Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Wild Chickens of Fair Oaks

Yesterday I spent eight hours (and $150) playing with paints and pastels. It was an introductory course in, let me get this straight: "Using Art In Therapy Safely and Effectively."

It was taught in a lovely, light-filled studio in Fair Oaks Village, a part of Sacramento where chickens run wild. Not so much cluck-cluck birds down on the farm as show roosters and fancy hens that wander the town and roost at will. I don't know chickens (obviously), but these are gorgeous specimens, and I tried to capture that but all I had was my cameraphone, so--sigh--the resulting photos are less than vivid.

I love these chickens. I don't know why. I've never particulary been a chicken-kinda girl, although I did buy my father a couple of chickens one year for his birthday. Rhode Island Reds, which I named Reba and Rachel for no reason that I can remember other than my sometimes unfortunate fondness for alliteration. They lived for a while in a rabbit hutch he found for them and gave eggs which were far too fresh for my taste (I don't like when my food spurs any memory of its original living-being state, and these eggs always had little pieces of chicken shit stuck to the shells). Then some other animal up the food chain, probably a coyote, ate them, and while I was sad for my dad, who had to view the carnage, really, I wasn't all that bummed.

I also had a brief relationship with chickens on my Uncle Julius's farm in Winstead, Connecticut. What a Jewish boy from a wealthy Brooklyn family was doing owning a chicken farm is beyond me, but no one else in my family thought it odd. That's what Uncle Julius did, he had a chicken farm. What I remember about the birds there is wandering into the hen house to collect eggs. Not that I had been sent for that purpose, as no one would send a 3 year old city kid to do that job. I must have figured the chore up all on my own, and I was quite proud of myself, I recall, when I went to show Uncle Julius and my parents all of the eggs I have collected. I had gotten lots of them, and I made room for them all in my jacket by pushing each one down as far as it would go in my little pocket until I had room for the next one. I didn't know why the grownups weren't equally pleased with me.

Those are my only chicken stories--well, there was the time I got stung by a bee in the old hen house at our first place in Gibsonia--so I have no idea why the wild chickens of Fair Oaks so thrill me.

I don't know how they got there--probably the story would be less than I could ever imagine--but there are a variety of birds: speckled ones and chickens with feathery ankles, white ones and some that are so dark as to be blue black. They're very healthy, and fat, and sassy, (although I worry about them whenever there are bird flu scares) and they crow constantly, which is probably more than annoying to those who live in Fair Oaks Village.

There is something about the way in which they have made that urban area their own that thrills me. City schmity--that's the roost they rule.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dream Interpretation 101

For the past several nights, I've had dreams in which food was an issue. Not the main issue, not the star of the A story line, but a B or C story line. The general scene is that I am whereever I am in the dream--last night I was in a line at a cafeteria, another night I was at a party--and there's a lot of food to be had. Food that I like, food that I've long wanted to try, food that looks tantalizingly, appetitizingly scrumptious. Mashed potatoes, real ones with butter and cream. Lobster claws and cassaroles of cassoulet. Devil's food cake with piles of marshmallowy icing. And those were just the dishes that I recognized.

When I woke up this morning, I started to wonder what was the meaning of all this food in my dreams. I didn't have to go very far to get an answer.

A table full of dishes that I like and want to try. A life full of activities that I like and want to try. Photography, drawing, knitting, collage, jewelry-making, blogging, fiction-writing...and that's just the arts end of my list.

Is this a problem?

Dreams are little whispers from our subconscious. When they repeat themselves, they become shouts. What should I be paying attention to?

Maybe the slight sense of being overwhelmed I feel at that dream table. If I'm to pick one thing to eat, what should it be?

I get that I need to pick something now. But does that mean I can't eventually eat it all?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mommybloggers, An Ode to...

I've been bopping over the 'net lately, and it seems that every blog I like is written by a Mommyblogger. They're funny. They're clever. They're honest. Is there something in the water?

Or, more appropriately, the ovaries?

I want to become a Mommyblogger.

But I don't have human children.

...or working ovaries.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Does acting like a child myself count?

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Stench of Spring

Wouldn't you just love to bury yourself in this bed of flowers? Just fling yourself headlong into the glories of spring? Or at the very least, bend down and take a gentle whiff?

No, you wouldn't. These beauties stink. Like a dead animal. Or the well-worn socks of an active teenager. Or, hey, that old guy down by the Shelter, the one who hasn't changed his trousers since '62.

I don't know what the bush is called--and yes, I did chose it, but only by pointing magisterially I'll have that at the nursery. I hadn't a clue what it was, or what it would do. Then, it started to come into bloom last week. And about that time, D. started whining that there was a dead frog in our shrubbery.

I--she of the Smells All/Knows All nose--went to examine. At first I couldn't smell anything. "You can't? You can't?" exclaimed D in one of his snider, I-can't-believe-this-since-you-could-smell-a-hangover-on-me-three-days-later tones. "Bend down."

I bent.

"Can you smell it now?"

"Oh, yes, I smell it now. Dirty socks."

We looked at each other. Dirty socks--in our shrubbery?

"What the f--waitaminnit, hold on. We had to bend down to smell it. It's this bush. Hey, it's the flowers. They stink."

It's Mother Nature in all her glory. This bush is at our front door. Don't you just wish you could come for a visit?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Where do you stand on the HPV vaccine issue?

In January, NPR's Rough Cuts ran a podcast on HPV and the vaccine. Back then, everyone had only good things to say about the topic. It was, it seemed, the Second Coming of vaccines, right up there with Salk and Sabin. But the whole ad campaign made me queasy. There have been too many "wonder drugs" touted in the past decade or so that have, with use, turned out to be less-than-wonderful if not outright dangerous. When I heard yet another pro-Gardisal program on NPR, I wrote this response, which was published on Rough Cuts web site.

I'm confused/concerned/suspicious (?) that this flood of information about HPV and its relationship to cancer has come out with and is tied to Merck's campaign for their vaccine. It may be coincidence, circumstance or fortuitous, but I have been ignoring most of the "bumpf" on this topic as just another example of the drug companies' creativity and immorality with regard to marketing their products. The only reason I am paying attention this time is because I respect you, Michel [Martin], and NPR. Still, I would like to hear some medical testimony, pro and (especially) con, before I buy into what right now seems to be the latest scare tactic aimed at women's sexuality. Here are questions I would like to have answered:

1. Why has this taken so long to come to light -- given the incredible amount of energy that women have expended on behalf of their health issues?

2. What research (besides Merck's own) is being cited?

3. Who did that study which resulted in the shocking statistic (re: sexually active women and HPV)? What kind of a study was it? What were the numbers? What were the demographics of the study and
insert blockquote the control group?

4. Is there anyone who is denying the veracity of this study and/or the need for the vaccine? Who are they? What are their claims?

5. Both of your guests are African-American, and you mention the prevalence among Black women. Is this coincidence? Or are Black women more vulnerable?

I could go on ... I've been a radio reporter, so I understand the vagaries of tape and time. But this story right now is too loosey-goosey for my liking.

Sent by Jane Gassner | 5:48 PM ET | 01-05-2007

Since I wrote that, Merck has pulled back on the advertising, but the controversy over the vaccine goes on. I certainly don't want to be put in the same pot as those who are against it for religious or moral reasons. But I still can't help feeling that the hoo-hah around the vaccine is--I don't know--a bit too loud. Is it that this is the first vaccine for cancer that's been found so let's shout it from the rooftops? Or that we're having some very sad, slow newsdays these past months?

I suppose the bottom line is: Would I vaccinate my daughter? I don't know. Okay, I don't have a daughter, so there aren't any stakes there. But I do have a pre-pubescent niece: am I going to lobby her parents to have her vaccinated? I don't know. Why am I having such a negative response to the vaccine issue? I don't know.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Odds & Sods...I mean Ends

1. Daylight Savimgs Time is absolutely KILLING me. I cannot get my fucking ass out of bed before I-am-embarrassed-to-admit-what-time. I wonder if it would be more polite, or at least kinder to me, to rephrase that as: I cannot get my ass out of the fucking bed, etc.

2. I am having trouble falling asleep at night. And sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and my mind shifts into overdrive for an hour or so. Do I need Rozerem? I hate that hokey Abe Lincoln and the hairy badger (or whatever it is) whining about how they've missed being in my dreams. I don't get it at all. Okay, forget about my dreams. Let's talk about the actual sleepless guy in the ad. Are they saying that he regularly dreams about Abe Lincoln? Or the hairy rodent? What kind of dreams are those? Definitely not ones I'd want to remain asleep for.

3. I can see where people might think that 1 is a function of 2, but that's really not the case. I've always loved sleeping in, and as I believe I said here before--I come from a long line of late to bed, late to wake people.

4. Today is quite gray and cloudy. After a week or so of sun and hot weather. Shorts and t-shirts...painted toenails...sunscreen.

5. This is Miss B and The Baby. He is having awful colic. Somewhere I have a photo of my mother holding my sister when she was an infant. It reminds me of this picture.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I Can Hear You Now...

...whereas before I could not. Or at least, not very well. Perhaps you didn't know that. Or perhaps I allowed myself the illusion that you didn't know that.

When I was three years old, I had massive ear infections which prompted the doctor to swaddle me tight in a sheet and stick needles into my ears to lance the infections. That's what they did in those days. These days I believe they surgically insert tubes in the child's ear which is, to be sure, much less trauma-inducing. Whether it is any more effective is moot. It seems, however, a likely candidate for blaming my piss poor hearing. When I finally ended up in an otologists office, the official word was that I have "bilateral hearing loss in the human voice range."

When I was first tested, it was deemed only a marginal loss, hardly worthy of hearing aids. Which was a damn good thing because I would be buried in clover before I'd wear a hearing aid. Me? I mean, I was practically nubile at the time and hearing aids are for OOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLD people.

Then a couple of years ago, the electric wires started speaking to me. Truly. Walking down the street, I heard a constant hum. The hum turned to a SHHHUSSSHHHH and another trip to the ear doctor yielded the diagnosis "tinnitus", an untreatable, incurable, put-up-with-it-till-you-die condition which layered a constant white noise over my normal piss poor hearing.

Poor me.


A lot of the time I live in my own little world. If you're not facing me or if your mouth is covered, chances are I can't hear you too well. You may think I'm deeply involved in conversation, but I'm really sitting there thinking, "this is amazing...I can't hear shit."

In some ways it was like having a little secret with myself--lookee, I get to play with me and you can't join in. Nah! nah! In most ways, it was ridiculous because I am so very much a social being and I was locked out of the group. So, finally, yesterday, I hied myself to Whisper Hearing Aid Center and got fitted for a Savia Art, this cute little thing that comes in colors, which promises to "address all my communication needs."

I thought about getting it in green, which is my favorite color and it was such a pretty emerald, but instead I ordered the Black and Silver, to match my hair, of course. I only got one--because, well, maybe I don't really want to hear all that well all the time. My own little world is a pretty cool place to be, at least some of the time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chicken-shit Crafter

I don't know why that title seems appropriate to this post. Maybe you can tell me.

Recently Leahpeah talked on her blog about trading crafts with others on-line. She thought it would be a cool idea: not a place to sell stuff, but to trade items of similar value. Being the Get-It-Done person that she is (as opposed to the Merely-Talk-About-It person that I am), she created the site of her imagination on Ning and invited one and all to participate. I am very good at signing on the dotted line, so I jumped right in.

And, man, is that water cold. Freezing, actually. I'm waking up in the middle of the night, agonizing over my inclusion of myself in the group. What have I made that anyone would want?

I know that sounds pathetic, but I don't mean it to be. The things I make that someone might want are, probably, knitted things. But unless someone is interested in one of the several half-finished sweaters and such that I've got going, my stock of goods is non-existent.

So what was I thinking of when Leahpeah proposed the swap? My collages. You know, the ones in my head. And the pen and ink drawings I've done, some in fact, some also in my head. The books I've planned to alter--never with cutesy angels and the like, but meaningful ones with pith and grit to them. That paper doll collage I got started on; at least her head and hair are done. And those photos I took over the weekend, the ones that I'll learn Photoshop on. Oh, also, there are two pieces of needlefelting that I've got going. I'm not sure what they are or what they should be. They seem like they could be finished, but maybe not.

Nothing I have is finished, and if it is, I wouldn't know it. I've spent years developing my writer's sensibility. I can tell you what works, writing-wise, and what doesn't and what needs to be done or not to make it work. But I have little similar experience with my so-called artistic sensibility. Consequently, I am woefully insecure when it comes to my art. If it doesn't jump off the page and say fucking fantastic, then I assume it's fucking awful.

I know the only way around this is to do stuff and put it "out there." To learn what works and what doesn't. To have a dialogue with other artists. Maybe that's what I'm actually looking for: not to trade works, but to trade critiques. Today I was reading Heather Champ's blog and came across this, where she's talking about the Meaning of Art.
To be honest, I'm not sure what it means. Even while at University working on my Studio Fine Arts degree, I was never all that concerned with what it all meant. Art is much more about process, the choices that an indiviual makes in getting from point a to b.
I have to remember that--that it's all about the process, not the product. Sounds like something to be needlepointed on a pillow...or carved on a potato...or tattooed on my arm.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Agricultural War Memorial

Or so this seems to me. We happened upon it driving through the Delta from Locke to home. I'd be more specific, but I don't know where the hell we were. Just that there was a big field with big old farm machinery in it and a few cows and it reminded me of Gettysburg.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Fortuitous Friday...

I don't know what it's fortuitous for, since I'm still feeling crappy. But it's Friday and fortuitous is just the alliteration I happened to come up with.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


That's what I have, according to the doctor I saw yesterday. She was wearing fake leopard-skin pants, so I'm not sure I should trust her.

Here are my symptoms: a chest full of shit, which rattles when disturbed; EEEXXTTTRRREEEMMMEEE fatigue. I told her, "I've haven't felt this exhausted since I had brain surgery" which caused her to whip around and finally direct her attention from the computer screen to MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. Satisfied with my explanation--oh, a mere aneurysm--she went back to the computer and tap-tap-tapped in the prescriptions which went directly to the drug store, without even a by-your-leave or mother-may-I to me.

This is medicine by computer and those I bow to none in my love of geek gear, I think it sucks. It enables efficiency while disabling patient care. I feel a major rant about this coming on, but right now, I'm too TTTIIRREEDDD.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

So I'm Back...

...and you'd think I'd have a lot to say. Which I do, but I also have one of them chest things going on--you know, a cold or pneumonia or The Influenza. I'm not sure which, but I'll let you know as it brews. I think there's a bell curve for this sort of illness (well, any sort I guess), and I'm won't know where I am in the ascent until I hit the top of the bell. This makes absolutely perfect sense to me, and seems quite pithy, but that may be the fever....

I'm supposed to leave for LA tomorrow for the second leg of my Nanny Trips. I will be taking my computer this time, so I should be better at posting. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.....

I'll leave you with a photo, one of many. A reader asked for photos of hands and feet. This bud's for you, Lady Lisa....