Saturday, December 17, 2011

Joyful Focus

Yesterday was not easy... the first wave of grief, the sad reality. I found myself at church, but it was locked tight, and so then I sat in the Trader Joe's parking lot and had my cry there. I didn't want to go home. I wanted a warm, good smelling place where I could anonymously soak tissues, and let it all out. I thought it was odd too, but I realized that in a church, or a parking lot, I would not have the indulgent luxury of wallowing and lingering for too long... eventually I would have to move forward. I don't know how effective my strategy was. I did return home, and I washed dishes, retrieved children, made dinner, but it was all in a daze, without focus, and punctuated by more tears.

Probably my best move was calling Anna Banana. She's my bestest friend. She helped me see that my sadness and confusion, my dysfunctional functioning, were normal enough. I am still sad, and confused, but I don't feel quite so alone. It also helped to share some exchanges with my brother, Bill. He knows me. We joked. We grieved a bit, with an honesty and understanding that I think is fitting, and right.

I know that life is rarely ever as idyllic, or glossy, as we would like. I know that most of us have good days and bad days, and long runs of happy times that get abruptly interjected with sorrow, challenges. Sometimes it's many days of sorrow, interjected with happiness...

I try to balance it out. I try to find a joyful focus. It isn't always easy. We've had two losses in our family, both following long and painful illness. Even the cruel passing of my Zoltar adds to the heartache and strain...

Do you know what today is? It's the first day of winter break... the first day of all the children home! My free labor! My elves! My devoted minions! Just kidding. I'll let them sleep in. I'll feed them a full breakfast.... and then I will crack the whip! Bwahahaha!

Having the children home is easily the very most joyful thing I can focus on. We already have a movie night event set in motion. We are baking cookies to share, and having an open house-all night movie marathon.

Alex and I need to write up a schedule for his movie shoot with Tatiana. Their last assignment in video-film is to choose a genre, write a script and story board, and make the movie. Alex was running his ideas by William, for feedback on the Western drama they are filming during break. I keep trying to audition for him, but I think they are looking to cast someone much older and less gorgeous. It's not easy to play against my natural qualities. Then again, Suki has been offered the role of the sinister sheriff... talk about playing against type!

So far, Maria is the only one to have presents wrapped and under the tree. Throughout the day, she points this out to me and her brothers... reminding us that she made us gifts, that they are for us, that they are right there, under the tree. And she asks me if I need help wrapping anything. Anything at all. And you know, I should let her wrap, all except her gifts, of course. I am silly not to accept her offer. One glance around this Bird House and anyone could see a mother's helper would be a most welcome addition. Also, a maid, laundress, tailor, plumber, and a repair person.

This is our squirrel, Hazel. She said she could crack nuts, so I let her move in with us. But. She lied. She can hold a pecan, but she can't get it open. With some help and a lot of straining she can sort of crush a nut, but then again so can a hammer, and with less effort.

The resident engineers have diagnosed Hazel with inferior palate syndrome. Without a roof to her mouth there isn't enough downward force to hold and break the nut... something like that.

I'm waiting for William and Geoff to hone their sweet TIG welding skills, so Hazel can undergo some reconstructive realignment. Hazel shouldn't have to wait long. They are getting better, and enjoying their class more and more.

Max was ice skating on his last day of school. It was his first time, and I am delighted to say that he was good at ice skating, and he enjoyed himself. In fact, I can report that Max is good with all of his school days. Sure, he wouldn't mind if it snowed for three months and school was canceled altogether, but he likes it there well enough, and he is making the most of his time.

If Geoff takes Maria shopping (a risky proposition given their generous natures) then I may get some gift wrapping accomplished. William and I also have a date with tortillas, sauce, and cheese... we are making enchiladas sometime this weekend.

It's still dark out, and two owls are outside my office window. I love those owls and their resonant calls.

Out for an explore. Weazie would like me to thank everyone for their sweet comments. I think she would very much like to be the subject of a book. She has a lot of stories to share. Anyone know much about desktop publishing?

The owls are still calling. Soon the sun will be up. A new day. I'm ready to embrace it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

May The Force Be With You

There are places where I go, where I think of people I have known.
There are stories we repeat, that we've heard a hundred times, and we tell them one more time. There are memories I share with a few, or more. There are memories that are my own. Sometimes everything I remember about a person comes rushing forward... happy, sad, conflicted, funny, painful, irreverent, tender.

Rest in peace Alfredo. Al. Fred. I think of all the places and times where I am tied to memories of you, and it feels unbelievably sad that you are gone.


Thank you for taking us out of school to see the opening days of Empire and Jedi. Thank you for camping at Dos Picos, your Boy Scout tent, all those VW bus trips. Thank you for making dinners... "What's for dinner?" and you answered "Food." Thank you for teaching me the difference between speaking colorfully and being a pinche ass. Thank you for lending me your books, for introducing me to life long friends... Steinbeck, Twain, Kipling, Goodall, Meade. Thank you for Olvera Street, Heber Avenue, Esquintla, and sleeping in a Ford Pinto. Thank you for Mark. Thank you for Michael. Thank you for all those movies, and Chicanismos. Thank you for reaching out to me... you know when, and giving me that gift of closure... the hard part is, now it all feels wide open, and I realize I am missing you.

Sing Star Wars, Al! Sing Star Wars.

Update: Maria V., my sister-in-law, is posting old pictures on FB. I have not seen these in a long time...

Al, Bill, Natalie, and in front: Michael, Hans, and Mark.
UCSD student housing, June 1982

About to head out on a family vacation, and already on shaky ground!

I think Mom must have reminded us to smile, and I see Michael's adorable toothless gap. In spite of how we tormented him, Michael was an irrepressibly joyful and loving child.

The first stop was unscheduled: Visalia, where our faithful VW broke down, and we stayed in a motel room, two nights, waiting for a part to come in. We made it to King's Canyon, through SF, and back to Alhambra for the Fourth of July. It was on this trip that Al was compelled to pull over and say: !#&* Damn it! This is our vacation. And we are going to have fun! @$% $^&! My brothers will recall the colorful urban characters we encountered in San Francisco.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Tree

Our very own.

It came a bit later in the season this year than in years past. Then again, last year it never came at all. But we now have a Christmas tree. It's tall and piney, and lit up. It is full of decorations. Full! Max and Maria made sure the best and the prettiest ornaments were hung from every branch. Maria even made some new ones to add to the assortment.

Alex and William worked together on writing a movie script for Alex's film class. Suki had another job to work on too. Geoff made it home to enjoy the last of the spaghetti dinner, and to help decorate the higher branches of the tree. A Christmas Carol played on the big screen, and the house felt a bit warmer with everyone under one roof.

Once the tree was complete, we opened the Advent, or Christmas, pyramid... something we haven't ventured into in many years. Max and Geoff assembled our two tiered wooden Nativity, lit the candles, adjusted parts. This, and the peppermint Joe-Joes, brought all of us to the dining table, and then we oohed and ahhed at the sight. Candle light, reflections dancing on the ceiling, tiny figures turning backwards (oops... ), and I may as well add: dirty dishes in the sink, and candle wax all over the dining table. No matter. This is not a movie set, or a magazine spread. This is our Christmas, and as along as we are together, I am thankful.

Like others, I am letting go, and embracing the simple and the special. I do tend to struggle, and I am still trying to be "better," but a friend shared her own insights and reflections, and I am grabbing hold of some of that wisdom: "Wanting to be someone you are not is a waste of the person you are."

Our Christmas. Your Christmas. Holidays. Solstice. Light. Music. May we all keep our health, and sanity. May our blessings be self evident, plentiful enough, and quite satisfactory.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gatos. Cats. Popoki. Chat. Gat.


Good morning, Chango Kitty. Chango Biddy-Bongo.

Chango had a brother named Bongo. And I would call him Bongo Biddy-Chango. Chango loved Bongo. And Bongo loved Chango.

Goodmorning, Benjamin. Franklin. Thundercat. Cowboy and Explorer.

Your name is as long as your whiskers.

Be good kitties. I love you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Prima Ballerina

For many years I have wanted to see The Nutcracker. When William was a little boy, he and I stayed up very late watching a Great Performances production of the classic ballet. We were totally engrossed with all of it. We play Tchaikovsky's music, and enjoy the artistic interpretations of the score seen in the 1940 Disney film, Fantasia. And so year after year I have been tempted to take us all to see any of the annual performances of this Christmas time fantasy ballet.

I'm glad I waited.

It was more special, and so worth the wait, because we got to see Olivia dance. And she dances with all the poise and grace of a prima ballerina. Truly. I feel so fortunate to have seen her strength, her maturity and composure, the simple pleasure of her lovely dancing.

We were all impressed. Maria was wide eyed and enchanted. Alex gave awestruck praise. William and Max agreed, seeing this production was a good choice.

As an added bonus, our traditional Christmas-season-outing with all of us and Tutu, too, got to include some time with our dear friends, Myron and Sandy. Seeing the ballet, supporting local arts and theater, dressing up, dinner out... all a sweet success.

***By the way, if you think I can't combine classical ballet and Paradox Robotics, you'd be mistaken!***

I have to mention that besides being a talented and dedicated dancer, Olivia is in 4H, she can whip up a gorgeous napkin flower, she raises bunnies and pigs, and she is the treasurer for FIRST 2102 Team Paradox, a real celebrity! Team Paradox has the most talented, busy, and skilled students around. Just sayin'.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Eggs... No Yolk

Of the eleven birds in our shark cage, four are laying hens. Three are juvenile hens, and three are cocky-little-dudes. And one is our dear Lady Betty Orpington, retired layer.

We get good eggs.

We get interesting eggs.

That's no peanut by the way. I am not sure who is responsible for that little thumb-size egg. Maybe it came from one of the little hens?

For comparison: The brown one is a "Large" from Trader Joe's, and all the others are our own medium's from the resident chicas. Now you can see the peanut egg is adorably-silly small.

It had no yolk. Just egg white. Imagine if I could breed hens for this... teeny tiny egg white eggs for all the teeny-tiny dieters running around and subsisting on hot lemon juice and breath mints. Actually, I won't be surprised when industry eggs come out with just such a mutation. Oh, woe our obsessions.