Saturday, February 24, 2007

Maria and I left the house and we went to buy groceries. I made believe that grocery shopping is as good as a drive in the country to buy chicks and flowers for the garden. I practiced looking at the world with happy, cheery thoughts and loads of gratitude. Maria helped me fill the cart with carrots and green onions, orange juice, peanut butter, whole grain pasta. I tried to relax about my dreams and expectations not meeting my reality and to accept that some day we might feel at home, settled, assured. Maria was such a good girl. She giggled and chattered and we loaded and unloaded the cart together. On the way home I decided to continue making the family room respectable, maybe ask friends over to play on Sunday.

The boys met us at the front door looking anxious. William said, "GaryBob is here." GaryBob is our new, generic landlord name, and its mere utterance gives me pause. William continued, "He said he came to check on the yard." I held my breath and walked around to the back anticipating meeting the landlord face to face. He was already gone. I wonder what he thought about the tent on the lawn, the sidewalk chalk dissolving in the huge patio puddle, the bed sheets drying on the line I hung between the two trees. Did he see the cat, the extra one we supposedly don't have? Did he look in the front window where we left the trains strewn across the family room floor, next to the 100 pens Maria pulled from their case? I did clean the cracked eggs from the carpet, but did he notice the yolk yellow stain that won't come up?

I left home ready to make a fresh start and shake off the feelings of bitterness and regret, and I almost got there.
Good morning. Geoff left for work very early, like 6 or something. The children are up. They played with Maria at making railways for the wooden trains. Now they are playing a video game and hinting about breakfast. Alex suggests something "fabulous."

I was up by 7:20 and I updated even more archives. I am through last July, which means I am nearly done. I have to read or skim each entry to recognize what labels fit best. Again, I don't want too many labels, but I think I need to add more. For instance it may be appropriate to create a separate label for every time I fantasize about my Terry Gross interview. I think I could also could create an entire file of *Maxims, * from my Aspercosious and witty son. Another category could be for all the times I have groveled for feedback and comments; I think a "Pitiful" label would suffice. I like the Talent label. It's kind of broad and I look forward to browsing through all the submissions.

Max and I are still coughing, but the sun is shining and I feel like busting out of here. Reading archives has me feeling melancholy, and all the reflecting on the last few years … I don’t know what to say, but it has me thinking. I’m hoping fresh air or a different view will shake me up, clear my head, give me a new perspective.

Guess what? The house is a mess, the car’s “Fix Me” light is flashing, Geoff has to work all weekend, the backyard is flooded, and Maria cracked eggs on the carpet.

Friday, February 23, 2007

“Chickenblog scratches the surface.” That statement is my disclaimer. I do not write second drafts. I run everything through spell check, then hope for the best. I think many of my topics are simple enough not to need multiple rewrites, research, editing and revising. And other times, when my subject is deeper, my thoughts more elaborate, well then I suppose they are fated to suffer. In those instances when I have not checked my facts, rethought sentence structure or picked up a thesaurus, then Chickenblog may be sketchy, too brief, confusing, wrong.

I write with a child at my breast, or pulling me to the floor to play with trains and teapots. I write while explaining additive inverse algebraic operation. I write when everything else in the world demands my attention. Second drafts and research, editing and revision; these are luxuries of the leisure class. I am in the trenches, writing from the home front and there is no time for Starbucks and book clubs in this foxhole. Some days it smells bad around here, like standing water, stale flowers, exhaustion, and still I climb my way over the laundry, around the Lego bricks to my desk and I report it as I see it. It is raw and gritty, uncensored. My thoughts come pouring out, honest, fresh, dazed and dirty. Four children, pets, bills and home schooling, being a room mom, a wife, a citizen; these are not only my subjects; they are my obstacles, my speed bumps.

Chickenblog scratches the surface, comes up with something juicy or merely sustaining, then it moves on to the next task, the next crisis, project, tea party. But some day I want to grow up and be a real life writer. I want to be a writer that understands syntax, absolute modifiers, split infinitives, and the value of research and elaboration. Some day I hope to develop a fictional character with unique, intricate qualities and then set her life in motion in a world of my creation and yet intimately real. My story will be alive with facts, but sustained with emotion and thought provoking philosophies about human values and ideals. (Spell check says two of the sentences in this paragraph are sentence fragments. Hell.)

Apart from being a real writer, I wanted to list the modern miracles. I believe there are miracles all around me and I delight in them. When I thought of listing the modern miracles, it occurred to that I should know the true definition of a miracle. I wasn’t sure if Christians own the word, and whether I would be committing some variety of blasphemy by applying the wrong usage of the word “miracle” to “television remote.” So, in contradiction of Chickenblog’s disclaimer, I did some research.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Miracle: Main Entry: mir·a·cle
Pronunciation: 'mir-i-k&l
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin miraculum, from Latin, a wonder, marvel, from mirari to wonder at
1 : an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
2 : an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
3 Christian Science : a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law

Which led me to ask, “What is spiritual law?” And here is the problem with asking questions: There are a lot of answers. I’m supposed to be paying bills today, plus I need to move the tent off the lawn before we kill the grass. So, now the quality of my research can be called in to question, because frankly I am looking for a quick fix. I am looking for a bumper sticker definition of spiritual law.

Spiritual Law is many things to many faiths, but I think this works: “To love God and to love our neighbor is the fulfillment of spiritual law.” But there are 11, 200, 000 other articles and authorities on the subject of spiritual law. Now I am feeling the pressure, the constraint of time, the looming aura of domestic responsibilities, so let’s keep it simple. Let’s say that a miracle is an extremely outstanding event that may be a divine intervention and that could arguably be fulfilling a spiritual law, if spiritual law includes love of God and neighbor.
Does that work?
No time to revise.
Must trudge forward.
Where was I?

Miracles. I find miracles all around me and I’m not sure we take the time to be in awe of and grateful for the many seemingly simple occurrences and devices that make our lives wonderful. With my car keys is a small black control with buttons, and by pushing these tiny buttons I can cause my car doors to unlock and even to open remotely. I do not have to touch the car, pull handles or even be standing near my vehicle to open two large, sliding doors. When my arms are full, as I approach my car I can prepare it for boarding, and it even turns on welcoming, guiding, assuring lights. This is a convenience, a luxury, a stress reliever and it also gives me a sense of security, amuses me and makes my life more pleasant. The remote key is a miracle. I love God and my neighbor and the inventor of the remote key. I love Geoff for working to earn money, so we could buy the nice mini van with sliding doors and seat heaters and remote control key.

There are more miracles, but I am out of time.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Doesn't "Banned Books" sound archaic and old fashioned, like a cultural artifact of our ignorant past? I won't argue that there aren't useless books or books of highly questionable worth, but it seems that there is at least one highly regarded book that is getting banned, snubbed and bleeped because of a word. "The Higher Power of Lucky" uses the word scrotum. It's a dog's scrotum, and it's been injured. Because the book was written for children there is a huge panic over the use of the word scrotum. The book is a Newberry winner, which means it is very likely a good book. I haven't read it, but that doesn't stop me from defending the use of anatomically correct words in books, in life, in casual conversation. Do I want to raise ignorant children that are afraid of the words that describe the world? No. Do I want to mystify our world? No. Do we need to create negative, uncomfortable associations with language that is mature, correct and appropriate? No. I have more to say, and fortunately other people are speaking up as well. Do you know why I think Beavis and Butthead are funny? Because they are stupid and ignorant. Do you know why I think Beavis and Butthead are not funny, why they are offensive and scary? Because they are stupid and ignorant. Only fearful, ignorant people would snigger and squirm about a dog's scrotum.

<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<*<* Update: February 20, 2010.
Going through archives. Dusting etc. I did read the book, not long after I originally posted this opinion. The book was fine. The "scrotum" was the right word to describe something that happens, without lingering, or giggling, or making a "f@rt joke" of it. Is there any movie for children produced in the last nineteen years that does not include a f@rt joke? Could we please ban those?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

On Blogger I have an identity. I actually have a real life identity too, but I am talking about the little bio-profile that comes under my name on Chickenblog. It has a suggested list of “Industries” to describe the area a person might be occupied in, such as Health, Education, and Business. I chose Human Resources to describe my industry. Isn’t that great? I am the foremost human resource to my human family. I am a cook, shopper, cleaner, medic, homeopath, masseur, photographer, accountant, counselor, teacher, artist, life coach, designer, reader, interpreter, tutor, organizer, manager, navigator, chauffeur, nanny, gardener, heavy lifter, seamstress, mechanic, plumber, painter, motivational speaker, story teller, writer, decorator, quilter, manicurist, and I can operate a tractor, drive cross country in a 26’ RV, sweat copper, raise chickens, I can make movies on a computer and I once revived a goldfish using a modified CPR.

In my profile there is a space for “Occupation.” I kidded myself and wrote “Jack-Up All Trades.” Well I don’t really mess up everything I try, but I have tried a lot of trades. I have been a cashier, waitress, farm worker, copy room technician, teaching assistant, baker, prep-cook, theater usher, ethnographer, and magazine distributor. Of course I was a student for a long time. Now I am a wife and a mother, so there is plenty of opportunity to try my hand at all sorts of occupations.

My “Location” is California. I don’t like to be too specific and it’s fitting to be vague, because lately I don’t feel tied to any particular spot. You’ve probably heard all about our on/off/on/off Hawaii relocation plans, and for a few years we have researched and debated living in Wisconsin, Oregon, other California cities and even India and Shanghai. We’re still in California. My mental project is to emotionally reconnect with my home state; I spent a lot of time and energy rationalizing our move out of sate and letting go and now I can’t seem to feel connected to what looks like may be our long term home.

Next in the bio comes an opportunity to say something about myself. This is where I really come up short. I’ve read many interesting, descriptive profiles that often describe the purpose of the blog, interests and skills of the Blogger and other fascinating details. I slipped in my favorite Galaxy Quest quote: “Never give up. Never surrender.” I’ve been telling the boys it’s our family motto. I can’t say that it is a philosophy ingrained in my very fiber. It is more like a reminder to keep trying, to look for a way out or up or over. I think of myself as resourceful. I may whine a little, but I won’t walk away or succumb.

Interests. I listed a few favorites, like children and chickens. When I am on a road trip I rarely fall asleep. I can stay tuned to the road, the conversation, the sights and sounds for 16 hours and never doze. I don’t want to miss anything. It’s all interesting. I like flat, barren places that make me marvel that life can even exist in such a spot. I love tired, old cities with funky bars and undeveloped main streets. I like cacti, redwoods, truck stops, cows in fields, chickens, small towns, bumper stickers, fruit stands, canyons, mesas, buttes, mountains, deserts, valleys, farms, fields, boulders, junkyards, dogs, train depots, breweries, thrift shops, rivers, creeks, ponds, bridges, tunnels, elk, bald eagles, churches, gardens, surfers, cliffs, billboards… It’s all interesting.

The final categories are for favorite books, music and movies. I listed a small sampling. It would be ridiculous to name every favorite book or song. Which reminds me: I can’t believe I didn’t include Christmas music, which is vital for me. Every time I read the movie list I think how limited it is and I wonder how “Meet Me in St. Louis” represents me. Does liking that movie categorize me as a Minnelli fan or a Garland fan? Would I seem sophisticated if I only listed foreign films, then how does loving “Elf” make me seem? Maybe this is why I won’t put bumper stickers on my car, because single statements and phrases are wide open to interpretation, too simplified. I feel more inclined to rationalize, debate, elaborate and defend my points of view and interests, and then I want to listen to your point of view too. So, if you are wondering why I would ever call Dolly Parton’s autobiography a favorite, then call me, write to me. Let’s talk. There is more to know than what makes the list.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Archives are useful tools for remembering the past and learning that we sometimes repeat ourselves, or that we can perhaps avoid making the same mistakes again. Organizing Chickenblog archives has been fun and bittersweet. It's not an easy experience to remember what we built and what we left behind. Life is so full of opportunities, risks, chances, fortune and folly, and when can we know that we are following a right path, a safe way? We can't. But there is some likelihood that we can find patterns, see signs, recognize indicators and learn a thing or two. I know where my blessings are, and for other dreams my crystal ball this evening is made of Ben Stein's archives.

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Rain, rain. Down, down," that's how Maria says it. Outside the yard is nearly flooded and the rain is still coming down, down.
Maria says, "N-Q" when I serve her juice or when she leaves the table. She's finished her breakfast and saying, "N-Q Nannie" to me as she takes her cup to the sink. If she wants to pass and you are in her way, listen for her to say "Me, me pease. Ee-me peese," and by this she means "excuse me please." "Top it, top it" means "stop it," and "There you go" means you've satisfied her request. "Come on, go-go" is her way of inviting any one to join her in fun, and if the fun is dancing she will say, "Dan, dan," and "Ninging" for singing.
pretty, pretty
cute, cute
night, night
guy, guy
'ee you later

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Another round of archive updating, so now there are only two years left. The Maria/Papaya pregnancy is covered under the label Expectant. I realize that some events are so life altering that there is a distinct Before and After mind shift; it's made me want to somehow distinguish Life and Details before Maria arrived from our complete family of today. I would also like to create a sidebar menu for all the different labels. In spite of my wish to keep it simple, I have created a lot of headings, including: El Rancho, and Oregon.

Max has joined me on the cootie wagon. We are both pretty miserable. We cough. We ache.

This was the big 4 day weekend we were all looking forward to and I feel so bummed about not being able to play. Alex's report card came Thursday and he has improved in every subject. He has all A's and one B (for Tae-kwon Do) His citizenship and effort scores were all excellent . This boy deserves a weekend full of adventure, escape and fun. We should be out chasing Chinese dragons and feasting on New Year egg rolls. We could have camped in the mountains... sigh. We will recover and we will compensate.