Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Navigation, Forward Momentum and Balance

Thank you. Everyone that shared their travel experiences and advice, offered encouragement or just joined me in laughing about being a Chicken Abroad... You make blogging worthwhile. Everyone that joined us in cheering for our children, for Geek Games and Robotic pursuits... Thank you. You make us extra happy with your interest and support. I deeply appreciate all of the comments and emails that come in to Chickenblog.

I have been keeping this blog since May 2002, so it's pretty obvious that I am committed to blogging, to writing and reflecting and keeping an open letter to family and friends, to making new friends in new spaces. There have been many times when I have wanted to, or threatened to, or even promised, to quit, but that ain't happening. I cain't quit you Chickenblog.

I need a break. I think I may be one of the world's slowest writers, because a lot of time seems to pass with me at this desk, neglecting everything else. I have even been told that I look less than presentable when I am immersed and absorbed in my happy pursuit... information I find difficult to reckon with, that gives me pause. Months of crunch mode, robo schedules, spur of the moment travel abroad and regional competitions... on top of all the regular domestic duties and suburban perils have taken their toll on me. As I sit here, amongst the refuse of too much going on, I realize that I need to get things in order... home and school, taxes and laundry, pets, bills, dental appointments, leaking showers, black mold, flooding yard, muffin top, gray hair, and finding my cell phone... all of it, and more, looms above my head and shoulders, makes my heart race, wakes me in the night.

I keep repeating the same six year old story about wanting a home of our own, about hating our rental palaces, landlords, and living in a perpetual state of wait and see, of unsettled living, but those issues have taken over and clouded my entire view... they are no longer merely excuses and speed-bumps, they have grown to a monumental size, clouding and obscuring my view, obstructing my path to contentment, and congesting my spirit. I feel bitter and angry and resentful and sad. I feel small.

My favorite part about blogging is two part... 1. making a record of our journey and 2. the exchange I share with readers and other bloggers. The first favorite remains and is good, mostly... when I am not immersed in a cycle of pity parties, and futile fist-shaking economy-woe rants. Lately I have not had time or made time for my second favorite part of blogging. I am behind on reading and responding, on being in tune with blog friends, and even with real friends (the ones I could walk with and hug). And I even feel behind in responding to Me, to Us, our family. I do not know how to navigate theses waters, this state we are in. I do know that we move forward, whether I am on board or not. It is much better when I am present and on board, when I push away the clouds and light a path.

I think of it like being at a party, but falling asleep on the couch. I should not be at the blog party and asleep on the couch. It's rude and unsightly. It's not interesting. My blogging experience is suffering, my home life is suffering, and maybe not posting for a while will help and maybe it won't make a bit of difference, but I am looking for balance... somewhere. A pause, a new map, a way to be present and capable and hopeful as we move forward. I am not quitting. I am pausing. Catching my breath. Reflecting.

Okay. How cool is Alex on the Segway? How cool was Steve Sanghi for sharing his sweet ride with us? The Arizona Regionals were already an amazing experience that left us elated and inspired, but Mr. Sanghi took it to a whole other level when he gave me and Alex Segway lessons.

Do you know what is amazing about a Segway, besides the ride, the novelty of soundlessly floating across a parking lot? It's easy. No, think easier than you just imagined. In fact it is so easy that if you are "trying," then you are working too hard. Gently lean forward... it is a subtle shift and not anything forceful... suddenly you are moving forward. The momentum is natural and irresistible. Stand straight up, center your weight... do not try to balance the machine... balance in your self, and you will stop. Shift to your heels, shoulders and core leaning back and the machine adjusts itself and you ride backwards. The machine responds so effectively and gracefully, that only your own resistance or over-thinking can make it difficult. It's more than reassuring to put your trust into something and have it respond so well, so kindly... it's exhilarating, gratifying and fun. I don't know about you, but I find fewer and fewer places where I can enjoy an easy and smooth ride, where my expectations are met with what I was promised. I am not looking for an easy ride, but it would be nice to have a few more experiences where work gives good results, and outcomes come close to what was promised.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Oh. My. Goodness.

Oh my goodness!
I cannot name names or get too specific, but there's a certain team, from a certain western state... and they totally kicked bot!! They were ranked #4 after the seeding matches, and after the "Alliance Choosing" found themselves as the #3 alliance with Arizona Teams **** and ***. Their alliance advanced to the finals and finished in second place. Besides that, they received the Chrysler Team Spirit award AGAIN, so the team was called to the stage twice during the awards ceremony. It was 3 days of intense work, preparation, troubleshooting, cheering, dancing, stomping, sandwich making, face painting, screaming, nail biting, edge of the seat e.x.c.i.t.e.m.e.n.t. The team, and yes, that means all of us, were 100% in the moment for 72 hours, never ceasing in our assertive pursuit of FIRST spirit, drive, Gracious Professionalism and doing the math to save the world. The energy and math, the spirit, took the team all the way to the finals! The results were a perfect and winning finish... enough to make us stand tall, and to come back for more next year.

How about some pictures?

Everyone wears protective eye wear in the pits. The pits are the 10x10 work stations every team has for working on their bots.

Alex earned a spot in the pit, where he was a scout, taking notes for alliance strategy and also a general helper dude.

For weeks the team spent hours in the metal shop, building, welding, milling, designing. Regionals are a 3 day event, but the real effort began January 3rd, and welding is only one of the skills... Spirit and team building for all teams count too.

I think some Arizona teams were a bit confounded by our FIRST spirit. Our team was more than happy to cheer for the sake of science, math, effort... we cheered for FIRST, for the celebration of being in a place where skills and work add up to pride and pleasure. And we cheered for all the teams.

And when we weren't cheering, we were doing the Cha-Cha Slide.

The mc's have spirit too, and the FIRST message, and founder Dean Kamen's vision... "To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes" rings true throughout the event.

We are already thinking about next year, even the next club meeting. The challenges and the team members, the whole concept, are awesome.

And the matches themselves are amazing. These students earn our respect and deserve our support. I hope you are inspired to find a FIRST team and see how you can get involved.

Our team and another great SD Team, singled out for their gracious professionalism and spirit, are called to the arena for another dance session.

It's great to feel like a winner, to participate, and support FIRST. Actually winning, being recognized and having a robot that performs Bettercup than ever... AWESOME!

We had so much energy and enthusiasm going in and I think we finished with more than ever.

All of the long nights and postponed plans. All of the calculations and renewed determination... the team effort by students and teachers, parents, mentors, volunteers... all of it is an investment and the returns are priceless.

Regionals, in San Diego and Arizona, were the celebration of work and cooperation, of pursuing worthy goals attained through brain power and sweat equity. The team has been winning all along.

We cheered other teams and our own... We. Are. Proud. Of. You. We. Are. SO. Proud. Of. YOU! It feels so good to be a part of a team that is gracious, intelligent and spirited. Go Robotics! We. Are. Proud. Of. You. We. Are. SO. Proud. Of. YOU!