Chicken Blog by Natalie

The End of My rise to Mediocrity - Sun, 02/10/2019 - 13:04
Last year... because I can't get my photos to work... The letter between O and Q on my keyboard died, and so did the "return" key. My computer hasn't backed ub in 17 days, and iBhoto isn't responding... whoa... the letter will abbear if spellcheck detects the error. I am subpoenaed again, but this time to testify for the Department of Motor Vehicles against the drunk lady. So, this makes 2 hearings. And yes, this is a whining, miserable, I have a head cold, and I cannot do what I love since the accident comblaint post. Only my own moral compass keeps me from posting her name, and wishing rain on her barade. I was drobbed from yoga, before I could quit... I missed the first day because 1. I needed to be somewhere else at the same time 2. I have nothing to wear that is yoga abbrobriate 3. I was overcome with discomfort and anxiety 4. my body hurts in vague and general ways that makes me uncomfortable, untrusting. I did make it to the first day of the new art class... the colon key is broken, too... Oil Painting. And I was nervously habby, and it should have been all good, but then my body began aching and the telltale accident bains returned, and I at one point I slipped away to cry, because I feel so sad and angry and frustrated, and embarrassed. It's silly to be embarrassed, but I am. It's wrong to say "silly." My brain is still off... just slightly enough out of sorts to be distressing. I have all but quit trying to write, actually... between my brain and aches I feel, it's too hard, and besides blogging is dead... so is the forward slash, so no more html. Well. This is all very distressing, disaobbointing, silly, embarrassing, and inevitably bointless.

Last Year... - Mon, 01/28/2019 - 13:13
Christmas morning, 2018

Now it's almost the end of January, nearly a month into this new year, and I am not quite so disappointed that this Christmas morning picture is out of focus. I'm just glad to have it... to have the happy memories it recalls. We did celebrate Christmas, and it was a blur of joy and overabundance.

On Boxing day we picked up from where we left on from Winter Solstice, and share dinner and a campfire with more friends. And I am pretty sure this about the time that we started making our plans for next year, which basically entails more nights sharing dinner and campfires with friends.

I miss friends. And I miss feeling stronger, more capable... I won't lay all of the blame on the accident, because I know I struggle to be on top of things in the best of times, but I really feel my inadequacies these days. Frankly, if you saw how hard I struggled just to spell "inadequacies," you would cut me some slack. I am not really interested in excuses... I want to be a better friend.

I am lucky. And thankful. Looking through these pictures, I feel it all over again... the certainty that seeing the people I love, even the ones that I unfortunately did not get a picture of, is the best of any day. Whether celebrating a birthday, or just figuring out a new robot together... that company, laughter, support, and energy exchange is priceless.

Is my New Year resolution taking shape?

More time with friends.

The last day of 2018, and this year we went out! Unheard of! Alex's work party... (which, honestly, we did not crash) was at Robin and Sean's, and we were all invited. Besides being Alex's bosses, they're dear friends, which is why we imposed and stayed very late, and ate all of the tacos, and dished out the second round of churros and ice-cream. It was a very good party.

This is a plug for Salud Tacos, because their tacos, cooked on site, were insanely good. Genuinely deliciosos!! This is not a paid endorsement. Maybe I was especially vulnerable... going through the holidays, wishing for family traditions and familia, nostalgia, cultura, a bowl of posole, a piñata, missing my Grandma, all of the intangible bits that give the season sabor, and Salud swooped in in their taco van, and shut me up!

When I went back for my second plate they apologized for making me wait a moment... they were preparing dessert, "churros and ice-cream." And I thought eh, ice cream. And churros? I'll take tacos over churros, mochas gracias.

I accepted my dessert, to be polite, you know. And then I embarrassed myself with gushing and running my fingertip all around the rim. I went back to the catering station and begged, Begged for the secret formula. I won't divulge all of what they shared in confidence, but my Tajín crush just redoubled.

For the latter half of the month I carried around those wool felt balls I repurposed from Trader Joes. It was my gift and comfort to share crafting and creating with them, and Robin really raised the bar in creativity! She brought out her beads, and I acted as her assistant. Do you know what makes a lovely NYE... friends, light, laughter, tacos, Tajín, craft, games, and puzzles. We were cozy, content, and together.

Before the year ended, we hugged our hosts and thanked them. We were back home in time for Bambi to fix us all toshikoshi soba and veggies, for a happy year-passing. And that was all last year.

More Of What I Love - Thu, 01/10/2019 - 11:18

Well... these are certainly very happy memories from our holidays. And I am brimming with anecdotes and reflections, bits I want to share and recall. But just now... just now I need to sit quietly, find a way to recharge, restock that resilience I am so badly in need of. And I will gaze, lovingly, and thankfully at these pictures, and be glad that we have so much to love.

Some Pretty Things Happened - Tue, 01/08/2019 - 21:55

December 6
Reminded that life can change in an instant, I feel particularly keen to take pictures of what I see and love, and enjoy, and it helps me, now, to look at pictures (before and after)... to remember, to appreciate anew, to let go, but quietly, with a thankful heart. So, I look at Maria in her Witch Thursday hat, the one her friend painted for her for her birthday, and though it is bittersweet, because I love every happy memory of Jet Puff, our family car, and I am sad it's gone, I am glad I have this photograph, this normal, happy moment.

And after the hospital, and the tests, and all of the scary and surreal events of the night, I finally did go upstairs to my dear, familiar bed, and Cairo came and did what a sweet pet will... he stayed close beside me, warm, and comforting, and I felt at home, which meant the beginning of healing.

All of these pictures are moments in December when I saw something beautiful, wanted to hold on to scenes when I felt something joyful. I was a quiet observer, or was aware of what I could not do, or how much of what was happening was an altered, or interrupted event... I don't know how to explain it, but even the good in these moments makes me recall what was also difficult, or disappointing, painful, or muddled. Still, I am glad that we took as much of our time and intentions as we could, and made the very best of it we could. (I am not convinced that was a good sentence, but...)

December 9

The first Monday morning when Maria would go into school, and Max, too. When the day should have been routine, and I might have baked treats for her to share with classmates, or helped her choose a fun holiday outfit. I walked into her quiet room and sat on her bed, and felt the most profound relief and thankfulness... just to be there, to see her sleeping, to wake her, and do all I could to give her a nice start to her day. I really am so lucky, I thought. I really do love to be here, to be a mother, to have this home, and family, and to have a community to support me, us. I wanted to keep her home, to slip into family time and all of the happiness of the holidays, but I was thankful, too, that she would have her school and friends, the classes she loves, and all that she needs in her own abilities, and confidence to get through her day.

I think this is one of the prettiest Christmas trees we have ever had. The first week we left it alone, and just adored its plain, piney boughs. Then William and Alex put lights on it... white lights, this year, because I wanted their calm, and soft glow. And that's as far as we got. Just the lights, then an ornament from Kim, then tiny gifts, but we never brought out our ornaments, or an angel or star. And while it wasn't a disappointment, I was aware that we were just a bit overwhelmed, and simple suited us better.

December 10

These pictures... this was the first really happy laughing, I had. And so silly. Cairo was after my tiny tree I put on that cupboard, and he was biting it and knocking it over. So! I sprayed it with an essential oil mosquito repellent, because I read "mint" on the bottle and he hates mint. Well, after I sprayed, he was worse! He tore the tree down, and went for the things on the wall, and then! Then he started chewing the carpeting! I was aghast. Alex, asked about the spray and I told him, and he laughed, reminding me that the natural repellent, so effective at discouraging mosquitos, was mostly catmint! Poor Cairo was high as kite! Muddled, muddled me.

This was such a beautiful sunrise, and I was happily awake, having had my first night of sleep since the accident. It was a visit from friend and therapist, Mahshid, that relieved some of my pain, emotional and physical. Her wisdom is still serving me well.

December 11

December 12

My Mom came all the way from Oregon, the very next day after the thing. And Hans, my brother, drove her from the airport. By the end of her first week, we had a bit of a routine, that I miss. We would take Maria to school, then walk. Walking was not much more than making an errand, the market, or pharmacy, or a shop, and we would stop for soup, or tea, to take pictures. Our outings perked me up, and tired me, in a good way. I felt quiet and slow, and she kept pace with me. At home she was wrestling with laundry, and getting hot meals on the table, matching socks, answering Chango's requests. She bought me a heating pad, one of Mahshid's brilliant prescriptions.

Everyone should have a heating pad.

Cairo is a heating pad, too. And I appreciated his warm company.

Finally, I had to give up on the little tree, but chamomile came back at Trader Joe's and I could have cried from happiness!

And Jennifer sent gifts, which she suggested I open early... a brilliant suggestion!

December 14

Every year I am full of best intentions and plans for Christmas, for gifts, cards, gestures, thanks, decorating, and playing. I never quite achieve the height of perfection I imagine and hope for... this year was nearly a bust, on my part. Thankfully, I had the sense to let mail order and shipping help me, and I relied heavily on assurances that 'no one expected me to do everything, or anything, this year,' which was kind. But I missed feeling capable of doing better. I was sad not to have a chance to do a better version of my best. I know I sent someone a heating pad, because everyone should have a heating pad.

Sometimes I took pictures of... of maybe kind of odd scenes, but they seemed so precious to me, so poignant. It's difficult not to find beauty in odd places when you are lucky to be alive, or simply concussed.

December 16

They never complained. It doesn't surprise me. They are happy, easy, content with simple pleasures. But still. They missed a lot. We had plans. And besides the very special things we missed, our regular routines and peace of home were derailed, and disrupted, and I wouldn't have blamed them or thought any less of them if they made a little protest, or whine. But they were all comfort and joy, gratitude, and resilience. I am not boasting or wearing rose-tinted glasses. I sometimes feel I say too little about what a joy our children are, and in this instance I want to really acknowledge how much easier they made things for me, how thankful I am for them.

December 17

December 18

December 19

When this box of homemade cookies from Laura and Gary came in the post, it was a moment that felt like Now, it's really Christmas! Their cookies, so prettily decorated, so delicious, too, are a welcome tradition. Last year, we wished we could have been in Wisconsin. We wished for a last Christmas in the house on Park Street, with Grandma Nancy. And this year... this year we simply missed everything and everyone we love in Wisconsin.

December 20

When I was showing signs of rallying, when the government was about to shut down... my Mom had to make a choice about getting home. I wish we had taken more pictures. Yeah, see... this seems like a lot of pictures, for some, I suppose. But I was keenly aware that I was not taking as many as I usually do, that I didn't have the mental vigor to organize family pictures, or more... what are those called? Natural? Spontaneous? Darn word... Anyway, suddenly my Mom was flying home, which was good, because she was going to be with Dad, and could hopefully recover. And I just wish I had more pictures.

What is that word?



Is this concussion, or just being 52 years old? Let's call it concussion. Because I am not in the mood to imagine that I am mentally doddering, yet.

I had to analyze many things that were on the calendar or planned for, and consider what I was up for, capable of managing, or consider how we could make them manageable. Like school. My last day of school was the very next morning after the thing, and missing my final was way sadder to me, more unbearable, than I could stand, so with Alex's company and assistance I went to school. I was slow and felt strange and... no matter, I felt empowered, and triumphant and glad to have made it. But then shock wore off and pain crept up and up, and things made me very tired, or simply run out of anything like energy or sense... and we started crossing things off the to-do list.

Of all the big and fun happy holiday events, my favorite tradition is probably celebrating Solstice. I always feel as though it's our gift to our friends, our thank you to them, and such fun to gather and observe the fortune of friends, light, merriment. But I wasn't sure it was such a good idea this year, which was too depressing to accept. Finally, William, Alex, Maria and Max, looked me in the eye, assuredly and calmly, and said, Don't worry. We will get everything ready, and it will be an easy and happy party, that you will love, and will not want to miss. And it was. They rallied. They cleaned, cooked, prepped, and hosted. Ruth came early, to bring apple crisp, and yellow roses. I had made the theme about our heritage, everyone's heritages, the recipes and traditions we have from our immigrant or Native ancestors, and it was a potluck. Everyone shared food, recipes, snacks, anything that comes from family, from love. I loved the stories. I loved the whole night.

Maria and Amira... last day of school, first night of winter break!

Kay and Max~

With Swedish snacks, like Wasa crackers and herring!

Avram, Sanjana, Coram, and Cathan, with Indian spicy snacks!

Spencer and Ido... Leslie, Simon, and Bex, too. They brought Turkish delight, and Hummus!

And robots!

December 21

I wish I had taken more pictures. It was a full house, and spread out into the front yard, too. I went to bed late, and happily tired.

December 22

Next time I will blog about Christmas Eve and Day, and a birthday... and more memories, more moments that make me smile, thankful, heartened. I know I mixed in mention of that event, the accident, but that's how it's been. It's part of the story, sadly, but I mean to deal with it by speaking of it, and acknowledging that it happened and it caused things. It helps me feel some power over what happened... I've noticed that other hard things that I've kept to myself, or tried to cope with by hiding, suppressing or minimizing don't go away, or get better, but just kind of linger, ache, resurface in unexpected or mixed up ways. So... new approach is to talk, speak, voice, express, write, cry, laugh, deal with it. And then look at all of the good, and celebrate, and triumph! And heating pads. Everyone should have a heating pad.

Do I Still Blog - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 16:40
Maybe I am the only one wondering. Do I still blog?
The answer is yes, and wouldn't it be nice if I could keep it simple, and let that be the answer?
But, please, allow me to complicate matters.

Let's begin with a visual aid. I found this on social media, and was shook wide awake by a self-diagnosis that walked up and slapped me in the face, "hello, this is you."

(Before anyone takes offense or protests: I am not really diagnosing myself, but I have never seen such a succinct and insightful illustration of my blogging process, my thinking, my verbal narrative {when I can muster the nerve to think out loud.} When I saw it {And thank you Internet person that created this; DM me for credit, please,} I thought... Whoa. My brain. Of course, I thought more than that, and delving into my entire thought process is tempting, and wouldn't that just make my point? I can not start a story, in a linear, clean path, and end it. I mean, I could, but it wouldn't be how it's actually forming in my head.)

Do I still blog?

Yes. All the time. In my head. With my camera.

And now, I wish I could blog in a flow chart. This format, written in paragraphs, with a beginning, middle and end, staying on a single topic, and following a clear path, saying "and then, and then, and then, and the end..." it's insufficient. It's slow, limiting. I need a means of blogging that is parallel processing, multiple paths, not in succession, but elaborating all the parts, simultaneously. Back story, details, side story, insight, feelings, reactions, missteps, reprocessing... justifications, rationales, apologies, epiphanies, conclusions, new conclusions, amended conclusions, questions. Like a movie, one superimposed with graphics, and described by an articulate, poetic narrator.

I am blogging all the time.

Good morning.

Happy New Year.

Did you have nice holidays?

Our holidays were lovely, and as I always say, too short. I wish we could have another week, or month, of home time, of finishing projects, and starting new ones, of getting organized, and reading aloud in front of the fire place, of late nights talking and laughing with friends. We had many, many happy days, and special moments, and without apology, I want more. In fact, we have already had discussions and made plans for how we will take more, make more, next year. More parties, more dinners with friends, more lights, and laughter, and company, and outings, more cooking, sharing, making, playing, celebrating. It has little to do with things or being party animals. It's really just about being open to joy, to seeing moments and being present.

In my last post, I was (again) giving myself a pep-talk about attitude and taking things in stride, and it was a good pep-talk, because the rest of the day improved tremendously, and more importantly my mood and energy improved tremendously, and I felt a sense of relief and optimism that was both invigorating and comforting. I felt, and believed: "This holiday season is going to be wonderful, and I have the energy and resources to create good things, have an orderly home, do some special activities, be present and relaxed." My head and heart were intent on this rising enthusiasm and positive energy, happily realizing how awesome things are, would be. I made soup. I thought about Alex coming home from school, and the last week of school for Max and Maria, and the very special plans we had been saving for and anticipating. And then I went out to get bread to go with our soup.

I can, and do, involuntarily... over and over, again, replay in excruciating detail, the drive from our house to the market. It was dusk, rainy, and the roads were notably, surprisingly clear. I anticipated the pedestrian cross walks; they were clear, and I saw there was no traffic coming east, nor anyone ahead of me going west. And then a white car was in my car. Sudden and wrong, and large. Then pain and confusion, and so much sadness. The sadness came like dead weight, screaming, grinding, crushing metal weight. And it's on me, still. My teeth hurt, and that was my first tangible sense, followed by panic... the urgency of wanting to be safe, of wanting to gauge everything, "Where are my children? Is anyone hurt? Why did someone drive into me? My Jet Puff." The idea of damages, and costs, and bureaucracy, hit me, too. I heard voices, real ones, concerned, and inquiring, and my own voice... detached. I could see words hanging in the air, to the left, just above my head, and hard to capture and bring forth, aloud. I had to close my eyes, to speak, to cope, to move out of the driver's seat and over to the other door, the door that could open. Siri, call Geoff on speaker, please, but those words were floating next to me and Siri couldn't respond. I handed my phone to the voice of a kind woman, and she completed the call, and I closed my eyes tighter and cried. I thought, "We need the bread for the soup, for dinner. Someone, turn off the stove." I thought, "The traffic at 5 pm is horrible and Geoff is going to be so worried." I closed my eyes even tighter, then slumped quietly into the seat, and let go. For an incalculable time it was as if all was a bad dream, and I could be quite still, and let it pass by.

Our holidays were lovely, and yet... this has been one of the most awful months ever. I am lucky to be alive, to bear no visible scars, lucky nothing broke. My Jet Puff died saving my life. I guess that's a bit dramatic, but I've seen the pictures. If there's one subject I've wanted to blog about... it's that mini-van of mine. I have pictured it from January 2003, when after a couple of years of shopping and researching we bought the ideal vehicle for our family, which at the time included my grandparents. I have pictured bringing baby Maria home, the road trip to Mexico, the road trips to Oregon, and every errand, garden nursery, feed store, family gathering, camping trip, adventure, and market run for 185,000 miles. We were on our way to driving this baby to the Moon! I love(d) my car. My ride. My lovely, dear Jet Puff. People caution us against materialism, and I don't think this is idolatry. It's just genuine, deep, and effusive appreciation for the convenience, the luxury, the comfort, and freedom of having a reliable, safe, and pretty means of going places. I was lucky, and happy, and thankful for my mini-van, for every opportunity and advantage it gave our family. And... and I am crying, again, because it makes me very sad that my last view of Jet Puff, was from an ambulance, and my van shredded and alone on the side of the road. Also, I lost my button from Maker Faire, and Je Dis Oui is still in the disc player. And I wish I could have said Good bye, thank you. Thank you.

An awful lot can happen, even when "nothing is broken," and "you're lucky to be alive." My bite is different. I've watched lumps turn into bruises, spread and change, and move, and some of those are still painful to touch. My knees hurt. Still have a headache, and however long a concussion lasts, I can confirm: I daily discover things that I'd forgotten, or mix up, or simply don't know, even from the days before the accident. Yet, the crash itself plays in my sleep, vividly, and I dread(ed) falling asleep, or being "alone with my thoughts." Shock, I learned, can protect you from pain, but then things calm down, which feels nice, until pain shows itself. My neck and shoulders will seize in pain, my chest feels like it was crushed. It took about 3 weeks for my tongue to feel ok... not good, but ok. Probably, in my eagerness to be OK, I did too much. Or not enough? I don't know. I am trying to be wise, a good patient, proactive. I don't want to have chronic pain, or unresolved issues.

My Mom came, and fast, too, which is no small feat given the small, remote town she had to travel from. She made a good difference, and I keep thinking that besides our gratitude to give her, insurance ought to cover her flight, the car rental.

Is there any point in thinking about recompense? I do think about it.

I think about all the big, and small ways an accident (and by "accident" I mean... when someone, just off of probation for DUI, decides to get drunk {twice the legal limit} and chooses to drive their car, and in their impaired state, leave their lane and drive headlong into another car)... yeah, I think about all the ways those choices wiped out our choices, and made things shit for our family.

My practice, my mantra is: The accident is not my fault, but I can be responsible for my own happiness.

But as an exercise, as a means of just releasing my sadness, and pain, I think about damages, and compensation, even listing the intangible things, the seemingly "unrelated" effects.

Lost time at work for Geoff, and me unable to do my activities, or meet my responsibilities. Lost vehicle, and Pink Martini disc. Lost confidence, and sense of well-being. We have medical bills and insurance hassles, and doctors appointments. We couldn't enjoy the "big one" Christmas indulgence, saved for, anticipated and coordinated between 11 people. Gone. My last day of art class is a blur, and certainly a case of me "doing too much." It just made me so sad (and makes me increasingly very angry) every time we had to pass on plans, activities, traditions, or even just scale things back, because of someone's selfish choices. Insurance, when we advocate, and figure things out, will help, I hope, and then... then there are the many, countless, ways we lose, we can't recover, or get back. It's her fault. It's unfair. And more than anything else: I do not want her to be free to recklessly destroy another family's life.

Sadly, I am not through the "accident," the process of closing this chapter. I will endeavor to keep home and school, and plans and intentions good, and separate from the hearing, and court processes... as much as possible. Tomorrow I have to talk to an attorney. How do I do things correctly, and well, when I've never done it before? How do I move forward and regain some peace, when I am forced to navigate a subpoena and court hearing? I feel it all over again, struck head-on, trapped, and trying to figure everything out, while my words hang just out of reach. Well, if I cannot be a brave and capable person, at least I will be sincere, earnest, aim for my best. I wish I could close my eyes, and let the nightmare pass me by.

The accident is not my fault, but I can be responsible for my own happiness.

My happiness begins in thanking my Mom, and my children, my husband, and... and I am going to feel terrible if I leave anyone out, but so many of you helped me, us. Each of you is appreciated, truly. I remember soups, and cookies, and cards, and texts, and advice, supportive hands, wise words. And caring. So much concern and kindness. Thank you. Our holidays were lovely, and I hope to post some more of that, to let our lives and choices be the focus of my thoughts and reflections.

(Oh, for crying out-loud. I keep postponing things for "until I am better," because I make a lot of mistakes. Just for the record... I keep finding errors and typos in this post. Not that my writing has ever been error-free, but these are some doozies! The path to healing is circuitous and roller-coaster like, and I am hanging on for dear life!)

Relax - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 12:10
This view, even in a photograph, soothes me. I can overthink it and see the unfinished projects, the weeds, the odds and ends. But never mind all that. This is about first impressions, and a higher appreciation for beauty, plenty, opportunity, home. I just need to relax.

Every party needs a theme, even if the theme is "no theme." This party, Maria's 14th birthday celebration, revolved around Studio Ghibli and Porco Rosso, and good friends, and it was a lot of fun. For us, the fun began with taking a Japanese animation about seaplane pilots set in the Adriatic Sea and Turin, Italy, and planning a party around all of that. We settled on spaghetti dinner, and pizza flavored Poky Pretz for snacks, and we were super excited to find balsa plane kits. No cake... just lots of tiny dessert, like cannoli and Italian cookies, and Maria's Tutu brought strawberry mochi, which was a brilliant addition.

A favorite part of the movie takes place in Turin, where Porco Rosso turns to his mechanic, Piccolo, for help. There we meet Fio... she designs and engineers his new seaplane. The workshop scenes, and appetizing pasta scene are great. Of course, we didn't build our own workshop for the sake of a party theme, but it's always amusing to recognize how our interests intersect.

New school, new friends, and longtime friends, too.
Norman, Amira, and Ben, Max, Amber, Makayla, Skylar and Leo!
Keene, Lucas, Rory, Maria, Alec, and Natalie~

Walls! The art studio has walls. Paul, Janece, and Amira were over, and it turned into a nice day of making, and hanging out.

My very own elf on a shelf, or is it my gnome at home? I thought I was being thoughtful and supportive buying gifts from local makers, artists, keeping a hand-made pledge, but in her usual fashion, Calamity Kim went all out and my order arrived brimming full of fun.

Carol and Leo collected beach treasure on a visit to Arcata, California, and just look what she made! I try not to be too grabby, but I can't keep my hands off of Maria's birthday gift!

It's been about as seasonally cool and even rainy, as we can hope for, and I love it.

The weather and holidays have redoubled my mood and efforts to make things, and I've been experimenting with chalk paint, and wax, and designing new display shelves. Oh! And I also found the nerve to add a small art piece to a Zazzle account. My Santa Lucia in Helsinki painting is available as a postcard.

Relax. Relax. And breath. Relax, and breath, and keep moving forward.

Blogging is largely a matter of talking to myself. And today, I am talking about my attitude. I am anxious, stressed, insecure, doubtful, and nearly trounced.

In my head, I just heard my friend add: "And talented. You forgot 'talented'"

I hope everyone has a friend like mine, one that steps in and adds levity, grace, kindness, a view of the bigger picture. I want to be that kind of friend... thoughtful, and kind. And not just with others, but with myself, too, so that when I do feel nearly trounced and anxious, I can draw a long, slow breath, and say, "Relax."

Maria is trying to manage being sick and being in high school, which largely entails, I am sorry to say, "Sucking it up." She had a rocky morning, and I watched her knock around the house, like a battered pinball, trying to dress, eat, find a backpack, finish homework, brush tangled, wet hair, and figure out how to turn in homework that is less than her usual high-caliber work. Of course, she is still sick, too. And I felt really bad for her, and I also bit my tongue, refraining from saying something truly awful, like "Relax. Your attitude will go a long way to making this easier..." Oh, my God. It might be true, it might be sincere, and wise, but it would have been a terrible thing to say. Sometimes, truth and wisdom, especially coming from someone not in the crisis, are not what I need, when I am feeling overwhelmed.

Tonight, I will intervene a bit more, and help her pace herself, prioritizing, and reconnecting with effective solutions. And I will take long, slow breaths, be relaxed, and do what I can to demonstrate a calm, supportive attitude. I am hoping that my example and assistance will be more helpful than a speech about "what to do, how to act."

And I am going to add: I needn't use Maria as an example of being frazzled, knocking around like a battered pinball, when I was even worse, just yesterday. Really, this entire post could be a note to self: Relax. Your attitude could go a long way to making this easier. I was invited to a holiday party for 'art leaders in San Diego,' and I spent way too much time worried about stuff... what to wear, what to say, how to introduce myself, where is our stamp so I can make business cards?? I suffered for hours trying to make business cards, which entailed my inexperience crossing streams with inadequate software and materials. Round hole, square peg, and still I persisted, which was a senseless exercise in futility. My sense of anxiety and stress were real, my concerns were genuine, but none of it mattered... at least, none of it could be helped, and none of it was helping. We went to the party, and it was sweet, and pretty, and we met people, and saw downtown in rainy-holiday-lit-up splendor, and in the end, I was sorry I spent the day in a state. No one asked for a business card.

Problems and challenges are not going away, but I so very much want to remember that it's mostly ok. I need frequent, gentle, reminding.

Less overthinking, less panic, and doubt. True, I have a lot to do, and I'll stumble, again and again. But this will easier if I loosen my grip, and hold space for grace.

Keeping Hope & Shining Light - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 11:10
November has been a pretty month, a month of breathtaking views, and happy events. I will miss the November skies, sunsets, and sunrises, clouds, and colors. It's not easy to reflect on all of the beauty and Thanks, and not think on the horrors, too. I am not blithely unaware of headlines and happenings... shootings, fires, losses, injustice, corruption, lies, and atrocities. None of us can be unaware. I am buoyed by the mindfulness and actions, compassion, diligence and resilience of many good and intelligent people. I acknowledge my privilege, blessings, opportunities, and the peace and comfort I can wrap around me... I do not need everything I have or deserve any of it anymore than anyone does, and I am struggling to enjoy my life, while being a conscious and solicitous being. Even having the space and time to reflect on the concepts of self-care and personal space is an immunity from real hardship.


Chickenblog, and my Instagram are happy places... I cannot deny that I have a beautiful life, that I focus my attention and what I share on the best aspects of my life. If keeping it real means anything, if you find any of this a little too shiny, rest assured... we have heartache, challenges, setbacks, and worries, we have been battling very real upsets and anguish. Like the subjects I paint, I think I need my social media to be as far removed from the whole picture as possible. Too much news, too much time immersed in every crisis, flattens me. If I am not careful, I get pulled too low, become ineffectual, despondent. Do I feel apologetic for this quality, for the way my empathy can deplete me utterly? Yes... which is equally discouraging, and essentially pointless to linger on. Nonetheless... I am sorry. I am sorry for the suffering in the world, the injustice, the hateful words and cruel deeds, I am sorry for the loneliness, and struggles. And to survive, to carry on, and in hopes of being a source of comfort and encouragement... I will keep looking at the sky, planting the garden, sharing recipes, packing lunches, washing socks, listening, holding space, keeping hope, shining light.

This is where I nursed my cold and discovered the bliss of online shopping with local shopkeepers, artists, and makers.

And when I wasn't feeling too crummy, I kept busy building and making my own gift giving creations... woodworking, painting, and crocheting.

What I would love to do is develop a style and means of sharing our handmade gifts as prettily and thoughtfully as our friends do with their gifts. I need to be careful, though; I have a bad habit of procrastinating when I cannot do something as nicely or well as I have envisioned, then things get muddled, delayed, lost, or stressful, which is not pretty, at all.

Here was a happy chance... taking Max out for a midweek lunch, and running into Lucas and Charles. Lucas helped me find a brilliant birthday gift for Maria.

Here she is... our birthday girl. She wanted to remain 13 for as long as possible, so even though we were dropping her off to school on the day of her birth, she saved the official turning for the hour of her birth. And this is where I might write scads of praise and an anecdote or 2 about her qualities. But I've already whispered all of it into her ear, and around her head. She is a joy, thoroughly, consistently, and we love her.

Here is my Swiffer.

He is a joy, and a scamp, and puppy-cat, and we love him, too.

Tonight... a party to celebrate the birthday girl, and be with friends, sharing our happiness.

And ahead... our wishes for light, hope, and comfort, for all.

Every Bit As Much As We Can - Sat, 11/24/2018 - 12:30
By the time my favorite time of year comes around, I already feel like time is running out, and I want to appreciate every bit of fall, and traditions, the changing weather, the anticipation of holidays, the hope of seeing family. Not everything can turn out as we might hope, and not all of our activities are carefree and light... but we have been enjoying as much of every bit of the goodness of the season as we can. Falling asleep beside me, late Thanksgiving night, Maria murmured contentedly, "We really did have a nice Thanksgiving, didn't we?"

If you still hang around FB, and want something beautiful to lift your spirits, may I suggest... Fred Cohen Photography? Most of the year he is sharing New York sights, which increasingly inspire me to get there, someday. And then... then there are the trips Fred and Anna B make, around the world, and sometimes to our own backyards, and those are really rousing! I am always eagerly anticipating their next adventure, and the photographs that follow. I am submitting a proposal to join them, as a baggage handler, novice guide. Fred kindly lets me use his photographs to practice my painting lessons, which I appreciate.

"No pictures!" That was the command of Mia, the birthday girl, that invited Maria bowling... and I think I made a decent compromise, only taking blurry-artsy images. It was too hard to resist taking pictures of the fun, the friends, the lights and action. And I'm posting these, however questionable the quality, because they are a prompt to remind me of our daughter, almost 14, her new friends, and happy moments of high school.

Hey! Our make club, #BOoMNerds, received a very cool kit from our friends at Echanted Leaves... it's for electroforming, which I explain in our first ever unboxing video!

Whoa... that was a lot of links.

But. Do, please, check-out our video, which shows all the neat stuff we are going to use to learn how to make more neat stuff!

Or... you can just go directly to Nedda's marvelous shop, Enchanted Leaves, and dive into the sales happening now, for the beautiful jewelry she makes. Support handmade!

Final projects. I keep adding just one more painting to my final projects portfolio. I can't believe this class is almost over. Sad face.

This is me, trying ingratiate myself into Chibi's heart... I was pet sitting, but I think this may be proof that I traumatized my friends' doggo. I'm sorry, Chibi.

Maria, Bambi, Alex, Max, and William... and with this picture, my Thanksgiving joy was complete.

Just... one. more. final. project.

Every bit, as much as we can, we are loving this wonderful time of the year.

November Moments - Thu, 11/15/2018 - 10:04

Days of school and jaunts, projects progressing, and our pampered pets, a garden that never stops producing, and trying to keep our wits about us, as the world spins madly on. There are wishes, in my heart, running through my head... like closing the miles between us and friends and family, like taking down the plaid curtains in the kitchen, building, fixing, mending, making. But just now it all feels greedy, and I wish it would rain. I wish we could put out all of the fires in the world, then simply shine light.

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.