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Home and travel, with chickens, robots, cats, and goats, gardens, and gears, sewing, inventing, tinkering, making. Blogging since 2002. Natalie, the Chickenblogger
Updated: 2 hours 9 min ago

End of the Day

4 hours 8 min ago
It wasn't my best day, but by evening, I was in a very comfortable corner of the sofa, with something to keep my hands occupied. Alex got a fire started. Max was teaching Maria a card game. I sent a picture to my Mom, through messenger... isn't that miraculous? We can take a good quality picture, and a second later send it to a grandmother, a friend, around the world, or around the corner. In an instant our thoughts and love are shared, we connect.

Later, upstairs, under the covers and in the company of the cat, Maria and I watched The Snowman, with Geoff. Geoff read the Wiki about the story, the music. Maria and I agree, the music is our favorite part.

Speaking of favorites... one of my favorite bloggers is sharing a free download of her pattern for a winter crown, perfect for Santa Lucia, or any winter holiday celebrating light. Alicia Paulson also has a beautiful new cross stitch sampler kit in her shop, First Snow... such a pretty scene.


Mon, 11/20/2017 - 11:41
Does it seem like this is becoming Kitty Blog? The chickens are just barely beginning to look like they may start to consider recovering from their Molt-aggeddon. I don't know if anyone's interested in seeing ravaged, zombie hens, rat sketches, or embroidery floss. I'm taking a break from crochet, haven't quilted since forever. And I only cook popcorn, toaster waffles, or spaghetti... it feels like that, at least. It's just cats, cats, and kitty cats in my iphoto albums.

I was all set to share a post about Maria and I painting ceramics, and our eager anticipation of picking them up today. But... pfttttt!! They couldn't find us in their system. Uh... we were in your store for two days, for seven hours! Hello? No record of us, or our plates, or anything. And I can hear the studio dude assuring me, You won't need the receipt. Don't worry. Why did I believe this? Why? Ok... they found our paperwork, and figured out that our plates are in the kiln, and not ready, yet. But the shop is out of our way, and traffic, and timing, and just the long span of time when we were standing in front of them feeling anxious, and replying, Yes, we exist. Yes, we were here. No, my name is not Judy, or Mary, Susan, Steven, Trish. Yes, we paid. Yes, we are quite sure.

It's not an actual crisis, I know. And nothing about this is interesting or compelling, worth repeating... it's just that I am having a kind of hard time week month year. I am only whining, this little bit, over nothing, to relieve some of the real pressure. Do you ever feel awful for complaining, guilty for stressing, apologetic for being weepy, or wimpy? I think I am over-stressed just from the strain of trying not to be too sensitive, needy, weak, selfish, emotional, and dismayed that I have internalized those messages and labels, which distort and undermine my ability to cope and manage the actual issues. Well, now this is getting meaty. This might be a good time to post another cat picture, or just hit *delete.*

Two Cats In the Middle of November

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 12:50

This November, the sky, everyday, has been a gift. It seems like everyone is sharing pictures of beautiful clouds, backlit tree tops, sunsets, double rainbows over the pacific, sunrises, deep blues, and silver linings. Has it always been thus? Has November always been a month of beautiful skies, and inspiration? I cannot say I have been paying attention, but I am glad to notice it now.

Also, cats. Our Chango, and our Cairo. Their whiskers, and tails, their sweet moods, and drama moments... these I notice all the time, happily.

Yesterday Maria and I received a holiday treat concoction that was just ridiculous. It was cereal and pretzels and crunchy bits, all bedazzled and drizzled in shiny nibs of confection, and white chocolate. It was a recipe with something to offend just about everyone on your list, and ohmy-ohmy was it ever yummy! It was like trail mix went through a sugar blizzard! Have you heard of this? Do you think you know what it's called?? I wonder if it even needs a recipe. I think I could just buy Chex Mix, then dump frosting on it. I would show you a picture, but we inhaled it so quickly, there's only a twisted and ravaged little baggie left. All the evidence is consumed. Undaunted... I will spend this week doing my level best to reproduce this atrocity, then I will be sharing it all over town, like a sparkly sucrose fairy. Wish me luck.

Fatwood and Home

Thu, 11/16/2017 - 09:06

Seems I am always finding some curbside-dumpster treasures, and bringing 'em home, like the neighbor's tree stumps that were headed for the landfill. I called the boys to come roll them home, and we've been using them ever since. Stump tables, stump chairs, stump forging bench, stump viewing perch. The goats hop on them, children hop on them, birds visit them, and wildflowers grow around them. Now we are mining the stumps for the heartwood, which has a mother-lode of resin. It's no surprise to me that Alex would know all about fat wood, that he'd find us some in our own backyard. He's keen on practical knowledge, history, survival, outlasting zombies, natural disasters, and other scary things. It's thanks to Alex that we all have bug-out bags, and well managed first aid kits.

The fatwood smells wonderful, spiced, warm, like a walk, deep in an old growth pine forest. Maria saved me a particularly pretty piece. It's firm, almost luminous as though it came lacquered and polished. It's not sticky, because the sap aged, and hardened. Now it will burn quickly, even if wet, which is why it's such good kindling. I learned all of this from Alex, and Wikipedia... both are good, researched, and helpful resources, and I appreciate having their knowledge, and interesting topics so readily on hand.

The goats are well. This is the time of year when our trees provide plenty of their favorite snacking leaves. This is the time of year when we watch their coats for signs of winter. If Ada gets a wooly undercoat, then we may be looking at a good chill. If Tasha's coat gets extra long and thick, we may even see a good amount of rain. I can't say my weather prognosticating is as well-informed, or reliable, as a Wiki article, but it suffices.

I finished embroidering the last hanky from the four pack I bought. Two were painted and embroidered, and two were done in redwork. And now, I wish I had more blank hankies, though I don't know what I'll do with them all.

In a fit of brave resolve, I planted our big garden bed. It seemed like the hopeful and optimistic thing to do, an act against grief, against curling up in the corner. Maybe I acted too soon, though. The irrigation is all cattywampus, and the whole thing depends on me to hand-water it all. And if the chickens get out, or worse! the goats, I could lose it all. Gee, that doesn't sound hopeful and optimistic of me. Guess I won't mention the skunks and squirrels, or the damned rats.


Where was I?

Gardening. For faith, and pleasure. Right. Well, maybe it's not the cure. Maybe, it's just there to coax me, little by little. If one pea survives and blooms in the spring, I'll be thankful.

Did you know there is a hashtag on Instagram for the plush rats from Ikea? Honestly, I am not selling Instagram, or Wikipedia. Well, actually, I do support Wikipedia, gratefully, because I use them, often. But Instagram is just fun for me, and I thought you should know there is a #ikearat, and it's hilarious.

More Than Mere Coincidence...

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 10:34
This is a very silly little once upon a time, that I cherish for the coincidences, the improbable attachments, the happy recollections, the bittersweet reminders.

Once upon a time, we were in Boston, and it seemed there was nothing that did not delight and enchant me. Jennifer was our guide, and we were seeing marvelous sights, touching history, meeting the scenes of storybook pages. It cannot surprise you that I was trying to take pictures of everything... the man on the curb painting, each maple leaf, and sun dappled surface, walls, streets, the air and light. There wasn't anything that wasn't captivating to me, that I didn't want to carry home, revisit.

The city was busy. It seemed like everyone was out to soak up the fleeting warmth of sun and the color of an ideal fall day. We walked through the Public Park, across Boston Common, we strolled row by row through the Granary. And then Jennifer led us to The Parker House. It was a kind of perfection... the kind that is warm, rich with history, a gentle mood, quiet, refined.

I ordered the clam chowder.

Is that just too cliche?

I will not apologize. Boston. Clam Chowder. However much, or little, I know about New England, about Boston and Massachusetts, about a cold autumn day exploring an old city on an Atlantic Harbor... I knew I was going to have a bowl of clam chowder, sooner or later, without fail. And this seemed the time to enjoy that experience.

The soup was delicious. The crackers... the cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers were delicious. New England Original, Naturally Good. I savored each little, crisp puff, reveling in the curious way the button sized crackers have a natural line that cleaves open, like a cap popping off a teeny box. Are they bland? Well, yes, I could say their flavor is not strong or distinct, but that is not to say they are dull. To say something is tasteless is to miss their subtlety, to disregard the distinction of enjoying a simple flavor, a modest pleasure.

Like then, I feel peculiar for the regard and thought I gave to oyster crackers. I felt, though entirely sincere, that my eager affection for the crackers, for every leaf and acorn, for expressway signs that read "New York," "Rhode Island," "Nantucket," was effusive. Wholehearted and heartfelt though my impressions can be, I sense that lavish praise, aggressively friendly gestures, are sometimes a weakness of mine. I distinctly remember curbing my impulse to take a picture of the the cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers. I did sneak a self-aware and hasty picture of the chowder, but it's out of focus... I was probably shaking a bit from giddiness.

One year later... Jennifer sent us a care package, full of New England, thoughtful reminders of our visit. It was like revisiting our adventures, our time together, our friendship. And here you see Mister Foo, who, so cat-like, plopped himself down on the gifts and goodies, nestled onto the bag of stoneground corn from the Plimoth Grist Mill, made himself cozy on the felt leaves. And between his paws, what do you think? Jennifer, kindred spirit, sent me a cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers, those crisp puffs. I teared up... not because oyster crackers make me emotional, but because Jennifer knows me, remembers details, appreciates even seemingly little things, and she lets them matter, shows she cares. For some silly cat reason, Foo wanted to be in the midst of all this sentiment and attention, and he wanted to hold my crackers. I took his picture. I shared it on Instagram, and in my own bemused fashion I even: #westminsterbakersco.

One month later, one day after realizing our losses, reeling from the newness of grief, I sat with a bit of sewing to do while waiting out a long appointment.

It was late in the afternoon. While I stitched, I thought about Foo, about Grandmother, about untangling strands of red floss, about what to make for dinner. I was hungry. I'd only had one thing to eat that day... earlier, when putting things away, I came across the oyster crackers. I was saving them, for a special occasion. I ate them, then and there, reasoning that the thoughtfulness of my friend was just the kind of special I needed. And, yes... I cried, then, too. I missed my friend, my cat, my Grandmother, and I missed being away on an adventure, feeling hopeful about the world, and excited for our beautiful New England days. The crackers, simple things, were like a taste and reminder of all of those ideas and memories, and sentiments. I was in a hurry, running late, I folded the cellophane bag, and crammed it down my back pocket.

I posted a picture of my redwork mushroom in progress on Instagram. And then I saw a "Like" for an old post, and I saw it was the Westminster Bakers Co., liking the picture I had posted of Mister Foo, with his arms around the oyster crackers. It was a month ago that I shared the moment... and to the day, a month later, they were reminding me of Foo, of our dear kitty, of Jennifer's care package, and the very same crackers that I'd waited to finally savor, and had finally eaten, this day. I reached into my back pocket, pulled up the empty wrapper, and thought... what is that word, when something is more then mere coincidence? Synchronicity.

Synchronicity fascinates me.
#oystercrackers #mylunchtoday #favoritecracker #westminsterbakersco #newengland #thoughtfulgift #comehomemisterfoo #misterwashburnfoo #gratitude #strangetiming #morethancoincidence

I know... it's a simple story, told with elaborate, effusive detail, and maybe it is only happenstance. Random events, read with an active imagination, and a penchant for fancy, but that's like calling a cracker bland, missing the nuance and pleasures of something worthwhile, something serendipitous, fanciful, dear, puzzling or inspiring. I cannot help myself... noticing details, lavishing admiration for simple things, offering aggressively friendly gestures, are sometimes a weakness of mine. At times, I manage to curb my impulses, and at other times I write the story down, and share, here.

Pure Distraction

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 12:48
PDX Day :: October 25

After our days with Grandmother, with Mom and Dad, walking, waiting, comforting however possible, we had to face leaving. I knew it was going to be hard. It's never easy leaving family, saying a last goodbye, until next time. And this time would be almost impossibly hard, more final than other visits. Maria and I took a night shift, our last night in Albany, and Grandmother's first night in hospice. We shared a pull-out, and sometimes we were able to speak with Grandmother, and a couple of times listen to her share fragments of stories, recollections. We had golden moments, and we saw the certainty of the transition she was making. I woke every hour, when she called my name, when the kind aides came into change her position. I wrote everything down... a record in details, a chronicle of the night, a means of holding on.

As I knew it would be difficult to say when, to pull ourselves away, and be at the airport, the next leg of our return home, I deliberately defined our exit and our own transition back to daily life. I set aside a day, before the flight, to visit Portland, to treat Maria to pretty sights, and familiar, happy places, to distract ourselves and balance our emotions. Somehow, we packed, somehow we said goodbye. I squared my shoulders, shared last hugs, and aimed our rental north, with the single-minded purpose of pursuing joyful, pure distraction.

Dear Portland, thank you for autumn weather and color, without rain, thank you for kind drivers, scenery, inspiration, natural beauty, indulgences, and amusements. Thank you, Airbnb, for cozy, affordable accommodations, with hardly any advance notice. Thank you Collage, and Petite Provence, and Pip's Original, and Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, and thank you, Instagram friends, for pointing us in wonderful directions. Thank you, Maria... you are patient, and a generous, kind, happy, loving, helpful traveling companion, with stamina, and curiosity. At all the right times, and with tender compassion, you put your hand in mine, and said, "It's alright."

We explored and walked, and walked and walked, we visited new places, sat in favorite spots, found Halloween, and dream homes. I collected sticks, found one way streets and dead ends, and brought us 'round where we were supposed to go. And we laughed. Tingly bridges! And long after dark, we stopped for sleep, before our early flight home.

Time for a fruit cup, before we board.

Last Time...

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 14:34
Cairo and the thoughtful sympathy flowers... November 5.

The last time I posted to the blog I was keeping vigil, waiting, from afar. Maria and I'd left Oregon, my Mom and Dad, other family, and my Grandmother. My Grandmother, in hospice, fading little by little, and my Mom and I texting back and forth, staying in touch.

The last time I checked in here I thought I was ready for what was inevitable... not necessarily "prepared," or totally at peace, but aware of what would happen, what to likely expect. I wasn't aware that I was relying on some degree of "normalcy" to prevail. There is something profound, or maybe utterly meaningless, in before and after. We have these markers, sometimes happy, like before Christmas and after Christmas, sometimes tragic, shared, big, like before 9/11 and after 9/11... and anyway, I seem to notice the things that are pronounced or seemingly significant in before, and after.

This was before, and I remember it distinctly, because Mister Foo was just out of shot, and I tried to coax him into the picture. I wanted the sweet moment of the three kitties together, but he held back, watching Chango and Cairo, and I felt disappointed that he wouldn't sit with them. And that's the last time I remember seeing him.

Mister Foo. Did you know? He would give these hugs, with his paws on your shoulders if you were crying. He'd sleep on your legs, if you were sick, or if he just wanted to. He had this mass to him, and it was such a comforting thing to have his sympathy, to feel he cared. And he sang. Honestly... we would come padding up whenever Happy Birthday was sung, and he would meow, and look so besotted and charmed. I wrote about his musical interest, before. Lately, we'd been singing to Mister Foo a lot, usually Happy Birthday, but more recently, Christmas songs. The last time I sang to him it was I Saw Three Ships and he dashed to my side, looking me in the eyes, and meowing.

The last time I blogged, we had three cats, and only Cairo and Chango would have their picture taken. About one in the morning, November 5, William woke us, because he hadn't been able to get Mister Foo in. Mister Foo always came in, sometimes a bit late, but this was unprecedented. We looked everywhere. We tapped a spoon on his favorite can of food, and opened every door to every room, calling his name. It was a cold, damp night. Our shoes, or bare feet, were wet, we murmured hopeful assurances, and looked further, and further from home. Geoff drove around the neighborhood. We walked outside our fenced yard. We called, we breathed slowly, through pursed lips.

For more than a week every phone call, each new text, rang like a portent, a heavy, solemn thing, perhaps the one. Each day, every long moment, was passed knowing it was coming, Grandmother's passing, and I thought I am ready. This is what is inevitable, and I felt sad, distracted, and sometimes relief for her, sometimes anguish for what I wanted to cling to, hope for, but I was not prepared. The call came after two in the morning, and we would have been asleep, at least some or most of us would have been in beds, dreaming; that is what I would have expected. So when the phone rang, and we were all awake, cold and worried, dreading the unspeakable likeliness that we had lost our darling Foo, I knew, with certainty and heartbreak, that we'd lost Grandmother, too.

One, or the other, but one at a time. Seriously. It's wrong to conflate these. Right? It's two things, separate, unequal. And I want to deal with each of them, mourn, process, and think of each incident in its own way, time, order. But. No... what can be reasoned, and understood intellectually, will not always stay neat and tidy in separate files, not for me, it seems.

I am sad, and anguished over my Grandmother's death... yes, she lived long, she loved and was loved, and I had every blessing of time and happiness with her, and my truth is, that it only makes me want her more.

Someday, I hope to feel easy, peaceful, like I can simply rejoice in the strength and grace of this woman, in every good thing she means to me, in every happy memory, and favor she inspired in our lives... it's there, in my heart, in my being, but too tender, and mixed with grief to be spoken of, to be rightly expressed.

November 5, and the low tide.

Nothing I can say or do is going to come out right. I will say things poorly, overshare, or be so reserved that I feel myself disappearing, shrinking. And that's just what I am contending with in my own head. Conventions, and other's opinions, assure that what I do or say, what I omit, or shy away from, will be misconstrued, or called into question. A part of me wishes I were not inclined to write, to blog, to love photographs and photography, to chronicling details, moments, ideas, feelings. If I could hammer nails all day, that could be a good thing. If I didn't feel compelled to sort my thoughts and emotions, and look at them on paper, it would be easier to feel private, unjudge-able.

A part of me longs for traditional ceremony, a system and order. We would all agree to to make a statement, wear black, close our doors, fast, or feast, get drunk and burn things, or weave a tapestry and sing hymns... just something arranged, understood, approved, so I can know what to do, how to be, when to go outside, when to sit still, where to put my hands when people are speaking to me. Everything is mixed up, contrary. I want to be held, but sometimes I fear a hug will make me fall apart, like it's all I can do to make myself hold together, contain everything, walk upright. I want to share this post, but I don't want pity, or attention, or to "make a fuss." I want my cat. I want to curse, eject all of the really sharp, profane expressions. I could break things. I forget to eat, but I want to consume everything... a whole cake, all of the tamales. Everything is mixed up, and I don't want to expose this to anyone, but if people knew, if people know, then I won't have to say, I am very sad, and I don't know what to do, and I may not say or do the "right thing." Yes... to have that much understood, that could be a good way to start.

Yesterday Friday, Today Saturday

Sat, 11/04/2017 - 11:35
The garden gate was rebuilt. Like, a month ago. And even though it was desperately needed, it was in such a sorry state, I barely let it register that it was done, and pretty, and easy to open and close. I feel strange that I was indifferent. I feel strange that I still have only a foggy recollection of any of it, though I bought the lumber, the paint. It's sturdy, now. And white.

As I was preparing photographs for this post, I remembered that a pretty Queen Ann house in Oregon was supposed to go on the market this week. I met the owner, at random... she wants to move to the Big Island. Honoka'a. Kohala, maybe. Life is strange. Then, almost suddenly, I found myself engrossed in real-estate porn... glossy photos, tax records, square footage, built-in storage, all so alluring, affordable, even. I was in another state. I felt like a housing adulteress, my cheeks flushed, and I closed the browser.

Halloween is packed, and the house looks a bit bereft. It's like a holiday vacuum in here. Maybe this time, and these empty spaces are like an aperitif, something to cleanse the palette before we dive into our next fête.

I was going to confess about how neglected the garden beds are, about wanting to rebuild the soil, start over, and to remind myself that I have intended to plant bulbs and sweet peas for eight years... but, then I felt too tired to write about all of that, which doesn't bode well for the effort required to do more than write about gardening.

November Sky, day 3. I seem to have begun a daily sky picture, which I am keeping at Instagram. Others are playing at Gnomevember, and there was Inktober, last month. Last month. So soon, the ink's barely dry.

What is this tree with the odd mini-leaves that grow around the stems, between the larger leaves?

Here is our autumn, at the lagoon. It is dry, faded, going to seed. It may seem a forlorn thing to note the dwindling flowers, the falling leaves, but I like them. I like transition, the hopefulness of seeds, the muted shades under gray skies. There is a calm, restful appeal to this time of year.

Today's November Sky, a blue almost improbable. I stepped out this morning, looked up into the Torrey Pines, and had to reacquaint my senses with this brightness. So blue, it felt foreign, startling, and then I imagined that if we were in an upside down place, we could fall into the sky and swim.

Ha! A Gnomevember. And Chango and Cairo, Caturday.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

In Between

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 13:08
PDX :: October 20... when we boarded the plane, I called my Mom, We're coming to you.

Twelve hours before, Maria was waking-up to me with my hand on her shoulder, "Maria, we're going on a trip, today." Geoff made all of the arrangements, and the rest of the day I attempted to do every single chore, errand, and gesture of love I could make for my family, before leaving for Oregon.

I love traveling with my children, and always have. Of course, some trips are difficult in spite of good companionship. This post is to recall moments during our visit to Oregon when we found beauty in nature, in family time, in walking and seeing whatever was around us.

Sometime during the day we stopped for chai tea, and then I was too busy, distracted, and flustered to think of eating. The flight was so turbulent the attendants couldn't come around with snacks, and by the time we landed, we were famished. With ten minutes to spare before closing, we slipped into a familiar cafe. I went to the Airbnb app, and found a place for us to sleep. It's always worth noting when things are simultaneously challenging, yet everything works out well enough.

Good morning, Portland :: October 21

Good morning, Petite Provence.

We had our oatmeal, croissants, fruit, butternut squash. I had coffee. Details. The walk down Division Street, the trees and homes, and rain, crossing the Willamette, adjusting my driving from California urgent to Oregon easy, remembering to breath. Details.

We found our way to Grandmother, to my Mom and Aunt, to the days ahead of being company, of doing what we could to be helpful, to support, and... anything of use. Shifts were being shared between my mom and her siblings, with dad coming in between conference meetings. Maria and I would try to give relief to anyone in need, to fill in gaps.

Maria made origami figures, as gifts, for all. And she drew. A card for her great-grandmother, other sketches, and portraits. I can't not say this... she was tireless, selfless, throughout. Maria went where I went, helped, listened, waited, walked, sat quietly, shared generously, and was an affable, sweet, loving companion. I check my words, and tend to be reserved with praise, so this is not effusive applause. Her warmth and sincerity, her patience, maturity, and considerate intelligence were highly commendable, and in all fairness, not exceptional, just especially appreciated in difficult circumstances.

Delia and Maria :: October 22

Morning at Aunt Becky's house, before we took the day shift at the hospital. Henry and Eve were there all night, now Maria and I could go in, and share the time with Aunt Becky and my Mom.

We slept in Eunice's room, where I was happy to be surrounded by Grandmother's things. African violets.

And this tiny photograph of Tia Maria, her aunt that raised her from when she was four years old.

In the hospital room were new things that will remind me of Grandmother, like this shawl the volunteers made as a gift for her, and it is as soft and warm as the sentiments they sent with it...

This shawl was crafted especially for you with love and prayers... may you be cradled in hope, kept in joy, graced with peace and wrapped in God's love.

Passing time.

Scenes from our lunch break and walk downtown.

Later, Maria and I went on a second walk, in search of the pink house we could see between trees, through the third floor window.

Trees and leaves, and all of the sights anyone would expect to see in fall, but for us a novelty, and uplifting to notice, enjoy. We loved the colors, the cold air, and the gentle twirl of each falling leaf. We found one or two, or a dozen, homes to fancy as our own, and we found the pink house...

There is, I am sure, a comforting poem about light, guidance, support, about the hope one candle or lamppost can impress. I felt it, there.

October 23...

There were not enough leaves outside. I brought this bunch, and a small rose, into my rental. Mom and I went out on a mission to find that one particular brand of lotion that Grandmother loves. We had to go to Corvallis. Were we away an hour? It was a quick trip, including business-life chores Delia needed to accomplish. It was almost a trivial excursion, but we filled it with laughs and connection, and it felt like breathing when you've been swimming far and deep, and you break the surface of the water before kicking and paddling, again. A relief, and energy for the next lap.

No truer words. This was one laugh we shared... how can dish towel philosophy so succinctly sum up my home-style?

For the fourth time, I have been to Corvallis, but too briefly. It's too beautiful, appealing a town for these short visits. I'll be back, I promise.

Maria and Aunt Becky kept company.

Eunice, Mexico City, 1953, By Maria

Sometimes Grandmother would say a few things, and we offered what we could. We searched for a book she was interested in reading, and played it for her on Audible. We found the lotion she loves, and she accepted massages.

And then another walk... and more houses to imagine, to ask what if?

What if?

This was an angel's work, showing us backyard hens, fat and free-ranging. Chickens are my therapy.

And nature, too... gently, without words, reminding me that there are cycles in life, seasons, and that changes and transitions can happen gradually. Was it poignant, intentional? Or was I just receptive? Flowers seem a fitting messenger to evoke my Grandmother, her life, her loves, her journey.

Night, in Aunt Becky's home. My cousin, Debbie, had some thrift shop finds to share with us, and we settled into things like... laundry, taking pictures of old photographs, and filling the first page of a new sketchbook.

A new home :: October 24... Hospice.

Grandmother asked me and Maria to hold the quilt up so she could see it. We lifted it off her legs, holding it until she nodded. We sat at her bedside, pointing to each print we recognized, running our fingers lightly across the patchwork strips. What is this pattern? I see half-square triangles. And then? Details. Distracting myself with questions about details. Recording details. Grandmother slept. Maria and I stayed the night with her.

There are many reasons I blog, remembering is an important one. I like to write, I love to take pictures. The blog makes for a nice place to keep my pastimes in order, and to give us a story, memories to revisit. My head, even my heart, are full of that last night we spent with Eunice. I could write it all down, literally every detail, by the hour, by the minute. Something in me feels a sense of capturing, holding her in those recordings. I dread losing any memory, as though she is in them, as though I can retain a part, any part, of what I love about her.

It's a terrible and muddled place where I am, in my head. At once heartbroken, anxious, even in denial, and then thankful, humbled, in awe. Every bit of our time there, at the hospital, in the hospice room, was sacred, private, dear for it's blessings, anguished for the suffering. The muddled parts comes from wanting to write it all down, to keep all the details pinned to paper, sealed, and even to share it... because I want everyone to know her, to see her, to feel how precious and dear she is. But the scared pieces, intimate aspects... I couldn't do it justice, it's not right. We cannot pin things down, we break them, when we try. It's a blessing that we felt it, and in time, in natural and gentle ways we will share what we can, and always hold the memories dear.

And the vigil, the time between, is with us still. My thoughts are on my Grandmother, and with my Mom... and I am thankful, humbled, in awe, again, and again, as I hold them, and all of my family, loved ones, close to my thoughts, in my heart.

Seen, Yesterday, Today, So Far

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 09:03

(With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day... because I hope she still might begin again.)


Thu, 11/02/2017 - 13:25
Even though I am not in Oregon, not with my Mom and Aunt, not by my Grandma's side, I am still waiting. Keeping vigil, I think of it. I think of her, Eunice, Grandma, all the time, trying to recall everything. Yes, basically, everything... words, occasions, holidays, the smell of her cooking, important ideas or lessons she may have been imparting when I wasn't paying close enough attention. But I was paying attention. I did enjoy her company, her laugh, the way she made things fit and work, and come out beautifully. I was paying attention to all of that. And I bitterly resent that it is behind me now... that I cannot enjoy photographic memory, perfect recall, or simply have her in my life for always. And so go my thoughts, the emotional tug of war, pulling me between absolute grief, and acceptance. Acceptance? No, more like resignation, at best.

This is the part where I feel compelled to apologize. Sorry, I am being obtuse, and for those who think otherwise, I could say, Sorry I'm 'oversharing' and 'obsessing.'

But. Really... screw that. I've got forty-two problems, and justifying my existence and ways of coping, making myself invisible, will not be one of them.

I do need something. Something to make or do, or think about. Something to show at the end of the day, something that honors the goodness and inspiration that I love and treasure about Eunice, Grandmother.

Before leaving, last week, I'd brought home fabric, with the idea that I could make skirts for Maria. I didn't want to wrestle with a pattern. I wanted to take this "simple" notion in my head, which I was sure I could easily turn into a waistband-ed, buttoned, long, prairie-style skirt. I was eager and excited for my scheme, for the feeling, that I know can be fleeting, that this was going to be a sure thing, sewing success. As I was packing to fly to Oregon, setting aside the already laundered fabric, I knew I would have to be deliberate and purposeful if I was ever going to make anything of the pretty prints, because the muse that inspires successful sewing is fleeting, and "the real world" is pressing and insistent. I dreaded the idea that I would give up, miss the chance to enjoy testing my simple notion.

Yesterday, finally, I declared, "Today I will do something. I will make that skirt." And I added, "At the end of this day, I will have something to show for my time and energy." And I wish I hadn't said, literally, "end of this day," because as it turns out, it did take practically an entire day to execute my simple notion.

Hello, old friend.

On the first seam, no less! Out came the seam ripper, my old, familiar friend. I was pretty sure I could engineer a pocket, and even scanned through an online tutorial on adding pockets to skirts. I just love that confident, I'm being oh-so methodical and correct about this sensation, which so often visits me before I mess up. I closed the seam over the opening of the pocket which was hanging out like a floppy flap, wrong-side out. Don't ask me how I did this.

Don't ask me how I got it right, the next time. But, I did get it right. And eventually, I got the whole skirt "right." I could have sewn two skirts for all the do-overs and seam-ripping I went through. And I can't explain, either, how I could make so many mistakes, and remain so calm and composed. I was never flummoxed nor flustered, there was not a single f-bomb. It could be that I am accustomed to my haphazard methods. It could be that thinking of my Grandma, as I was, I felt content, resigned, happy to have something to do, something pretty, familiar, if challenging.

Should I add? Yes, I will... I have not had a single halloween candy. Not one. Not a fun-size, not a Smartie. Everyone here knows it, too, because I repeat it often enough. Like, when I feel sad, "I've had no candy, at all." When faced with cat barf, featherless chicken antics, spam-phone calls, spilling tea all over myself... I declare it, again, "Not even a Kiss." I do not know what kind of sorry-ass badge of honor I think this merits, or why I have to share it. But there it is. Hmmm... perhaps I do 'overshare' and 'obsess.'

I made it to grow with her. At least, that is my notion... that with a second button, and letting down the generous hem, she can wear this skirt for a few years. I kept thinking, I should take notes, so the second, third, fourth skirt will be easier to make. Yeah, that would have been a good idea: notes. Let's see... 32" waistband, 15" for the front panel, and 15" for the back, and two spare inches for the adjustable waist. No... wait, no wonder it's so loose. Her waist is 28". Did I mention it's adjustable? And she seems to prefer wearing it low, anyway. I should have taken notes. Better notes. I wonder if I will make another...

Here's the part where I started to feel it. To feel like this was a pleasure. It still seems improbable, but hand sewing is a pleasure. When did this happen? When did the slow, repetitive, chore become a meditation, a happy pastime? I don't know, but likely it grew over time, with practice. Even understanding it in a practical sense, doesn't clarify for me why I should enjoy something I'd always considered dull, daunting. Now, with each stitch, my mind wanders and I ponder contentedly on what I am doing, who it is for, how I love them. If hand sewing were athleticism, I would be a triathlete, a distance runner.

William knows buttonholes. I can do it... but he's done more of them, and he kindly obliged me, making first the one I asked for, which was wrong, and out came the same ripper, again. Again. And with the same grace and calm, he made a second one, and it was correct, the way he suggested to begin with. Lovely. We got through that, and I sewed the button on, then realized we needed a hook and eye for that extra bit of waistband length.

Someone has to agree with me... vintage sewing notions are charming. Right? Does anyone know what the middle row are for? I did it all wrong if I should have put those to use.

The hem is a 10" fold. I'm sure she won't grow ten inches, but the weight of the heavy hem gives the skirt a nice fall.

Find Chango.

I still haven't had any candy. In a moment of weakness I put a Milky Way in the freezer, and a Snicker. That's a trick I learned from Handsome Eddie... chocolate bar in the freezer. I was seven or eight when he took us into his garage, offered us frozen Snicker bars, and I marveled at the patience, the foresight to delay gratification, to wait for a treat to freeze, to trust it wouldn't be lost.

My favorite parts are the gathers at the waist band, and hearing it rustle when she walks or twirls. Grandmother was one of the women that taught me to sew, and that is a day vivid in my memory, thankfully. She was patient, and insistent. She encouraged me to see the worth of doing things correctly, to not sacrifice quality for poor work. It wasn't about being 'perfect,' but more of an idea of making the best of what you know, what is possible. When sewing, even when I don't know what I am doing, I strive to get it right, to make it pretty, worthwhile.

It took most of the day to make, but I was so happy to have something to show for my time and energy. It could have been laundry, or paperwork organized, it should have been "important" stuff. But I am in a hard place, and I need something to help me get through this.

Waiting and Remembering

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 12:39
Grandma, surrounded by some of her grandchildren, including... Hans, Julie, and Natalie, Deborah holding Rebekah, and Bill. Christmas, in Alhambra, 1975.

Maria and I were in Oregon. When not at Grandmother's side, or walking the neighborhood in old Albany, I was taking pictures of pictures... dozens and dozens, snapshots, instants in time. Some so familiar they feel like memories of my own, but I know that it's only the attachment of seeing the images, again and again, through my life, that makes them seem that way. Grandparents, great, and greater, the bisabuelos, tatarabuelos, primos, tias, tios, gazing back at me, and I discern stories, snippets of cuentos, historias, fragmented, whispering.

What makes some memories so clear, so focused, and others, like old photographs, faded, blurred?

During our vigil, all we could do was be present and attentive, waiting, and recalling. While we were with her, I was thankful to be occupied, to try and meet her needs. Now, since we left, there is only the waiting, and remembering. I wish I could gather every memory, with all of my senses, whole, complete stories. I wish there were more photographs, more details, more time. I used to think that regrets were because of things left unsaid, or something missing in the quality of time spent together. I don't have actual regrets, and yet... loving her as much as I do, having been loved by her, I cannot imagine missing that in my life, I cannot fathom a life without more of the blessings I've enjoyed so much of. I am sad to realize that even being "prepared" is insufficient in the face of such loss.

My Mommy says Maria and I had a "golden moment" with her, with Eunice... we did, I see that. And I see, with humility and awe, with a bittersweetness and gratitude... that all of my life with her has been, and all of my memories of Grandmother are, golden. She has made my life blessed. She is surrounded, now, close at hand, and in spirit, by all of us who know and love her, and she is blessed, too.


Mon, 10/23/2017 - 09:19
No photo(s). I just discovered that the mobile blogging app for Blogger isn’t supported any more. Blargh. I knew I wouldn’t be keeping up here very well, while away on an *all of a sudden* trip to Oregon... but I had hoped to post a little something.

If I could, I’d fill this post with pictures of houses, leaves, and all of the sights of fall, of the PNW, and being with loved ones. Trust me, it’s lovely. Lovely... which helps to sustain our hearts and thoughts. Friends, family... your kind and best thoughts for my grandmother are most welcome. I will be discreet, and only say this little bit, but we are here for her, eager to be of good use.

We May Be Out of Tea...

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 08:35
It occurred to me that I don't have any particular thing planned for this post. It's possible I am only here because there is no chai tea, and I always have a cup of chai for breakfast.

*Ten minutes have gone by... me, here at my computer, cogitating fruitlessly.*

I ask you, Is this a hat rack, or an umbrella stand? A clutter pole?

Either my chai tea does me a good deed, or I should be taking something stronger. Such a muddle.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Dear October, Please Slow Down

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 11:41
October 10... A place where Geoff makes things.
As far as I can tell, there is nothing wrong with the month of October, except that it never lasts long enough. I wish it were October beginning in September, right up until we start bringing home cream and potatoes for Thanksgiving, then it can be November, which should also be a longer month, but I am getting ahead of myself, which is just the concern I am addressing... everything is going too fast!

As dedicated as I have been to savoring every bit of this month, I am aghast to realize that we are well past the half-way mark. And, as usual, it's hotter than July. I will not complain about the weather though, because we are at least being spared wildfires. It has been too long a hot, dry, tragic fire season. The anxiety and dread of these wildfires is always just within touch, too close at hand, and the news from Montana, Oregon, Orange County, and especially Napa, Santa Rosa, Sonoma... is heartbreaking. "Fire Season," and "Fire Weather..." these are common terms, now, because the climate is changed.

Oh, lost my train of thought, or really it's that my "train" rides a wild, twisting rail, and though I intend to stick to happy news, and reflections, the real world is calling for attention, compassion, so I think, again, of Puerto Rico, of Standing Rock, of people struggling to hold on to hope, justice, respect, to life. I think of family, of my own doubts and insecurities, of the gnawing foreboding that drops my heart, burns my eyes, and crushes the hope and understanding that I'd been tending, guarding.

Everything is not fine. To keep myself moving forward, to try and sustain some hope, to be resolute, persistent, and resilient, I seek beauty, laughter, the sound of hummingbirds in the garden... I gaze admiringly, appreciatively, at the bliss of a cat's nap, pumpkins, a yellow bicycle, a favorite corner of our home, hands at play, minds at work.

Alex sanding the bat shield.

When we lose the eighty-degree days, I will be roasting more pumpkin seeds.

October 11... The chickens, too, will be happy for any pumpkin carving that we do.

Maria's cat's meow.

There have been some cool days, which explains how I've managed to work on two new shawls, and finish four crochet hats, and bake pumpkin bread.

Maria took charge of the Haunted Cookie House I brought home from Trader Joe's. Besides following textbooks and being immersed in online courses, homeschooling has its share of spirited projects and activities.

Cairo looks as though he is inspecting Alex's work, scrutinizing the details, the quality of the design. "He bites the wood," Alex pronounced, half amused.

October 12... Cairo, looking innocent, not biting wood.

Another part of homeschooling... outings, walks, hikes, explores, fresh air, nature.

Diced pickles, and only a smattering of mayo. I had to capture this moment, when Maria is building one of her ideal sandwiches. It makes me happy to think of those tomatoes she collected from the volunteer plants that are still producing outside the kitchen door, to recall that Max and Alex were building their ideal sandwiches, too, that the kitchen was cool, and safe, and we had what we needed. Another day, another lunch... I love when normal is a pleasure.

Boston, New England was a year ago, and I still feel smitten, and romantic about it. I still see the influence of that trip, like this wall... I came home from our trip with a fresh notion about settling into our home, putting up art, being here. Alex advocated for hanging art, moving in, for a long time, and I know he thinks this was long over-due, and is barely half done. And I admit... it's a source of contentment, a smile inside my heart, to see things that make me happy, reminders of things I love, that amuse me.

This year began with a resolve to learn to paint, and I was at it, intently for about three months, and then the muse left me. It was like that, too... like I was being lead to paint and paint, and paint, but then it stopped. And I'd look at all the paintings I'd produced, and feel a bit removed, almost astonished... happy that I had that moment, sorry that it was gone, and unsure how it came to be in the first place.

Then Gina called me. She's a friend from way back, from mutual friends, and the Squaremont neighborhood. We shared cars, dogs, holidays, and laughs. She got me on the phone and lavished praise on those rats in dresses I'd painted. Seriously, like a true friend, you know the kind... you aren't hanging out anymore, but it only takes one phone call, one visit, to put you back in the same kindred groove, familiar, comfortable, loving, just like always.

Gina knows. I laugh, self-consciously, thinking of my crazy process, what it takes to inspire my thoroughly escapist, whimsical, therapeutic depictions of life in a sweet, hopeful dream world. Thank you, Gina. With any luck, I can keep this up, and the world can be just and kind, too.


Wholly gobs, this is a long post.

Undaunted, the Chickenblogger persists.

October 13... Pippi and Pepper, the only two hens not in a frightening molting state!

We aren't seeing too many of these while the hens work on growing new feathers.

Cairo is not molting.

October 14... Maria and I were in Pacific Beach, then Hillcrest, and down to India-West Washington. It was one of those outings that sees a lot done, and a lot gets noticed, appreciated. I like those kinds of outings.

How easily amused am I? Well, I am delighted right now for deciding that these are bumpkins. Bumps on pumpkins... bumpkins. I realize I don't need to explain it, and maybe someone's thought of it before, but this moment of linguistic play is a happy thrill. Don't let me keep you.

Every neighborhood, in every city, should have at least one nursery, especially one like this favorite.

We came across this sweet message, and took the bowl of chalk, left out, as an invitation.

Maria, Max, Corey, and Alex... Saturday night and spider solitaire.

Happy Day.

October 15... Old sketches, and more painting.

I still have not seen or met another polka-spotted cat, like our Foo.

I love how every cat has its own weirdness, quirks, endearments. Foo sleeps with his eyes open. Also... fangs. What a dear.

Hehehe... this post is still really long...

I wish October were really long. I wish everyone were safe, respected, inspired. I may as well add... healthy, strong, supported, loved. I am sending out prayers, best thoughts, kindnesses, love, and courage, wherever it's needed.

Goats. GOATS!

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 09:24

That is all.

Relief From Grief

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 11:36
September 19~
William is the cat's meow.

Yeah... this is as scary as I want my Halloween, or any day. From now on. Forever. It's too much to ask, I realize, but can we get some kind of break, at all?

This post is an escape, a focus on anything in recent days that has turned my head, captured my imagination, lifted my spirits, given me hope. I wish we could all choose to take a break, to close our eyes, or open them wide to take in a beautiful view. I wish there were hopeful moments, safe spaces, promising horizons, for everyone... peace, kindness, compassion, reason, and empathy are in want. I am taking this time to reflect on the good that sustains me, and that will help me move forward.

September 23~

Our friend, Manuel~

This reminds me... I want to plant a bed of wheat. When I should I do this?

Standing out while blending in, at a favorite spot.

Sometimes "word" art is too much, too cliche, or saccharine or preachy, or verbose (like me), or bland, and sometimes I am tempted. I do love words. And metal. I love enamel ware, and galvanized steel, and forged steel.

I have been smitten by these patterns since memory... there was a fabric shop in a brick building on the 101, in North County, on the west side, north of Swamis. I would time travel to that shop.

The girl who never naps came home ready to make an exception. I think we all napped that day.

Her socks: You're beautiful. Don't change.

September 26~
This rat he pulled out of my basket on the dresser, threw it onto the bed, and tussled it into submission. It was epic.

September 27
Seventeen, and a half. He is our old man, and months count.

September 28~
Almost tempted to braid it. That beard.

She knows.

Friend, taking his share.

Did he stay here all day? I think so. I could have done the same.

September 30~
When I put up the post box, with the bird embossed on it, I imagined a little message center between it and my postcard stand. Now we have the note paper and my chicken shelf. Maria and I leave letters in the box.

A mash-up of lessons and interests... Maria is homeschooling, studying art history, and world history, and she gets lessons in ancient armor and weaponry from Alex, then she researches more for her D & D characters. All of it seems to be showing itself in sketches she has on her desk, in her folder.

We could pretend this is a mighty roar, to greet the day. We could...

October 3~
A hat, to pass the time. This was a long day, in suspense, and care. We've heard good news, since, and the hat is finished, too. I've also started another hat, and a shawl. Because, there is a lot to care about, and be in suspense over.

I walked up to entrance of the market, and in the farmstead display I found pigeons. It was as though I was the only one who could see them, stealthily perched in the cornstalks and gourds, surveying the price of pumpkins. Were they nest shopping? I could have watched them for hours.

It's been months since I sketched. I feel awkward and inept, all over again. Rats.

October 4~
Introducing Sweet Pea to the dog biscuits we stock in the Little Free Library. Good dog, Sweet Pea.

We can put anything up there, but for me it will always be the pumpkin shelf. And it will always make me long for Massachusetts, and passing time with Jennifer.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Well That Was Easy

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 10:47

All I did was invite sixty or more close friends to bring their lunches to the park. I did not concern myself with any details except the time and place, and our own food. Then, for fun, I made pumpkin muffins to share. Geoff ran to the market for our favorite bread, Maria collected a few beach chairs, and we put those in the van. I made pesto. Alex suggsted chocolate, and Geoff was very obliging with that idea. I let it stay simple, and I wanted it to be easy... no worries about who could come, or not, no fretting over elaborate menus, entertainment, or whatever was left "undone."

Nature provided a postcard day... the color of the sky, the shade of the trees, the breeze, the red tailed hawk perched at the pond, the ducks, the perfectly spaced boulders for hopping along. And friends arrived, we shared in a plentiful lunch, and laughter.

I don't know when my life got so complicated or off-track that the idea to enjoy a picnic feels "inspired" or rare, but if you are like me, and can't remember the last time you visited a park, met friends there, and just hung out while everyone did their thing... do it! No one has to be the host, or do all the heavy lifting, and even the fact that we set a start and finish time, made it feel fun, without encroaching on the whole day. Ok... so, I am easily impressed, not hard to amuse, I know. But seriously... life needs more "easy," more low-agenda, relaxed get togethers. Drop by, sit back, run around, picnic with us... we'll be doing this again, real soon.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

A Happy Place

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 17:17
It's fair to say, the Vista Viking Festival is one of our happy places. I thought this was our third year attending, but after looking through old posts, I discovered we've been four times, now. I love that it's a small venue, yet packed with worthwhile features, entertainment, and engaging exhibits. We always learn something new, and leave inspired to make more, like a Viking tent.

Our first visit, 2014~

Back, again, in 2015~

Last year~

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

The First Day

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 09:03
The first day of Autumn was a happy whirr!

My trunk... (Again!) The timothy hay is for our goats, but I still haven't unloaded that, and yesterday I admitted to William, "I may leave this in here until December, because it looks so rustic and picturesque when I buy a pumpkin, and smells so sweet." Well, since it's not at all practical to drive all over town with a hay bale, I thought I could content myself with one last gaze at this farm-stand scene.

I have set a lot in store for Autumn, and the first day did not disappoint.

Our Breakfast Club met... here we are, Maria, Natalie, Janece, Paul, and Amira, waiting for Geoff.

Next up: flower crown making, and a picnic. About that picnic... it was so easy, and so gratifying, I am planning another as soon as possible. I texted friends about meeting at the park. Maria and I put our lunches into a basket and added a tablecloth, then off we went. It was simple, and good. We were in the shade of trees, in the company of friends, listening to birds, observing the subtle changes in colors and light. More picnics! More trees, and friends, and happy sighs.

The first crown I made went to Amira, in honor of her thirteenth birthday. Cairo helped. And the second crown went to Belinda, who founded our Moms' Night Out tradition, twenty-one years ago! Goodness, these milestones, and passages... another sigh, and thankfulness that we have these friends, these memories, and cycles, that we can enjoy our times together.

Mums, and moms, sunset, and dinner...

Karen, and Janice

Belinda, and Karen plating B's homemade pasta.

I love this happy whirr...

Vera, Maria, Karen, B, Jola, Yanina, Natalie, and Anne~

Janice and Maria taught me about Airdrop, the Apple app that lets us share pictures, and that's how I got this gem! Janice is holding the camera, and Linda is in Italy... (one of the few acceptable excuses for missing a MNO. *wink*)

Oh. I am *sighing,* again... over the generosity of friends, good food, simple plans, gazing into tree canopies, bringing home pumpkins, little girls growing up, and all the ways we can sustain our joy, make it grow, and share it.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.