Friday, January 06, 2012

The Year is Actually 2102!!!

No, not 2012.
This is the year of 2102! FIRST 2102 Team Paradox Robotics!
And everyone is getting ready for Kick-off!!

Welcome to the eve of a new season of FIRST robotics!

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Braver Than Ever Before!

Yesterday, while I was circling my regular traffic route around my domestic perils, some interesting things happened.

The first things was, Flartus, my Flartopian Fairy Godmother, bestowed merciful wisdom on my thick head. I know many of you, and my mom, have tried to do the same, and I listen, and I try to mature, wise-up, get smart, make a plan, delegate, crack a whip... but I always seem to try to find my way out of trouble by the same old roads, and no surprise: getting out of the same traffic by taking the same route rarely does any good. It is a constant battle and I do have some particularly difficult circumstances, but Flartus kind of cleared a path for me to see an alternate way.

I have been overwhelmed by those particularly difficult circumstances, and during my pity party, things have gotten out of control. So, what I was struggling with was, where to begin?! This is how I put it in my sidebar: "how can I get the upper hand on a home that is pretty much a disorganized and chaotic tornado alley? I think my biggest obstacle (after laziness) is feeling defeated at the start. Seems like no matter how much I accomplish, the setbacks are greater than my actual progress."

So. I began to think backwards, or inside out. I tried to take a whole new approach. And thus began the second thing: instead of washing dishes, and starting laundry, I told William to keep doing loads, and then I reminded him throughout the day, but I did not worry or stress about that. Instead of cleaning their bathroom, or tidying the living room, I went to the single most neglected room of all: my office. My office, and the master bedroom always come in last place. I run out of time. I run out of pep. I close the door, and my eyes, and those two rooms suffer. Not this time, I decided.

The third occurrence to shake things up, and get me out of my traffic pattern, was the sudden and unexpected arrival of Sir Robin of Cramalot. Just when I decided: hey, why not start with Me? Why not begin where I normally stop? What if I made my space tidy, organized, decontaminated, and happy? Maybe the best route is backwards... And then Sir Robin, tripping over debris, came forward and gave me this look of utter dismay. He was appalled, yet kindly sympathetic, because he knows what it is to face our fears and weaknesses, and it really made me open my eyes. His expression confirmed that my space was too sorely neglected to come in last any more.

Oh, Sir Robin! Arriving here, to my office, this may be your single greatest act of bravery yet. (And I should add it was brave of my mom and dad to sit in here, too: sorry, guys!) Brave, brave Sir Robin, thank you for helping me see that things have gotten out of hand, and that I must not surrender. I cannot run away!

Sir Robin found himself a perch overlooking my desk, and while I was under the desk digging through the layers, I felt his knightly eyes on me, and knew he was disgusted pleased to see me taking this brave new route. My office is much improved. The children foraged for dinner, I found enough reserve energy to attend to other matters, and I still have sufficient confidence to carry on today, in my backwards is the new forward approach.

Yes, Sir Robin.
I know.
I'm sort of stalling, sitting here blogging.
Time to carry on with my quest.
Thank you.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Rush Hour

Here it is, rush hour.

Alex and Suki are in school. Maria ran her laps, and now she is settling into her desk. Geoff is on his way to work, and soon I will be taking Max into his school. But, right now I am stuck in traffic.

Just kidding.

Instead of jockeying for space and playing bumper cars with all the other moms and dads doing the parking lot shuffle, I sit for six minutes and add a few rows to a blanket I started knitting. From my sun warmed seat, I can glance at the long line of cars: stop go, stop go, stop go. Before, when I jumped into the fray, all I got was stress and tedium. Now, I get a little meditation, some progress on a relaxing project, and in the end zero traffic! I am no later, than if I rushed, and I am far happier.

I wish I could conjure an equally satisfying and effective plan for restoring order in this house. Should I start at the front and work my way back? Should I work from top to bottom? I could clean from the center, and continue to the four walls. Whichever way I go, I fear the traffic, stress, and tedium of my domestic perils are unavoidable.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Picture Us

I love it when lessons, cosmic messages, replay. When there is something the universe insists I figure out, and I find reminders incessantly tapping at my shoulder, vying for my full attention. It amuses me. It surprises me.

A month ago, Gretchen insisted the only gift she wanted from us was a family portrait. The last picture she had from our family was one taken in her backyard, when Maria was an infant. Uh, that would be seven years ago. I found one that seemed more up to date, until I realized that December 2008 is hardly up-to-date.

So, yes. Gretchen is right. It's time for us to get family pictures taken. I kept thinking about it during the break too... family picture, real portrait, everyone, clean, shiny, family picture, do it, do it! But we did not do it.

Last night, the eve of back to school, Maria brought me her homework packet and showed me how diligently and dutifully she had completed her assignments... all but one: she had to include a photograph of her family! I was dressed as mother frump, Geoff was not home from work, Alex was immersed in AP Studio art, Max, was reading, William was saving the world through PS3... a family photograph seemed impossible. Then Geoff came through the front door, Maria and I rallied the brothers, Suki took my pocket camera, because I cannot find the battery charger for my big-black-beautiful Canon... and tada!

It is us!

Gretchen, I am sorry. I promise: we will brush our teeth, coordinate our colors, find natural light and a lovely backdrop, and then we will sit, or stand together, and be photographed. And I will muster all of my (sorely lacking) initiative and actually have prints made, and I will give you the pick of the litter, so to speak. Furthermore, this shall transpire before... uh... before next Christmas. Promising anything, any sooner, would be a lie, but I hope to surprise both of us by doing this before February. I hope.

In fact, I am even inspired to make a regular habit of taking family portraits, like they do at fourteen thousand days. Yes...

Monday, January 02, 2012

Paper Whites and Seven Nights

The paper whites bloomed! Bulbs are such a simple joy. Simply a joy? Paper whites are good. The day Maria, Weazie, and I planted them was lovely, and I really enjoyed the time we spent together. The little collection of pots stayed on the table outside. I watered them, some times. I thought of them, now and then, as the busy December days zipped by. There were a couple of times when I scrutinized them, thinking, maybe these are duds.

But, lo! Here they are. Pretty. Delicate. Cheering.

It's a nice reminder that sometimes, when we follow steps, take some care, and wait... things will turn out, a happy outcome is possible.

Maybe you read Bird House Bits... the sidebar post with my random notes, headlines, announcements, and tidbits. Seven nights ago we had a scary and sad attack on the shark cage...

"It's been a long, dramatic night. The boys heard the chicas panicking... went to investigate and saw them all a flutter. Nothing else. Then it happened again. This time Alex saw a bobcat fishing its paw into the shark cage. The damn thing got Kamen. It's horrible. Even after we chased it, then secured everything and were making our presence strongly known, the frackin cat returned. Believe me, we retaliated. But the cat is still stalking... so all critters are in the garage. Tomorrow we beef up security. Thank goodness for my swift and determined boys, Geoff too. I need a shower, and a cry.
December 27, 2011
1:53 am"

"Three hours sleep, on top of grief and stress, plus installing more shark cage safe guards all day = a tired, filthy, weary, sleepy, voraciously hungry, too wiped-out to cook... Me. And wouldn't you know it? With all my energy and focus shifted to the farm part of the Bird House, the interior has really *gone to the birds!*
Mary Poppins?
Nanny Mc Phee?
Mr Clean?
December 27, 2011
5:16 am"

Kamen was very badly injured. The bobcat had her in its claws and was fishing her through the cage. When we arrived all we saw were feathers, lots of them. Her poor body was a dark pile, limp. I was actually dismayed to pick her up and find her still breathing... I did not want to have her linger, suffer. It was almost midnight, Alex shone a light on her, and he looked away. I wanted to look away, too. Under her wing there was no skin, a tennis ball size membrane was inflated from a puncture wound. It was bloody, translucent. She struggled, to get away, to breath.

I should have snapped her neck. Swiftly. Mercifully. I asked Geoff to bring me a sharp knife. I was determined to be a good farmer. But she got away from me. She ran across the yard, hunkered down between the fence and the food bin. And I lost my resolve. I felt like a terrible farmer, because I was not being merciful.

I brought her inside, wrapped in a towel, and held her for two hours. In that time the bobcat returned; even with Geoff and William and Max and Alex armed and patrolling. Even when it ran off, they could hear it in the alley shrubs. Fearless predator. Our other chicas were traumatized and ruffled. Geoff held Kamen, while William and I transferred all the chickens into the garage. We double secured Sanka-bunny, who was deep down in her rabbit warren.

I settled Kamen in the garage too, and felt ashamed. I expected to bury her in the morning.

Seven nights have passed, and here is Kamen, this morning. I call her Robot Chicken. Yes, she is alive. I tell Geoff, watching all those episodes of Grey's Anatomy have really paid off. He reminds me, Kamen is a chicken. And I say, well, maybe it was experience I gained from watching Food Network, which is kind of sick humor, but sick humor is a specialty of mine.

Every night I tucked her in, near the space heater, and said good-night. Every morning I expected I would be burying her. Sometimes being too optimistic feels foolish, naive. Her neck was torn, she had claw marks all over. The injury beneath her wing is still quite gnarly. She is missing a lot of feathers, and her weight has plummeted.

But... as long as she seemed willing to try, I was too, so I went into the Internet in search of remedies. I am sorry... I read too many pages and articles to site all of my sources, but this is what I did:

1. five regular aspirin crushed and added to a gallon of water... Geoff worried about the blood thinning properties of aspirin, but the article said this solution would give her pain relief, and she did not seem to be actively bleeding, which is weird. Her chest puncture went clear through her chest cavity.

2. Pedialyte... someone mentioned a pet specific electrolyte drink, but I could not find it and had no time to visit every pet/feed store in the county.

I filled a bowl with equal parts aspirin water and plain Pedialyte.

3. I kept her warm and isolated.

4. People's Paste.
I first learned about this homeopathic remedy when my cousin Gabe used it on his hand. He shredded his palm in a skate boarding incident. It was gruesome, but people paste had it healing and restored in days. It was astonishing. I cannot believe I hadn't thought of this stuff in thirteen years, but the words popped into my head that first morning when I decided to do what I could to help Kamen live.

I found links on the Internet, of course, and the recipe at Frugal Granola.

People's Paste
"People’s paste is a mixture of equal parts myrrh powder, slippery elm bark powder, and golden seal powder. The powders are thoroughly mixed, and brought to a paste form by stirring in raw honey. The paste is spread over cuts and punctures and let to dry to form a “scab” (the slippery elm bark can create its own “bandage”). Apply a band-aid or gauze over the injury, if desired, to prevent the dried the dried paste from falling off, or from getting wet & turning back into goo!

The dried people’s paste on your wound should be carefully reconstituted and dabbed off with a small amount of warm water and replaced with a clean application of paste at least once a day. Because people’s paste is so effective at drawing infection out of a wound, it’s important to remove the old “contaminated” paste regularly.

All of the components of people’s paste contain potent antimicrobial properties, while the raw honey also aids in tissue repair.

People’s paste may be made as needed, or a larger batch may be stored for future emergencies. People’s paste may become hard if stored for any length of time. This can be remedied by either mixing in more raw honey, or filtered water."

5. Hydrogen peroxide... I diluted this with warm water, because I felt horrible about how much it was going to hurt if I poured anything over her open wounds. So, after washing away dirt and muck with the hydrogen peroxide... (she fainted, actually... and Alex and I watched as the solution bubbled up from her chest cavity with each breath, and then we about fainted, too).

I applied the People's Paste to every sore and cut I could find, and wrapped gauze around her neck and under her wing. She was limp. I wrapped her in a towel and held her. And though it wasn't in any chicken care article, I talked to her. I painted a chicken world of grassy fields, and sandy banks at the edge of shallow, clear streams, where only fluffy clouds made shadows, and the starry nights were warm and safe. She slept in my arms.

I have been changing her dressing. I have been talking to her, and feeding her. Maria wants everyone to know that Kamen ate the cherry tomato Maria found for her in the yard. And today she is enjoying some time in the sunshine, picking at the grass. I am still uncertain. We think of Mike the headless chicken, and Alex reminds us of the blessings of rudimentary design. Every morning, we look at her and marvel, and say, "Looks like she is going to be with us one more day."

I will wait another week before returning her to her sisters, and Son of Zoltar. When we weren't nursing Kamen, we were securing the shark cage and making over-all improvements out there. I think Betty and Shebot like the safer set up.

We moved the shark cage out of the flood plain, and set it on top of pavers. The bobcat had been digging under the cage. With a look of semi-maniacal glee, Maria described how the bobcat would dig, and dig, and dig, and then he would bump his head real hard! And she laughed at her vengeful vision.

We also wired the shark cage... no more paws fishing into the chica's home.

The bobcat has returned.
I smoothed the dirt around the cage, so I could see any tracks. It's a big cat, if those paw prints are any indication. But our improvements seem to have secured the chicas, and we haven't heard any squawking from the poor dears. Soon, I will bring Kamen back to her mother, Puff.

Between my shame, and my doubts... I couldn't bring myself to post about the wounded chicken sheltering in our bathroom, but it's been seven nights, and sometimes with care and time, good things do happen.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Backwards and Forwards, and In The Middle

We stayed up, and welcomed the New Year.
Ron and Delia shared Captain America with us... and about an hour of campaigning for which movie eight people could decide to watch together! "Which" movie doesn't even matter. The main thing was all of us in the same room, together. Action, explosions, super-heroic feats got us through to ten o'clock, and then Malcolm In The Middle had us laughing until one in the morning.

I don't know why I am lingering in The Valley of Superficial Details, except that maybe the truly deep thoughts and other musings of these last few days are hard to articulate, hard to carry, harder to release, and even a bit fascinating to examine.

I don't suppose it is an exceptional experience to be looking backwards and forwards when at the start of a new year, but I find this to be a particularly emotional and poignant time of reflection, as I have had strange and wonderful reunions with the past, with a long time ago, and familiar stories, with family, beliefs, and this new day. Yes, strange, and wonderful, and quite sad and funny. Parts of me have been quiet for a long time, and I had almost forgotten where I've been.

Michael, Natalie, Mark, Hans, Bill :: Familia :: Por Siempre

Okay. So. I admit. I am being obtuse, vague, confusing, but sometimes there are stories that are not ours, alone, to share. This is one of those stories with deep, personal layers, and complicated subplots, and even irreverent colorful language, a story of functioning dysfunction, and family.

For a long time we all took vacations together, and spent weekends sharing bunk beds and sibling squabbles. We were not "The Brady Bunch." We were tag football in the street, student housing, Star Wars, VW van trips, Calexico, Olvera Street, Alhambra, Alpine, Ensenada, Barrio Logan, Chicano Park, dirt bikes, chicken dinners, VCR rentals, brothers and sister. And more. So much more. Seven moves, one cat, two Pintos...

It can be so maddening... so *&$!in' heartbreaking to realize that time has slipped by and some things, some people, haven't been around, or that too late I learn how much those memories are tied to real people, real events, and how much I miss them. Apparently, Al, our dad, spent his last months saying, "No regrets." I want to have no regrets, but those things that I recall, the things left unsaid, keep sneaking up on me, and leaving a terrible ache...

Family is everything.
Live life fully.
Stay connected.
Figure out what hurts and why, and then if at all possible let it go.
Be true, and be open to other truths, to new truths.

It's complicated, and bittersweet.

I know what Al, Fred, would have said. He spoke colorfully.

This is a new year. I am immersed in this family, and the present, but the last few days have brought back my own childhood, in pictures I have not seen in twenty years, or more, in people that were giants, whose voices live in elusive memory fragments. And maybe it is necessary to compartmentalize our memories and the people we relate with those memories, just to function... to be able to manage all of it... our busy lives. But I've opened a door, rediscovered a world, and am finding not only the past, but the present, too...

We are not little kids, step-siblings, sharing bedrooms, bickering over the front seat, getting busted, watching Bruce Lee, ditching school to watch Return of the Jedi, rehearsing for battle of the air bands, shooting air rifles, tearing down walls, gathering for dinner... what a trip. Remembering, hearing about it from other points of view, laughing, together, again. What a trip.

It's all backwards, and forwards, and in the middle. We have our own families, and new roles, and obligations, plans. And we have a yearning to hold on to something that for a time, got away from us... being together, sharing our past, and getting to know each other today.

There is a new generation. We have to be sure Riddick and Marissa, Dominic, Maria, see Star Wars in the right order, that they can speak at least a few words of caló. I think my sister-in-law, Maria, and I will be making plans soon.

Cousin Julie and Billy.

It's so good to be connected, to know people that can recall a story and share it, and we know the story too. It's so good to have brothers, or a cousin that remind me of something stupid, or embarrassing, or ridiculous I've done, or who can recall a pain that we all felt and survived. I think, maybe we don't even have to heal from every hurt, but if we can share the memory, know we are not alone... it feels better. And that applies to the good stuff too. All of those crazy stories are even better when we laugh together.

I spent my birthday with my family. With my strange and wonderful family. It's complicated, and bittersweet. Family is not a noun. Family is a verb... it moves and changes, it evolves, falls to pieces, forms again, it can be to an outsider seemingly dysfunctional, but who are we to say what works, what does not work? Here we are. Something worked. We keep moving forward, even as we look back, and live in the middle.

Sharon, Delia, Vicki

Recently I told someone, "We cannot know where love will come from, or when, and I think it is a waste to deny it. So if you find love, good. I am happy for you." The same may be true for healing. You never know where you will find healing, or when... but it would be a waste to deny it. My mommy says, "We are each works of art in progress." How true.

Some of us... a family. Our family.

Life is good.
No regrets.

Rest in peace, Fred.