Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Forward and Fine Tuning My Game Plan

I am taking notes, getting sparked, finding motivation and feeling ready to clear out the junk that impedes progress, health, creativity and joy. Inspiration is all over, and I am really excited about the new year... whether it began yesterday or starts first thing after midnight tonight. The best part is that I have an internalized drive to shake things-up, re-shape myself, and make things better... not perfect, just better. And hopefully by making these public declarations and really committing out loud to resolutions I will stay committed. I also hope to make the most of the support and encouragement of my friends... so many of us seem to be in similar states of thought and action.

Before I totally discard my former self, I am going to follow Marisa'a lead: She's made a list of ten accomplishments she is glad to have made, and she is inviting others to make their own lists and post them before the new year. I have been thinking about my accomplishments, the things I have done in my lifetime, and one thing I have concluded is that there is no need to completely discard Me... there's some righteous stuff in my composition.
In no particular order... 10 Things I have Done
1. Survived kidney disease.
2. Gave birth to 4 wonderful children.
3. Found, lost, reclaimed the love of my life. It's still a joy.
4. Jumped from The Clam... 3 times!
5. Rapelled in total darkness from Stonewall Peak. In the dark. At night. First time ever. It still freaks me out.
6. Drove an RV from California to Wisconsin, and back! (Ruth and Corm can put this on their list too.)
7. Made quilt(s)... fulfillment of a dream.
8. Brought home chickens... fulfillment of another dream.
9. Every road trip, train trip and our 2000 family cruise
10. Backpacking in the Sierras with family friends when I was 14.

Now, I want to look ahead and think about what else I can accomplish. Kim is making big plans too and I like her thoughts about "habits." Uh-huh. I need to lose some habits and let some good habits take hold of me. And though I squirm and whine at the thought, I know this means introducing myself to Discipline. Hello Discipline. My name is Natalie. I'm flakey, and half-bakey, and I really need you in my life. My new habits will include (again, in public, so I humiliate myself into action:) Exercise, delegating house work, learning new skills, managing my time, spending less, eating less, whining less. That's it, more or less.

Wait! One more thing! I also want to Create in 2008! Tami's Motto for the new year is an awesome one and I totally agree that this year must be dedicated to creativity. And I love how she has incorporated her list of new habits with her creative goals. She has a list of Actions and Benefits, and it's good to see how seemingly unrelated habits, like exercise, actually benefit our creative goals. Very Inspiring! I really want to join her, and I want to make my interests a more respected and intrinsic part of my life... not that Me is the only topic of interest for the new year, but I feel a bit like Jennifer. I want to be a better person in 2008 too. I think it's because I know I am a role model, and if I can make myself better and feel better, then I will have more to offer my children, my husband, my community. The world is looking so hurt and bleak and I can't turn it around by myself, so I will be a teeny-tiny ripple and I hope it can grow and grow, and turn the tide.

This guy is making repairs on a ginormous balloon... it's a ride at The Wild Animal Park. One rope at a time he is ensuring that the balloon is secure and safe. A lot of people are counting on him. His job is probably daunting, a bit unnerving, sometimes tedious, maybe fun? Some people like heights and challenges. I bet it takes a long time to check every segment, to keep track of all those lines. Maybe by the time he is finished, it's really only time to begin again.

Now it's time for me to begin again. I don't know if I will get it right, but I am going to keep trying. Happy New Year! I wish you success. I wish you the will to keep on trying!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

So Far, So Good

I have to thank a lot of people for the birthday love. All of your messages have been bolstering, and they cheer me, and make me laugh... hey, did you all see it's Tracy's birthday too! Go wish her happy birthday before she goes to bed... it's getting late in Norway. So, every comment has been like a birthday gift and I have really enjoyed opening each one, savoring your warm wishes and sharing your kindness. Thank you!

Jennifer, your comment was unbelievable and weird, and totally sweet. I love it when coincidences collide. Serendipity. Magic. Meant to be. Gifts are never late, so let's not be silly and worry about such matters... lol. I read "Superhero Journal's" birthday post and she spoke some good truth. I know I've read her blog before... hmmm, must be getting old... can't remember when or where. Now I have her bookmarked for future insight.

Joan, give your daughter a belated birthday wish from me, and thank you for your thoughtfulness. Anne, I am making the shrimp tonight. Finally. Now you know what's for dinner, and my kids will have to fend for themselves... just kidding. Missy, it is hammer time! I feel like we are training her, so she can help us build our home. Thank you Lesley. Hello Lynne. I am so glad you came by. Thinking about that dog, drinking ice water at 2 a.m. made laugh and shiver! Ahh, Pam, thank you so much for the birthday wish, and send some to your son for me too. I know you do give wonderful gifts... thank you for being so thoughtful. Happy New Year Beverly, and everyone. We did have a wonderful Christmas... it feels like we are still in the midst of it, as the children keep inviting us to play new games and check-out their latest Lego creations. It's so great to make the fun and celebrating last and last. Oiyi, give your sister a "happy birthday" from me, and the quilt WIPs are mine, but the hens are from a larger piece that was hanging in an Oregon quilt shop... shame on me because I cannot find the name of the artist. "Oiyi" is on a very special birth day countdown of her own!

Sister Kim, I got my cake and I am getting treated to love and affection, kindness and clean dishes + I think they will make themselves scarce so I can sew today, which you must admit is an awesome treat!

I am still in my pajamas, and it's... yikes! 1:00 p.m.! Oh well. We ate some of the cake for breakfast, and I opened a few gifts, like the kitchen gadgets my boys chose for me and fabric from my Mommy and my Aloha Mom. I know I have red boots coming too! Hans and Gretchen gave me one of those techie frames that displays digital photographs... aren't they clever, and generous? My sweet Geoff gave me an iPod. It's tiny. Teeny-tiny and it clips to my dress or shirt or tiara and I can groove to my tunes. He knows I love to have a playlist rolling.

This gift from Mom and Corm, may take the prize for Best Fit. I love maps. Love them. I read them like novels. And the only radio station I am even aware of is NPR. Are there other radio stations? So, imagine a gift that can bring together my two passions! It's so cool... That's Californian for: "This gift reflects not only the thoughtfulness of the givers, but also my interests and it brings them together in a creative and very useful manner. Delightful."

And one more thought: What Does Mexíco smell like?

Mexíco smells of market stalls overflowing with fresh cut flowers and the harvests of hundreds of small farms, green onions, cilantro, navel oranges, and mangoes. Mexíco smells of whole cinnamon, chocolate, conchas and empanadas. Mexíco smells of wood burning fires, dust, labor, play, evening walks around the zócalo. Mexíco smells of orchards and plowed fields, river beds, adobe, rebozos, coros in church, riding in the back of a truck, fire crackers. Mexíco smells of fresh cut limes and hot corn tortillas.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Today is My Unbirthday!

It's like my own personal New Year's Eve, when I am on the brink of a new year. I have been toying with the very novel idea of not letting my birthday go unannounced, pass quietly, slip through the floor boards. And I have been thinking of ways to say (in my shy, unassuming voice): "I am a year older and I like cake. I am a year older and I think we should do my favorite things." I rarely ever do anything like this... make a to-do over Me. And I was going to launch into a long, sad story about how unfortunate the timing of my birthday is (which I sort of am doing, but only briefly), because it falls between two more popular and interesting events, namely Christmas and New Year's Eve... but I am not going to do that. Today is my unbirthday and tomorrow I will be 41 years old.

Someone has inspired me to think about how I see myself and how I represent myself to the world... to consider the stories I tell, or simply repeat in my head, and how those stories and beliefs may or may not be true. Remember: Do Not Believe Everything You Think. I have some tired, worn-out, sad, pitiful, long in the tooth, short on interest stories that I keep fostering and nurturing and protecting and publishing... you get the idea.

I was reading my friend's post and thinking how brilliant she is and then I got to the part where she wrote, "And when you tell yourself the same story for years, it's kind of uncomfortable to give it up." That part made me cringe, and get flustered and sweat just a little, because sometimes the truth is hard to take. I am really, really comfortable with my stories. They guide me, and shelter me from improving myself, from changing my views, from growing and moving forward. My stories provide the rationales and excuses I need to pardon me from other truths, from new perspectives, and different possibilities.

I don't know if this means I will deny that I hate renting or that my parent's 1971 divorce still sends shock waves through my life... those things are true... but, maybe the idea is to open up new chapters and take a new position on old topics. Renting sucks, but thank God we aren't stuck holding a sub-prime mortgage. Divorce sucks too, but I cannot imagine what my life might have been if they'd stuck it out... it's good they let go. So if I can cut-back on the old stories and start reflecting on the events and ideas that are meaningful right now, the inspiration and dreams that could motivate and facilitate new and better directions, well, that would be a very good thing.

You realize this means more talk about chickens, don't you? Chickens, and hardwood floors, and the built-in shelves I want in the home I hope we'll someday have. Chickens, and more road trips, sewing, gardening, creating, making my visions realities, even the silly ones. I really want to stop suppressing my hopes and the interests I have. I want to be less apologetic and more insistent. I want to accept myself and also kick myself, because I know I can be better. I really must dare to be as good as I want to believe I can be... which is a rather pedantic statement for self-esteem, but it is a start.

Today is my unbirthday, and I like Janice's carrot cake, the Octopus Car Wash in Madison, Wisconsin, Disneyland, digging in dirt, taking photographs, the smell of Mexíco, cowboy music, being in the same room with all of my children and husband, the new ringtone on my cell phone, farms and barns and small, rural towns. I like getting mail, planning trips, gazing out the window of the car, giving directions, listening to Maria talk to herself, and the sound of a dog drinking water. I wish my children could be home with me even more than they already are, because their company delights me to the core.

I am working on some plans, some new ways of going about living... like asking someone to please take pictures of me too, and reclaiming my health, so I don't feel disgusted so I can feel comfortable and strong. And more, and other stuff. I'm distracted now... I am going to play with Maria. She got a hammer and nails from Santa and we love hammering together.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
-Mariane Williamson, "A Return to Love"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thirty-Two Feet and Eight Little Tails... Santa Laughing "Ho-Ho-Ho-Ho!"

Dale Evans is singing and I am catching-up with email and news, and... and slowly, slowly preparing to clean this house! I think Santa must have let his reindeer in, instead of keeping them on the roof, and let me tell you, thirty-two feet can make quite a mess! Naughty little reindeer.

Ah, but the Christmas smiles... it makes the rush and crush so worthwhile. For Christmas smiles I can brave Southland traffic. For Christmas smiles I can make-up patterns for pajamas and sew them by Christmas Eve, and make a pillow case for Max's Froggy!

And it's so worthwhile to make time for friends, for play, for family visits. Would it really be Christmas without those? Take away bows and stockings and tinsel and such, and it would be disappointing, but without play and family, friends and spiritual joy it would be pointless.

It's what I kept reminding myself of every time I felt panic about all that has to get done! Relax. Go with the flow. Savor that pizza grin, and never mind the playground sand all over the car.

We went to the zoo, and Pasadena, to church on Sunday, and the park on Thursday, to Grampa's on Monday, we made tamales, we played with cousins, we built Mars Stations and played tea party. We gave and received, we sang and we prayed, and we really haven't stopped...

Allow me just one moment to be a bit melancholy... I miss my family, the ones who I didn't get to play with this week, and the homesickness I feel, the touch of sadness, well I guess it's part of Christmas too, because it reminds me to be grateful and hopeful and to cherish the ones I love. So I will send an extra note of love and affection to friends and family, near and far: Merry Christmas Oregon, Washington, the Philippines, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Norway, Massachusetts, Colorado, Canada, Florida, Virginia, New York, Minnesota, Tennessee, New Zealand, Belgium, Mexíco, California, and way far East, where I hope you are especially safe.

I will be reflecting on Christmas pleasures for months and years to come. Now it's time to dig out... there are messes blessings all over the place!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Seeking a Noche De Paz

Merry Christmas
Feliz Navidad
Mele Kalikimaka
Buon Natale

On good advisement, I am setting aside projects & any unnecessary errands, and I will stop saying "Yes" to everything. I am going to slow down and smell the pine. I don't want to be a worn out heap by Tuesday, or by Christmas Eve for that matter. Mind you, the decision not to add to my list does not mean that I won't be busy in the next few days, but I am going to relax about the details, and focus on the blessings. Christmas time is here and I don't want to miss the magic and the wonder.

Happy Solstice
I wish you peace and plenty, light and comfort, and a very Merry Christmas.

Yours Truly:
Lady Madame Natalie the Incomplete of Eschaton End
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
(Thank you Campbell Girl for this fun little gift!)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Theme-less Thursday
Fellow bloggers are you sending Christmas cards?... with photos?... and newsy letters? I love those! I am running out of time to get my cards signed and in the mailbox, and I am really frustrated about this. It's the same every year: The ideal vision of a perfect Christmas, with happy faces next to every checked-off item on my to do list, and then the sad realization that I cannot do it all. It's so much easier when I roll over and give-up, with some dignity. But instead I am getting snappy and cranky and grinchy and I am really starting to panic that I may be visited by Krampus (I learned about him from Jennifer, but for the full story Google him. Yikes!) I addressed and stamped 40 cards, and I could sign them and send them, but I am still attached to the idea of writing and enclosing a letter and printing 40 pictures to send along. There's no time. There is no time! Sorry, that was for my benefit.

Maybe I haven't written a letter and printed photos, because it's so much like what I do several times a week here at Chickenblog... I don't have much more to say in a letter than I have already written about in the blog. Seriously, it would be really redundant and quite possibly annoying, boring and pointless too. I don't want to be redundant, annoying, boring and pointless... not at Christmas, not any more than usual.

That settles it: I am going to sign our names, and write a quick little Love or maybe a doodle heart, and then seal and send. Done. Simple. Move on.

Thank you. You have been a tremendous help. You know who you are...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sweet Diversions

I don't know what possessed me to call friends over, but I have no regrets. We finally made time and squeezed in our annual gingerbread decorating party. It's our family tradition, having friends over and we bequeath them a kit and we offer them hot glue for assembly and food for their appetites, and, in recent years, we slip "Elf" in the player. And then it's sweet creativity and sugary abandon for the rest of the evening!

Alex worked on an Ikea house, so he could, at long last, try skipping the hot glue, and go all icing. He had great success with this, though we did have to modify the very thick icing.

I whipped-up a little hot glue and graham cracker creation just for Maria to decorate. Why hot glue? It's fast and it holds, and we never eat our houses. That's how we do it.

Our friends, Adam, Anne and Jacob, voted to go with an all icing construction too. Patiently they waited out the 15 minute drying time... alas, in the end, the icing was less than effective, so we came in with a last minute hot glue fix on the roof. It's like retrofitting, which is something Californians are quite accustomed to.

Mitchell and William worked together as a dream team... I think they could enter a Food Network Challenge!

Without debate or conflict, they quietly set to making a very thoughtfully decorated gingerbread masterpiece.

Maria scored points for patience and novice skill. She even endured the dreaded sticky fingers! And then she discovered they were sweet and sticky fingers... hmmm, not bad!

She really loved this decorating business.

Max was disappointed that Mom was too lazy to let him mix 4 different colored icings this year. I won't apologize: I didn't have my partner and fellow clean-up man, Geoff, this time, so I meant to keep it simple... simpler... somewhat.

Mitchell could not believe that we never eat our houses and my boys could not comprehend wanting to eat the houses. They do look good enough to eat, but it's just not part of our tradition.

The *L* Team: Jacob, Anne and Adam. Their house is going to smell so good and gingery!

Our house smells good and gingery too.

Maria was so happy this morning when she got to show her daddy her house.

I found another old post about our gingerbread traditions, from 2003,, but I need to unlock all the pictures... that might not happen too soon, but I'll try. (Update: I fixed the photo links. Good grief that was hard.) Now, I am off to make tamales!

Update part 2, with a part 3 in the works:

Max wanted to see the photos of gingerbreads past, so we went searching. No digital before 2003. We covered 2004, in this link. I didn't take pictures last year... shocking! So, that leaves 2005: We were in the Treehouse and... well, here are the photos...

Oh my goodness... such wonderful memories.