Chicken Blog by Natalie

Days of Thanks - Wed, 11/07/2018 - 12:56
It occurred to me that it's not just Thanksgiving that I love... I love November. I love October, because then it's almost November. And I love December, because I've been so happy and hopeful since October.

And now that I've settled all of that, I am declaring that these are Days of Thanks. I want to make observations of beauty and blessings, and opportunities to do good, and celebrate, and purposefully act on my best intentions... everything with gratitude in mind. I could state, for the record, that my life is not without headaches (migraines, actually), chores, frustrations, grief, and hangnails, but I am in a mood to be effusive and optimistic, to declare what I am For, what I love, the ideas I support, the plans I dream of. I admire people that are "fans" of something, that can declare their love or affection or crush, because it's so pure and unapologetic, so daring to be for something, not cynical and mocking. Optimists and fans are brave... I am in awe of their open nature, their willingness to share their truths.

Today I woke up thinking about Alicia Paulson's Inspiration for her Advent Calendar. It's a post of her pure delight, in love with beauty, and an unabashed tribute to favorite things, which Alicia always conveys in her photography, creations, and reflections. Even though I worry that I am too gushing and effusive, I went back to her post and left a comment. Why not? How she sees the world, and the light in which she shares what inspires her, always leaves me feeling a bit awestruck, refreshed, admiring, happy... and that's worth a great deal, I'm for it!

Trick or Treat! Our Halloween was somewhat unconventional, and really quite fun. We coordinated a visit with Max, at school. His last class of the day was over at 6, and he lead us to the place where he regularly gets his dinner. So, six of us went through the cafeteria, all on Max's dining card, then we walked around, visited the arcade. It was a small sampling of campus life! Very small... no homework, no 7 roommates, no abstract algebra!

We got home in time for Maria to enjoy a very small outing to trick-or-treat... 2 stops did the trick, thanks to Janice and Anne. Maria got a huge haul of peanut butter cups, and then at school she did some swapping, and at last, she got an Almond Joy!

I love words.

Eunice. I love her. My Mom and I share text messages, support, little kindnesses and remembrances, and I managed to express an idea about time, how much has passed, yet how it feels like her passing is so recent. Maybe it's because she was such a blessing, so timeless in her life, and influence, and we are ever mindful of her love and of loving her. It is a paradox... a year is too long to be without her, yet it as though no time has passed, and she is still near. Something like that. She is a vivid memory, and was so lively... Yeah, no. I cannot make sense of it.

The watercoloring class field trip happened. The Zoo. It's nearly impossible to not enjoy the Zoo, so even though I was intimidated by "quick-sketching," in public, it was a good day. Giraffes are weird. Flamingos are also weird. And Koalas, are just squinty-eyed fluff forms. And drawing quick impressions of moving, fluffy, strange, and majestical beasts is really hard. But I think mixed in with my discomfort is another feeling... accomplishment? Daring? Trying isn't easy, but it's more interesting than only observing, never stepping out. It's good to be for something, even if I do it poorly. And after the Zoo, Alex, Bambi, and I visited University Heights, and saw one of Alex's job sites, ate lunch, walked around. It was a good day.

November and skies. After about the 5th sky picture I posted to Instagram, I was reminded of last November. It seems there is something about the light and atmosphere in November, because last year I took all kinds of Look at this gorgeous sky photographs, and it's happening, again. Currently it's all about sunrises. I love sunrises in November.

Then Cairo wanders in and surveys the morning, before plopping down on my feet, or stomach. He times it, gets cozy and adorable, about five minutes before I should be getting out of bed.

Ok. Now for some serious effusive gushing! It only took me 25 years, but I "discovered" an independent bookstore: Mysterious Galaxy. The mystery is how did we not know about this place sooner? It's in our old neighborhood. (Ok, granted, we've got a lot of "old neighborhoods" in our housing history, but still!)

The thing with "discoveries" is they usually happen thanks to good tips, and a bit of luck. My good tip and luck came from Susie Ghahremani. After meeting Susie at Maker Faire I learned she was going to have a book signing, but on a date I couldn't make, so I asked about future events and she shared that she would be signing her book, Balance the Birds, at a bookstore in Clairemont.

Clairemont. Our old Clairemont? Yeah! And it's a really great store, and the book signing was great, too. For one thing, Susie was on a panel with other writers and artists, and they were talking about illustrated children's books, and publishing, and that was very interesting. Maria and I love meeting artists, writers, makers, engineers, designers, bakers, farmers, thinkers. So, not only did we discover a really nice independent bookstore, we were introduced to some really nice authors and an artist. Maria found all the books of a favorite author, Megan Whalen Turner; seeing a favorite book, outside of your home, is like running into a dear friend. You just want to hug them! I could hug Susie for the way she signed my copy of her darling book... just look at that darling Chica and her wee chickie!

When I got home, I scooped Mako up and gave her a hug, for Susie.

Not Game of Thrones, but adventurous and compelling enough for reading aloud. Since forever, Maria's brothers have previewed material, books, games, movies, and then shared any they deem worthy, suitable. If there are questionable subjects they edit, or censor, or hit pause and give her some backstory, references, context. And she's sharing, too. High school... I have to remind myself that subject matter is getting pretty "mature." Hearing them read, knowing they are saving up episodes of a program, or have an article bookmarked for the next time they are together is part of everyday, and I cherish it.

This is perfect. It's just the oddest way of life kind of circling back on itself. In high school my very best friend, the one I knew since grade school, wore mismatched socks. Jill was a free-thinker, but I think in most respects she was relatively moderate and conventional. Except for her socks. And I don't know why, in the 80s, in the era of punk and rap, mismatched socks was out there! She didn't flaunt it. She didn't have piercings or shaved anything, but those socks. I couldn't do it. I was odd, not typical, not popular, nor preppie, too poor to be stylish, and too resistant to be trendy, I wore second-hand out of need, then to be counter-culture, but I never had the moxie to deliberately mismatch my socks. Sometimes I'd see her one yellow ankle sock, one blue ankle sock in her pair of white tennis shoes, and I'd shake my head, smile, and think, Now, this is weird. Jill has forever made special impressions on me, that's something I love about her. And somehow, this darling Jillism has returned to my life: Maria wears mismatched socks. She doesn't flaunt it. She's not punk, nor trendy. She's just weird, I guess. I love it.

I don't suppose any of us has had an easy week. Thank goodness we've made some strides for good and the election is behind us. We will stay our course, stay informed, but I think a politics breather is in order... can we do that, for a moment? And this week has brought us to our first year without Eunice. Without Mister Washburn Foo, too, as it happens. But two of my favorite roses bloomed, and I have no good explanation for why that matters, or could help, but it does. I can look at them, and start to cry, but also feel as though there is some kind of heavenly intervention or gesture of love coming my way, and I hold on to that, give it meaning, find some solace.

Perhaps that's all we ever do to comfort and console ourselves... notice beauty, give it meaning, and take solace in the best moments, the gestures of love that come our way.

Take Care and VOTE - Tue, 10/30/2018 - 10:50
Is there really anything else I can say? I am heartbroken over the senseless losses, which I was going to mention, but then I realized that this list is too long, and growing.

Take care. I think of my family, my friends, and all I want is for them to be safe, to have a chance to see their dreams come true, to enjoy adventures, to make something good. I think of neighbors, the cashier at the market, my hygienist, and I want them to be alright, too. Really, everyone. Everyone deserves good health, support in hard times, encouragement when they are close to achieving goals, or when they are too close to giving up. I don't say we can have all of this, all the time, but I want to live in a place and time when racism, sexism, classism, hate, violence, oppression, and cruelty are unacceptable: Period. Respect and kindness, education, clean air and water, healthcare, and leadership that echoes the compassion and generosity I see in my own family, in my neighbors, and friends... that's what I want. I am keeping my expectations high, and I am voting.

Only when it's clean... the cats love to drink the water I have set out for painting. And it doesn't matter if I use a tall jar, with a narrower opening, because they just dip their long arms and paw the water out. So, part of my routine includes waiting for them to come around to lap up the water before I shoo them away and start painting.

Chickens and goats love pumpkin. And it's good for them. I like bringing them their own pumpkin, because of how happy it makes them, and because they peck at it, carving their own Jack-o-lantern, which can get pretty spooky looking. Fall treats are growing all over the garden. We have citrus ripening, and guavas all ready to pick. We even got some decent pomegranates this year, which is delightful.

Eggs... not so much. The hens are molting, and they're in the autumn of their years, so we may have seen the last egg from this flock. Can I confess? I'm not sure I'll be getting chicks, not anytime soon. We've been plagued by stick fleas, and my poor hens suffer. Maybe I feel like I am in the autumn of my years, too. Being a city farmer takes oomph, and I don't feel perky, the way I did 16 years ago. Part of me feels sad about this, and part of me anticipates some relief. What I am really hoping is for a second wind, hopeful sparks of inspiration, and the eradication of all fleas, so that in a year, or two, the idea of raising baby chicks is irresistible.

He looks so attentive, like he might be hanging on my every word. I think Chango found his second wind. He's going upstairs, again. He stopped doing that all summer, and I thought it was just another sign of his years. But we saw him actually dash up the stairs, and even crazier... he bolted out the porch door, like a youthful, mischievous cat. He didn't go far, but seemed to revel in his outdoor excursion. We haven't seen him make this move in a long time. Chango El Cubano is 18 years and 7 months old. He's such a dear old man cat.

Daniel came to school with me. It was so much fun sharing watercolor class with a friend. We met Daniel when my cousin lived with us... back in 1997, and Daniel would cut Gabe's hair, then he started cutting William and Alex's hair, sometimes he'd cut Max's hair. It's such a nice part of being settled in an area that we can look back and recall connections with people, and appreciate that those connections grow, evolve, endure.

Daniel might join our class when we take a trip to the Zoo. In preparation for the field trip, we had a lesson in sketching animals. I've tried to describe the discomfort of that lesson. At home I can sketch, but slowly, and with the option to erase, erase, erase. In class, Kris and Stan prodded us to be quick, work in pen, loosen up! I don't know which is the worst obstacle to confront: Lack of skill, or Pride. I felt so uncomfortable and cringy watching my misshapen creatures appear. But. Maybe it was fun? Maybe, with more practice, this could be alright? When we placed all of our quick sketches, with paint, on a table, the funny animals, the wild lines... well they looked good. They looked artful, expressive, sincere, and comfortably weird.

Trillian, our bird on a wire. She roosts there. I don't know why, or how. I've seen her, and company, roost up there through storms, with hard wind and driving rain. Mad hens.

This hollyhock sprout went to my friend Yanina. I hope it's happy being transplanted. I made a rash choice and just dug it up. It's got plenty of root, and certainly seemed vigorous enough to handle the move.

From my room, I can see the street where Yanina lives, and I often take pictures of that view, the neighborhood across the way, the back country, and distant peaks.

And from my friend's street, we can see our Bird House. I asked Maria to turn on our balcony light, so we could see our home, through trees and the marine layer, at sunset.

After we brought the hollyhock to Yanina's, we went walking, window shopping. Friday night and out with William, Alex, Max, and Maria. We had no agenda, no plan, and it was one of the nicest outings of recent memory. It may be "too soon," but the shops are putting up their holiday sparkle, and I am just fine with it. I am more than fine with the windows, and displays at Anthropologie. I know their store employees assemble and add to many of the creative installations in the store. This one delights me. Gah! The birds, the mice... oversized coloring pages! And deer. I'll be back to take deer pictures, smell candles, gaze at plates, and sigh, more.

What's he building in there? I think WAMMO can recite about every line of Tom Waits' spooky recording. "What's that tune he's always whistling? What's he building in there? We have a right to know." We know, this time. Geoff's building custom shelves that hold storage containers. Floor to ceiling, inspired by a set-up Adam Savage has. We know he spent his entire weekend, blissfully engrossed in designing, welding, sorting. It's not a playhouse for the children. We crack up about this song, and we love our new workshop.

Building, baking, making art, finishing homework, folding clothes, connecting with friends, gazing out windows and enjoying the views... we are doing these, and more. Take care, friends. Take care, and vote.

October Treats - Mon, 10/22/2018 - 13:25

Where do stories begin? I think I will begin with Nedda, and Enchanted Leaves... I came home from Maker Faire with good memories, and some very generous gifts, including a flowering passion vine from fellow Maker and extraordinary jewelry maker, Nedda. She also set us up with a kit so we can learn to electroform, too... and I am preparing a whole day/event/festival for that!

Ok. Hold on. Where do stories begin? Nedda and I met at the Maker Faire in 2017, but just barely. We were both very busy in our own booths, with our own exhibits and activities, but we carried on via Instagram, and this year at the San Diego Maker Faire, we found 3 more minutes to reconnect!

And here's where my story begins... to get ready for our Halloween party, I had a lot of cleaning up to do, preparing, but also just trying to compensate for the neglected yard, and stashes of stuff everywhere. Nedda's little vine inspired me to find a good pot to transplant it into, and then I put our avocado sprout into a pot. Those 2 plants motivated me to wipe down the table I set them on, and then one good deed led to another...


Once upon a time, a very busy and flighty woman took care of a tender young vine, and when she saw how pretty it looked, she began to tidy and tend all around the little vine. She hung up her tools, and sorted all of the odds and ends around the garden. She saw her neglected flower bed, and wrestled with some weeds, turned the soil, and decided: This needs new flowers, new greens, a fresh start. It seemed a low priority, a silly place to begin, when all of the house needed order and repair, when laundry was looming and dishes stacking, but she was decided, and firm, and to the nursery she went! She longed to see fall colors, and her clever daughter said, "Mom, let's bring home flowers the color of fall... the warm and cheerful crimsons, buttery yellows, pansies with maple leaf shades." And that was a very good choice, and by nightfall, all of the new flowers, and the chard and lettuces were tucked into the garden bed, watered and admired. And the happy job done, inspired more tidying, and chores, more spiffing and sprucing, and happy reflection on how a friend can give a gift that starts good deeds that grow and grow.

Maria came out of school, walking toward me, with her sketchbook... walking and sketching. In her last class of the day, photography, the substitute teacher showed a film about National Geographic photographers, and that is when Maria saw Afghan Girl, Sharbat Gula, by Steve McCurry. It is a compelling image, and Maria was eager to capture it, at first from memory. Then the teacher passed around a handout that included a small photocopy of the photograph. I love Maria's art. I love thinking of how much she will enjoy learning more, when she finally takes an art class, maybe next year. She learns so much from her brother, from observation, from any of the talented people she knows, has met. I am glad she continues to practice, to challenge herself.

We couldn't wait for Halloween. This year work and school schedules called for an early celebration of pumpkins, dressing up, and gathering friends, even some trick-or-treating. I recall a very fun evening, generous and helpful friends, delicious contributions, ideal weather, and laughter... wonderful laughter, and just a hint of spookiness. In fact, it was a such a successful party we are ready and willing to think ahead to our Solstice Celebration!

Did I mention talented and influential artists? Bambi made quiche for the party, and she included this darling illustration with ingredients. Bambi, many guests remarked on your art and your cooking! Both are very good.

This basket. Bambi carried both quiches in it, and it has the clever little stand to keep the pies stacked and separate. I love it! Has everyone seen these, and I am only just discovering that such a clever thing exists? I would love to have one.

I say it every time we host a party: Potluck is the best answer to what should we feed everyone?? Marla and Dan came with another one of their amazing cheese platters. And they needn't think of any other contribution to ever bring to any future gatherings. That's Humboldt Fog. Heavenly cheese. And honey. Oh my. And whenever I start mentioning a particular dish or favor, then I feel terribly remiss if I don't add every dish and favor... and there were so many! I dread excluding anyone. Can I just say, every guest came with smiles, and treats, and helping hands, and thoughtful touches. I get such nice comments about our parties, but the key is: Good friends. Good friends make any party special, so thank you, all.

Costume Geniuses, Paul and Geoff.

Good friends kept arriving, with good food, and as always everything was plentiful, and fun.

Simon, Maria, Mia, and Amira... our weather always allows for gathering inside and out.

Leslie with Cerrah and Tim. And this is where I have to say: I really, really wish I had taken more pictures. Lots. More. Pictures. Tim is... can you guess? He's Bob Ross. And that's brilliant enough, but the cutest part is Cerrah, his Happy Little Tree! They won the contest. We weren't having a contest, but they won.

Kay, Max, Bambi and Alex, Tori, Simon, Paul, Maria, Mia, and Amira~

William and his copilot.

We always have trick or treating, with stations around the Bird House. Paul took the barn, Geoff was in the workshop, William passed out candy from the porch, and Tim and Cerrah managed the front door. All ages, no shame... everyone is welcome to go from door to door and collect treats!

Ah, no Halloween is complete without the candy collecting, trading, sorting, and counting. Maria counted her treats in Japanese. Cairo made sure everything was done properly.

I'm still painting. After missing one class, I had a lot to make-up. And this is my second version of the stark trees along a road, this time following the lesson that I missed. Our teacher had us prepare to think about our final project, which comes as a bit of a surprise, but yes... there are not too many Fridays between today and December 9th. Maybe I should be enrolling in the Spring semester class, now.

We celebrated early, but we are still looking forward to more October treats, like pumpkin carving, and pumpkin pie. There's also work and school. Yesterday was an all day homework event for Alex, Max, and Maria. And it felt like all day washing dishes, wish I actually enjoyed.

Ah! Here's Cairo, to remind us that there will certainly be more fun, treats, and spookyness in October.

Cairo Days - Tue, 10/16/2018 - 10:45
This is his nose. Neo Cairo Nepenthes, the puppy cat. The napping, half-fat, tuxedo cat, who is growing back the fur he pulled. I take a lot of pictures of him. He's cute, and behaves ridiculously, which in a cat's case is usually an endearing way to behave. And, somehow, even when he is a little pill, he is endearing. And so, this post, which is really only a collection of the pictures from my phone, features Cairo Fluff Nugget the Boop, quite a bit. I have no regrets.

He knows his name more than any cat I've known or met. And he knows very well when he is misbehaving, which is why at least once a day you will hear someone calling his name, and see him skulking away like a guilty bandit.

I've learned some amazing techniques for watercolor painting, and I am glad, but I am also eager to learn more, and practice more. Maybe I am, at last, a sophomore, not an absolute beginner. But this stage of my studies presents its own humility... I know enough to do better, but the challenge is to apply it all, without being disheartened by the skills I still lack. So, more practice is called for, so I can gain more experience.

Lighthouses are all well and fine, but sometimes I simply need to see my ratty-rats.

And as much as I enjoy painting, sometimes I simply need to crochet, so I emptied my little back of travel wips, and finished the last of the fingering weight yarn from our summer visit to The Cat and Crow. (Which reminds me: I have not blogged a pip nor a peep about that lovely, summer visit to Wisconsin... something I've been meaning to do, because it will be nice to revisit that lovely time.)

Yarn. Wool. From Blackberry Ridge Wooledn Mill. It was a brilliant souvenir: local, compact, lightweight, and crocheting with the autumn colors kept me happily occupied the rest of summer and into fall, making garlands, like the ones I saw hanging in the shop window of The Cat and Crow.

Garlands complete. I already shared one, and I have another I would like to give as a gift. Today I will hang the rest, as we are preparing for a Halloween party. I like to think of them as pumpkins and leaves on a vine.

This is where we left him, when we went out on errands. And this is where we found him, hours later. Teasingly, I asked, "Cairo! Have you been snoozing all this time?"

You're not the boss of me.

Then, when it suits him, he finds a warm lap, and commands snuggles.

Homework days. If this isn't strictly Cairo Days, then it could be Homework Days. Alex is taking his chemistry and history homework with tea for his cold. Max takes his homework with reams of paper for the long proofs he is writing. Maria takes her homework with diligence and attention to detail, and I get to help, too... reading lines in Japanese! I hope some of this sticks!

He quite possibly is the boss of all of us.

Lately - Thu, 10/11/2018 - 14:16

More often than not, my impulse is to write. I like get all the facts down, recorded... the names of people and the dates of events, the order in which we went from here to there and why we went, for what. It's irresistible to me, this journal, my blog. My favorite posts to go back and read are the stories, the long narratives with emotion and reactions, with my earnest attempts to recreate the vivid little moments that I hope to recall, always. Sometimes, though, I rely on lists... quick impressions, notes-to-self.

I want to write all about family visiting from Wisconsin, and our preparations, about Robert from Malawi, and his first time at the ocean, any ocean. I want to document Maker Faire, and not leave out any of the anecdotes and happy impressions, the gratifying way it lifted my spirits, shielded me from outside news and headlines, how I made new friends, felt the connection and kindness and worth of engaging, giving, receiving. I want to share hard and sad events, the things that keep me awake, the weight on our shoulders, and how we cope... how we try to cope. I want to shut out the hate and fears, the worries I have, and just look at pretty pictures, tell pretty stories, make pretty plans.

This is my favorite time of year. These days are good, yet mad with disruption, portentous, and the foreboding wants to taint the beauty, the hope I try to foster. I want to write about that, with the secret longing that words, insights, trepidations, and ideals will shield us, make right, change the course from disquiet and despair, to influence, regard, resolve, understanding, love. That would be a lot of words, a lot of unraveling feelings and thoughts.

Sometimes I cannot write everything down, make the strong emotions into reason, grammar, sentences. Sometimes I just want to paint, or cry, dig, watch chickens.

This is my favorite time of year, and I'm thinking of loved ones, and feeling sentimental and thankful, and very concerned about the world.

Back to School, Back to Vikings - Mon, 09/24/2018 - 14:50

It's not that we want to celebrate too early... we just want to make the moment last, and last. Fall, pumpkins, turning leaves, even a morning drizzle, all of it is welcome and celebrated, merrily. So, we have pumpkins, already, and Halloween inspired sketches.

The witch hat? Oh, that's just a Thursday thing, where Maria goes to school. She is making it to the after school meetings for Robotics Club, and the lunch meetings for the Comic Club. She's finding her people, exploring, discovering, and navigating. It's fun to observe, to listen to her accounts of activities and the subjects that are becoming favorites, even the less favorite moments are shared in detail, with firm conviction of stance. Some things, of course, are not as expected, but she's catching on, and settling in. High school. She's got this.

As for my back to school. Whew! Last class was hard. My usual days are a mix of activities, and paces, and places. In class, my attention is on the lesson, and in the moment, for 6 hours! And there were some personality clashes that popped up, rather dramatically, which added some tension. That was weird. Atypical.

The brush strokes are Stan's, our second teacher. He's masterful. I am not showing a particularly masterful example. I took the picture, because this was the paper where he wiped off paint. I would be happy to produce strokes like these from wiping off my brushes.

Yes, I am still in the humbled phase, and nothing I did in class compelled me to take a picture. I came home and passed out, until dinner, then decided to use what I learned, and once again apply it to my own little pieces.

Max's back to school is upon us, too. His move-in date came, and we helped him get some stuff into his dorm. It was surprisingly difficult to determine which was the "A bed." Unfortunately, the A bed was the least appealing, and it's corresponding desk isn't great, either. The little apartment has 3 rooms and 7 residents. Also, it's about the furthest from the center of campus as can be. But! There are trees, and greenbelts, and even an edibles garden, and the path to campus is wide and clear of street traffic. We walked a lot that day.

Pumpkins and marigolds are back. And lilikoi butter is back... and I am thankful for the blog, because I needed the recipe I used last year, but I couldn't remember which recipe I used, or where to find it, then I remembered Chickenblog! So, it's back to school, back to fall, back to loads and loads of passion fruit, and...

Back to the Viking Festival! And for this I am only sharing pictures, and one thought: I want to runaway and join a Viking guild and learn to make lots and lots of things!

Nearly Fall - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 11:24

We are still having pleasant weather, and I look forward to seeing overcast skies, foggy mornings, dew on the tips of leaves. Some days are warmer than I'd like, but between wild fires and hurricanes, I am relieved and thankful for what nature is serving up in our little corner of the world.

I imagine, everywhere there is someone looking for relief from something. When did I ever get the idea that obstacles and sorrows come at intervals, with some time to recover, and perhaps even longer spells of relief and ease? My naiveté never ceases to catch me off-guard, and feeling incompetent. What was that quote someone framed for me? Ah! John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." So, while I was planning to tidy the house and turn an office into a guest room... life melted our pool pump, killed the defrost mechanism on the refrigerator, and put our credit card number in criminal hands. And that's not all, nor the worst, but @#$%! I really want a break.

The other day Maria hit her hip on the corner of the kitchen counter, and it was such a hard blow, we heard it. She winced, and gasped, clenching her fist. I was getting her ice, when we all declared, Maria, you could scream, or say something colorful. It would be justified. And we braced ourselves for some foul language, a verbal release of the throbbing pain and frustration, and with bold expression and release, she hurled, "Ding-dang, dag-nabbit! It was heartfelt, and genuine, and we laughed, amused at her characteristically sweet nature. Fortunately, in expression, and manners, she takes after her brothers.

It really is nearly fall. I had to Google the date... September 22, it is, and the same day Max moves into his dorm room. My head is reeling a bit, now, thinking of all the deadlines and to-do items on lists, on our shoulders. There's a Maker Faire coming soon, and guests on the calendar. Good things, actually, but I slip further and further behind on the maintenance, chores, errands, repairs, recovery, breathing, releasing, coping, repeating.

Good things include... successful completion of my first painting in art class, but then I tried to apply what I learned to my ratty-rats, and I feel like I made a mess.

Oh. That's no way to count blessings, now is it? I think of something good and then I notice something contrary, and trying.

Let me start again.

Good things include... Geoff rebuilt the pool pump with parts he made himself, and he got the refrigerator working. I cleaned the spice shelves, and finished one metric ton of laundry. Alex is progressing on the art studio he has been dreaming up; the foundation is built, and he's ready to lay down flooring. He continues to enjoy his job manufacturing and installing sheet metal parts for homes and commercial buildings. William created a new reproduction flint-lock pistol, and it is beautiful. Max has three restful weeks between summer school and the fall quarter, and he was able to enroll in the classes he needs to fulfill his major. Maria loves her Japanese class, and homeroom, and English, and she's begun attending robotics' club meetings. She is finding her way, with grace and determination, and when I observe her, I am encouraged, heartened.

More good things... waking up to cool floors, and hot tea, finding tasty food to pack for lunches, and watching our cats do the funny things cats do. Long talks about good books, making plans for holidays, and every day, and Saturday, are favorites, and good. Popping corn straight off the cob is a very good and amusing thing, and it reminds me to revisit one of the resolutions I made at the start of the year: Use things up and enjoy what is on hand... the good plates, the favorite jams, the yarn and paints, and ideas. I forget. And then I find a corncob I carried home from Massachusetts, from Plymouth Plantation, and I finally do something with it, enjoy it. It's a good thing to remember that we can start again, keep trying, reset our course. I forget, and I am glad to be reminded, and to have the courage to begin again.

I am late and behind, I feel inadequate, fumbling, and scant, but it's nearly fall, and that is good enough to hearten me, and I will begin, again.

Let's Talk About The Weather... - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 12:10

For once, I am happy to talk about the weather, in September. Small talk, in general, is the safest bet, these days. Maria and I were remarking that we feel sorry for the month of September, in California, because it's only noteworthy for how un-special it can be. It's a month that sits between the fun and freedom of summer, and the real pleasures and anticipation of fall, and holidays. And as much as I wish for signs of fall, September is invariably hot, dry, and full of furnace-like winds. But never mind all of that... because September, so far, has been really quite blissful this year. We have sleeping weather, with open windows bringing in cool night air, even breezes, and morning fog, overcast days. The ocean is still warm, and the days do get sunny. It's been practically idyllic, our weather. We even woke up to a light drizzle, and I went around the yard taking pictures of dew drops, and then we got so excited we made a scaled-down Thanksgiving dinner, complete with cranberry sauce and roasted sweet potatoes.

Nancy, Grandma Nancy, passed away. I can't talk about it. I've barely begun to process Eunice's passing, and that was in November. I might scream if someone says anything about a long life, because I am still emotional, not rational. There is a lot I can see to be thankful for, and admiring of, but I need time. I've begun to read about grieving, and loss, and I conclude: I'm missing resources, and this is going to take a long time.

This is not the small talk I am equipped to carry on with.

Manageable small talk subjects...

Beach Season
Signs of Fall

Art class meets every Friday, and after the first, introductory class, I feel about as inclined to drop, as continue. Yesterday, mentally, I quit at least a dozen times. This is hardly admirable, or an easily manageable small talk subject. In anticipation of being in an art class, I've been going back to my sketchbook, but I've hit a wall. I haven't been able to produce anything creative, pleasing, or worthwhile. I am used to being an amateur, to struggling, and working diligently to finish my little paintings and drawings, but I am in a total seized with fear and intimidation phase. It does not bode well. At least I know with age comes experience, and in my experience the start of anything new can be rife with insecurity and self-doubt. So, my most deepest hopes are, that in time, I will find a groove, and in more time, I will benefit, develop skills, and lose that gnawing voice of doom that echoes in my brain box.

But if you would rather... let's talk about fall, or cats, or tacos.

Unspoken - Sat, 09/08/2018 - 10:16

Did I have hope? Hope that what we carry, and feel, what we believe, can be meaningful, can be sorted, and put in order? I keep saving pretty things, and all of my feelings, hopes, ideas, dreams, for later, thinking that I will have time to complete projects, finish untangling threads of thought and emotions, express it all, and that it will give me peace of mind, comfort, understanding. Instead I have things and feelings in boxes, everywhere, stashed, dusty, unseen. And I find it harder and harder to open up, to speak, or share, to even hope that any of it is worth sharing. The world feels full of boxes and I do not have the clarity of mind, nor heart, to open any.

September Bittersweet - Sun, 09/02/2018 - 10:42
The package I sent all the way to Ireland arrived, so now I can show the completed handkerchief. I guess the only thing I didn't share before were her initials. Anyway, this is the completed handkerchief, which I confess I am a bit proud of. I was chagrinned to realize that though I was participating in a swap about Beatrix Potter, I didn't have any actual Beatrix Potter themed stuff to offer. So, it was in haste that I painted Peter Rabbit, then added the tiny robin. Maybe the feeling is actually relief, not pride, because I was glad to have something that seemed fitting to send off to HC. So, yes, I believe it's relief I feel, because I am not always certain that I should make agreements or offers, participate or sign up; I have a fear of disappointing people, not fulfilling my end.

It felt good taking on embroidery, again. So I went straight away to starting the next handkerchief, settling on depicting a sheep in a simple meadow. I'd already added deep green grass and bright golden flowers, when I woke up to this sunrise, and it delights me to see that the two... the colors, even textures of the sunrise, and my sheep are so much alike.

It's ok if you don't see it. Being easily amused, I am happy to make the comparison. This may be my favorite handkerchief yet.

But between the leaping sheep and the tiny curls of the sheep's wool, I cannot pick a favorite. Have I mentioned that I am easily amused?

This little bird house came home with me from Minneapolis, from a shop in Linden Hills, Heartfelt. This is evidence of yet another crush. I've shared my Portland crush, and my general New England crush, and I'm sure I've shared my Minneapolis crush, too. How about Madison, and Door County? And how about the Troll Town in Wisconsin, Mt Horeb? Not yet? I will. Soon. There are places in the world that have me smitten, in love, in a daze, and I imagine that I could live there, and be fabulously happy, make scads of friends, and do good deeds, live purposefully, and look out every window and be glad of the views. Linden Hills is one of those neighborhoods that I adore, and the craft store, by my favorite bakery, across from one of the best bookstores, is full of supplies, inspiration, and space for making... just thinking of it has me crushing hard, all over again.

I woke up somewhat startled to realize that this is September, and the little bird house reminded me of my favorite place to be in September... Wisconsin, the Midwest, for Grandma Nancy's birthday. And with happy memories still fresh in my mind, from any number of Septembers we have enjoyed in Wisconsin, with Nancy, I imagine what we would do if we were there, now, and it is bittersweet... happy, and sad. Outside, over there, we have had such wonderful times, and there is such heartache in knowing that so much is evolving, changed, that those days are drawing to an end.

If this year has had a message, a lesson to show me, it's been about endings, these inevitable parts of life, where we lose even the best people. But I am not taking these lessons easily, nor well. Not at all. And I am certainly not ready for any more.

A Quieter Nest - Thu, 08/30/2018 - 12:11
I feel a bit turned around. Our nest is not empty, but it's much quieter, stranger. One day to the next, there are new routines, different schedules, and life feels different. A lot is new, and unfamiliar. I'd call this a period of adjustment, and there are more changes coming. For one thing, Alex is back to school, and working. Max is almost done with his summer class, and will soon be moving back into a dorm. And Maria... Maria is really, officially, in high school. (I may repeat this, frequently, for emphasis, and to convince myself it's true. It feels all too sudden, and even on day 3, catches me off-guard.) My own first day of school is next week, and in the meantime, I am urging and coaxing myself into filling my emptier hours with meaningful activities.

In the days leading up to Maria going back into a school, we kept reminding ourselves, "There are only 4 more days. What should we do? Should we go somewhere?" Then it was 3 days, and so on. And each new day we would eagerly assess our options and consider the gravity of our waning summer, the impending It, school. High school.

Being both excited for Maria, and naturally a bit anxious, too, I am happy to have a fun distraction, in the form of a themed swap, I am participating in on Instagram. It's been a perfect diversion. The theme is Beatrix Potter and the organizers matched all the participants with partners, and descriptions of our interests, and favorite colors, and our favorite Beatrix Potter character, so we can swap handmade gifts, and other goodies. I already forgot which character I said was my favorite... Hunca Munca? Mrs. Tiggywinkle? No matter. The real fun has been in seeing what everyone is making, without revealing who the gifts and favors are for, and getting reacquainted with what I like about the woman, Beatrix Potter. She was not only an artist and author, she was a naturalist, a scientist and conservationist. A few years ago I read Beatrix Potter, A Life in Nature.


But, wait.

Oh dear... I've mentioned all of this before.

Yeah. Seriously, stop me if you've heard this one before.

Something new... a few glimpses of things I made for my partner. My package has a long way to travel, and so I won't share too much. I wouldn't want to give away the surprise.

It's a handkerchief, and I painted and embroidered Peter Rabbit and tiny robin.

I keep pretending that I am not going to think about fall. And I post to Instagram that I am trying not to get preoccupied with thoughts about fall, and leaves, and pumpkins and sweaters. But, of course, I am totally obsessed... my determination to be casual and indifferent is an utter and complete failure.

Maybe I've blogged about these? Spoon tomatoes are the silliest thing I've ever planted, and if I can get into a time machine, I will stop myself from ever letting those near my home. Just a touch of drama, but the plant means to take over the entire yard! They come back, more and more, every year, and they are impossible to control, because the fruit are teeny teeny tiny and just go wherever they may. I let the chickens and goats free-range on them. We harvest them, too, but it's more than we can manage. Silly things. And really, who doesn't appreciate having silly things to occupy their thoughts? It's much better than actually bad things filling our heads.

The Anagram Sisters and our back-to-school breakfast meet-up. Surprisingly, they've never gone to the same school! Not for grade school or junior high. But, now they are freshmen, together, at the same school. I've been saying that these pictures are being taken with one of those phone filter apps... this one is the high school filter and makes them look older and more sophisticated than I am prepared to recognize. You should see Maria's student i.d. I was not prepared for that grown-up look, either.

Sorry to say, the girls did not get classes together. But, they did get classes they wanted, and like. Maria has Japanese, English, dance PE, and a technology rotation series that will include auto shop, theater, and computer programming. Next semester she'll add math, and maybe metal shop. The school has a schedule that works out so they take eight full classes in a year, but at something of a college pace... four classes per semester.

Official. First day. And a page from Maria's sketchbook, the night before. She's not taking any art this year, but she's eager about getting an art class next year, a real art class, at last. She's looking forward to so many new subjects and opportunities.

Speaking of new opportunities... Alex is enjoying his work with a sheet metal company. He gets a chance to manufacture and install, and he's working with friends. We never knew his great-grandfather, Gil, but Alex has managed to slip into a family trade, metal work. I am reminded of driving around San Antonio, Texas with my Mom, and her pointing out buildings around the city that he helped construct.

Alex is up very early for work. And the first day of school we were all up very early with Maria. But on this second day, pretty as it was, I laughed knowingly, and said to Geoff, "Well, it's day 2, and the novelty has officially worn off!" It's so much easier and more pleasant for me to be an early bird when no one expects it of me. It's really not bad, now, but when that first cold spell hits, and the blankets are too cozy... it's gonna be brutal! (Don't tell Maria I said so.)

Someone remarked that Ada has a "heart-shaped nose." That's sweet. I just love her face, and Tasha's too. They are cuties.

It seems like the chicas are mellowing a bit. Pepper and Pippi aren't quite the feathered terrors they used to be. The dears are getting on in years. Has it been 5 years since most of them were chicks? I've lost track. They are still laying, which is nice. I wouldn't exactly call them "cuties," but they have their good qualities.

I've got a second handkerchief in the hoop. This one is for me. A sheep standing in her meadow. And in the other corner, a leaping sheep.

Ah-ha! We do get signs of fall in our neck of the woods, and how about that view? Pacific pumpkins. My friend, Lani calls this the "million dollar pumpkin patch." Those lucky pumpkins!

Lucky us, too.

Since I am determined to fill my emptier hours with meaningful activities, I am thankful for pumpkin and pacific views, for street art, roses, my cell phone camera, and blank handkerchiefs, floss, and time to stitch my whimsical notions. And since I am always thankful for clean clothes, I'd better see what I can do on that front.

Are there signs of fall, where you are?

Naive Set Theory - Thu, 08/23/2018 - 10:15

Naive Set Theory. That's what Max's recent lesson was about... "set theory," but simple so they call it "naive." He's enrolled in Mathematical Reasoning, for summer, and finally he has a class he describes as challenging, rigorous, which prompted Maria to ask, "But fun, right?" And Max brightened, "Yes. Fun." He brings the fun home, sharing his favorite lessons, and concepts. Our first lesson was Saturday morning, after his first week in class. Last night he came home with Geoff, after 9pm, eager to share something new. Step by step, patiently and with enthusiasm he took Maria through the symbols, abstractions, and reasoning of set theory, until at last they finished with a truth table. I am enjoying these new expressions, like proving through contradiction, and naive set theory.

Yesterday there was a parent orientation at Maria's school, and I walked into the room in time to hear an administrator ask the parents something to the effect of... Is everyone excited to get their kids out of the house and back to school?

No, I said aloud.

I get that it's meant to be "humorous," and maybe it's actually appealing to some families. But it makes me sad, and I cannot relate to the cultural tone and attitudes about children, about our own children, that we must be eager to "get away from them," that they "lie," that they are "untrustworthy," "have poor taste," are "annoying." And the expectation always seems to be that if you're keeping it real, not boasting, then you should nod in agreement, share your own kids these days flavored anecdote. Maria gets a variety of this culture fail, too, whenever people tease her about having brothers, suggesting they are probably "mean" or "bullying" or that she must be "tormented" by them. When she was younger, and these comments were directed at her, she looked confused, and would ask, "What do they mean? Why do people say 'brothers aren't nice?'" Now, she's accustomed to the small talk, and declares "My brothers are great. I love them," with a look and tone that dares anyone to say otherwise.

My calendar is already marked with every half-day, school holiday, and long weekend, because I am excited for the time we will have together, as a family, when I can hear their ideas, cook and craft with them, travel, explore, and read aloud with them. It's not to say that I love every kind of music they enjoy, or that I relish finding abandoned socks in the living room... but I have poor taste and bad habits, too, so? I don't see any good in constantly expressing this "joke" that children are doing everything wrong, that we need to get away from them. I don't feel it, and I don't want to perpetuate the norm, because it is false, and damaging.

Now I'm all fired up. And smiling about my effusive views. Don't get me started on those horrible videos from one generation describing all the failings, and shortcomings of an upcoming generation! Seriously! Sometimes a little criticism comes in handy, but all of the hyper-critical, negative labeling, and blaming is a destructive mess!

Now, I am really fired up.

My hygienist had news for me, "You are grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw." And we had a whole discussion about how the state of the world has got a lot of us grinding our teeth. So, I'm supposed to consider taking some magnesium, and maybe I should cut back on news consumption. Of course, when the news is good, that has got to be good for my clenched jaw, and all the rest of my bones, I am sure. Come to think of it, my jaw might feel better if I just went ahead and opened up about what I think and feel, getting fired up and effusive, and saying aloud, "No, I am not excited about my children leaving the house! I am excited about them loving school, and sharing their enthusiasm. I am excited about buying fresh notebooks and more pencils, and supporting the robotics team, and weekends and holidays. Also, I am keeping them home when they are sick, or if we find something better to do."

In other news...

Maria and I found those filter things that put masks and hats and glasses on your picture. We are so late to the party, I'm not sure there is a party! But we had the best time with these, and William played with us, too. And, for the record... I am really darn adorable with a bunny nose, sparkle eyes, and fluff ears. I had no idea.

My latest shawl is done. I wanted it to have more than one or two colors, and I tried to add different stitches. It started to curl... which I guess is because of the varying stitches. But, I like it. And I'm already making a blanket now. Also, someone at the dentist's office saw me crocheting, and asked where I learned (that's a whole story)... she says I stitch "over" and that's not typical of English or American crocheting style. It was a funny exchange. I wonder what would happen if I try wrapping the yarn under, instead of over...

Our plum tree gave us more plums than last year. We hope this tasty trend continues. And everyone in our local area should get ready to come over for passionfruit, soon. And our avocado pits our sprouting. Countdown to guacamole starts now! (ahem)

I finally dared myself to actually use the lotion bar I ordered from Posie. I have this terrible habit of saving special things for the "right" time, and that is rarely a good thing. So, at bedtime, I indulge, and massage my hands with this beautiful lotion bar. It smells, and feels, as pretty as it looks.

If she didn't have a backpack, already, this Black Panther backpack is Maria's ideal backpack. (For some sad reason her mom is trying to make a point about economizing and being practical... blah, blah, blah.)

Wait... do I have a backpack? A back to school backpack? My class starts the first week of September. Everyone is excited to get me out of the house and back to school! lol

August New Year - Sun, 08/19/2018 - 11:26
Somewhere in August, maybe early September, it feels like we are beginning a New Year. Partly it's to do with school; a large part, I am sure. I feel it too, because of other changes, like how our town gets quieter, visitors go home, the beaches empty out, and we begin to anticipate holidays... The Holidays. I suppose I could think of it as a grande finale to the old year, the last hurrah before 2019. But that is not how I think of it. I am in the mood to tidy corners, sharpen pencils, and do anything that will brighten the mood for a fresh start, for a new year.

It's kind of too soon, to think of pumpkins, to picture where we will put a Christmas tree, to decide on Thanksgiving side dishes. But only kind of... in some ways, I feel it's as good a time as any. I am craving warm socks on cool floors, different colors, comfort foods coming out of the oven. Of course, it would be a tremendous boon if the weather would cooperate. People are going back to school, and I see more and more comments like, 'Summer is fading,''More signs of Fall,' and for 2 seconds it makes me perk up, and feel wishful. If only we could bypass Santa Ana winds, and the hottest days of the year, and no one would miss the dread Fire Season, which comes earlier and earlier, stays longer and longer.

Tutu Ruth took Maria back-to-school shopping. High school shopping. The whole outing was an adventure and delight, including seeing pretty shops, reminiscing, and finding the best fitting, most comfy, and darling pair of jeans. These are the style pants that Maria designs and puts on the characters she creates and illustrates, and I know just what she means when she says, "I love that I can find the pants I have been imagining and wanting, but now it means they will be everywhere, and popular, and it will seem as though I'm copying."

9 more days... sigh. When I think of it, when I look at this picture, I just want to start all over, go back to the days when she could be by my side all day long. I don't regret anything, there's little I would change (I would take more pictures!) I have just loved it all so much, with each of my children... the days, and moments, the laughter, adventures, lessons, and challenges, the discoveries, love, and wonder, the honor of being their Mom, and especially of seeing them be, and become. Back to school, and even the freshman year of high school is hardly the end of childhood, of parenting, but I've been here 3 times before, and I know too well, that this is a gate, a threshold, and we will pass through it more swiftly than I can bear. There are moments when I catch myself thinking of Max, and seeing him through high school, but that's done and over; he's a junior at university. I cannot keep up.

Seeing her, I feel an invocation of blessings swell up and catch in the back of my throat, words to pour out over her, like an intercession, a shield against real harm. In living, to grow, we have setbacks, disappointments, missteps... these are inevitable, and conducive, too. But, you know... we want our children to have their chance, to be safe, to face challenges and enjoy success, know what it is to make their own dreams come true. And just now, when I am expected to step back and let go, a little more, I cannot help but want to give her advice, and tips, magic, whole grains, witty quips, daring, and resilience... really just the confidence in herself of all that I already see in her. And if I could watch, if I could sit unobserved at the back of a room... I would love to see her in Japanese class, watch her find the best place to eat her lunch, have the pleasure of seeing her story unfold, just a little bit more.

August skies are what redeem all of summer's lesser qualities. I love the storm clouds that appear in our eastern horizon, over the foothills and mountains of the county. Thunderheads, and great towering cumulonimbus thrill me. I can forgive the muggy heat, the sleepless nights, the overcrowded beaches, so long as the sky puts on it's summer show, the blockbuster cloud displays of August.

Alex is in Fullerton, a couple of hours north, helping Bambi move into her apartment. Back to school. It's everywhere. She can come back here on some weekends, and during breaks, but I simply like it better when everyone is nearby. That's it. Too many friends, and most of my family is far-flung, and there's no remedy or compensation for missing them, for feeling sentimental and nostalgic, and wishing we knew each other, had time together like we did in the old days.

Oh what a mushy, sad mood I feel. You have no idea. Be sure, I am being constrained and rational, compared with what I think and feel.

Here are the last two of the game I played on IG, 7 books, without review or explanation. And since CB is not IG, I will annotate, because that is my prerogative. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society saved me from becoming a complete non-reader. Here is something I am extremely embarrassed, loathe, to admit, but I've hardly read a novel since... I don't know when. I read. I read the news, articles, blog posts, recipes, letters, snippets, bits, practical columns, necessary verses, but nothing narrative, nothing between two covers, with a protagonist, setting, plot. I'd lost my way with long-form stories, best-sellers, classics, substantive chronicles. Maybe I felt too busy. Maybe there was too much of any number of obstacles and justifications, between me and a good read. But. Whatever. I saw the movie, first, then listened to the Audible, and now I have the book. And that's so backwards and unfamiliar from how I ever do anything, did anything... I hardly recognize myself. But, maybe that's something to consider... maybe I need to take some time and become acquainted with me. Maybe this new year feeling and back to school shifts is for me, too. Nothing stays the same, season to season, year to year. Perhaps I should reconsider what I believe(d) about who I am and how I do things, and reacquaint myself with me, today, and tomorrow.

This shawl has become (another) prayer shawl, and in it go my best thoughts, recollections, and hopes for peace and comfort for people I care for. In each stitch and new row are my concern, love, best wishes for us all.

Well. My heading is buzzing, and I feel like stopping at this moment is like leaving an unfinished row in my crocheting. But, I am going to pause with the blogging, just now. I am going to start a load of laundry, consider what's for lunch, and give my newfound thoughts some consideration.

Row By Row - Wed, 08/15/2018 - 11:54

The goats escaped. If I don't close the gate just right, the latch is just slippery enough for a heavy goat to push her way out, and that is what Tasha and Ada did. Lean in, ladies, and the world is yours for the taking! They probably had an hour or two before anyone noticed. Well, the hens noticed. And I am sure Cairo, watching from the porch, nose pressed against the screen... he certainly noticed. They weren't completely fatigued by the time we discovered them, and Tasha still had some mischief in her. You can see the chickens know that something yummy may come of Tasha's exploring. She and Ada know how to open the feed cans, but maybe they were too full of grass and tomato vines to dive into the treats. Plus it's hot, and somehow the drive to extend ourselves more than necessary is too much to bother with in this heavy, glaring weather. For once, it was easy to lure the goats back into their shelter, and the chickens followed suit.

The plumeria love the weather, and the hollyhocks, too. Chango likes to be in cool places, like stretched out on the kitchen floor, or where the breeze comes through the front screen. But Chango also loves company, and no matter how hot it gets, he will never miss the chance to curl up on someone's lap. He seems smaller and more frail every day, and none of us can stand to deny him any little comfort, so he has all the canned pumpkin and free laps his heart desires.

If it's silly of our cat to seek warm places to nap, it's perhaps even sillier for me to be crocheting in this climate. But there I go, row after row. I am driven by these colors and by the urge to try new stitches. I am making all of this up as I go. And even though I am determined to add new stitches, I am too lazy to look up tutorials, or finally learn how to read crochet patterns. My experiment may yield something worthwhile, but just like when I cook, I can't be sure I'll be able to replicate the recipe I have concocted. And the shawl is getting big, and warm. It won't be any use until December, maybe February. Will winter ever come? And rain. Out West, we all crave some rain. I try not to think about Fall, and rain, about cold mornings, and baking, and because I try not to think of these, I am nearly obsessed with anticipation, and frankly, that is silly as well.

The Mess draws closer and closer to recovery. In fact, we have already started using the refrigerator, again. It is on double secret probation and we hope we've repaired all leaks and damages. But there is still painting and caulking to do. Ugh. But! We have ice, and we have that marvelous honeymoon period where I only want prettiness and order inside the refrigerator. I love the feeling I get, post-crisis, when I am overcome with relief and gratitude and a seemingly boundless determination to be good, and efficient, prudently organized and not unlike a domestic goddess of order and serenity. Yes, all of that just from having a refrigerator making ice, and nearly back in the recess where it belongs. So close. I hope this is the longest running honeymoon ever.

Did you know you can prove something by contradiction? Max taught us how. Well, he taught me how. Geoff knew, and Maria caught on very quickly. I was slow to catch on, but Max is infinitely patient. This is all from his summer course, Mathematical Reasoning. Before he finishes summer school, Maria will begin her freshman year of high school, and I will start school next week! (I did it! I applied and in a day or two, I will enroll in that art class I've had my eye on. Do I need a lunch pail? New shoes? A haircut? I may be getting as excited as I am nervous...) It's funny, and contrary: I am so eager to rush into fall, into cool nights and overcast days, but then again, everything moves so quickly, and soon I may lament the days that have passed too swiftly.

Maria translated from Latin (thank you Google) the message on our board... Regard with wonder that which the smallest of creatures display. And I think we may add time. I want to be in wonder of time, of each row, and season, to be present in this day.

August, Bit by Bit - Sat, 08/11/2018 - 13:15

Here are bits of August... and only the first five days of this month. This hot month. Let's just get that stated and over with. I won't linger on the subject of heat, of humidity. I won't drone on about how some evenings even the merciful breeze has left us. It's hot here, and hotter other places, and don't know of many that are enjoying this. Thankfully, we also have shade, and breezier days, and the fans help, and (begrudgingly, but also so very thankfully) I let Geoff run the a.c. unit in our bedroom... it is a contentious point, because I have a list of grievances against a.c., and wish to singlehandedly contribute to saving the world, but also I am useless without sleep. (What is an empathic, bleeding-hearted liberal to do?)

The good bits of August also include Max's birthday, and the friends that joined us in a spontaneous celebration. Basically I tracked down a cake, and we sang, and ate cake beneath the shade of the trees lining our street.

Funny month August... it feels like the heart and start of real summer, what with the weather, and our town being full of tourists, the heady smell of sunblock and surf, and yet back-to-school is rearing it's needy head, and so there are forms to fill, supplies to replenish, orientation dates to mark. Both Max and Maria are starting new schools, so there are new hoops to jump through, new cultures, new routines to anticipate. And! Max signed up for a summer course... Mathematical Reasoning. So, August suggests a freedom, a dash across sandy shores, and catching fireflies, merriment, abandon and glee, but really it's also knocking on the door, with an urgent message... Get ready. It's business time.

I miss ice cubes that magically appear from a tall appliance that stands tucked away in our kitchen. So... where we stand with The Mess... the tiles are set, and grouted, and next comes drywall, then we can put the refrigerator back in place (It's not repaired, but if I understand correctly, I believe we are going to vigilantly monitor the situation and adjust our sails as needed.) Also, I have a dread suspicion about the state of the inside of our disabled refrigerator... we were convinced the refrigerator was a tosser, and when we emptied and moved it, then wrapped it in caution tape and warned people not to stand too near it, because it is a teetering 4 ton monolith, we left out a crucial step: We did not clean it out. I cannot bring myself to type the words I would use to describe what I suspect we are going to discover. In the pantry we still have shelves to reinstall, more painting to do, and in the hall, all of our assorted treasures and holiday dishes, vases, knick-knacks etc need to be cleaned and settled back into their spaces. By now, after seeing them lined on the floor since July, I'm less inclined to see them as treasures and more as contenders for a yard sale. We are cursed with blessings.

On Instagram I post pretty pictures; not to create a false depiction of my life, not to suggest that I have superior domestic skills, and enjoy only curated days, blithely unaware of global warming, dust bunnies, or my unbrushed hair. The pretty pictures are to help me cope, to give me hope, to keep my focus on those many blessings we enjoy. Yes, the point of view I share is skewed and highlights the shinier moments, but believe me... I am the second picture of Cairo, not the wide-eyed floof nugget of cuteness.

If you are struggling, too, if life is complicated, hot, heavy, messy, or a bit too much... I understand. I get it. Come, sit next to me. Let's talk, or let's just dangle our feet in some cool water, and exchange funny videos of pets. There's still three more weeks of August to go, and it may get hotter, messier, and we need to see each other through this. I think the pretty pictures, small breaks, really long breaks, and silly cats help.

Home Days - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 11:05
When I took this picture, I had to put down the bundle of dirty clothes I was carrying, because I needed to capture this moment... this moment when I saw a space clean, safe, pretty, holding tokens of things that I love, things that make me smile, like chamomile blossoms, art, and toys, favorite books, summer light. And I distinctly recall, and feel again, the joy of this space, this freedom, and I wished, I wish everyone could have their space, a place, or a feeling of acceptance, of comfort, a respite from worry, a beacon of light, hope, with room for art, and favorite books.

And then, of course, there are other parts of home! And rather than show you rotted floor boards, and water logged dry wall, let's just take a moment to read Cairo's expression. Oh, kitty! He's claimed the case of socket wrenches on the dining table, in the midst of our plumbing and appliance catastrophe. (Crisis. Catastrophe. Fiasco. Disaster? Disruption? The right nomenclature is so so very important.) Cairo, with his look of disapproval, will stand in for the very worst pictures of The Mess.

What we have here is a very large, 15 year old(-ish) refrigerator with a freezer door that leaks like a sieve. We are going to fix that.

And we are going to fix the broken pipe, the studs, the drywall, the flooring, the pantry, the hall cupboards, all of it. All hands on deck, and Geoff at the helm. It wasn't what we had in mind for our evenings, weekends, and summer days, but at least we have some tools and skills, and so this is just part of our home days.

Fortunately, there is more to our home days than damage control and trips to the hardware store.

And things are steadily progressing. And, just look at all of those baked beans! I could never completely despair when I have four cans of baked beans in my pantry.

I also have favorite books, and an IG friend invited me to play a game... for 7 days I post a picture of a book, without explaining or reviewing it. I was tickled to be included. And it's been interesting to consider the books I want to share. It makes me wonder about my tastes, interests, motivations, where I take my inspiration.

And there's another introspective and engaging activity I am involved in... a swap. Who remembers swaps? They were so plentiful and frequent in the olden days of blogging. I found this one, celebrating Beatrix Potter, at Bobby Pin Bandit. Now I am in it... creating inspiration and mood boards, and preparing to make something to delight a recipient in the gift exchange. I know her favorite colors, and interests, I have seen her inspiration board. Actually, I am enjoying seeing everyone's ideas, and creations. I feel immersed in a stream of whimsy and happiness.

And someone knows my favorite colors, and maybe they've seen this board I made, with help from Pinterest (featuring works and inspiration from Beatrix Potter herself, Alicia Paulson, Maggie Rudy, Cherished Vintage, Molly Brett, Jean Baptiste Monge, and others I had trouble identifying.) My tastes and interests are wildly eclectic. It's nice to think a package will come for me, in this fun swap. But I am already enjoying participating. Like with the book game, it's giving me a chance to ponder my interests, and think about the things that make me feel joyful, amused, taken in. When I spent more time with Pinterest I enjoyed collecting images, and organizing them into boards... it's like curating your own magazine, or building a massive scrapbook. I am still working out my understanding of what I enjoy about this... and trying to refute the idea in my head that it's only indulgent and superficial. Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts... no end of opinions and thoughts. Sometimes it's just nice to go with a feeling, especially a good one.

Somewhere in this house is a little figurine, Hunca Munca. Where can she be? I have this book about Beatrix Potter, which I admit I thought would be a bit more of a narrative, fanciful, romantic tome... it's actually rather academic and... what's the word? Well, it's a bit unvaried, straight to the facts and dates. I guess, when I started it I was in a mood for something more emotional, and descriptive. Good grief... this is why I don't write book reviews. I sound a bit dull, myself. It's a good, factual book, and actually a brilliant resource for getting to know a woman far more complex and significant than her mice and bunnies might suggest.

Company's coming! Grant has been teaching in Japan, and he's home, traveling on business, with students. We warned him about the upheaval and messes here, but it was no obstacle to an evening of Bird House fun.

Goats, chickens, swimming, talking story, eating tacos and salsa, roasting marshmallows, and learning about s'mores... home is a very good place when friends come by.

And now... it's a new day. Another home day. We are so fortunate. We have so much to celebrate.

Summer, So Far - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 12:07
To begin with, summer has been busy and hot, and neither of those observations is very interesting, even if they are true. I've been inclined to declare this The Summer of Plagues, but given all that we've endured thus far, it seems a bad idea to tempt fate... we may not be out of the woods, yet. A lot has challenged and vexed us, and most recently it's been the broken pipe behind the failing refrigerator. It was only a teeny hole, in a tiny pipe, but the effects have been monumental. Picture: emptied cabinets, torn drywall, pulled up flooring, a refrigerator in the middle of the dining room (awaiting its diagnosis), and the general chaos and dispiriting consequences of time, and resources going into damage control. My saving grace is my sick and twisted sense of humor, so that I won't have to wait 5 years before I can look back and laugh at all of this. Our hall, kitchen and dining room look like a disaster area, complete with yellow caution/cuidado tape. It's hilarious.

So, yes... there have been many bumps and setbacks, and trials, and moments of utter bewilderment, but it would be a shame to surrender, to succumb to the dark side. So I sketch, and let my mind wander, and I make-believe, I look for friends, I fold laundry, count chickens, feed goats, take pictures, and buy seed packets.

I am working up the courage to (finally) enroll in an art class. Our community college offers a brilliant course that I've had occasion to pop in on. The stars seem to be aligning, all the children will be occupied, and I cannot think of any more excuses not to go back to school. The lure of being in this class is the chance to learn art techniques, but more than that... it's to be with those students that meet in that class. They're so supportive and friendly. There are all levels and styles represented, all ages, but they are each encouraging, affable, communicative, and sympathetic, and it gives the group an inviting, heartening feel.

What if this is The Summer of Art and Friends? Someone sent me a message on IG, sharing one of her works in progress, which felt like such a kind gesture of trust. It was an exchange that really boosted my spirits. And then, we were invited to visit JPL... NASA!! (Read that with a giddy squeal) And besides being utterly blown away with profound awe and respect for our country's achievements in science, technology, engineering, art, and math, I was emotionally overcome by the generosity and thoughtfulness of our friends, and their friends, and the kindnesses that come into our lives. I have a lot to reflect on here... and some of it is to remind myself to make the effort to be available, to offer more to the people I love, to the friends I admire, and appreciate, and need. It's a constant effort, and takes adjustments, I suppose, to balance our obligations and regular life challenges, with being a good friend, with reaching out, sending a note, making a call, showing up. I have been remiss, I think.

I've held back. I've tried, too hard, to hold up a lot of ideals, and responsibilities, and personal challenges. I've been too overwhelmed to be open, to come forward, and I have even forgotten how... how to be vulnerable, how to be seen. I've let my insecurities and sensitive inclinations close me off, and silence my story. It's not been a very healthy path to take. Part of me repeats this narrative about the people that have admonished me for saying too much, but that's dumb, too... those people aren't my friends, really, and I need to stop surrendering my time and thoughts and actions to their agendas and judgement. I want to take responsibility for what I think and believe, instead of trying to point my finger, or resign myself to living with excuses. Of course, it's not always easy to feel overcome by life and stress, and to dare myself to do more, be better. I have a lot to reflect on here. And some thank-you cards to write, and send.

Hello, Fred.

Yes, I think this can be The Summer of Art and Friends, or the The Summer of Begin, Again.

Hello, Maria, Yanina, Janice, B, Anne, Vera, Karen, Jola... and me.

Yanina, the evenings in your home always seem to be the ones that inspire my spirit. What a gifted host, and warm friend you are. And what a beautiful home you keep.

On the calendar... the appliance repairman will come give our refrigerator his prognosis. I don't even know what I am hoping for! A new refrigerator? An easy repair? Both have some appeal. And on the same day, we are getting our septic tank pumped! Oh boi... I really know how to make a day great. Lol.


The Summer of Art and Friends, The Summer of Begin, Again.

And daring myself to do more, be better.

Even when I feel like this...

I want to try and show up, face the world, and see the gifts, the possibilities, shoot for the stars, be a friend.