Friday, December 26, 2008

Please Explain this to Me

Making up for lost time on posting here . . .

Someone PLEASE explain this to me.
Apparently there is a custom in this country that, despite almost 50 years spent in it, I don't quite understand.
So, here it is. WHY do people spit? In public? On sidewalks? Repeatedly?
I mean, if you get a bug in your mouth, I get it.
If you just threw up, I get it.
If you suddenly are overtaken by a horrible taste in your mouth, it's time to investigate your health and your diet, but I still get it.
But why, standing on the corner, waiting for a bus, or hanging around outside a store, or just strolling down the sidewalk do people spit? Do they think it's attractive? Cool? Sexy? Hip? They couldn't be more wrong. It's . . . well, disgusting. And this from a woman who is NOT easily offended by people.
So, please, if you do this or know someone who does, explain it to me. Perhaps there is a purpose in spitting I am completely unaware of. Perhaps it serves a function I have missed. Maybe I will find out the reasoning behind it and rush outside to spit and see how it works for me, who knows? Right now it just seems like something leftover from our neanderthal days of grunting and doing all bodily functions in public.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled surfing.

Can I Stop Smiling Now?

You know how it feels when someone is getting ready to take your picture and you smile . . . at first, it feels right and natural but as the photographer fiddles with the lens and the light and the angle, your face starts to feel strained and unnatural? Then, when he still hasn't taken the picture, your cheeks start to hurt and your muscles complain? You feel like you are grimacing instead of grinning?

I am at that point.

For a week now I have "grinned" and kept a sense of humor about our lack of money.
I have chuckled when Christmas morning came and went without a gift for me (I did get a LOVELY poem from my Nicole.) We managed to get what we needed for the kids, which was what mattered.
And I smiled as we used Christmas money to pay the utility bills. By now, though, the grin was feeling a tad forced.
And I kept a sense of humor when we drove 45 minutes to get two days of mail waiting at the Post Office, only to find NO CHECKS in it because everything was still 4-5 days behind. My cheeks began to ache.
But today, we STILL did not get mail. And I felt the smile falter. It trembled a little on one side and almost crashed but I yanked it back up.
This has been an outrageous situation and I am trying oh so hard to keep smiling about it, really I am. Somewhere out there is $9000 that has been on its way to me for weeks now. It is the mortgage payment. Bills. Christmas. Groceries. It's mine. I earned it. And I WANT IT, damnit.
So know that I still have a smile on my face. And just overlook those cracks on the side. Don't notice the trembling in the foundation.
I know, Dad. This too shall pass. You've told me and I am trying hard to keep smiling as I remember.

Monday, December 22, 2008

One Must Maintain a Sense of Humor

Karma is obviously not working for me.
I have, however, rediscovered the value of a sense of humor.
As I mentioned in previous entries, money has been tight. I had several checks coming that, through multiple complicated errors, didn't come.
And didn't come.
Christmas keeps getting closer and they didn't come.
So, finally, I got emails telling me the checks would be here TODAY.
All day, we watched for the mailmen's white truck.
We kept watching.
Guess what? So much for that "Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor gloom of night" stuff.
NO MAIL SERVICE TODAY. Apparently, the city is under a state of emergency and the postal system shut down.
See the irony?
So, we keep waiting.
I think my kids are getting IOUs for Christmas. Can you believe it? I am SO lucky that they are being understanding about it all.
. . . I have my list ready the moment I can go but between the lack of mail/money and not being able to get out of the driveway to shop even if I had gotten money and had been able to get to the bank and deposit it, I have nothing. Not one single present.
I am refusing to get down about it though.
Instead, we are all banding together to laugh about it and realize that we will remember this Christmas for years to come . We can pretend we are the Whos down in Whoville and hold hands and sing and hope that the Karma Grinch's heart grows and brings us what we need AFTER Christmas. Heck, that's when the sales are anyway, right?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter in Portland

Well, WOW. I had somewhat forgotten what winter was like and Portland has certainly reminded me in the last couple of days. We have had record amounts of snow IN THE CITY and zero wind chills. I left winter coats and boots back in Indiana. . . . . I've been digging through the closet trying to find closed-toed shoes . . . It is wintery here and will remain so for at least the duration of the week. I guess it does make it feel more like Christmas but man . . . it's no fun to step out of the front door.

Other news . . I've been working pretty long hours these days. EVENTUALLY I will see some income from it but for now, through the weirdest set of circumstances, I haven't seen a writing check in three weeks! It is bizarre how many different things at this many different companies all conspired to create this incredible dearth--and right at Christmas time too. Most days, I handle it ok but there are times where I just wanna sit down and throw a miniature tantrum for a bit. I don't need a single thing for Christmas myself, but man, I want to buy a few things for the kids . . . .They've been great because they know this is temporary. They are such incredible blessings to me.

Other news? Not really. I have SIX books, yes, SIX books scheduled for January, so I know what I will be doing all month. They are short, which is a good thing, but still, SIX is a bit much for one month, even for me!

Hopefully, I will return in a day or two with more exciting news and MONEY. And peace of mind. And some holiday spirit. In the meantime, wishing you all of that and more.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Down in the Doldrums

I am usually a very upbeat person. I see the best in people. I think I have a blessed life. I love where I live.

But right now, none of that matters because I am struggling like hell not to spend my days curled up in bed with the blankets over my head and all of the lights off. I am seriously depressed . . . and not sure what to do about it. I know there are a lot of factors behind it. We are dead broke at the worst possible time of the year. Multiple checks due in have simply not arrived and we've exhausted what we had put aside for times like this. I hate, hate, hate being broke. It brings back some really horrible memories that I would prefer not to ever face again.

On top of that, work has never proven to be so exasperating. It seems like for every project I do that an editor loves, there are two editors emailing or calling to castigate me for doing something wrong. I got up this morning and realized that my hands were shaking because I was afraid to check my email. How whacked is that? When this happens, it completely undermines my confidence in my abilities. I start into this horrid spiral about how I'm screwing things up and soon, I won't get hired and then we'll be homeless . . . yadda, yadda, yadda. I simply feel like the world is sitting on my shoulders and the weight is getting to be more than I can handle.

Add to that, it's the holidays. My parents are gone. The sun has disappeared. And did I mention we were broke? :)

So, yea, cheery, upbeat, optomistic Tami is not a happy camper. I don't want to inflict it on my family and would much rather hole up in a room and let them go on their merry way until I am fit for the public again. I'm lucky that they love me too much to let me do that . . . so I put on the fake face and do my best, but these are gray days, my friends. Gray days.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Too Little Sleep, Too Much Work

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately, guys. It hasn't been for lack of interest but lack of time. I have been rather overwhelmed with work and for almost a week, I was only sleeping 4 or 5 hours a night in order to catch up. I am HOPING that by the end of this coming weekend, I will be caught up enough to go back to a more normal routine. I hope so, cuz this woman is weary.

I have been struggling to accept the holiday season this year because I really, really miss my mom. This is my first Christmas without her and she loved this holiday. She was supposed to be with us last Christmas--I'd already bought her ticket, but she didn't think she could make it after all and so we cancelled. I will always wonder what would have happened if she had come anyway. She went into the hospital on New Year's Eve and died two weeks later. Would she have gotten sick if she had been out here instead? It's one of those what if's that you will never know the answer to. She called me the night that they took into Intensive Care. She had the nurse call. I was in bed with a terrible case of the stomach flu at the time. I was half asleep when she called and tried to rally fast to talk to her. She told me she loved me and was blessed to be my mom. I think she knew . . . and I felt wholly inadequate in how to respond. I told her I loved her and how lucky I had been to have her as my mom and then the nurse told her she had to stop talking. They had but an oxygen mask on her and I told the nurse to tell my mom how relieved we all were that they found one to fit over her nose. You see, that was a nose joke--we told nose jokes about my mom all of her life. It was a family favorite. I heard her laugh and the nurse said she grinned and slapped her. I like knowing that I made her smile then. It just makes me cry now. Ironic, eh?

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I am still around, just limited on time. Let's hope that changes by next week. Think good thoughts for me.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Got Tagged!

I feel all accepted now because Ami tagged me. Of course, I have to participate.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Prefer gift bags because by the time I wrap, I am completely out of energy. But usually go with wrapping paper because it looks better.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Real so far but looking forward to the day kids are grown and gone and we can do artificial without disappointing anyone.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Ha. . gets later each year. About the 15th of December or so.

5. Do you like eggnog?
If it has rum in it, I do.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Kleenex box stuffed with $20 bills in between the tissues.

7. Hardest person to buy for?
My mother in law. She wants nothing and uses nothing I send her.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
Besides me???? My youngest daughter.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Nope. It would be a tad hypocritical I think.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
Mail. Lots of them. LONGGGGG Christmas letters.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
Porn store, last minute, not funny gift.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
When the guilt overwhelms me . . or the first week of December for those I have to mail miles away.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Of course.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
My husband's standing rib roast. Oh mi gawd.

16. What decorations are on your tree?
Ones dating all the way back to our childhood . . . those that survived the move. Ones representing our new life here.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
Silver Bells for my mom. I'll Be Home for Christmas for my dad. Personally, anything by Mannheim Steamroller.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home?
Oh, home, home, home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Maybe if I've had enough egg nog . . .

20. Angel on top of tree or star?
Santa actually.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Stockings on Christmas Eve and rest on Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Grumpy people in the stores .

23 What theme or color are you using when you decorate?

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?
See above standing rib roast. Just learned to like roasted chestnuts too.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
The smiles on my kids' faces. Being with those I love. Coping with missing my parents. Another year with my husband.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all, of course.
(It's going to get happier here now because my hubby just brought me a glass of wine and it isn't even noon . . . . )
Like everyone else, I am focusing on the things I am grateful for today and I decided to share my list with you:
I am grateful for:
1. My husband of 26 years who continues to be my best friend, my anchor, my partner and my soulmate.
2. My children: one who I rarely see in person but who is always in my mind and heart, one who is becoming an adult and standing on the precipice of adventure where she should be (but damn, I wanna rope and tie her so she can't take the next step sometimes), one who is turning from boy to man so quickly that I sometimes don't recognize him when I see him out of the corner of my eye and one who has already left behind all vestiges of kidness and is heading right into teenagerhood.
3. My career: Although it sometimes makes me tear my hair out, cry (see last post), rage (see last post) and lose sleep, I love my work. That it continues to come in despite the economic craziness is also worthy of gratitude. May it continue to do so.
4. My location: We moved here 7 plus years ago and we are still grateful on a daily basis. It is such a beautiful city with wonderful people and for us, it truly is the epitome of HOME.
5. My health: It has been a long two years with health issues. The surgeries are done now though and I can tell I am getting better slowly but surely. About @(*$)((*### time!
6. My parents: I have lost them both in recent years and their loss still makes me tear up (especially at holiday time) but I am also so grateful that I had them because they were wonderful, loving parents and that is such a gift.
7. My friends: Since I moved here, I have made some wonderful friends that I truly cherish. I feel so lucky to have them in my life (and you know who you are!). My heart still holds a few important people from before I moved (Elsie, Bev) and I am also grateful that despite thousands of miles, we are still close. For my darlin friend Shayne, I am grateful that despite your dire diagnosis, you are still here with us a year later.

For each of these things, I am deeply thankful. I hope that whoever reads this is also filled with appreciation for similar treasures. After all, for most of us, this holiday is not so much about cooking turkey and thinking about the pilgrims but about spending the day focusing on the people we love.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sucker Punched

I've been in the writing world for a long, long time.
Today, I was told I was no longer welcome at a company I have worked with for more than 10 years because they found my writing "too close to the original source". In other words, bucko, we are accusing you of plagiarizing.
In the world of writing, there is no larger insult.
I feel like someone just walked up to me and punched me in the stomach. It hurts mentally and physically.
I have never, ever, ever plagiarized a word in my life. After 20 plus years in the business, I think I know better. In fact, I've caught others who had done so and been hired to repair their mistakes.
At the same time, I got this email, I was also emailed by three editors, all praising the work I had sent in and asking for more.
Guess what?
It doesn't hold a candle to the punch I got.
Gee, you know, I needed inspiration for something to write about but this sure isn't what I had in mind. Pass the chocolate, please.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Better Late than Never

Well, I have a bunch of excuses for why I haven't blogged lately and most of them are pretty good but what's the point? I haven't taken the time and as the French cleaner fish says in "Finding Nemo", I am ashamed.

So anyway, life here at my house . . . . I've been working on some really big projects and so haven't had much down time. I did take Coryn and Nicole to see "Jekyll and Hyde" at the local high school last night. We renewed our mutual passion for theatre . . . .Nicole developed a new crush . . . Coryn got mad at me for bringing him to another play that features a person he likes who dies . . . and I sat and marveled at how talented some young people can be. The whole family had gone to see "Speech and Debate", a locally done play last week. It was excellent also, although the seating was horrible. I also have come to accept that Joseph and Caspian will just never be the kind of live theatre fans that Nicole, Coryn and I are. Sigh.

Caspian, my darlin rebel boy that he is, decided last week that he wanted to see what it was like to fast. He had seen Joseph and I do it before and he was challenged as only teenage boys can be. So he quit eating. Well, you know what? That boy has endurance and will power. Today it has been a full week since he has had anything but water. (Yes, of course, we are keeping a close eye on him. He drinks plenty of water, gets extra rest and is doing fine.) We plan to have him end it soon--he knows what he is capable of now, so experiment over. It was a good lesson for him though. I think it even improved his self esteem. We have seen his personality change as he has done it, but I miss him at meal times.

That is about all the news "that' fit to blog" for now. I am writing a 70,000 word vocabulary book that is slow going but kinda fun. In today's economy, I am just grateful that I continue to get projects from companies. I love my life of working at home and I don't want to change it if I don't absolutely have to. One experience working in retail a few years ago was enough to scare me away from it for the rest of my life.

Sorry for the long time gone. I will try to do better now . . . I promise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Turn

For about two weeks, I have played the role of sympathetic mother to my children as they, one by one, got a rotten cold. Nicole dealt with it . . . Coryn complained all the way through it . . . Caspian tried to pretend it didn't exist . . and then the hubby got it and muddled through, coughing and sniffling. And guess what? Now it's my turn.
So, I've got a monster sore throat and watery eyes and a runny nose and I'm tired, plus I still have this damn scar thing on my neck from the surgery that makes life challenging. I'm feeling pretty pissy about all of this. Mostly I just want to curl back up in bed and sleep until the cold is alllllllllll gone.
Okay, complaining part is over.
On the brighter side: Nicole had a great birthday and it is extended because she has several presents coming through the mail yet. I have gotten five new jobs in the last week or so which, in today's economy, is reassuring. Being a freelancer is wonderful most of the time but it's hard to never have a Friday paycheck to count on. Instead, all of the kids have learned to just ask if it was a good "mail day" or not. All of the new jobs look decent and not terribly taxing. Of course, first I have to write a 70,000 word vocabulary book but that is the kind of work that I actually enjoy. Yea, I know. Get a life, Tami.
Well, I'm off to a hot shower in the hopes that it makes me feel better, at least temporarily. If you feel driven with compassion, you are welcome to send flowers, chocolate or naked men to serve them both to me. Just a thought, ya know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

18 Years Ago Today

18 years ago today I was not sitting nearly this comfortably in my chair. I was, however, up and about, after having given birth to the most darlin' Nicole Katrine Orr at 3:19 a.m. She was my "miracle baby" because after having her older sister in 1984, I was unable to get pregnant again. We did all the fertility testing stuff and I had a miscarriage that about unraveled me completely, so when I had her, I was one grateful mama. I had her at home--all 9 lbs, 13 oz. of her. She was beautiful, of course, but I had no idea how beautiful she would turn out to be as she grew.

Nicole is not only my daughter, but my best friend. We hang out together a lot and laugh and talk and yea, even cry now and then. We have the same sense of humor and often communicate without words, something the boys refer to resentfully as "mom and Nicole's eye talk". Joseph and I are just amazingly proud of this young woman and who she is becoming. As a former Habitat for Humanity volunteer and now a Search and Rescue worker, she is compassionate and hard working and very dedicated to making the world a better, safer, happier place. Prejudiced me is sure she does that just by being on the planet. Next year, when she either takes off for either Australia or National Civililan Community Corps, I will mourn her absence as much as I cheer for her independence and opportunity.

So, please, if you stop by here to read, could you send a quick email to and just say Happy Birthday to my gorgeous offspring? I know she would appreciate it. She has a full day ahead of her with cake, her favorite dinner, presents and shhhhhh, a massage. I am just feeling blessed that I get to spend the day celebrating with her.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Very Portland Weekend

I have had a very Portland-ish weekend and it has reminded me of why I love living in this city so much.

On Saturday, we went out to eat and to a show with another couple. We had such a good time. We laughed and chatted and had a great evening. After years and years of living in Indiana where it seemed like no one liked us (except my darlin Bev and our neighbors), it is still a thrill to spend the evening out with others like that. The four of us saw a show called "The Comedy Coexist Tour" which was a comedy routine done by an atheist, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian and a Buddhist. It was extremely funny and enjoyable. It was also so liberating to be able to attend a show with all of those ideas and philosophies and not have anyone angry about it or offended.

Today, I went to a coffee shop with Nicole and we sat there for a few hours working on our laptops together. The very eclectic Portlanders wandered in and out giving us plenty of people watching to do. It was drizzling outside in a very Oregon manner and I loved every minute of it. I didn't get as much work done as I had hoped, but it was worth it. It was just so Portland.

I love this city. I love living here. I love the people. I love the experiences. I am so friggin lucky and so appreciative of every moment.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Green Eyed Monster

Last night (and still today) I have been grappling with an emotion I rarely feel . . . . envy. Oh sure, I sometimes see a woman who is 5'10 and slender and has long, perfect hair and wonder why I wasn't built like that . . .or I experience tech lust when I see a new piece of electronics that I am sure would make my writing career more effective and efficient . . . but that's about it. I have most everything I want in life, so why be jealous?

Not so last night. I was wandering through Powell's young adult section, looking for titles that I thought my kids would either like to read or I'd like them to read (grin) and there it was. HER BOOK. The book written by someone I've known for several years and consider a friend, albeit an absent one most of the time. Her book was right there on the shelf with a little sign that said "See _____ _______ at Wordstock". For those of you not in this area, Wordstock is a huge annual gathering of authors. They sit at tables signing books and answering questions and generally being idolized by fans. Wordstock is not interested in me. I've written more than 160 books to date but because they are not "retail" books and instead are "educational", they don't really have any interest in my being part of their show. (Yes, I know this as I tried and was rejected.) She wrote ONE BOOK and she is there. My teeth began to grind together. My heart beat sped up. I could feel jealousy wash over me like the unexpected dousing you get from standing too close to a mud puddle during high traffic. (And hey, come on, with metaphors like that, how could Wordstock NOT want me??)
For the rest of my evening, I argued with myself internally. Everyone wants me to try my hand at fiction and clearly, a fiction retail novel is the ONLY way to get recognized in many ways, so why don't I do it? Scared? Yes. Feeling incompetent? Very. Intimidated? Completely.
I went to bed with these thoughts running around my head. I dreamt about them. I woke at dawn with them. I then said, Hey . . I know what I could write about . . . .And now, my head is spinning with the idea of a potential young adult novel. I'm having trouble concentrating on what I need to think about (a vocabulary book testing 600 words--riveting eh?).
So, I'm jealous but maybe I'm motivated? Or maybe this idea will just fade out when I try to put it on paper. Maybe I just changed the course of my career--and maybe I will throw this whole idea out with today's trash and forget it all ever happened. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today's Lunch and the Undead

What we ate is irrelevant.
What struck me was that we ended the meal have a relatively serious conversation about the meaning of the word "undead" and the proper ways to kill a zombie. We went through different weaponry possibilities, the stupidity of zombies and how, if they haven't surrounded you yet, you just have to run. They don't move too fast.
As I listened (and chimed in) to this discussion, I wondered . . do other families do this at the dinner table? I know I talked to my parents in depth at dinner, but we had to catch up on each other's day since we had all spent it in separate places (home, work and school respectively) and had a great deal to share. I can guarantee you, however, that killing zombies was never a conversation topic. That would not have been on the okay to discuss list.

I am feeling better--actually SLEPT in bed all night last night and it was wonderful. The scar is looking better and I can eat without having to stop and rest from the difficulty of swallowing. I am still a bit weary but I can see that I am definitely improving with each passing day.

Good thing too. If I'd gone on much longer, the family might have classified me as undead and pulled out their weapon of choice--an aluminum baseball bat.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Of Power Outages, Crowd Aversion, Impossible Sleeping and Missing Children

Now, in the opposite order.
For Halloween, all three of our kids were out of the house ALL NIGHT. That is AMAZING. The boys were at a all night video game lockdown. Nicole was at her NaNoWriMo kickoff. Joseph and I cuddled in bed, nibbled on some chocolate, read until we couldn't hold our eyes open and then went to sleep. It was peaceful.
Sadly, sleep did not follow well to me. This incision in my neck is very swollen inside and it makes me feel like I constantly have something stuck in my throat. I have a very rattly cough also and between the two, if I lie down flat, I feel like I am choking. I swallow and swallow and swallow and finally sit up in a mild panic. Nope, not fun. I haven't slept for more than two hours at a time since the surgery. Let's hope it's better tonight.
Today, I attempted to do a few things like stop by Goodwill and have a bite to eat. I quickly discovered that I am simply not capable of handling crowds right now. If I started down an aisle with people, I just stopped, frozen. I have never felt this before. I think my body was trying to tell me to go HOME. It made me rather miserable though.
This evening, while sitting down at the table for a dinner where I took each swallow very carefully, the power went out. Just BANG! Gone. We were in the dark. Nicole gathered candles and lit them. We finished dinner by candlelight, musing on how much our evening plans had depended on electricity--reading, working on the computer, watching a movie, etc. And then we spent a truly lovely hour sitting there, telling stories of our childhood and laughing. Joseph read one of his favorite storybooks out loud to the kids and they saw him actually tear up ( you can count how many times that has happened in 25 years on one hand and have fingers left over). It really was a wonderful time that would never have happened if the lights hadn't gone out.
Now, we're sitting around, watching a stupd scary B-movie and I am doing some work although what I really wanna do is curl up on the couch and doze off . ..
A long day of ups and downs. I'm just hoping for more sleep . . because that will make the downs a lot easier to handle.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Well, this has not been fun.
I've had three rounds of fevers now, hitting 102 plus and you know what, it's tiring.
Last night I was able to actually lie down, which felt great. I only slept a few hours though before I woke and something was just "wrong". I had the worst headache of my life, was nauseous and just felt "wrong". It was kinda scary. J. sat up with me for about an hour on the couch while I forced myself to drink water . . . I suspect dehydration was a big part of this. I then slept off and on the rest of the night. Today, I just feel exhausted. I get to take a shower, which I know will feel wonderful. I HAVE to work tomorrow--this is my last day off, so I need to feel better faster, damn it!
My bandage is coming off today so I can wow my children with my incision and stitches. :) I am sure they will be thoroughly impressed.
So, keep sending good thoughts. I really need to get through this and it is taking far more from me than I had anticipated. Gee, maybe I"m getting older than I thought. . .

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Just a Note

Just a quick note to update those who wanted to know how the surgery went.
It went fine. They took out one gland==it was 25 times the usual size, so good thing, eh?
I have to admit, I wasn't really prepared for it to hurt this much afterwards. I can't lie down at all and am incredibly sore. My throat is torn up from the extra large breathing tube they used too. I'm taking pain pills but they just take the edge off. Last night, I fought a pretty good fever all night. It was still 102 when I got up this morning. Now it's down to 99 but I am sure am shakey.

This is not how I pictured my recovery time. I have work due on Monday and I'm going to have to feel a whole lot better than this before I can do it. I was hoping I'd be tired but comfortable. This ain't comfy, believe me. I feel like someone hit me in the neck with a baseball bat a few times.

Anyway, didn't come on to bitch. Actually just to update. Today is my 26th wedding anniversary too. I don't think we will do a lot of celebrating but we sure are grateful that we have each other.

More later when I'm a bit less feverish and more rested.

Thanks for the good thoughts you all sent--much appreciated.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wish Me Luck!

Well, it is 10 pm. and I have have surgery in about 9 1/2 hours. I went to the pre-op today and went through blood tests, an EKG and typical exam stuff. All was well. Listened to the list of risks of the surgery (eek), how long things will take, what to expect and so on. Nothing surprising. I've done hours of research on the topic, so I didn't think anything would be.

So, I probably will not post for a bit. I have work to get back to ASAP and that will be my second focus. My first will be recovering. I plan to spend all of tomorrow, post surgery, napping and resting. I hope to do the same on Thursday and perhaps even on Friday. ON Saturday, I will begin doing some work and on Sunday, a bit more. OF course, my opinions on all of this may easily change once I have the actual surgery. Ha.

So tomorrow, I go into surgery at 7:30 Pacific time. If you can, send a prayer, think a good thought, cast the stones, dance around naked, bow your head, chant under the moon or whatever works for you and I am sure I will know it. Most of all, I am planning to close my eyes and think about my mom. I know that she will be there in spirit in any way possible. I can already feel her smiling at me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Blown Away--Almost

I don't recall if I've mentioned it (and yes, am too lazy to scroll through all of my postings to find out) before, but since the end of August, my kids, hubby and I have been sleeping out on the upper deck. We have a queen air mattress out there and two futons. When we started, we just needed sleeping bags. As the months have progressed, however, we have added several layers as the temp drops.

It has truly been a rewarding experience. Being a "city girl", just sleeping out in a tent was all new to me. I enjoyed it though. I have to say that I like this better, however. I'm still close to the bathroom and if anything annoying arrives, like bugs or rain, I can quickly go inside. So far, that has only happened three times--and each one was rain. We just don't have bugs at our house.

It has somewhat transformed going to bed. I am not a morning person--I like the late night hours. However, going to bed is such a pleasure now, that I look forward to it. The air mattress is actually more comfortable than our regular bed. I love going out and feeling that sharp chill against my skin and then diving under the blankets. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I slept in an icy cold room (because it was where the house air conditioner was) and I was under tons of covers. Delicious.

So we are enjoying the adventure greatly. Last night, as has happened a couple of times before, we were hit with a wind storm. The back of our yard is lined with tall trees, pine and otherwise. When the wind comes, you can hear it approaching through the trees. It builds and builds and then crashes across the deck. As Nicole stated, it was like ocean waves. While it made sleeping difficult for this auditory person, it was also thrilling and exciting. I could almost imagine myself sleeping in a log cabin in some desolate prairie or on the deck of an ocean liner in the middle of a storm. Of course, we don't need to talk about what my hair looked like when I got up . . . .

Well, I have just about 68 hours now until the surgery. (Sorry, Susan) In that time, I have two more books to write, 13 educational items and one passage. My work is cut out for me indeed but at least I will keep busy. My work load after the surgery is growing fast also, so I am wishing for a very speedy recovery indeed.

When you go to bed tonight, think of me out on the deck, huddled under sleeping bags, snuggling as close as possible to my hubby to leech his warmth and listening to my children (two of them--the third sleeps in his room so he can stay up as late as he wants and we won't know) whisper in the darkness. Hopefully, none of us will get blown away.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Serious Case of CRS

For most of my life, one of the things I prided myself on was my ability to remember or recall things. Need a phone number you haven't used for months? Ask me cuz I will remember it. Need a person's name you briefly met last year? I know what it is. What was the title of that book you read last summer? I can tell you.

Well, no longer.

Maybe because of age--and mostly because of this damn hyperparathyroidism (HPT)--my memory seems to be full of gaping holes. Things that I usually remember without any effort are just beyond me these days. Last night, my son needed a password I had set up for him just a few weeks ago. I could not remember that password to save my life. Now I use the same two for everything but this one required throwing in a number and letter, etc, etc and I just could NOT recall what I used. I ended up more upset and frustrated than he was. This wasn't the first incident either. The other night I wrote about 1000 words and the computer lost them when I went to transfer them from one to another. I had to completely reconstruct them and it about killed me. I was in tears and it took me more than 30 minutes just to begin to rewrite it.

To make matters worse, when I run into something like this, it is almost impossible for me to let it "roll off my back". I have had more trouble controlling my frustration and tension levels than any other time in my life. I am a mellow person by nature. REALLY. But in the last few weeks, there are times I really have to fight not to act like . . . fill in the blank with your favorite word of choice. This too is a sign of the HPT. I keep telling myself that as soon as this surgery is over, I will be healthier, happier and able to remember things again.

Currently, it is about 92 hours until that surgery.
Can't tell I'm eager, can you?
I'd tell you more about it, but I can't remember what I wanted to say . . . .

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Of Rants and Raves

My husband is currently suggesting to me in his not so subtle fashion (i.e. repeatedly, loudly and frequently) that I need to start a second blog. This time it should be dedicated to ranting about the ups and downs of life as a freelance writer. This is probably out of self defense more than anything else. Right now the place I go to rant is HIM. I rant about editors who tell me one thing and expect another. I rant about editors who change their minds about something AFTER I've finished the assignment. I rant about editors who, six months or more after I have turned in a book manuscript email to ask me where I got the statistic at the bottom of page 54. I don't know! I've written a dozen books since then. I can't remember, so I have to dig through notes until I find it. I rant about editors who want revisions in 2 days even though they have had the manuscript for a year. Occasionally I rant about deadlines that I am not meeting, research that is impossible to find or interviewees who don't respond to my questions or phone calls. But, yea, mostly I rant about editors.

I have the best job in the world, mind you. I can do it at home, at my hours, in my pajamas. If I need to get up and run an errand in the middle of the day the only permission I need is my own. I get to be with my kids and answer their questions, attempt to solve their disputes and hug away hurts instead of doing it over the phone or when I get home that night. I really am lucky. But, it isn't all peaches and cream. I have dozens of bosses and man, can they be tempremental.

Recently, I had an editor say that I had written a part of a book about the differences between Christianity and Chinese superstitions with a clear bias towards the superiority of Christianity. If you know me well at all, you're already chuckling. Between the two, you can bet I would choose the Chinese superstitions.

I ranted for an hour over that one. Joseph listend with kindness and patience, with a mention of another blog every few minutes or so. But you know what? He also wrote me this really sweet little note and handed it to me while I was working. 26 years and he can still be so romantic. I put it up on my bulletin board. It's a reminder that even if I do start a new ranting blog, he will remain my favorite sounding board because blogs are nice, but Joseph offers sweet notes, soothing hugs and soft kisses. No competition.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

By Request: Once a Month Homeschooling

I was asked to explain my "once a month" homeschooling program I am doing with my kids, so here goes.

I developed this idea when my now 24 yr old was about 12 or so. She thrived on it, making these amazing posters, reports and essays--talented kid (still is!). However, as time passed and more kids came and time got shorter, I forgot all about it.

Last month, at the beginning of September, my youngest (12) came to me and ASKED for homework. (Yea, I know . . . . he's sommmme kid). We are pretty radical unschoolers but I could sense a need to purpose and direction in him, so I sat down and started working on it. As I did, I remembered the Once a Month thing I did years ago and I put it together for him. By the time I was done, I was inspired enough to do the same for the 17 yr old and the 15 yr old. (Nah, they weren't nearly as enthused and even shot the 12 yr old a few dirty looks, but it has actually worked out a lot better than they had figured.)

At the beginning of the month, I write out what I want each one of them to accomplish during the next 30 days. I tailor it to their preferences (one loves to read, one to write, etc.) but I also stretch them in directions they wouldn't normally go. I involve reading, writing, speaking, researching, drawing and everything else in each one's assignments, but I shift the emphasis depending on his/her interests. I categorize the assignments under typical educationalese titles (English, Reading, Math, etc.) but that's more for my benefit to make sure I am covering the basics. I work VERY hard to make sure everything they are doing is RELEVANT to life--no busy work allowed. Here are some of the most important things I do with these lessons:

(1) They are based on a point system. You earn/lose points depending on if you turn it in early, on time or late. You can also gain points by NOT skipping any of the lessons. I always state that each one can eliminate two activities of their choice. This gives them more autonomy. Of course, the ones they skip are likely to show up again somewhere down the line because I am sneaky that way. The points are used for a book at Border's, a meal out with just me, etc.

(2) They have 30 days to complete it. If they do it all in the first week, fine. The last two days, fine. They have to live with the consequences and that way they are learning time management.

(3) I strongly focus on making everything relevant. For example, none of them could write their names in cursive at all or if they did, it looked very childish. This had caused enough of a problem that my son turned down something he wanted to go to because he knew he would have to sign in and was embarassed. So, right now, they are practicing their signatures five times a day and already the change has been so significant they can easily see it.

(4) Each month, I ask them to provide me with a list of what they would like me to include--or NOT include--in the next month's lessons. I want them to have control over what I put in their lessons. No matter what it is, I follow up on it and get the info they need to learn more.

(5) I include activities like doing things together, making phone calls for information, researching ideas online, etc. It isn't just stuff they sit in their room and do.

(6) Each month, they have gone out together on the Max downtown to a bookstore and worked on their homework, helping each other if someone gets stuck. I can't begin to say how pleased I am to see that! What relationship lessons!!!!

(7) At the end of the month, they bring it to me and I go over each one individually to see what they have done. I ask questions, give feedback--and give them undivided attention--something that is rare around here.

(8) Part of each month's lesson is to read a book of their choice off one certain shelf in our house. All three of my kids rank reading right up there with eating and breathing, so convincing them to read is NO problem. However, they have their genres that they stick with and I want to expand that. All of the books I provide are either nonfiction or historical fiction. They can choose from more than 20 titles, so it is hardly limited. There are a few modern classics in there, some historical fiction, some autobiographies, etc. Again, this way, they have choice and that often makes all the difference.

(9) I try hard NOT to nag them. I want them to learn how to selfdiscipline and self monitor, so nagging would just negate that. Instead, about once a week or so, I slip a "Hmmmm, the month is half over already" or "How's the homework coming?" comment. In the first month, they all turned their work in on time. Two were three days early and the third came in minutes before midnight. It will be interesting to see how that does/does not change this month.

(10) We are always available to help. If they are stuck, confused, frustrated or lost, all they have to do is come to us and we sit down and help. Last time I did this with my oldest son, we finished and he grinned at me and said, "With you helping me, I feel like I could learn anything!" That's a statement I am not likely to forget for a long time.

I still strongly feel that we are completely unschooling but I also know that they are learning some material that they really need and will use. Can I keep this up amidst the coming surgery, holidays and work load? I sure hope so. Will they continue to like it? I sure hope so.

Did this post explain my method clearly?
I sure hope so.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Remember the old game you could play in the car? If you spotted a VW Beetle, you'd say "Slug Bug!" and punch the person next to you. The person who saw it first got to do the punching. A sure fire hit with siblings in the back seat.
Of course, in Portland, one could get a broken arm if playing this too long. This city appears to be the mecca of VWs. We see--literally--at least a dozen types a day.
So, somehow, we have started a new tradition in our family.
Whenever we started spotting the occasional shopping cart sitting on the sidewalk, hiding in the bushes, toppled over in a driveway or filled with trash in an alley, one of us would shout, "CART!" It started off silly but it has grown over the last year. We have actually gotten quite creative. We have pondered, at length, mind you, about starting a business where we gathered all the carts we found in our trailer and then charged companies to return the missing carts to them. We figured we could make a pretty penny that way.
We have also gotten rather original in how we see the carts.
One perched half on the sidewalk and half on the street is a " cart living on the edge".
A cart pushed together with several others? A "cart orgy" of course.
A cart hidden back in the bushes? "Shy cart"
A cart toppled over on its side? "Downed cart!"
A cart of any color that isn't silver? "Minority cart!"
A row of carts? "Cart train"
Is it ridiculous? Yup.
Is it fun? You bet.
It's one of those strange things that we have developed as part of our family's traditions.
Someday, when our great-grandchildren ask why they play the "Cart Game", I hope someone is around who remembers--it started here.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Today is one of those days where I feel like I am being beseiged by so many emotions at once that it might be best to just go back to bed and start over again. It may be hormones, it may be the barometic pressure, it may be the severe lack of chocolate (and other forms of decadence, for that matter) in my life of late. I'm not sure (although i strongly suspect lack of sleep) but I think I know what a rollercoaster must feel like.

I'm happy. (picture that long uphill climb to the top of the first drop)
It's Friday.
I just finished that book on Iran and I can feel the relief pouring through me.
I have work to do this weekend but I don't feel completely overwhelmed by it. I will not be able to take much time off, mind you, but enough that I won't get resentful.
My kids are all home, happy and doing well.
The weather report is full of sunshine.
I went to a great play last night with Nicole ("Menopause: the Musical") and we had such a fabulous time.

I'm worried/stressed. (peaking at the top and front part of the car is just tipping down)
The editor on the Iran book has already emailed to say that since we were behind deadline, he'd have revisions back to me FAST. I hate, hate, hate revisions. (shudder)
The economy, which I generally try to ignore as part of my life philosophy, is actually intruding on my personal life. Not only have a seen a change in the writing markets--they are using staff more than they used to because who the hell wants to spend more than they have to these days--and my income has reflected that. People who are important to me may lose their jobs and my mom's house, which has been on the market since February, continues to sit there costing us money instead of creating a small but appreciated inheritance.

I'm tired. (whooooosh. . . . .down the slope . . . .)
I haven't slept too great of late. Two nights in a row was due to this stupid toe of mine. Last night it was because I was up until 4 am finishing the aforementioned book. I just don't recover from that like I used to . . . . Of course, this darn hyperparathyroidism doesn't help matters.

32 DAYS AND COUNTING to Operation (get it? operation?) Parathyroid!

A nap is definitely in today's plans. That will help with most of the complaints above in and of itself. I hope when I wake up, the rollercoaster ride is over, the car has come to a standstill, the crowds have gone home and all I have left is the glow of survival--and the pleasure of a quiet Friday night.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Some Pics to Share

Hey there. Since slowly more and more people are reading my blog, I wanted to update it with a few pics of our family. So, enjoy. If you stop by, leave a comment so I know you were here. The pictures are as follows:

(1) TOP LEFT: Joseph at the beach this summer. Ain't he a looker? I'm one lucky woman.

(2)TOP RIGHT: Coryn, our youngest, 12, at the beach.

(3) MIDDLE LEFT: Jasmine, our oldest, 24, looking like a beautiful sunset.

(4) MIDDLE RIGHT: Caspian (15) and Nicole (17) hanging out together because they actually enjoy each other's company.

(5) The family in the Avocado Crib, our adventure mobile

A Success

The writing workshop went really well, I am happy to report. Not everyone came that RSVP'd which is no surprise and to be honest, I am not sure the room we were in could have possibly fit another human being in it anyway.

Joseph was his usual sweet self, lugging boxes of books in and out for me, as well as going outside and entertaining a number of the kids who came to the workshop and strangely enough found me more than boring (grin). Nicole was my assistant, answering questions, handing out papers and books and making me proud as usual.

I haven't taught in a long, long time but this reminded me of how much I enjoyed it. Of course, it would have been a little more fun if I didn't have a sore toe while I stood up front for a couple of hours. I thought about sitting down but it just didn't feel right.

I'm glad I did this and I hope I get the chance to do it again for people living on the east side. Now I just have to spend the weekend doing what I was teaching--sitting down and researching a topic I don't want to write about--namely, Iran and nuclear weapons. It is SO not my topic that I am pulling myself through the research as if it was molasses on a chilly autumn morning. In 150 plus books, I have never struggled this hard to get motivated and get it done. However, I want to get my life as much in order as possible before the surgery date arrives. Between now and then, I have FIVE books to write. Yup, five. Fortunately, three are pretty short. The other two are medium length and once Iran is out of the way (such a depressing topic), it will be pretty smooth sailing.

Happy weekend to everyone. May you all have two Iran-free days. (grin)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This Little Toe went to the doctor . . .

Well, the ingrown and infected toe nail is gone.
So is much of the toe nail itself.
Seven shots of novacaine. Scalpels. Digging into nail beds. My body told me it didn't hurt because I was numb but my eyes kept looking and saying you should be screaming in agony. It was an odd experience. A little disconcerting.
The toe is now a bit tender, of course. It didn't help that tonight I went to a wedding and danced a few songs. Came home limping.
Cried a lot at the wedding. Ridiculous, I know. So many thoughts going through my head though. Not being present at my oldest daughter's wedding and wishing so much that I could have been. Thinking about Nicole getting married in the next 5 years or so and wondering who will my new son in law. Crying at the thought of her going away because I have so much fun with her.
Thinking about watching my sons marry and hoping that I like my daughters in law.
Most of all, missing my parents. Remembering my father walking me down the aisle and dancing with me at the reception. Remembering my mom helping me get ready and the hug I gave her as soon as I saw her afterwards. Listening to tearjerking songs like "Butterfly Kisses" and "It's a Wonderful World". If they had played "Sunrise, Sunset", I am sure I would have been a puddle on the floor.
Danced to "Unchained Melody" with the hubby and was choked up enough until I looked over to see Caspian dancing with Nicole. Cue the waterworks.
So a good night, albeit an emotional one. Toe hurts like hell. Going to bed gratefully. Wishing the newlyweds as much love and laughter in their lives as Joseph and I have found in ours.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Yes, my friends, the day has finally arrived. I have a surgery date. Who knew it would take SO LONG?

Of course, the doctor only does these surgeries once a week so I couldn't get in for forever. The two dates I was given were Oct 21 and Oct 29. The first one is a night that I have play tickets for for the family (which I won't forget like I did before--see previous blogs). The second is the night before our 26th anniversary. Hard decision but I went with the 29th. So I have to wait for 5 weeks but at least I GOT A DATE.

On the surgery front, I am also have my big toe most likely operated on tomorrow morning. They say the biggest pain will be from the needle they use to make it not hurt. We all see the irony there, right? I think the biggest pain is the $225 I have to give them up front. I've tried living with this toe for 6 months though. . . and it's not getting better . . . so my family nagged me into having it looked at. Tomorrow morning it is.

So there we go. Now I am off to call about the previous billings I got from the hospital to see if they can be revised since I got the discount. That would certainly take the sting out of the toe surgery bill.

Man, ever feel like you are falling apart, piece by piece? I've certainly felt that way of late. I keep stitching to keep it all together though!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Karma Works!

Thank you to all who took a moment to send good thoughts my way because apparently, it worked! The hospital called less than 24 hours after we were there. They had already processed our application and, in what could only be considered a miracle in my opinion, told me I would be given the 100 percent discount.

Yes, in other words, the surgery is free.

Have goosebumps? Gasp? I did. Then I started crying. Right there in the middle of a restaurant. I have already bought a box of chocolate for the woman who helped us do this. I told her I loved her and that she had made my year as well.

On Monday, I will call the surgery scheduler and get an ACTUAL SURGERY DATE. I am hoping for Oct. 1. That is when my calendar, personal and professional, will be clear enough to be out of things for at least a week, the recommended time to be down and quiet following surgery.

So, thanks guys, for helping out because the universe listened. Later that same day, I got a check I wasn't expecting and I found the chance to run over and have an x-ray I needed to have taken for my follow up kidney appointment on the 22nd.

Things are looking up. Karma strikes again.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Showdown at the Hospital

Well, we didn't walk in with guns drawn but we did walk in armed. I had every possible financial paper I could think of in my folder and I was armed with anger, impatience and frustration cleverly cloaked in friendly chatter, a charming smile and an eagerness to please.

They weren't thrilled we were there . . . but we got in quickly and the lady we worked with was quite sweet. I had all the papers they needed. I came up with the rest of the numbers they required. She promised me that I would have an "answer" within 5 to 7 working days. Once I have that answer, I can schedule my appointment. I promised her chocolate and flowers if she put me on the top of her list and expedited my application. She chuckled.

So, did I get the ultimate prize--a surgery date? No. But I made more progress in 30 minutes than I have in the last three months and I see a definite light at the end of the tunnel. So, I'm feeling pleased and able to hold on until the outside date of the 22nd. Of course, if nothing has come through by then, I will be back in their offices clearly without the chatter and the smile.

Keep thinking good thoughts for me, peeps.

Cross Your Fingers, Say a Prayer, Dance with a Naked Chicken

Whatever way you personally send a message out to the universe, please do so for Joseph and I today as we personally go in and "storm" the financial department of the hospital to see if we can FINALLY get this damn mess straightened out and get the surgery scheduled. I have a folder full of financial papers (ah, the alliteration!) to throw their way and hope that it is sufficient. It would make me one happy woman if we could figure all of this out today and I'd come home knowing that the surgery appointment was in the process. So think good thoughts and send it to whatever deity, being, concept or direction you personally choose. I will update when I can to let you know how it turned out.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Question of Friends

I have found myself in a bit of a dilemma of late.

My hubby has been going to a VW group for the last year plus. He has gotten to know all the guys and they meet once a week at a local restaurant and even go on the occasional camper weekend. To date, I occasionally, and far less often, the kids, have gone with him. However, at the last meeting, several actions made it abundantly clear that I and the kids were really not welcome. A number of them went to another table and no one spoke to us except for one other wife (the only other woman, who, in my opinion, is just as ignored as I am) and one man, briefly. This weekend, Joseph was invited to go with them to a VERY, I repeat, VERY primitive campground. I honestly didn't want to go because while I can deal with outhouses, I would prefer not to have to resort to a shovel and a handy tree.
So, does the hubby go or not?
It has been a hard decision, but one I left up to him.
If you know us at all, you know and J and I are very, very close and spend most of our time together. I am TICKLED no end, however, that he has friends because he hasn't had any of his own friends for years. But I don't like that his friends ignore me and my kids and make it clear that we are not really welcome. If the meetings were once a month, no big deal. But four to five times a month? Hmmmmm. Plus, I helped him host a party for these people . . . . and even though it was my house, I still felt like I was in the way.
So, it has been a dilemma for me, because, to be honest, if I had friends who acted that way towards my spouse and kids, I wouldn't hang out with them much--if ever. Sigh.

Other news in the Orr household . .

NO, I don't have a surgery date yet. I am beginning to despair that it will ever happen.

We are actually doing a semi official homeschool curriculum for the first time in a LONG time. It's a once a month program that I created years ago with my oldest. It not only covers some basic information in all subjects but I involve lots of activities together, outside the house and so on. It also teaches some real important stuff about pacing yourself and time management. Now let's see if I can maintain it, expand on it and refrain from daily nagging.

That' s the latest for now. Work is picking up, so I am seeing light at the end of the tunnel again. Whew.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Red Tape Runaround

In June, I was told I would need two surgeries.
The first one was for kidney stones. I called, I scheduled it, I went in, I had it done on July 7, they sent me a bill and I am making payments. All is well.
The second one is for hyperparathyroidism and it is what CAUSED the kidney stones. It also causes a lot of other crappy symptoms like constant fatigue, joint pain, mental confusion, and so on. It is the most important of the two.
So has it been scheduled?
Have I been trying to get it scheduled?
For how long?
More than a month.
Have I gotten anywhere?
When you are non-insured, this hospital insists that you go through their financial procedure. This is no simple thing. They want more papers and information than the IRS did when we worked out a payment plan with them. They are making it SO HARD. It will take me hours to get this info together. And then, I am pretty sure they will reject me anyway. Our income will be too high to qualify.
Then what?
According to the hospital, "the doctor will let you know whether or not he will ACCEPT you as a patient anyway."
I simply cannot believe this.
The other hospitals did not do this. Not with my first surgery, nor with my son's surgery several years ago. Instead, they gave me a non-insured discount and then accepted my monthly payments.
Until I get this figured out, I do not get scheduled. So the calcium keeps being leeched out of my bones and yes, increasing the chance of getting kidney stones again. And I still feel like crap.
Do they care?
I think not.
Am I bummed?
You bet your . . . . . (fill in the blank with your preferred word).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Siren Song of the Patio Swing

Was there a certain moment in my life that I turned into my father?
I don't have his nose (thank goodness!) and of course, I happen to be female. But otherwise, the similiarities between us, as I get older, I find rather disconcerting.
My knees crack when I climb the stairs, just like his did.
I have lost a significant amount of hearing just like he did.
When I am concentrating, the tip of my tongue sticks out, just like his did.
And now, when late afternoon arrives, I find myself eyeing the porch swing on our deck and thinking that little else in life sounds as good as a nap--just like he used to do on a lounge chair by the pool. It's like the siren song in the tales of the Greek gods . . . . it calls my name softly, enticingly, seductively. "Come and visit for just a moment, Tami. You deserve it . . you've worked hard." I try to resist. I put on loud music. I get involved in another writing project. And yet, somehow I end up out on the deck staring at the soft cushions, feeling the gentle summer breeze and imagining the peace of a quick nap.
My dad took naps every single day that I can remember. He would come home for a long lunch from work and spend half of it eating and the other half asleep on the closest couch or other comfy spot. After he retired, it was a common sight to see him tipped back in the Laz-y-Boy, snoozing away (although he'd tell you later he never fell asleep--he was just 'relaxing for a moment.') I remember thinking I would never, ever be old enough that I had to take a nap--that was for old people and babies.
Apparently, I am getting to be an old person, 'cuz boy oh boy, naps are like a treasure some days. Today, when I laid down on the patio swing and closed my eyes, I was sure I could hear my father chuckling. I blew a kiss skyward and said, "I hear you, dad. I miss you like crazy--but since I'm turning into you anyway, I know you're still around in spirit."
Crap. I'm even growing hair on my chin these days. Now that is just going TOO FAR.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jack Spratt and Sleeping

You remember that old Mother Goose rhyme about Jack Spratt and his wife?

"Jack Spratt could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
So between the two of them
They licked the platter clean"

Well, Joseph and I are like that when it comes to sleep.
As bedtime approaches, he begins to shut down. (The ONLY time of day where he ever gets grumpy.) By the time he has changed out of his clothes and taken off his glasses, he is half asleep. When his head touches the pillow, he is three quarters. Within 5 minutes (usually closer to 60 seconds), the man is ASLEEP. I have learned never to choose this time to talk to him about anything important because he will be asleep before I finish the first sentence.

On the other hand, there is me. I get into bed, turn on my CD player, pop on the sound machine by the bed and then proceed to spend the next 30 minutes squishing my pillow, changing the covers, flipping from side to back to side, sticking one foot out of the covers, moving the pillow speaker 14 times, listening to Joseph breathe, making lists of what I need to do the next day, worrying about the kids who aren't home, missing my mom, and generally attempting to fall asleep. At last, between 30 and 60 minutes later, I do.

Lest you think he is lucky and I am not, however, let's continue this.

Morning arrives. The sun comes up. Joseph awakens at something ungodly like 5 or 5:30 a.m. He cannot go back to sleep, no matter how long he lies there. Finally, he gets up and goes downstairs onto the computer where he surfs the net and waits to get sleepy again. Sometimes it never happens and he is up for the day. Sometimes he comes back upstairs after an hour or so and gets back in bed. Can he sleep? Not likely. So he tosses a bit and gets back up.

I, on the other hand, can wake at 6 to pee, or at 7 to throw on an extra cover and blissfully look at the clock, say "It's too early" (anytime before 8 qualifies, including 7:59) and go right back to sleep.

He never, ever dreams (well, most likely he does but has no conscious memory of it). I dream ALL THE TIME (see previous post!). I wake up and entertain myself for the first few minutes thinking it all over and trying to figure out what everything meant. He loves the early morning hours (fortunate considering his sleep habits) and I love the late night ones. It's like we are the ying and yang of slumber, or the Jack Spratt if you will. So, how is it, after almost 26 years of marriage, we are closer and happier than we have ever been? Beats me!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

To Dream, Perchance to Sleep

Don'tcha luv this pic? I do. We are camping and snuggling and it was just one of those perfect moments.
I was thinking about dreams today. I am not one of those who believes that if I dream about a pineapple it means I am getting a new job or if I dream about an airplane it means a stranger is coming to town. But I do suspect that dreams are a reflection of what is milling about in our minds. I've come to that conclusion lately.

I dream about my mom A LOT. In every single dream, I am stunned and excited and thrilled that she didn't die after all. She feels terrible that such an awful mistake was made and I had suffered so much grief. We talk and hug and laugh and it's like spending an afternoon with her. I know these dreams should make me feel better but waking up sure is hard sometimes.
I dream about people I haven't seen in a long time. I dream about people that I went to school with and they look just like they did back then and gee, so do I. Being skinny and young again is nice but it makes for a rude wake up call when I get up in the morning.
I dream about my kids. I dream about my oldest daughter and we are laughing and talking and hugging and hanging out like we used to many years ago. It feels really good because I miss it more than I can say. I often dream that something terrible is happening to one of my kids. One has disappeared or has been hurt or kidnapped or something else dire. I am always trying to make a phone call and can't remember the number and get so frustrated. I wake up in a panic.
I dream about work. I am talking to an editor or writing a book or getting another assignment. Sometimes that is very helpful because I wake up with a new idea or my introduction already written in my head.
And then there are THOSE dreams. The ones that make NO SENSE WHATSOEVER no matter how you look at it. They are wild and erractic and crazy and stupid and puzzling. But they are also fun to lie in bed and remember in the morning and wonder what you ate, read or talked about that possibly spurred THOSE images.
Dreams. Funny things. Poignant. Make me cry, make me laugh. Can't imagine life without them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

All's Quiet on the Home Front

Shhhhh. Listen. Do you hear that? It's . . . silence. (Well, almost. With my tinnitus, there really is no such thing.) Two of my children have gone to camp, so it is just Joseph, Coryn and myself at home. The house just has this big void in it but I know that my kids are off having a great time. This camp (Not Back to School Camp) is the highlight of their year. I miss them terribly and plan to send out care packages tomorrow morning.
Other news . . . work is increasing at last. In fact, I am up for some of the most exciting (read:intimidating) projects of my career. One of them is for fiction, an area that I've toyed with but never taken seriously--until now. I actually have a list (I ALWAYS have lists) of upcoming projects and it looks pretty healthy. After the last few months, that is most welcome.
Also, since I know how to upload pics now (I can be a slow learner), I will be posting pics of the family and such from now on. This one was taken at Ft. Stevens near Astoria, Oregon. We were camping for the weekend. Coryn is on the bench, then Caspian, Nicole, Copper (the dog) and Joseph. Are they gorgeous or what? I am one lucky woman.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Addendum to the last post: The missing hiker has been found and Nicole is coming back home. My relief is immense. I am afraid, however, that it is too late for the gray hairs on my head. They're here to stay.

A Tough Day

Today has truly tested me.
First of all, it reached 106 degrees according to our car thermometer and while I really like summer weather, that is just a bit much for me. I could tell it was getting to all of us because we were snappy with each other and that is rare.
Second of all, we are still dead broke and I hate, hate, hate being broke.
Third, several months ago, I splurged and bought three tickets to "Phantom of the Opera". We have counted the days and woke up this morning saying TODAY is the DAY.
At 6, I went to look at the tickets to see if the show started at 7 or 8. Apparently, I bought tickets to the matinee, which started at 2. We missed the show.
Well, let's just say, I cried so hard, I scared the crap out of my family. They were all loving and forgiving but it is going to take a while before I forgive me. I was looking forward to that more than I can tell you and I am just heartbroken to have missed it. In more "plush" days, I would just go online and order three more tickets and go in the next day or so, but that just isn't possible right now.
Then, to top it all off, as we sat in an air conditioned bookstore, reading and trying to stay cool for a while, Nicole got called in for a night time search and rescue. We actually tried to get her out of it because we didn't want her to leave and because we are concerned about her being out in this intense heat, but in the end, she had to go. She will be gone all night and I will worry about her hiking in the darkness and then hiking in the heat.
Too much on my shoulders right now. Anyone wanna borrow some of it for a while?

Monday, August 11, 2008


I am having an ethical dilemma.
The hospital where I am to have my next surgery will not schedule you, if you are non-insured, until you go through a financial screening process. In order to do this, they want the last three month's income as a base for their formula. With the income I get, being so erractic and unpredictable, this is really, really hard. If I give them April, May and June, we are too high to qualify. If I give them May, June and July, we will probably get a slight discount. If I give them June, July and August, we probably will have to pay very little. So, what do I do? Three months is not an adequate way to assess our income and I have tried twice to explain that, to no avail.
So do I give them the high months? Nope. Do I give them the middle ones or the most recent ones? If I play by their rules, it seems like I give them June, July and August (once it is over) as that seems the most logical. But man, it is not an accurate representation.
Weighing honesty against really needing the financial help right now with $25,000 plus in medical bills piling up.

Other news . . . saw a FANTASTIC small theatre play this week called "Pylon". If you live in the Portland area, I highly recommend it.

Missing my mom more than usual--not sure why but I'd give anything to call her other than all the times I do it when I am sleeping.

Getting ready to ship two children off to camp this next week. Man, will the house seem quiet without Caspian or Nicole. I am hoping to introduce Coryn to Free Geek because I think he would love it there (a computer repair/volunteer/training kind of place for non-Oregonian readers).

Still trying to sell those bunk beds and ottoman. Sure you don't need one of them?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

More Fun than One Woman Deserves

Today I finally had my ultrasound for my parathyroid glands. They found two that are dysfunctional so we are looking at surgery in the first part of September. The ultrasound was a piece of cake. Gotta love a medical test that causes no discomfort whatsoever. Then I went in for the consultation with the doctor and had SUCH fun, I can't begin to tell you.

The nurse came in, filled out the usual forms and then said, I will be back to spray your nose.

Beg pardon?

Not familar with that phrase, ma'am. Gonna come back and do . . . what?

Spray your nose. It's the first step in preparing you for having a camera go up your nose and down your throat.

I BEG YOUR PARDON? When did I sign up for this, may I ask?

APPARENTLY, I was put on the schedule books for a consultation and a FULL ear, nose and throat exam. And APPARENTLY, this includes having an acid like foam shot up both nostrils and down your throat, making you feel like you inhaled nail polish remover. At this point, I am completely puzzled as to why the H--- this is being done at all.

So . . . the doc comes in and we chit chat a bit . . he goes over the preliminary findings on the ultrasound and then I ask, WHY am I having this most unpleasant exam? Does it have anything at all to do with my surgery or my parathyroid glands?


Then why, why, why am I having it done? And paying BIG bucks for it, I am sure . . . . And he said, Oh. I guess you don't need it. And I didn't have it done. And man, I am almost embarassed to tell you how proud I was of myself for saying STOP. That isn't one of my strong suits, you see.

So, yea, it wasn't fun but I gained a little self esteem too. Even trade, don'tcha think?

Other news . . if you know someone who wants bunk beds or a great ottoman, we're selling them.

I now understand why money suddenly seems scarce. . . . in July we made (GET THIS) one-tenth, yes ONE TENTH of what we made in an average month. In other words, almost nothing. No wonder my budget fell apart.

Sigh. Some days just exist to add gray hairs. Today's had a touch of nail polish remover in them, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Flexible Me

Man, for all of those net surfers who put "flexible" in their search boxes in hopes of finding contortionist porn, this post is going to be awfully disappointing, don't you think?

I can still touch my toes but I creak when I do it. I can't touch my hands behind my back very well and the days of sitting on the ground and reaching my toes have passed me by. However, that is NOT the kind of flexibility I am talking about.

I mean work flexibility.

Recently, a good friend of mine was helping my ego a bit by telling me she thinks I am rather remarkable (and you know who you are!). It got me thinking a bit about this job I have. On the perk sides, I can make my own hours, I don't have to leave the house to work, I haven't worn a pair of pantyhouse in years, I don't have to dress up (or get dressed at all!), I learn something new all the time, I move from project to project so I never really get bored--it's a long list of perks.

The down side, however, is shorter but also weightier. I never know how much money I will make each week/month. That makes it a BEAR to budget. Some months I get quite a few checks and I relax and hit bookstores and chill out . . . . and then, after making sure I am in a peaceful lull, everything changes. Suddenly, my income plummets. An invoice is mislaid so unpaid. The accountant for the company is on vacation. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Or the assignments simply slow down because all businesses tend to slow down during the year. I love the extra time but I hate the loss of income.

In addition to having to be flexible in dealing with how much work I have to do each day (sometimes I only work an hour or two but some I put in 10-12-or more) and how much money I will make (it all depends on what comes in the mail--I am sure my mailman thinks I wanna have an affair or something because I am so often standing next to the mailbox when he comes by--he doesn't realize I am there for the BUCKS . . . not for . . . you fill in the blank), I have to be mighty flexible in what I write. Today, for example, I wrote a poem, did some source notes for a book, revised a manuscript, queried three companies for jobs, learned a few facts about how to create an online course, talked to two former editors, got photo credits for a picture for an article I wrote, printed out three tests to review and came up with four new ideas for another editor who needed some new concepts. This is not unusual--this was actually a lighter day. Topics covered today included: Apollo (the god, not the spaceships), Franklin Pierce, peer pressure, choose your own adventures, liver disease, American literature, iran and nuclear weapons, young people's self-esteem issues and poetry topics. Is it any wonder my head is tired by bedtime?

Yea, I have to be flexible but as good as I am and as much experience as my job gives me on a regular basis, I still can't do the splits.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Red Letter Writing Day

Well, the day started out pretty crappy. Nothing big but just a number of little things right on top of each other and they piled up into something weighty.

But then, two things happened to make the day a lot better.

First, I got a call back (never thought I had a chance) from an editor at Hampton Brown, a subsidiary of National Geographic and he was given my name from one of my editors. He is interested in having me work on a project with them and asked for a resume!!! I sounded cool as a cucumber when I was talking to him, but let me tell ya, my heart was racing. This could be one fabulous connection for me work wise. I'd keep my fingers crossed but then I couldn't do any typing at all.

Secondly, I did an interview this evening with a person for an article I am writing. It is for a magazine I have written for seven years. She told me that she had followed my writing all this time and that one article I wrote about a new study on a new medication encouraged her to take it to her doctor. He prescribed the med and she is much better. She actually credited me with, in part, helping her to live longer. She said, "You will never know what an impact the words you write have on other people. You may be changing other's lives as well. "

Well, wow.

That was quite something. It truly made me feel like my writing does have a bigger purpose than just paying the bills and keeping me in books, Joseph in Volkswagens, Nicole in hiking gear and the boys in game systems.

So, the day has been pretty decent after all. I'm still behind, still overworked and still frantically trying to get ready to leave town tomorrow afternoon.

But you know what? I changed people's lives. That's pretty cool.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Making Up for Lost Time

Somehow, in the last couple of weeks, I lost track of actual time passing. Maybe it was the pain. Maybe it was the Vicodin. Maybe it was a combination. Nonetheless, whatever it was whacked my sense of time so badly that by the time the stent came out, the infection went away and I began feeling almost normal again, I was absolutely shocked and terrified at what I had due. Friday morning I went into a full blown Oh-mi-gawd-I-will-never-ever-survive-this panic mode. I started to make lists of how I would spend every single hour of the next five days. I cancelled an appointment. I cancelled going to a friend's house. I moved to my upstairs office so the lure of the movie screen in the living room wouldn't tempt me. I was DETERMINED.

Now, here it is Sunday afternoon and while I am surely NOT done, I am impressed at what I have accomplished.

I finished a 15,000 word book on racial profiling.
I wrote 12 long lesson plans for a high school American Literature course.

What do I still have to do, you ask? (Yes, I can hear you.)
One passage on dealing with peer pressure.
20 sentence completions and writing prompt items.
Revising a book on Apollo and another on Achilles.
Rewriting an entire manuscript on past prez Franklin Pierce.

When are they all due? Between Monday and Tuesday.

Will I get it all done?

Not likely. But it bet I get ALMOST all of it done. Because I am, as I mentioned before, DETERMINED.

Since I have surgery coming up again in August, I have to do all I can to get caught up NOW. Anybody know how to slow down time so I can work faster and get done before those deadlines start pounding on my door? I'd love to ignore them but since those that are pounding are also those that are paying me, I gotta play nice.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stent-Free (sung to the tune of "Born Free")

. . "as free as the wind blows,
as free as the grass grows . . . "
Yes my dear friends, the stent is GONE. I gotta tell you, I was one nervous woman going in for that procedure. The urethra is definitely an OUT hole so I knew this wouldn't be pleasant. I tried to stay calm but my hands were shaking and I had tears in my eyes as I got up on the table.
Was it painful? Yes.
Was it as bad as I had imagined? No.
Thank goodness.
It wasn't fun. I had to do some deep breathing but WOW, does my body feel better without that FOOT LONG (yes, FOOT LONG) plastic device in it. Today I am sore on that side but I can pee without pain (and without having to catch it in a container either). Life is good.
So, phase 1 is done. Waiting for a call from the surgeon's office today about phase 2 (hyperparathyroidism). Endocrinologist called to say my urine calcium levels were more than double the normal amount so looks like we are on the right track.
In the meantime, I feel like I can think clearly for the first time since we got back from vacation. I looked at my writing schedule and had a mild panic attack because I have so much work due between now and Tuesday that I am not sure any human could get it all done. Sigh. Oh well, at least I can sit in a chair without wincing now.
So that's the news on this end.
Other stuff? Joseph has a "new toy" because he was given (yes, for free) another VW camper bus. He is busy replacing parts and cleaning and getting it fixed up so we can sell it soon. Of course, as he crawls back under the bus, getting grease everywhere, swearing because a part doesn't fit or he can't reach it and then swearing louder because more often than not it's the wrong part, I ask myself WHY he thinks this process is fun. . . but then I grin, hug him and just let him play. Ours is not to wonder why . . .

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

On Hold

It is a medical week for me, for a change (not).
I went to see my GP and she was thrilled with my lower blood pressure. She changed a few meds around. She discovered I have a severe bladder infection, hence the additional discomfort.
Today I went in for more blood work. They are retesting certain levels since I forgot to fast last time they drained me.
Tomorrow I do the 24 hour urine collection for another doctor. (Watch which jug in the fridge you grab, kiddos!)
Thursday I get the stent out (cue the Hallelujah chorus).
Friday I talk to the surgeon about the upcoming parathyroidism surgery.
Saturday I go in for my weekly hypnosis appointment.
Of course, in the meantime, I have a book to finish, two passages to write, an outline to write and lesson plans to start. Man . . . . all I really want is my couch, a blanket, a good book and a nap.
In other news . . . we got both the van and bus repaired and the two together was only $100--how amazing is that? We needed that break.
And the beat goes on . . .

Friday, July 18, 2008

Round 2

Well, now I am not stoned any longer but fragmented. When the stent comes out on Thursday, the rest of the fragments will pass through which I've been told my innumerable people is the worst pain on the planet . . . so I am hoping that (a) the painkillers are stronger than I think, (b) the stories are exaggerated or (c) the fragments have already gone through and I am clear to launch. Hmmmm. Let's hope, shall we?

So, the next step is parathyroid surgery which will most likely happen sometime in August. Unlike the lithotripsy, it is not an outpatient procedure. Looks like I will be in the hospital for 1 to 2 days this round. How much it will cost is scarier than the actual surgery. This is a lousy year work wise for me to be incurring these costs. My work load is frighteningly light money wise but heavy to accomplish when dealing with surgery and recovery.

I am hoping that when all of this is done, I will feel so fantastic that I will be able to put in long days and catch up. So far, I just feel like I have dealt with one thing after another so I am ready for the tide to turn, as they say. I have really missed my mom throughout all of this. I brought back one of her robes from Indiana and when I hung it up today, I could still smell her scent on it (the woman wore enough perfume for a lot of women!). Of course, it made me cry. I think I will take that robe to this hospital with me.

On the bright side, either the surgeries or the pills or something is working because FINALLY the weight is coming off. I have lost 16 pounds since I started now and since there was a three week vacation in the middle, that is pretty remarkable. I am hoping this trend continues for sure. I've lost 5 pounds just since getting back and that gives me a nice smile in the morning.

So, that's today's update. Stay tuned for the next riveting episode in the life of Tamra Orr, author, mother, wife, daughter, sister and all around wild woman.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Books, Books and More Books

I have always loved books. When I was young and living at home, I didn't ask for a car or clothes or parties . . I asked for more bookshelves. I haven't changed much. I still fill every available inch of my house with bookshelves and think little of moving whatever I need to move to fit in another one (who needs a stove anyway, right?). I read them, collect them, treasure them and of course, write them.

The ones I have written are becoming a problem. I get multiple copies of each title and when you've written 100 plus titles, that really mounts up! So I have been trying to think of a way to get rid of them in ways that don't make me wince (i.e. just giving them to Goodwill). I have tried selling them but that is quite a hassle. I will donate sets to places I respect (which usually leaves out most public schools and churches). I have given many as gifts. Our dentist, massage therapist and counselor all own some copies now. But how many people want a copy of "Inside the Department of Transportation" or "The Debate over the Federalist Papers"? I am sending a batch of the SAT prep books to the kids' teen camp for those who want a free copy. I am giving a set to one of my best friend's childcare center. Yes, I also takes copies to Powell's now and then and get some money for them which is cool. I always sent a copy of every book to my parents but now they have both died and I got back all of those copies.

Anyone have any suggestions of a good place for these books to go? I can GUARANTEE you they are well written. (grin)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'm "Hip"

I decided last night I was "hip". (Thankfully this is not based on actual hip dimensions, otherwise, I am hip enough for the whole family.) Why, you ask? (See, I CAN hear you.) Because, when attending a play last night ("Les Miserables"--LOVE musicals), there was a power outage. To keep the audience (the air conditioning went out with the lights) under control, the cast members came out and sang. The first number was from "Rent". I knew all the words. This makes me MODERN. Most people over 40 would not have known the lyrics. The second number was "Eidelweiss" (from "Sound of Music") and I knew all the words to that one too. Most people UNDER 40 didn't know the lyrics. See, I am clearly multi-generational. I can fit in with musicals from all eras. My guess is this makes me more of a geek than hip, but I prefer hip. Sounds better.

Friday, July 11, 2008

OOPS! We Forgot to Tell You . . . .

Ah, doctors, doctors, doctors.
Often life savers.
Often helpful.
Sometimes forgetful.
The doctors neglected to inform me that I have a stent placed inside my kidney and bladder. Oops! They forgot to tell me that, if it is doing its job properly, I am miserable. Oops. It hurts terribly to pee (swearing and hitting the walls awful). It hurts to move around. You pee every 20 minutes. You NEVER forget it is there. (TMI ahead) It feels like a bladder infection and a slipped tampon all at the same time. Oops.
They forget to tell me I wear it for 2 1/2 weeks before I get it out. Or that they remove it WITHOUT any anesthesia. Or that AFTER they take it out is when my stones will pass. So I get a four week sentence of discomfort, apparently.
I learned some of this by online research; the rest by calling the doctor's office and getting the overlooked information. Am I happy? Not by a long shot.
I will get through this but if I'd known I would be in this much discomfort for this long, I would have revamped my working schedule quite a bit. Silly me, I thought I would be on the mend now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shock Wave

After this mighty adventure of ours, I had about 24 hours to recuperate (i.e unload boxes, pile up laundry and figure out what the terrible smell in our frig was) and then I went in for lithotripsy--which sounds fun but is actually the process of being immersed in a tub and hit with sound waves, i.e. sonic hammer, to break up kidney stones. Fortunately, I was asleep for all of that . . . . but waking up was rough. My throat was killing me from the breathing tube and let's just say that catheters may be removed but they leave behind a lot of . . . discomfort. I felt like a truck had run over me several times and then parked a while.

Today, 24 hours later, I am recovering. I still move slowly and I still wince a bit but I am eager to see what happens with my pain and my blood pressure now that the stones are gone.

I have an appointment next week to talk to the doc about my hyperparathyroidism issue and that will be helpful. I also may have to do something about the huge gallstone I have floating around inside. Eventually, I should be on my feet and feeling MUCH better. Good thing too as this will cost us a fortune and I had better be able to work L O N G hours.

Soooo good to be home, despite the fact that the house looks like a tornado hit it. I brought six boxes of things from my mom's house and where it will all go is completely beyond me. Ah well, finding just the right place will be part of the fun, right?

. . and They're Baccccccck

We did it.
10 states.
20 days.
6.600 miles.
$1200 in gas.
But, we did it and we have returned. So much to report, so much to describe that I will do my best to hit the highlights and then, in a second post, describe my life since we returned.

As Dickens once penned, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times", so in that tradition, here are the best and worst moments of the trip (however, let me point out from experience that often the worst moments, with time, become some of the funniest in retrospect):


Seeing the amazing terrain of some of these states. Idaho and Utah almost defy description in their sheer beauty. Likewise, Wyoming is flat, Just FLAT.

Getting to eat a pork tenderloin sandwich again. They don't have them out here for some reason.

Watching the fireflies because they are also not found in Oregon.

Lying in the tent at night listening to traffic roar, frogs croak, crickets chirp, trains whistle and wind blow. The best go to sleep music on the planet.

Sharing a tent only with Joseph--kids in their own. Perfect way to rekindle romance!

Relishing the several thunderstorms we experienced because, once again, none in Oregon. Sitting in a parking lot and watching the storm roll in over the water and gasping at the lightning bolts and getting goosebumps from the roar of thunder.

Watching the faces of two of my kids as they saw their first professional live theatre production. Their passion and enthusiasm matched my own.

Being pleasantly shocked that not only were we averaging almost 27 mpg (on a 14 year old van with 200,000 miles on it) but that gas prices go DOWN as you travel east.

Talking to former neighbors and watching them marvel at how much the kids have grown. Realizing that you were more important to some people than you had ever realized before.

Seeing Nicole meet up with her former best friend in Indiana and realize how much they have grown and changed.

Sitting in a restaurant overlooking the lake in Winona Lake and enjoying being with everyone.

Having dinner at my forever friend's house and laughing and talking like we had seen each other last week. Knowing that this is a relationship I will have the rest of my life and realizing what a blessing that is.

Swimming in the hotel pool all together playing and laughing, then later watching the kids horse around. Blissful.

Getting ALL THE WAY HOME with the trailer in one piece.

Seeing my friend of 24 years for the first time and knowing that my visit gave him a reason to fight the cancer harder. Making him laugh, going over old memories and holding hands.

Sitting around the table with the kids and trying to come up with the names of all the Seven Dwarves. Missing one each time so we started making them up. Our favorites were Wheezy for Nicole (she had a cough), Dupey for Coryn and Moody for Caspian.

Maryann's green beans. YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. I don't know how she does it, but they are so good I could eat gallons of them.

Shocked at how many books Coryn can read. Is it NORMAL for a 12 year old to read 4 to 6 books a day (albeit, spending the day in a car for 400 miles. . . )??? I read 6 books on the trip. Nicole read about the same. Caspian read 10 or 11. Coryn read more than 30. Good heavens.

Listening to my husband attempt to sing Karoake at a KOA Campground. The man is superb at most things--fantastic husband, father, lover and friend. But carrying a tune is not his strong suit. However, his enthusiasm for doing it helped he and Nicole pull of a decent rendition of "The House of the Rising Sun".


Having earned the nickname "The Urinator" from my family (I was put on megadose diuretics two days beore the trip), I spent every night of the trip making multiple trips to the closest bathroom. One night, fed up with the trip at a KOA Campground, I decided to pee around the back of the tent. I did. Apparently I also drown an entire ant colony living there because they swarmed on my legs (I not even noticing yet) and as soon as I crawled in my sleeping bag, they made my life a living hell by crawling all over me--including in my hair. My husband told me I was imagining things. Yes, he is still alive but only because he was the driver. In the morning, I showed him the pile of dead ants I killed as proof.

Pitching three tents in the dark at a campground where, apparently, they had kept mosquitoes under lock and key until we got there. Once released, they dined a plenty on the Orr family. Between slaps, swearing and looking for tent poles, it made for an exhausting moment, yet one that gets funnier with time.

Feeling your mattress slowly sink to the ground during the night . . . and finding that your middle aged body does not adjust to the tround as well as it once did. To counteract it, however, laughing your ass off at your husband as he pumps the mattress back up buck naked by flashlight.

Nonstop backache riding in the car. Meet my new friend, Mr. Vicodin.

When Maryann fell off the end of the bench at the restaurant our last day there and scared all of us to death.

Realizing that, one by one, each of my kids was coming down with somethign that included headaches, sore throats and high fevers. Hoping J didn't get it since he's the driver (he didn't).

The trailer fiasco . . . can't begin to include the whole story here. Suffice to say, we got enough things at my mom's that we could either ship it back or use a trailer. Shipping seemed ridiculously expensive. So we went with the trailer idea. U Haul was almost $400 and then we would have nothing to show for it. So we had a hitch installed, bought a trailer and for two painful days my poor husband struggled endlessly to put it together with 4000 parts and directions roughly translated by an illiterate Japanese hobo. A half dozen trips to get more parts or different ones or wood for the sides and bottom or more wrenches and sockets and rachets. Seeing my hubby get more and more tense. Seeing the cost go up and up ($800 all told). Finally, heading out of town, stopping on the way to get a license for the trailer and finding that all DMVs are shut down in Indiana on Mondays.

90 minutes in a rest park because we lost all the lights on the trailer on the left side. Joseph working like hell to figure out WHY and WHAT. Asking an intimidating trucker for some help and finding out he used to be an electrician. He figured out the problem in 5 minutes and we were soon on our way. Followed by Nicole, Coryn and I's "Happy Light Dance" in the middle of the parking lot.

The van not starting in Pennslyvania, having it towed two blocks and then they couldn't really fix it. J. gashing his toe on the way there.

Coryn falling in a parking lot and skinning up his knee pretty nicely.

Going through my mother's stuff at her house. So glad I got there in time to do it but oh my, it broke my heart. I cried and cried and cried. So hard to accept she is gone. Came home with many reminders and special treasures. She will always be a part of my mind, my heart and my life.

Realizing that although we were only 8 hours apart instead of almost 8 days, we would not be able to meet up with our friends living in Maine. They could not get there when we would be there. We were all sad because that was going to be a real highlight for all of us.

My ankles, feet and calves swelling up so much each day we travelled that I could not wear my shoes or walk comfortably. Of course, this led to peeing all night. Typical me trying to figure out how many calories I can burn just with trips to and from the bathroom.

Getting hit in the face with a bungi cord you are trying to fasten. MAN, does it HURT. Swollen cheek, swollen lip.


Joseph went to lie down at a rest stop. Spread out the sleeping bag while the boys walked the dog and I cleaned up the van. Seconds later, he is hightailing it back to the van, clearly chased by SOMETHING yet invisible to me. I am thinking that if it's bees and he is running to the van, I will have to later kick him. It turned out to the world's most ravenous mosquitoes who had been lying in wait in the tall grass, much like raptors. They literally swarmed him and chased him around the van several times. I ran after him flapping a shirt and laughing my butt off.

Having a bucketload of pennies from my parent's house that I wanted to turn in at the bank. Finding out that most banks won't take them if you don't roll them or have an account. Finding out that Coinstars are often broken. Finally, in grand irony, donating them to a disaster relief fund that sends cleaning products to those who have gone through a flood, quake, etc. Nothing could have been more appropriate for my parents' money than to give it in for cleaning supplies.

The person I went to visit in PA is in prison. To get in to visit takes a lot of paperwork, all of which I had done already. However, I didn't get a list of all of the rules. . including that you cannot wear tank tops in to visit. Yes, I wore a tank top. You can wear one if you have a jacket. I had a jacket. It had a hood. You cannot wear hooded jackets. Now what? My luggage was 40 miles away at the hotel. Gallantly, Joseph took off his shirt and gave it to me to wear (a Volkswagen t-shirt, what else?) This left him without a shirt so I gave him my hoodie. Sadly, it was BRIGHT pink. Since I couldn't take my purse in either, J got to hold it also. Let me tell you, it was a sight!!! The friend I visited said that Joseph made such an impression on the other guys that he is collecting fan letters from them (600 plus to date) and they are all hoping J has pink leotards to go with the hoodie and that he will send pics. :)


In between Pendleton and Hermiston, Oregon, we met a couple who live in Goshen, Indiana (a city between where I was born and raised and where I lived with Joseph). Small world! Days and miles later, we ran into them again in a gas station. Eerie. More days and miles later and we ran into them at a rest stop. Cue "Twilight Zone" music. This is just bizarre. They are lovely, very religious couple, and I am wondering if they were helping us adjust mentally to returning to conservative Indiana.

Eating in Pine Bluffs, Wyoming a/k/a Zombieville. All of the stores were closed and boarded up. There were hardly any people on the street. We ate at a restaurant and the people barely spoke plus had been born oddly enough without any personality. It led us to making up great storylines for horror books. "The Orrs Come to Pine Bluff . .. and Never Return"; "The Orrs for Dinner in Zombieville" and "Welcome to Pine Bluffs . . Leave your Personality and Life Force at the City Limits". It became quite a joke for all of us.

Sleeping in your mother in laws' bed.

Having your mother in law wash and fold your underwear.