Orange Storm

Kitchen window, et al.

Kitchen window, et al.

Last week we had the strangest weather.  Rain and thunderstorms followed by humid, unbearable heat.  Last Monday we got up to 101F (38C).  Sitting in my car waiting for my class to start at 6:15 pm, it was still about 95F (35C)!  Which is why I was in my car, engine idling, AC full blast.

Barn in the suburbs.

Barn in the ‘burbs.

A few days before the heat we had a crazy storm blow through.  I thought a neighbor was moving trash cans  I kept hearing the familiar plastic rumbling sound.  The thing about moving trash cans is that there’s sort of a slow Doppler effect: the sound starts out far away, gets louder as they roll even with wherever I am, then fades away.  This rumbling was sustained as if it was on an asphalt treadmill.  There was never a big clap, just this sort of roiling.  I’ve never heard thunder like that before.

Facing south at sundown.

Facing south at sundown.

It was early evening and already chilly, so I grabbed a blanket and told my sister, Shelly, to sit with me on the porch.  We hunkered down and watched the lightening, which would streak across the sky in jagged pink cracks.  “OOOOOO!”  we’d holler, loud enough to echo across the street, and count down until that grumbly thunder started.  My step-dad went on-line and found the storm’s exact location and trajectory.  It was dumping buckets of rain to the north and east of us.  We were situated in a little pocket of clear, but the storm was closing in.

orange storm yard 7

Dollops of rain.

Eventually giant dollops of rain fell around us.  My mom came out to join our little storm-watching party.  My step-dad pointed out a huge  black and yellow swallowtail butterfly perched on a corner of the roof, sitting perfectly still with its wings closed as if intentionally making itself razor-thin to avoid being bombed by the huge raindrops.

Retreating storm

Retreating storm

A low shelf of dark clouds passed over the mountains and headed straight for us.  About every 3 minutes a lightening bold shot horizontally across its underside.  “OOOOO!” we’d shout like a bunch of 7-year-olds in a science class.

orange storm sky 6

California post-storm

The best came last.  It looked like a giant spider:  I saw at least three bolts shoot out from a spot on the sky hidden by a tree.  “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  OMG did you SEE that?!”

Orange storm clouds

Orange storm clouds

Once the storm passed, I caught these shots from my parents’ backyard.  The post-storm dusk was amazing of course, but the colors everywhere were breathtaking.  They made even the utilitarian parts of the yard seem magical.

Like this.

Like this.

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The Bee Story

I forgot to tell you guys what happened with the bees from Easter Eve!

Um...

Um…

Right after I posted, or maybe while I posted, my step-dad started a search for someone that would remove the bees without killing them.  He knew they were harmless because he stood right in the middle of the swarm and didn’t get stung once.  He was worried, though, that they’d find their way into the walls of this old, holey house, and decide to stay.

He found a local guy, on You Tube of all places, who removes bees and gives them to people who need a colony, usually owners of small orchards in nearby Tujunga Canyon.  He said they most likely came from a larger colony somewhere in the vicinity, and were either scouting for a better spot for the whole colony or were a smaller branch-off group looking for their own space.  Just like you smarties said, he said they’d probably move on the next day, but that the idea of them colonizing in our walls was a very real possibility, too, and then they’d be a bear to remove.

He had quite and audience while he was here.  My step-dad, sister, and I watched from a side porch while my mom, kids, and a neighbor squinched together with their faces pressed to a nearby window, mesmerized.  We peppered the poor guy with questions the entire time, but he didn’t seem to mind.  I’m sure he thought we were amusing.  It was all so fascinating to us city folk!

He took an ordinary cardboard box, cut out a small window in the side, and taped a piece of mesh to it.  Then he taped all the seams around the box and donned his beekeeper duds.  He gingerly placed the box under the bees and then raised it up in agonizing increments until the entire cone was inside.  Then he shook the branch they were sitting on as hard as he could.  Immediately, but calmly, he closed the box and sealed it with more tape, then drenched the rose bush with an insecticide.  He assured us it would only be effective long enough to kill any stray bees from this colony, to keep them from bringing back any of their mates from the main colony.

After the bees were safely in the beekeeper’s truck, my step-dad said he wished he could’ve let them stay, because he has a young avocado tree that would benefit from the pollination.

“They’d be great for the tree,” the bee guy said, “but your neighbors wouldn’t be too thrilled.”

Girl – the Chapbook

Yes, my friends, it has happened again:  another creative writing class with the indomitable  K.O., another chapbook assignment.  My plan was to be lazy and make a very small book (1/8 of a sheet of paper, to be exact) and use one very short poem.  However, K.O found out that I hadn’t been writing every day like I was supposed to be, and she threatened to murder me.  I have that in writing.  I may frame it.  So in the interest of keeping K.O. out of the slammer I decided to put more into my chapbook.

I ended up using the poem and two other short nonfiction pieces I already had.  All three have a female-centric thread in common, so I titled the chapbook Girl.  The cover is from a pack of blank greeting cards I found in the discount bin at Michael’s for a penny!  Scooooore!

And just for future reference, a small book does not mean less work.  It was more work, and I still didn’t get it right:  I simply got it to a good this-will-have-to-do point and let it go.

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Self-Possession came from an assignment to take two existing pieces, cut them up, and rearrange them into a poem.  I used a quiz from Cosmo magazine called Do You Rely Too Much On Your Friends?  with a horror story Andrew wrote.  He’s a pretty good writer, that kid.

School Portrait is a true story, about my fifth grade school picture.  I was so upset the first time I saw it that I refused to take pictures in sixth grade.  Every time I looked at it as a teenager, it made me cry.  When I felt grown-up and secure enough to face down that demon, I discovered that not only was the picture not so bad, but I looked exactly the same!  Major epiphany!

To Be A Prune has already made its way to this blog.  It’s still one of my favorites.

Enjoy!

R and R Week

(I tried to title this R&R Week, but the ampersand was not welcome.)

This is my rest and relaxation week.  No school.  No work.  A whole week of nothing.

Not really.  Without school or work, though, it sure feels like break!

First off, View Club shots.  I don’t have too many because I wasn’t on that end of campus much this past semester, but I managed my shots when I could.

San Gabriel Mountains, 4-24-13

San Gabriel Mountains, 4-24-13

Another day of hidden mountains.  We’ve since had a brush fire in our foothills.  It was a few blocks away from our apartment in Monrovia, which is much farther east than the [normal] view in this shot, but this whole mountain range is very fire-prone.

Construction, 4-24-13

Construction, 4-24-13

Lots of progress since our last shot.  I hear this is going to be some sort of science building.  It’s bumped right up against an old building that currently houses some of the tech and music classes.  The science classes are in a group of trailers called the Science Village.  So I’m still not positive about what this building is really for.

Sculpture Garden, 4-24-13

Sculpture Garden, 4-24-13

The big pampas grass that was chopped down is coming back.  The next time I take a shot of this area, I expect a lot more sun and foliage.

Smushy, 4 months

Smushy, 4 months

Look who’s learned to smile!  He does it all the time now.

Finals were last week.  The past few weeks have been tough ones, so when finals came I felt like a shipwrecked sailor crawling onto dry land.  My Spanish final was easier than I expected, and Creative Writing didn’t have a final exam, just a project:  another chapbook, which I’ll share in my next post.

For now, some unhappy news.  A few weeks ago, we found out we have to move…and that’s putting it kindly.  I suppose it’s never a good time for this sort of thing, but the timing is especially bad.  I was broadsided with the news while preparing for finals, and now with a 6-week Physics class looming I’m still moving and dealing and trying to reign in the chaos as best I can.  Thank every higher power in the universe that the kids and I have somewhere to go, but this is unimaginably un-ideal.  It’s so un-ideal that I have to make up my own word for it.  I actually have two made-up words for it:  apecially un-ideal.  There, now I’ve made up my own phrase. Apecially un-ideal =  really sucks a whole lot.

On top of that, the job at the coffee shop is over.  It makes me sad, but honestly I couldn’t hack it.  It was five hours of non-stop running, and physically it was murder.  If I came to work stressed, tired, or not feeling well, I couldn’t even fake it.  So the other waiter got his hours back, and he’s much faster and more competent than I ever would have been, so I think everything is right with that corner of the universe now.  The owner was very, very nice, and I’ve already been back to eat there more times than when I actually worked there.

Let’s look toward a more positive future.  I had an interview with a temp agency last week.  The lady was very excited about my resume, especially my phone experience.  She sent me on-line skills tests in typing, filing, Microsoft Word, and phone etiquette.  I aced the typing and filing, missed 4 out of 30 on the Word test, and…get this..missed 4 out of 37 on the phone test!  How did I miss any on the phone test?!  I’m sure that’s still an acceptable score but dude!  I am the phone etiquette queen!

As I mentioned already, I start a 6-week online Physics class next week.  The instructor sent everyone a list of questions to answer about ourselves.  He said when he has to teach without personal interaction, it’s easier when he knows as much as possible about his students.  The questions were mostly about our education.  It was like writing an essay so of course I had a field day.  I imagined that my maturity and wit would win him over and I’d be the class favorite before the class even started.  He replied to my email with, “Thanks!” followed by a message to the entire class with a correction about how he wanted their replies formatted.  Bubble, burst.

So lots of pot-stirring going on in my little bubbly cauldron, and I’m not going to lie: I am stressed the you-know-what out.  BUT…it could be a whole lot worse, and besides, it’s always darkest before the dawn, right?  And I have every confidence that if I stay on my path, we’re gonna see one heckuva sunrise.

I am off to construct my chapbook post.  Here’s a sneak peak to make you smile.

Chapbook #2 cover

Chapbook #2 cover

Reblog: Remember, it’s ART

I read a very interesting blog post from Dave Pimentel, an art teacher and Disney story artist.  He talks about how he learned that practice sketches were not just scribbles on a page, but their own pieces of art.

His advice hit me because I think it applies anything that moves us forward.  It certainly applies to writing.  Writers freewrite, practice write, scribble little notes in notebooks, and then toss the notebooks aside to work on “real stuff.”  Every writing teacher in the world tells us that this brain dumping holds valuable material to cultivate into something amazing, but it’s so much easier to close the nonsense away than to hunt for that pearl.

Here’s the thing:  it’s not nonsense, and it’s not as hard to find those pearls as we make it out to be.  I am so very guilty of this mindset, so I’m sharing Dave’s good advice for myself as much as everyone else.

Every step, every attempt, is a valuable one.  I hope you see the value in your steps, too.

Dave Pimentel:  Remember, it’s ART!

A Bird-Brained Story

This is Jessica’s cockatiel, Pilot.

pilot 1

Pilot

Pilot is a female.  Female cockatiels are very stubborn.  They are not as friendly or easy to train as males.  Jess knew this, but Pilot’s soft, pretty colors won in the end.  Even though the pet store said she was hand-raised, it took Jess about six weeks to get her hand tame.  When she got frustrated, I used this analogy to demonstrate Pilot’s position:

You are being kept in a small but comfortable room, and every so often a zombie walks in offering you Cheez-Its.  The zombie isn’t doing anything threatening: it’s just standing there waiting for you to take the crackers.  But it’s a zombie!  Zombies are scary!  You really want Cheez-Its, but you have to get near the scary zombie and take them from its hand.  The zombie walks in and quietly offers you Cheez-Its several times a day.  Man, those Cheez-Its look tasty, but hello!  It’s a frickin’ ZOMBIE!  

My story went on and on, but it did the trick, and I kid you not the next day Pilot let Jess hold her. Now, Jess can give her kisses and scratch her neck (which birds loooove), but Pilot will only tolerate the rest of us.  We can hold her, but if we try any funny business like a skritch she hisses.

A few days ago  I put Pilot on the table where I was working on my laptop so that she could peck around and explore, which tends to make her happy.

Thank you for the popcorn, Zombie.

Thank you for the popcorn, Zombie.

I was scrolling up and down pages with my mouse wheel.  From the corner of my eye I noticed that Pilot was awfully still.

How about a skritch?

How about a skritch?

She was sitting in front of my mouse with her head down, asking for a skritch!

C'mon, Zombie.  It's okay.

C’mon, Zombie. It’s okay.

I realized my finger on the mouse wheel made the same motion as scratching her little neck.  Zombie or not, when you need a skritch you need a skritch.

Zombie!  Wake up!  Scratch right there!

Scratch right there.

I grabbed the camera and held it left-handed, practically wrapping my arm around the thing trying to get a picture.  Jess wasn’t going to believe this.  I needed proof.

Dude!  Do I need to stand on my head?

Do I need to stand on my head, Zombie?! Scratch!

I lifted just one finger off the mouse and stretched it over to her little head.

Aaaaaah!

Aaaaaah!

If I stopped, she’d peck my finger just enough to get my attention, and put her head back down.

pilot 8

That’s the spot.

She’d twist and turn just like a cat, making sure I got all the itchy spots.  Even on her face, which was very brave.

It's important to train your zombies properly.

It’s important to train your zombie properly.

Alas, it only lasted a day.  I am back to being ignored and hissed at, which is fine with me.      Less clean-up.  But for one sunny afternoon, I was a bird’s best friend.