Saturday, August 01, 2009

It Must Be Teh Stress

1. I am overweight
2. I never ever want to admit that I am overweight
3. It's been hot and I want to wear semi-skimpy, yet modest, summer dresses that flutter in the breeze
4. I am aging
5. Everyone is aging
6. I am not aging gracefully
7. Everyone else is aging gracefully
8. feh
9. I thought I could make a dress pattern for an overweight, aging gracelessly woman that has no experience making dress patterns and almost as little experience sewing clothes for herself
10. I wanted a classic look, loose, pretty, practical, flattering, quick and easy
11. What I got was a look I call: Swiss Alps-Heidi Escapes The LDS Compound

(new subject)

A. I worry
B. I am insecure
C. I am one of the luckiest persons alive and all I can think about is how scared and overwhelmed I feel
D. Even wonderful events can bring stress
E. Buying a house is really really really stressful
F. We need packing tape
G. Seepage pits are very deep
H. What would Heidi do?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Chickenblog and The Tour de France

Barcelona, Catalunya and Le Tour de France and Chickenblog... we just did it!

When we realized that we were traveling just ahead of the Tour, when we passed up the Live strong-Just Do It entourage in Montpellier, France we got pretty excited. It never occurred to us that we would be so fortunate. In planning our three week, 7 country, family adventure factoring in seeing any stage of the month long cycling extravaganza did not register. As soon as we were in Provence, Tour fever was everywhere and we caught it. In Barcelona we headed to our favorite Internet cafe and logged on for a Tour de France update and specifics on the route through Barcelona. Even though the day of the race was pouring down rain, we were determined to see the sixth stage of this historic race... especially on the historic occasion of it being the first time in 44 years that the race would ride through Catalunya!

The sixth stage of the race was 181.5 km... over 112 miles! In the rain. Riding bicycles. The least we could do was stand on the curb and cheer. The umbrellas were a help, but unfortunately we didn't buy them until we were already soaked.

And our plan started to seem a bit ridiculous. Was anyone else going to come out and cheer for the riders?

Max was the only one convinced the plan was in fact ridiculous. We may have lost a Tour fan, but I cannot blame him. The circumstances were testy, especially for him. Alex and William grasped the concept and appreciated the momentous-ness of what was coming. As for Maria... well she was actually totally on board, rain and all. We told her we were waiting for people on bicycles. But well ahead of the bicycles there is a parade.

"Parade" is a term I am using loosely here. Here in the States our parades are slow; they have a predictable pace that allows for ample to time to appreciate and admire the floats, the riders, the vibe of the event. Our parades are practically a crawl. In the Tour the thousands of cars, motorcycles and "floats" that precede the cyclists are traveling at breakneck speeds. They are bookin'. They do not slow down in the curve or wait for adoring spectators to wave. It's a 40-50-60 MPH blur of honking, shouting, blaring, whizzing passed commercial hoopla and then they are gone. **poof**

From our vantage point we could see them turn from Passeig de Lluís Companys and come down where we were standing on Passeig Pujades. Finally our long walk in the rain and the wait were paying off. Okay, so it's not as much work as riding 112 miles in the rain, but we were feeling pumped! And we cheered and jumped for every motorcycle and promo-car. We probably should have been pacing ourselves, saving our voices...

The parade lasted a long time.

Sure, they are racing passed and the noise and music and blaring excitement is amazing, but it lasted a long time. There were approximately four thousand vehicles in the race, and we stood in the rain cheering for every single one. Actually sometimes I would remind myself we there to see cyclists.

And who is the biggest fan of the Tour De France? You're looking at her!

Maria loves a long, fast moving parade. Maria loves a long, fast moving parade where the promo-cars toss swag to the crowds!
Swag = promotional merchandise = freebies = hats, stickers, toys, T shirts, candy, bags = stuff!

After a while the parade of vehicles was coming fewer and farther between so we dashed across the street to stake out a new spot... hopefully a drier corner! We walked to the Arc de Triomf where hundreds of spinners (?) were participating in an attempt to make a world record for number of people spinning in the same place. I think they had to try again for the record, since the rain kept many people away, but they had spirit and it was awesome when they all donned the Live Strong Yellow shirts.

On the big screens we could see live coverage of the Tour as it made its way through the city. And on the course there were still long lines of police on motorcycles and more parade drama. My thought: What a great day to get in to mischief... every cop in the region must be speeding through town in the parade.

At least the rain let up. By now we realized that cheering loudly for every passing auto was a waste of our energy, and we could see from the jumbo screens that the main event was finally riding in to Barcelona!

By now we were sharing the sidewalk with an actual crowd, and when the spinners finished breaking the record, they spread out in to the crowd and handed everyone Live Strong swag bags... with the brightest yellow chalk and the classic Armstrong yellow bracelets.

Once the helicopter started circling tight over our heads we knew we were going to see cyclists, and then down the street the crowd really burst with cheers.
Here they come!

My poor camera was not prepared for capturing those awesome professional athlete in motion portraits. The average speed in this sixth stage was 15 MPH, and in this flat, straight section I think they must have been going a lot faster. They were a blur.

Look! There's Lance. He's the one in blue and yellow, with a helmet. Just kidding. I don't know. He was there.

Astana. Apparently Alberto Contador just turned down 16 million Euro from the Kazakhstan sponsored team. I wonder what Lance's plans are.

The race was over quickly... for us. Of course the riders still had to pedal to the finish line for that day and then ride to Paris in 15 more races or "stages." The Live Strong website has more facts about the Tour, like how many calories were burned in stage 6... Answer: 5,096.7 kcalories. That's a lot of tapas!

While watching the riders it was near impossible to single out a particular face or team, but later I was amused by one particular racer. He's on the right. It's his expression that makes me endlessly speculate. Was he happy? Was he resigned? Does he like tapas?

I think the rider on the left was worried about his teammate in the middle... the guy in the middle is bleeding. The guy on the right is thinking about something else... but what?

That face. The look. I'm thinking of this guy... Mr. Bean. He could almost be described as cranky, even offended, but I gotta cut him some slack. He'd had a long day.

I'm cutting her some slack. She'd had a long day too!

And that is all. Chickenblog sports coverage... yeah, I can do it!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who Are You Anonymous?

William took one look at my pictures from Comic-Con and he knew right away... "Oh. Marion Ravenwood and Wilhelmina Scott." I was proud enough to recognize that the women were portraying female leads from two Indiana Jones features, to know that it was Karen Allen and Kate Capshaw who originated the roles, and that Karen Allen was in... Never mind. I will refrain from demonstrating my mastery of fascinating information.

So, Anonymous step-up! Maria was brave enough to cross the room and greet the two Conventioneers. She's not too proud to show her Geek genes. Besides there is a prize waiting to be claimed, so don't be shy! You know who these women are and you identified the movies they appeared in, so let me know where to send your reward!

Settlement. Settlement!
I like how that sounds. I like that very much.

Settlement: 2 a: an act of bestowing or giving possession under legal sanction.
It sounds so civilized and reasonable. Devoid of emotional writhing, nail biting, haggling, speculating, inspecting, suspecting, debating, regretting, doubting, hoping, waiting, squirming, signing or sweating.

We are in settlement. We are in settlement. Oh, have you heard the news? Yes, the Blue House, the one with the pine trees on the street. We're in settlement. Uh-huh.

Thank you. I am enjoying the comments and encouragement. The bold typed elation. It's still a whisper around here, but so far everything is coming together. One day at a time.

Want to see something?

Ta-da! Towel racks!
Little by little I am letting myself get excited, letting myself believe that this is happening.
Towel racks in the master bathroom, and there are more than two!
Hey, nice toilet, actually.
See, I am taking this slow. I am very happy about the prospect of having more than one towel rack and I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that the walls are not cave dark and covered in gold and green faux, marble wallpaper. Elated!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello Chickenblog

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

Things are looking up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guess who we found!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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