their social media, outreach, peer-mentoring, and recruiting, and compete, graciously, in FIRST Robotics Competitions. This will be our last season with one of our own on the team, but we will always be ready to cheer for 2102! In pictures and words, this post is for FIRST 2102 Team Paradox, and the start of their 2022 season.

Kick Off, When FIRST Reveals the Game to Teams Around the World!
Simon, with the mic, sharing his group's break down of one section from the rule book. Photograph by George Stimson. Mentors ready to meet students, check their vaccination cards, and welcome them to 2022 FIRST Kick Off, and Rapid React. I know Ido and Nick F, and in the mentor jumpsuit, Steve D. Now Maria has the mic. That's almost the whole team, mentors, icluding some alumni, and a few parents, but there were also students online, participating safely, from their homes. Leanne has three kids on the team! Max, is a senior, Anna and Alex are sophomores. Leanne has been mentoring, and as you can see she has adopted the colorful spirit of Team Paradox. Simon, Maria, and alumni Nick F. Maria was happy to work with Nick, a mentor and friend she's known since her brother, Alex, was on the team.I know Nitin, and Karen D. It's not as easy to meet new students. Since COVID, and the frequency of school shootings, guests aren't as easily admitted on campus, and even then, everyone is masking. I really miss the open campus, the BC days. Hopefully, I can come back in and name a few more of these students, with Maria's help. I recognize Nick F, with the mic, and Simon in his team hoodie, and Maria on the end. I am pretty sure Kyra has the mic, and I recognize Keene, in the gray hoodie. Team moms, and mentors, Leslie and Patti. Both are wonderful assests to Team Paradox, and FIRST. Liam is on the ball. Team president, Lake, and Tatyana on his left. George Stimson took this one. I miss having George on campus. He taught physics and history, and he always captured great pictures of the students, in all kinds of activities and events. He built a bridge, keeping parents connected with happenings and student life around school.
One more picture from George... this time with Simon holding up a rough sketch of a proposed robot element.

Kick-off is two days. The game and rules are revealed, and Team Paradox has a finely tuned system of breaking the team into groups, so that the manual and rule book can be read, analyzed, distilled, then shared with the team. From this comes a better understanding of the game, the robot, the limitations, and options, and then a stratgey for both desiging the robot, and playing the game can be developed. This year, only a day before the already complicated event, the team learned they would have to make new accomodations due to rising cases of OMICRON... the president, Lake, had to plan and coordinate for everything to move into two safe indoor spaces, then one, practical space for outdoors. Additionally, Paradox hosted the new teams from Oceanside High School, and an online school, Team 4014.

Team Colors and Tshirt Printing
Keene, president of marketing is discussing modifications for screenprinting of the design, with Maria. Tatyana measuring, and preparing the board for holding the shirts. A moment for effusive expression: Tatyana and Maria were classmates throughout grade school, and I dearly love this (now) young woman! She was always involved, always gracious... she still is! I just loved her enthusiam for participating in clubs, and extracurriculars, for her sweet smile, and curiosity. It's so lovely to see that she's retained her love of learning, and connecting with opportunities. She is an excellent assest to her team, and the World.
The robotics teams are showing up for science and technology, but team spirit, outreach, and marketing, count, too. They have to stand-out in many ways, and so in 2008-09, the marketing team decided that bright and loud were the team's look, and that's when yellow on top, red on the bottom, and Paradox all over became the standard uniform. The team also chooses a new Tshirt design to screen print and sell, every year. We are delighted to share that Maria's design was chosen this year. It's a Parrot and an Ox... a parrotox... Paradox! She included an element or two that are nods to the Tshirts Alex designed for the team.

Robotics, at this school, is an after school club, and not techincally supported, nor sponsored by the school, and yet... the Team is dependent and indebted to the school, to the many supportive, patient and enthusiastic teachers that mentor and accomodate Paradox.

Bag & Tag and Root Beer Floats

This event marks the final hours when the team can work on their robot before the teams meet in competition at regional events around the world. Team Paradox is continuing the tradition of marking this event with sharing the robot, and sometimes the practice robot, with parents, and family, and by serving up celebratory root beer floats. It's a fun night, with some relief for what's been accomplished in the weeks since Kick-off. And, by the way, the robot was named Viper! Viper looks gorgeous, and starting this weekend the student built robot will be competing in the North Los Angeles regional at Port Hueneme. And to look good, and stand out, the team is going to need those Tshirts!

Back to the Screen Printing Shop!
The Paradox and team number are up front, and the esteemed sponsors are on the back. Finished shirts, after going through a heat dryer, are folded, boxed.
Tatyana, Leah, Michael, Keene, and Maria

There was a small setback in printing, but things were back on track this week. The marketing students pushed and printed plenty of uniforms for the upcoming regional, and there will be even more printed for the San Diego, and Las Vegas regionals! You can see them in action on Instagram. That's not all for the year. There may be a trip to Houston, if Paradox wins a regional, or is awarded with something like Engineering Inspiration. And then there are outreach events, and other design and build opportunities, student lead classes over summer, and plenty of STEM related possibilities for this spirited, inspired and inspiring team of robot building young folks.

Happiness

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 03/01/2022 - 09:48
February! Faces! Flowers! Technically, it is still Winter, but maybe late in February we have been blessed with glimpses of an early Spring. It's been a very long Winter, kind of a groundhog repitition of days, countless days, since March 2020, waiting for a pandemic to recede, for glimmers of normalcy. At least it warmed up for an afternoon of crafting, and friends came to help us with an old favorite... flower making. Suitable for any occasion, we are making lots and lots of paper flowers, with help from our friends. Lucas, Tutu Ruth, Gordon, and Anna Banana joined us, and many hands really do make light work! Even while learning, and chatting, sipping tea and sampling cookies and Ruth's power treats, we managed to fill up two long boxes with cheery, festive flowers. Then Alex and Bambi strung them up to see how they look as garlands. And in the midst of all that, we began an early celebration of William's birthday. Anne and I talked weddings. Adam and Hanabi are engaged, and will wed in Japan this Fall. I searched around for an old post about Adam, and found a perfect one. And since this "paragraph" is chock full, I will take this moment to add: Tamsyn is coming to see us this summer! Yes, I am resolved... these are happy glimpses of happy prospects, a year of dear faces, and flowers, and celebrations, gatherings, good health, good will. Make it so.And Making! I declare this a year of making. We haven't slowed down on the making, and recently things have really picked up speed, especially between William and Geoff. If Geoff isn't at his work desk, then he is at his tinkering desk. His latest marvel is an old butler's phone (I can't find a good example. I guess you'd have one between your study and the butler's pantry?) that he re-wired for blue tooth, so that you can use it to call Siri. It's a speaker phone. It's also a charging station. Honestly, I don't think I am doing this wizardry justice. How about a sample? And today. Today is William's birthday. First born. The one that made me a Mom, and Geoff a Dad. This should be all about him, but I can't help including how dear and personal this day is to me, because of him. I have dearly loved being a Mom, being his Mom. Parenting can't be what we think it will be, or what we imagine it might be. It comes with challenges, wonders, joys, that can never be foreseen, but I feel tremendous gratitude, and hope. His story, his journey, is compelling, worthwhile, and I am as delighted, honored, as ever to see it all unfold, to be included in his life. He is making a nest box for the chickens... taking another of my harebrained ideas and making it a reality, so that our old bathroom sinks will be built into nestboxes, for my silly hens. If they won't lay in there, then we will switch to Plan B, and fill them with flowers... Sweet William, being my first choice. William is continuing work on the food cart, modifying old door knobs to fit into contemporary hardware, building a paper moon, assembling furniture for the nearly completed bathroom, and more. Happy Birthday, William! Happy making and curating, baking, cooking, running, reading, happy movie watching, and linguistic studies, happy you, and happy us to know and love you.

Peace

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 02/25/2022 - 10:03

Someday, I hope to come back to this post, and breath a sigh of relief, think to myself it wasn't as horrible as we dreaded, they did not go as far as we feared. But today, Russia is invading Ukraine, bombing their cities, fulfilling threats, spreading propaganda, and they are applauded by prominent Republicans in the United States. Such waves of grief and foreboding have a grip on me, and disgust. I admit to being naive, to having fully expected a bright, promising Spring, progressive strides, days near at hand when we lift each other up, rally for justice, quash racism and racist systems, disdain greed, and lift up learning, healthcare, gentle acts. Instead, we are derailed by fear mongering, and hateful decrees against Trans youth, against the autonomy of women over our own bodies. Insurrection against Democracy is hardly addressed, and as it is, it is slow, suspiciously, ploddingly slow. Braver people than I will make their travel plans, and soíree. I feel too turned around, sad, worn, to move forward, to think of doing happy things, making happy plans, and I feel guilty, too, because my life is good, and safe. It's the weight of trauma, of wading through these Pandemic years, knowing our planet ails, and people hurting, it's being disconsolate for the suffering that makes me heavy, slows my steps, and I feel a hopelessness, a shadow that I don't remember, or know, how to scatter away.

Someone once assumed that I didn't read the news, was not staying informed. They took my penchant for cats and chickens, cakes, and aprons, my whimsical leanings for blissful ignorance, and a casual indifference to the state of affairs. That is not the case. I do read the news, and follow stories, listen to accounts of all kinds of histories, and current events, causes, rallies, and in recent years I have redoubled my efforts to listen more, read more, and learn more. But the truth is, there is always a time when I can't absorb more. There is a tipping point, where after one more report, another account of terror or cruelty, and I am ineffectual. I withdraw, and despair. To stay present, and engaged, to do good works, I cannot assimilate every disaster, then work at fathoming how to save the world. In fact, it sounds like a kind of arrogance to imagine I would assume this role. I do tune in, empathize, and imagine the anguish of others. Those struggles and issues that others are suffering, inform my voting, what I share, who I support, what I purchase, how I conduct myself. More simply, I am a better gardener than soldier. I am more adept at sharing eggs and lemons from our garden than testifying before a council. My activism, my rallying cries for social justice, and peace are in our Little Free Library, in Craft Camp for neighbor's children, in mentoring, donating, contributing, in sharing seeds, fabric, recipes, in posting cat pictures, and adopting chickens to help a friend...

I don't know what I am trying to say. I often don't know what I am trying to say, but I'll post it anyway! But this... these events, and the consequences, the state of the world, matters. I can't be shallow, or muddled, not about this. I connect with Paula Sutton's post, when she wrote, "Before anyone mentions other tragedies and other causes beyond those of today, believe me, I ache for all of them, but for the most part I choose to be an oasis of calm for those who need an escape from the relentlessness of horrific news and the struggles of life. Tonight however, I think I’ve reached a tipping point. Tonight I feel too sad and too angry for the world. So until tomorrow - here’s a sunset instead." Like Paula, I love the pretty images, and the acts of love, the affirmations, and hopeful gestures. I am imagining peace, and willing it, praying for it, and voting for peace. I am centering my beliefs, and actions, my hopes, and thoughts on peace. And I am going to sit here, a minute, and try to remember how to scatter the shadows away.

A Few Hours At The Zoo

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 02/23/2022 - 10:22
We went to the zoo! Zoo passes were the most requested Christmas gift, and we finally put ours to use. If When Max and Geoff get a break, we want to return on a weekday. Of course, Maria needs a free day too. I don't want to whine for more than one sentence, so here goes: It was incredibly crowded and loud at the zoo, like nothing I have witnessed before, and even worse when we tried to drive out, as two drivers got very heated over who was more entitled to our parking space. Done. The zoo, even on a busy day, is always worthwhile, and we had a very good visit, with many happy encounters. The cheetahs were alert and clearly visible. At one point one that had been lounging in the wide open, got up and sauntered over toward us, then dropped down for a lounge in the shade, and we could feel him purring. I mean... we heard him purring, but a kitty that big, that close, it's clear that sound comes from vibrations. The giraffes were beautiful, so was the donkey and zebra, the koalas. The kukaburra sang it's gumtree song, and we saw fennec foxes, porcupines, a rhino, and flamingos, of course. Komodo dragons, birds of all feathers, including freshly hatched ducklings. The baby birds flitted on the water like wind up toys! We stayed with the baboons for a long time, because they were so compelling. Their enclosure is wide open with different terrains and elevations, and observing them is gratifying. They do so much that is interesting, dramatic. Stories unfold when we pay attention to their interactions, and dynamics. A volunteer observed that the young baboon in the tree was unique, as no other baboons climbed up, like her. Bambi sketched, and she and the volunteer, Anne, talked about art, classes, and watercolor painting.
I felt certain that I had more pictures to share, and now I realize that I was recording a lot, because so many of the animals were active. I'll share video, too, then. Like the one of the adult baboon keeping an eye on the young one in the tree. The one in the tree seemed to make the adult anxious, but the little one was also tossing leaves down, and those were much sought after by the baboons on the ground. It's great to have annual passes. We had a good walk, saw plenty of animals, including the penguins, and leopard sharks, and then we headed out, happy to know we can return, soon.

Did I mention it was loud at the zoo? Maybe turn your volume down if you watch these clips.

Glad I Blog

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 02/21/2022 - 12:54
Willow. She lays eggs that are blue green. Pretty, like her.
This year, so far, I've been blogging a lot. A lot a lot. It's partly the safety valve thing, where I can let off some steam, sort my feelings/thoughts/desires. It also helps me, later, because I keep track of things. Seriously! The blog has become our own Wiki page of family history, and we refer to our archives often. It's a gratitude journal, where I can center my thoughts on the best moments, the pleasures and good things that make up my days, and revisit those good things, too. It's a meeting place, and while this has been kind of hit and miss as far as statistical success, I am glad that I can connect with people I know, people I am getting to know, people far away, and it's free from ads, agendas, demands, expectations, deadlines. No one has to read Chickenblog, and I don't have to post, or justify nor explain why I write, or what I write. This experiment or exercise, this long letter, open journal... whatever this is, Chickenblog will be 20 years old, soon. If you are a regular CB reader, brace yourself! I will not be able to resist getting very sentimental, and reflecting some, on this strange journey. And even though I have known some frustrations and disappointments, foremost in my thoughts are all of the amazing connections, friendships, gifts, exchanges, and benefits I have enjoyed through Chickenblog. Maybe those are the posts and memories I should share and reflect on... a trip down memory lane of all the times I have been blessed and honored and surprised by the goodness of connections made over the Internet. I have a particular curiosity about behavior and culture, about changes in culture, and so I think that the experiment of blogging, for me, for society, has been fascinating, and now in the midst of a global pandemic, there are new and stranger elements to observe and process... at its best, it's all been amazing, and strange. I think we will be processing these years for the rest of our lives. I am kind of glad I have been, low-key, taking notes.

Geoff needs a vacation, friends. He needs to get away, literally, figuratively, magically. Max, too. Max might take early retirement. That's how I put it, sympathetically kidding, when I see that he's entered the work world in a very unprecedented and exacting way. He likes his work, and appreciates everything, but it's been strange and strenuous. They both are doing a lot, and working from home, as good as the benefits are, is not without some challenges. Fortunately, Max has D & D for sanity and balance, and Geoff has been escaping through creative expression, like assembling watch faces and framing them under glass. I call his piece "Face Time." He has more art plans, extensions of his earlier works, his Art Blocks. My own creative pursuits have been... well, they have not been. I am stuck in a long dry spell, but I am toying with the idea of making our backsplash, around the bath sink, a mosaic. But probably not. I can't decide. I do like looking at the glass and tiles and stuff. A vacation might do us all some good.

Good Morning From My Flower Farm

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 02/18/2022 - 09:55
Good morning, friends. It's Friday. It's sunny, again, but still chilly in the mornings, and after the sun sets. Yesterday I invited the chickens out of their run, and they made bee lines for the best sunbathing spots. Sun, and dustbathing, were the pleasure of their day. I sat with them, and then Thistle hopped onto my arm. The trust of an animal, having a pet come to me, or follow me around, may be in the top ten of things that can turn a day around. Sweet Thistle. I am so glad to have all of these hens, and goats, and cats. It's official. I am a Calendula Farmer. Sweet alyssum and spoon tomatoes, too, pop up volunatarily, so with very little participation from me, I have plenty, everywhere! And the oregano grows like a hedge, so if you could use any, just say so. I am crossing fingers for the chamomile to stick around, like the calendula, so that I can rely on it to show up every year. That would be lovely. If the tiny tomatoes do as well as they have in the past, I can look forward to inviting Spencer, Bex, and Simon over to harvest and feast on them. I pick them for some dishes, but they are so prolific and tiny, that the best thing is watching the young ones go wild for spoon tomatoes hot off the vine! Maria texted from school about Open Mic, for the Creative Writing Club, something that she was thinking of attending, but snuck up on her. Her focus has been heavily on robotics, incuding screenprinting the shirts. I encouraged her to go to Open Mic, to read, even if it was a work from last semester. She came home, after doing outreach work for robotics, to have some dinner, and I braided her hair, pinned it back. I thought it would be an audience and stage kind of event, and I happily agreed to tag along, because I cherish each chance to observe every bit of this last high school season. It turned out to be a more intimate experience, and I feel so privilleged to have been welcome. We sat in a circle, the lights were dimmed, and each participant, in turn, read some of their works. They give each other feedback, not criticism, but support, affirmations. It's not for grades, nor evaluation, and I felt such a deep, admiring appreciation for the trust and empathy, the space they hold with one another. They engage, face to face, with tremendous grace and mindful kindness, and I am in awe of the dignity, integrity, of what they hold, and share. It is sacred. It is a comfort, an honor, to be among young people, and to feel, once again, the hope they instill in me.

While My Tea Steeps, I Getaway

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 02/16/2022 - 11:13
There is chard and calendula in the garden, and eggs, too... depending on where the chickens are laying. Between the surplus eggs, and the return of cold weather, quiche popped into my thougts when I was at the market. I grabbed the pie crust at Trader Joe's, and some of their shredded cheddar, and leeks. I love leeks! I don't have a recipe, but the consistency is what I go by. 8 eggs, sauteed leeks, and chard, and the small tub of cream cheese leftover from a bagel weekend. Salt. Pepper. Dill. The rest of the shredded cheese mix from the fridge bin, and a splash of heavy cream. And calendula petals! I don't really taste those... they aren't peppery, like nasturtium. The calendual taste a bit like a redleaf lettuce, maybe slightly like cucumber? Anyway, I know they are beneficial, so in they go, for heart, body, and soul! Then I got fanciful and made quiche flowers, which I dabbed with some watered down yolk, hoping it would keep them from shriveling up. I like the results! And it reminds me that I want to make one of those focaccia that looks like a painting... pepper petals, and leek stems, tomato flowers, just all kinds of veg to create an edible painting atop the bread. Have you seen those? Just type "focaccia art" into your search engine... Google shows me an entire garden of focaccia art! Amazing. They are beautiful! Oh yes, oh yes, I want to play with my food!The beloved daffodil, Valentine's Day up to this morning. Yesterday, it rained, and I can see the slight silver streaks of rain in picture 6, and sprinkles on the petals in the seventh image. Ever the greedy gardener... it seemed like so many when I was digging holes, and dropping in the bulbs, but of course now I can imagine twice as many, or four times more! There's room. And they'll spread. Right? I wonder if I should just leave them in the ground, and let them figure it all for themselves? Otherwise, I worry that the task of digging them up, storing them properly, then remembering to plant again, next fall, will be my undoing! I can't pretend anymore that I could get any better at even easy jobs. In the meantime, I am taking lots of pictures, and whenever I think of it, I dash over and see the progress. I should find seeds of flowers that can fill in, so we have a succession of blooms. When I pull back the camera, you can see I have plenty of blank canvas. This is an area that was very recently created, when we moved our stash of construction leftovers, cut into the bank and shored it up with the blocks. It's not always this "charming," because often times we stash the rubbish bins along the wall, or have something parked there. You can't imagine all of the shuffling, loading, packing, and removing we have going on! It is, at best, organized chaos, and I regularly inhale slowly, mindfully, and repeat to myself that we will survive our ambitious plans, and the upheaval that coincides, and in no time (3 years) everything will be orderly, serene, and basically awesome. Amen.When hammering, drilling, sawing, is incessant, when I can't find my way through the sequence of operations... the paperwork, material orders, plans, blueprints, appointments, design meetings, and shuffling, I take another mindful breath, and stare at my grape hyacinth, update this blog, or make quiche flowers from calendula petals. Sitting at the dining table this morning, waiting for my chamomile tea to steep, I gazed into the forest of muscari stems, and imagined being small. Small enough to trek between the bulbs, and hike my way up and down the papery trunks, to a comfortable niche between the towering growth, and looking up, I would sigh happily, tie a hammock, and relish the getaway.

Blooms & Wishes

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 02/14/2022 - 12:56
Every day I fall deeper in love with my muscari. And if anyone is standing nearby, I call them over and point out some of the many virtues and particularly delightful things about these teeny blossoms. This time I was giving the cats a chance to appreciate my happy flowers. I might take it kind of hard, when these flowers begin to fade, then droop, but perhaps not for long! The bulbs I planted are doing well, and I've gimplsed the first signs of new blossoms to come! There will be more muscari, and some daffodils, too. The tiny star buds of the muscari only just appeared, and I am delighted that there might be quite a few that will bloom. And, daffodils! I didn't count the number of bulbs I planted, and I was feeling sheepish about the whole endeavor, because the bulbs weren't in the best shape, due to my neglect. (I was going to write a long, detailed account of the many days I left them on the garden wall, and how I was busy/distracted/absent-minded about them and so on, but in the end, to be brief: I neglected those bulbs.) I think the thing to focus on is that daffodils are coming, and it was worthwile to give them a chance. I am dashing around to this garden bed to get regular updates on the progress of this flower. I am so cock-a-hoop... just kidding. I wanted a synonym for happy and the Internet offered me cock-a-hoop! I can't. So, I am exultant, elated, rapt about this daffodil blooming!
Also blooming... the apple trees!
Remember the list? The List that I congratulated myself for writing, because I was so determined to shake the fog and be accomplished? I tackled some of the things. But only some. And even some of those were a bit botched, like the post office trip. Ugh... that was a small mess, and ironic, given that I literally had to talk myself into making that errand, and overcome some trepidation. Anyway, one thing on the list was "Valentines" and I was keen to bring out craft supplies, envelopes, pretty things, and be romantic, make heartfelt gestures, and send those out in the world. It only partly came together, I am sorry to say. It's possible I will never be craftily clever and postally adept, or I could cling to the hope that I am like a bulb that needs a chance, that I may yet bloom. We had a week of summer in California. Hot days, and warm nights. The kitties loved the open doors. I loved sleeping with open windows. And now, finally, there is rain in the forecast! I am taking that as a Valentine treat... sweet, romantic rain. Are you celebrating? I am closing my eyes, and making heartfelt wishes for you... a perfect snowflake, a flower about to bloom, company, or sweet solitude, a happy ending to a good book, a Wordle solution in three steps!

Look For Me In The Retiring Room

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 02/12/2022 - 10:11
Bringing home this pot of gold was one of my best decisions of the new year. The muscari is flourishing, and throughout the day I see it, smile, and feel brightened, cheered. TaDa! I don't expect anyone knows what the bathroom looked like before, but this after picture is a big deal. I am not going to share the final color palette, or tile samples, but Mike is painting today. Paint. Today. And this is where we used to have a very large bathtub, and it is gone. It's something we decided to do a few years ago. We figured it could happen in the future, someday, because it was just a large area that was difficult to manage, unused, and for me... a teeny bit scary. The tub was over the part of the bathroom that extends, unsupported, in an overhang at the corner of the house. The few times I would fill the tub and enjoy a bath, when the water got cold, I would debate whether or not to add more water, and then my thoughts would wander... what does water weigh? (8.34/gallon) How strong is the framing? What if? Once my brain got to what if, the "relaxing" bath was a total bust. Cleaning the tub was another obstacle, a climb, and descent, and I can't imagine it getting easier in the years ahead. Yeah, yeah, obviously I had a list of justifications for taking the tub out. And when Mike got in there, before he ever heard that I have always been uneasy about the integrity of a large tub sitting on supported flooring, he declared that the whole thing looked highly questionable, was creaky and squeaky, and the builders left heaps of old concrete in there!
Good-bye, big tub!

Okay, but the tub is in great shape and I do like baths, and so we are strongly considering framing it up and having a fabulous outdoor spa, where in the heat of summer, or winter (it's been in the 80s this week,) we can enjoy midnight soaks, cooling dips, a refreshing splash. I wasn't kidding about having harebrained ideas. It's kind of awesome, really.
Last peek! I am looking forward to sharing all of it, the before and the after. It's easy to see that this is going to be a great space, so that I am reluctant to call it "the bathroom." Is "Spa" too pretentious? What did they call these rooms in the Victorian times? Ah, yes... a retiring room! I heard it in Little Women, when Meg and Jo are at a party. Jo is a reluctant guest and hanging back in a quiet, generous sized room, which happens to include accomodations for a chamber pot, and Meg wants her to come back to the party. "You can't spend the whole evening in the retiring room, Jo." I could! I could thoroughly enjoy and appreciate a space where there is room to self-care, to wash away the day, both literally and figuratively. I realize I am recognizing some bias in my beliefs about "bathrooms," like the idea that they are only practical, functional, necessary, and yet almost an afterthought, not a place to hang out. Ideally, I am realizing, a bathroom, restroom, can be comfortable, inviting, that there can be features, or qualities, to it that are respectful of our bodies, our functions, and needs. I've mostly, out of habit, necessity, considered what was essential, and efficient in a bathroom: Go in, do your business, get on with the day. Do not dillydally. I am 55. I am going to dillydally all I can! I wish I'd started sooner, in fact. And I think on my old neighbor, and friend, Jennifer H, who taught me that when designing a space, consider what you would love if you were on a vacation, and include the fun, interesting, different, luxurious or inspiring, even if odd, things that make a getaway special. How about the Healthroom?
From the healthroom, you can see the large garden bed, where I have recently been weeding, planting, watering and giving thanks. And guess what... it's paying off! At long last, after years of failed attempts, and some small success last year, the chamomile has simply volunteered itself! I love chamomile so much, and have written about it so many times it could have it's own blog label.

Bird House Notes: Would anyone like to see a post that is exclusively snapshots of paint chips, tile samples, and faucet choices? I have loads of those! At some point all of this searching and deliberating will pay off! Right? February 10, 2022

When was the last time I talked about the weather? It's noteworthy this week. It's in the 80s. February and 80+ degrees, and ages since it last rained. I know... it's more comfortable than the sub-zero temps, but without some rain around here, and more snow in our mountains, the months ahead, fire season, will be something dreadful. I don't want to think about this. February 10, 2022

Progress, Sort Of

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 02/10/2022 - 10:08

Shopping for the perfect tea cup: "Don't worry about the price tag"

Let me begin by stating: I love this. It cracks me up, and it's relevant to our lives. We love our tea, and our tea cups. And, I can't deny, I am on a direct course for a future where I wear head scarves, coke bottle glasses, and heavy coats, and carry my... chicken? Is that a featherless chicken? Or. No. It's a small dog? Could it be? Is it an anthropomorphic potato? I have no idea, but the day I see one at the shelter, I am bringing it home, then carrying it around with me wherever I go. I will stick it in the basket on my bicycle, and ride around in my oversized coat, looking for tea cups in the second hand shops.

Dear Friends, I am posting today, as a reward for having made a list of all of the urgent, pressing errands, and tasks that I absolutely must attend to. I have it all written down. It's those things that I never think of in the light of day, but they collect themselves, and pull up into my brain, tires screeching, gears grinding, and honking incessantly for my attention in the wee hours! They list themselves to me, pressing me to examine and face up to all of the things left undone, each neglected assignment, and even a few of my most ardent resolutions, hopes of self-improvement, ambition. Not now, I implore at 3 am, and I make strong, stronger resolutions and promises. I will reform. Later, when it's time to get up from bed, I am foggy, reluctant, and the urgent, incessant honking demands have somehow evaporated. I have only a vague sense of nameless dread, but no specific desire to consider the cause, to write down The List. I have one, now. It's not complete, but it's a good start. But what's a "start" without a middle, and an end? I'll just blog a little bit more, and then I promise, I will get to the end of this list.

One thing not on my list is to delete the hundreds of snapshots of faucets, tile samples, and paint chips on my computer, and phone. Also, I may have 10,000 screenshots of memes, reminders, comics, wedding clothes, recipes, political references, design ideas, and article links. My head is congested, like my Cloud, and it is time to delete delete delete! I need to Marie Kondo my digital media!

Oh dear. When I searched "Marie Kondo," for a link, a searchable image appeared for: "The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over The Place." I will not go there. Alone, in my dark office, I feel seen. I feel like if I weren't crocheting, painting, and taking featherless chickens on bicycle rides, "Sh*t All Over The Place" could be the title of a master's thesis I write, based on raw, personal data. I feel like I was minding my business, in denial about a lot of things, but still showing up, when suddenly there is a bear. Do I run? Do I drop to the ground, cover my head, and hold my breath? Do I stand tall and growl back? Back away, slowly, humbly? I never would have thought that I take joy in leaving sh*t all over the place, but. Objectively? Looking at the evidence all around me, Whoa, I am face to face with a bear. A messy messy bear.

William cleared all of the debris from the bathroom demolition. He even sifted the dirt to remove small tile bits and broken stuff. He did a very thorough job of it. Upstairs, in our bathroom, Mike has all of the backer board installed, for the flooring, and the shower. And he's ready to mud the walls, in the shower, and in the spots where he had to remove drywall. He also cut the hole for the new sink, and I found a faucet! And the lights! And more tile, because we need some for a backsplash! I may even have chosen paint colors. Well, I am close, anyway. Why is this so hard? I have very strong instincts and concerns around not making bad choices. I am always awestruck by people that know exactly what they love, what looks good, these are the same people that toss off expressions, like "It's just paint!" They make beautiful choices, and probably never come across bears.

Hey, Saki? My little land seal, my fur potato, would you like to go for a bike ride with me?

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