Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Ups, the Downs, the Smiles, the Frowns

It has been a very strange week for me so far. I haven't (shhh) been working. I've actually done some reading, went on a cleaning binge in the bedroom, hung out with the kids on the couch and went to Goodwills WITHOUT feeling guilty for doing so. I gotta say, I LOVE it.

It has also been a week of highs and lows so far. Jump on the roller coaster with me and ride along. .. .

On the up side: The big project that I mentioned in the "Puzzle Piece" entry fell apart. This means that incredible pressure I was feeling to understand it is gone. Talk about weight off of one's shoulders.

I had one of the biggest thrills of my professional writing life last night when "Gossip Girl", a show I never watch but I couldn't find the remote at the moment, came on. The scene was students talking about SATs and how to prepare for them and on the desk where they were studying was MY BOOK. Yes, MY BOOK. I was so excited, I screamed. That has never, ever happened before so this was majorly cooooool.

We leave on Friday morning for a weekend in Sacramento, California. I am excited about being on the road and getting out of town for a few days. It's a warm up for this summer's L ON G drive to Indiana and Pennsylvania and back. We are going to the National Community Civilian Corps campus there for Nicole to see it, meet the people and get a feel for the program. Since she is semi-planning to go there in January, we want to check it out first and see what it is like.

Caspian's birthday was a smashing success. He is crazy about his cell phone, loved the cake and still is in shock that he finally gets to go back to Indiana. He has asked to do so every year since we moved. I think that he will be disappointed when reality meets his young memories, but I hope it is still fun for him.

This Thursday is Coryn's birthday. I haven't a dang clue what to get him. Actually, J had a decent idea last night that was intriguing . . . may follow up on that one. We're going to go and see a movie that day, plus we have to get ready to leave the next morning for our short trip.

I am back to exercising after taking days off because of my cough and cold. Between water aerobics, Curve's, Positive Changes hypnosis and a careful diet, I would think the weight would be falling off me. Ha. Right. Not sure if this entry should be in the ups (I'm working hard at it!) or the downs (it's so S L O W).

On the down side: The big project that I mentioned in the "Puzzle Piece" entry fell apart. This means that the amazing amount of money they were going to pay me went away too. That part of it sucked.

My hubby is still not back to being right since his episode last weekend. He hasn't slept a good night since. One night he was up for his neck bothering him. Last night he had an upset stomach. I don't know what's up with him but when he feels crappy, everyone feels crappy.

I, on the other hand, am STILL coughing from being sick and have this right side pain issue going on but it will get better and I'm hanging in there.

An editor on a project that is long done has suddenly decided that it should have been longer . . . and we' re politely going back and forth about it. I'm so in the right I cannot see how anyone could see otherwise but . . . . we will see. I haven't gotten that last check yet.

We need a house sitter/care taker for our place while we are on vacation in June. The idea of someone I don't really know living IN my house bothers me. We just need someone to check on the cat, change the litter box, bring in the mail and water the plants. Simple but hard to find the right person. My usual buddy can't do it, so I'm trying to decide who to ask next.

In other words, life goes on. I have to say that not having to get up every morning and push, push, push sure is nice. Of course, in June/July when the money suddenly fades out, I won't think so . . . . such is life.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Sudden SAR Shuffle

Having a daughter who is part of Search and Rescue for the county sherriff's office is an interesting experience. Let me give you a little insight into what it means:

*You get to pay more than $1000 for equipment and dues. And no matter how thoroughly you hit Goodwill, Criagslist and REI, she will still need SOMETHING every few weeks. It will wear out, run out or fall apart.
*You get the pride of knowing your child is doing something really worthwhile to help her community, as well as learning important material that can help her throughout the rest of her life, regardless of what field she goes into.
*You get to say things like, "I'm off to the sheriff's station to pick up my daughter again. . . for the third time this week" and see people's reactions.
*You get to tell your friends things like, "My daughter was part of a liquor license sting this weekend" or "My kid worked with SWAT teams all day today in a practice school shooting." Unfortunately, at the same time, you have to deal with things like knowing your child is learning how to jump out of heliocoptors and rapelling off the side of waterfalls. Ah, the gray hairs.
*You get the pleasure of watching her take classes on tracking or evidence searches and wondering how this could still be your little baby.
*As I am fond of saying, you also get to see your child eagerly do things that you would be willing to pay a person to make sure you NEVER had to do, i.e. sleeping in a snow cave, wearing 14 layers of clothes at once, carrying a heavy litter up the side of a small mountain, etc.
*Best of all, however, you get to be an active member of what I now call the Sudden SAR Shuffle (SAR meaning Search and Rescue). It goes like this:

The cell phone rings. It's a number no one knows.
She answers. She starts to move quickly. Someone, somewhere is lost or missing. It's time to go to work. She changes into her uniform. She makes sure her pack (which weighs one-third of her total weight!!!) is ready to go. The entire family goes into high gear. Dad grabs the sleeping bag. Coryn fills the water bladder (a sac that goes into the backpack for drinking water). Mom makes sure snacks have been replenished and if it's almost time for a meal, throws together a quick sandwich. Caspian loads the van. We are a well oiled machine because in the last 9 months, she has gotten a number of these calls. You'd think then, that the next part of this tale would be about her heroic efforts with her team to find the missing person. That's not what happens.
Sometimes the Sudden SAR Shuffle gets as far as grabbing her pack--and then the call comes in--mission aborted. Person already found.
Sometimes we get all the way into the van and out of the driveway before the call comes.
Last night, she got all the way to the sheriff''s station and into their van and down the road before it was cancelled.
We were at the grocery store when she called to say she was called in. We had to forego the rest of the shopping, get in line, pay and get out of there fast, so we could get home and start helping with the Shuffle. Then it got cancelled--again.
It has been cancelled EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Now, don't get me wrong. We are all THRILLED that the person was found. That's the best possible outcome. But doing the Shuffle over and over and over again only to have the call cancelled gets O L D. It always makes me think of the Boy who Cried Wolf. I keep fearing that we will one day get one of these calls and we will all casually start getting things together only to find out that this one is really happening and then panic to get her there in time.
It's just one aspect of life in the Orr household that keeps us. . . unique.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pave Paradise, Put up a Parking Lot

Remember that annoying song sung by Melanie back in the 70s? It had a good message but her voice just GOT to me. Anyway, the point of the song was that you sometimes don't realize how wonderful something is until it is gone, so appreciate it NOW. I had a lesson in that today.

It started with hey, honey, let's take a quick shower before we take Caspian to a friend's house. We'd already been to Curve's and back and the day was rolling. We took the shower (our shower is big enough to host a small tea party and have room left over for dancing) and I got out first. I was dry and getting dressed and the hubby still hadn't emerged. Finally, I went in to check on him. He was getting out and something was wrong--I could tell that immediately. He said he had terrible head pain and a burning in his chest. The same thing has happened twice in the last five years and the time we went to the ER, he was diagnosed with acid reflux, so I had a pretty good idea what we were in for.

The main thing that hits him is pure panic. Now, if you know Joseph, you know that this is really ALIEN to his personality. This man was once nicknamed Mr. Mellow. He is just very calm and steady 99.9% of the time. When this hits, it's like he becomes someone else. He starts to hyperventilate and pace. He becomes very agitated and god forbid, I come near him or touch him. He gets angry. He was clearly in a lot of pain and before, I gave him a purse to hyperventilate into because it slowed his breathing. I did the same thing this time and if I hadn't been so worried, the sight of him breathing into a Tinkerbell purse would have had me on the floor laughing. The idea of getting the camera did occur to me. Yes, I'm a bad, bad wife.

For 2 1/2 hours, we went through this. I sent the kids away to lunch (and once again was so grateful that my responsible 17 yr old could just head out the door with the boys, get them on the bus and to lunch without a blink of an eye). I flew down to the drugstore and asked for advice on what to give him. They recommended a couple of OTC products so I bought them and flew home again. Very hard to get this man to take medication . . . . but he did. The burning subsided a bit but the head pain and nausea continued. His breathing sped up and slowed down sporadically.

I brought him an Advil for the head pain. This man does NOT take pain killers of any kind. NONE. It was tough to get him to take ONE but I did it. I walked the fine line between checking on him and hovering. Finally he suggested he try something to eat and within 5 minutes, he was 90% better.
The recovery was almost as instanteous as the attack!

So, was it acid reflux? I don't know. I just know that it scared the pee out of me because I adore this man with every fiber of my being. He's my best friend in the whole world and I can't imagine a day without him. He's my paradise that life was trying to pave but I wouldn't let it. (Yes, that is the strangest analogy I've ever made in my writing career.)

Tomorrow is Caspian's birthday. I cannot believe he is turning 15. He is excited and I KNOW he will looooooove his present (more on that later).
This has been a harrowing day.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mother's Day

I made a mistake today.

I walked into my local Hallmark store.

I have to admit it--I LOVE Hallmark stores. I am a major sucker for multiple lines of collectibles, sappy sentimental cards, adorable stuffed animals and sparkly keychains. Believe me, when they see me coming they rest assured that their utility bills will be paid in plenty of time. I usually go here with Nicole because I have found that testosterone reacts badly with the store, often causing a severe case of Igottagetouttahere-itis in my men.

So I went in alone today . . just for a few minutes. I found lots of sales which was cool and I bought myself a ridiculously beautiful and probably rarely ever to be used letter opener. I got a pair of boxers for the hubby which read "Dad's word is final. Ignored but final." Appropriate, I think for our house.

I bought a purse (if you know me well, that's certainly no surprise as I collect those too) and then I walked into this emotional wall that blindsided me: Mother's Day cards and gifts. I just wasn't ready for that. Usually I plan for weeks ahead what I am going to get my Mom for this holiday. I knew it meant a lot to her for me to pick something special and I enjoyed the process of thinking and choosing. I often ended up at Hallmark to make that selection. And here I was, and here was Mother's Day in the near future, and yet, there is no Mom. And it made me cry, right there in the store and I ended up telling this poor young clerk why I was upset and watching her thinking, Ah man, I only make $7.25 an hour. . . what am I supposed to say to this woman??? She choose the safe and always appropriate I'm so sorry and it helped.

I know I've written about missing my mom before . . . but this is really a struggle for me. She was my buddy. She was my #1 fan. She was my sounding board. She gave great advice. She told good jokes (dirty ones that she sometimes forgot the punchline to, which was even funnier). She was my MOM and although I turn 49 in a matter of days, I miss her like crazy. Seeing those cards and presents just about tore me up. I guess, in the end, that's kind of a tribute to her though . . . . to show she was a good mom. I hope that somehow, wherever she is, she knows that.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Puzzle Pieces

I have been hired for one of the best paying projects of my life. In today's economy, that is a GOOD thing. However, there's a reason why we are being paid so well--it's a helluvalotta work. I've had four, yes, four, conference calls about it so far and I now liken it to having someone dump a 5000 piece puzzle on the table in front of you and then taking away the box so you don't know what you're supposed to be creating. Each time I have a conference call, I am able to put a few new pieces in the puzzle but I still have no idea what the finished picture looks like. I am pretty quick with these kinds of things so if I am this stumped, it means it is not being explained clearly at all. I am hoping that with each passing day, reading the material, talking to others and doing more conference calls I will get up to speed.

Of course, my speed is mighty compromised right now anyway because I have a rotten cold. Sneezing, sniffling, aching, sore throat, cough and laryngitis cold. Not lousy enough to wanna curl up and die but too lousy to go to exercise classes and to have ANY motivation to work. Now it's Friday and that means my motivation is wayyyyyyy down. I wanna go and do something fun like hang out in Goodwill or sit in a bookstore or eat at an exotic restaurant. Clearly, playing hooky is not something I have outgrown.

I have a weekend full of work ahead of me. I have 1/2 a book due by Monday morning and another complete book due the following day. Sigh. However, then, my schedule opens up quite a bit and it looks like I might even have a couple of days off. Wahoo.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Happy Tax Day

Today was crazy and hectic and too busy and overwhelming, but it ended really, really nicely.

Paying taxes is not one of my favorite things to do. Since I am self employed, I get hit really hard in spring with thousands of dollars to pay and this does not a happy woman make. However, a few years ago, Joseph and I decided that rather than make it a national day of mourning like we'd like to do, we would find a way to celebrate the day. We began mailing in our returns and payments (sometimes full, sometimes partial) close to midnight. The kids would put on their pajamas and we'd go for ice cream on the way home. This made the day more fun and had it end on a happy note.

Tonight, I came home from swimming at 10, wrote the checks, piled family into the car and took off for the post office. I put on some special music I had reserved for the moment (DaVinci's Notebook's "My Enormous . . . well you can guess what body part) and sang along at the funny part of the chorus. We put the checks in the mail box to the sound of a makeshift drum roll and then we went out for a 11:00 meal. We put money in the juke box, got the wrong songs, and talked, giggled and ate. On the way back to the van, two of my kids were singing, with their arms around each other (keep in mind, these kids are 17 and 12) and my 15 yr old was walking with his arm around my shoulders. The dog was waiting in the van for us. We came home eager for bed but I was infinitely grateful for our togetherness.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the VERY Ugly

Life just wants me to go on rollercoaster rides, apparently. I've been all over the place in the last 24 hours. As long as I am on the ride, I might as well take you with me, right?

THE GOOD: Coryn dealt with my leaving for the weekend absolutely fine and never had a moment's trouble. (Read earlier posts to understand why this is remarkable.) He was happy to have me back but didn't angst about my absence at all.
I had a wonderful time with Nicole. I didn't get to see much of her as she was in class the vast majority of it, but what time we did have together was just lovely. We giggled and talked and just enjoyed being together. I loved the hotel room--it got lonely Saturday because I was alone from 8 am to 10:30 pm but I got work done, I finished a book and I took a nap. Those were good things.

THE BAD: I came home to a computer that was okay at first and then began to act up and then proceed to lose more than half of my email folders, each one containing dozens of important work related emails. I can't begin to think how it happened or what to do. Coryn found them all sitting in my recycle bin but when he clicked to restore them, none of them did. As far as I can tell, they are just gone. My computer guy can't get here until tomorrow morning and in the meantime, I do a lot of sniffling and swearing over it.
I have two huge assignments due today and there is no way I can get them done with all I have lost. I will do my best but sometimes I just want to stand up and walk away from it all, ya know?

THE UGLY: Taxes. Man, oh man, do I hate being self employed at tax time. We owe less than last year, true, but still it's enough to wipe out one savings account and still not be paid off. I knew it would be bad, but I had hoped it would be a little better than this. We will weather it--always have and always will but it doesn't mean I have to be happy about it, ya know?

Still up in the air . . . vacation. (And hell yes, I am still taking out enough money to go on vacation because this family and I deserve it and the IRS does NOT.) Where to go? What to do? We have some ideas but they depend on three factors that we currently have no control over. (Yes, I am being mysterious because my kids read this and I haven't revealed those ideas yet.) Wherever we do end up going, it will be the second two weeks of June. That much we DO know.

Sigh. Going back to work now and try to cope with harsh reality. Man, I wish I did drugs sometimes. (Just kidding, of course.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Emotional Overload

Last night, within a one hour period, I had to console two of my kids (youngest and oldest) as they cried and both stated, in their own ways, that "life sucks". By the time I was done, I felt like I had just survived a tornado of emotions. I also felt unbelievably inadequate. I had no magic answers. I had no profound solutions. I had no wise advice. All I had to offer was love and sympathy and boy, did that seem insufficient. I wanted to be hit with a lightning bolt of YES! I know how to fix this. I mean, I'm the MOM; aren't I supposed to have the answers to all of life's quandries? Apparently not.

It's hard to be happy when your kids aren't, ya know? During the course of the day, when you're bopping along, feeling good, all of a sudden it strikes you that someone you love deeply is miserable and then all the joy of the moment seems to disappear.

I want to be wise. I want to know the perfect thing to say or do. I want to have my children's eyes stop crying and have the light come back into them. I could do it when they were little--why I can't I do it anymore?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Whaddya' do?

I have a parenting issue on my hands that has me completely stumped. You'd think after 24 years and 4 kids, I'd have most of the answers, but not this one apparently.

My older three are amazingly independent creatures. They are all eager to try new things, meet new people, go new places, etc. And then there is my youngest. Brilliant guy. I mean, SMART. So smart in fact, that as we have been going though this issue, he went and got a book (Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies), read the whole thing and then proceeded to inform me that he had a "classic case of separation anxiety disorder". He's right--he does.

Four years ago, when he was about 8, he didn't have much trouble with my leaving now and then. I was out on book tours then, plus several companies I work with flew me to their headquarters for special training/projects. Although he missed me, he was fine with it.

Now, I am trying to go away for three days and two nights with Nicole and the boy is in tears every day over it. He has gotten progressively worse over time, refusing to spend the night anywhere and hating it if I go away overnight. In January, I had to leave for 6 days to go to Indiana and be with my mom and he really had a melt down. He begged me to not go or take me with him and the emotional pain of going through that was almost as awful as losing my mom. I had hoped that trip would help him--he'd find out that he was really ok without me and coped fine--which he did--but it hasn't helped at all. In fact, I think it's worse.

I tried talking to him about it last night and he did mention that he was somewhat worried about me when I was gone, even quoting statistics on how often people have car accidents, but we both came to the conclusion that fear for me was not the cause of his anxiety. He says, "I know my subconcious mind knows why I feel this way but my concious mind doesn't have a clue". See, smart!

I have wondered if death is bothering him more than he lets on. In the last 6 years, he has seen one of his favorite homeschooling moms die unexpectedly, my dad died, my mom died, and my sister in law died. (Heck, I think death is bothering me too, at this point). He doesn't seem to have any preoccupation with death and never asks me about it . . . although we generally avoid him watching any movies where something bad happens to the mom.

So anyway, the weekend is approaching and I am worried about it. I don't want to walk out if he is sobbing and asking me to stay. I also don't want to cancel my plans and miss this opportunity with Nicole. I am so torn. I've thought about finding a counselor for him, but it has to be someone who won't go the "Buck up and be a man!" route or "If you hadn't homeschooled him. . . " route.

I love this boy so much and to cause him pain hurts me. I just don't know what the answer is or the best way to respond to his feelings. Any experts out there? Any ideas? Any suggestions? Any anecdotes? I'm lost here. I want to help him and I don't know what to do!

Sunday, April 6, 2008


I appear to have a raging case of sleepitis this weekend. Even though I am actually sleeping better than I used to, I am so damn s l e e p y this weekend, it's ridiculous. In fact, I just pulled my hubby in from working outside to run down and get me TWO, yes, TWO cups of coffee. That is more than I usually have in several weeks. I even took a nap yesterday and I'm still whipped. I think it is primarily because I've started two exercise classes this week--water aerobics and Curve's. It's good for me, glad I did it, but I think my body is going, HEY!!!! You expect me to write all day, sleep 6 hours a night, raise three children AND exercise? I don't think so . . . . . I just have to hang in there until it finally agrees with me.

I am looking at the rest of my month and thinking. . . . if I can just get a couple more things done, albeit large ones, I will be in the clear for a somewhat restful month. If I could just find a way to work 6 or so hours a day and then take off the weekends, I would be sooooooooo grateful.

Everyone who loves me (or even likes me a lot) needs to think of me this Friday morning as I drag my trembling carcass into the tax accountant's office to turn in our taxes this year. It's not gonna be pretty. It's the one time of year when self employment REALLY sucks.

I was rearranging some things in my bedroom last night and happened upon a number of pictures of my parents. I just wasn't emotionally prepared for it and burst into tears. The pics were from their visit here in 2005. It was a rough visit--dad's health was iffy and while they were here, my sister in law died so they had to leave and go back early. But there were some sweet moments and those photos captured a couple of them. I am grateful for the memories but resent that I can't create any more of them.

I'm preparing for a really hectic week since I am going away for the weekend with Nicole. Between that we have classes for me, classes for Nicole, classes for Caspian and (yea) Cirque de Soleil. Can't wait for that.

Wish I could be brilliant in this blog entry but I'm just too sleepy folks. Leave me comments so I know you were here.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Weekend Approacheth

Is it a bad sign when you're anticipating the weekend from Monday afternoon on? This has been a long week but a decent one. I've been keenly aware of time passing lately, brought on in no small part, I am sure by the upcoming birthdays of my two sons. Caspian will be 15 on April 22 and Coryn will be 12 on May 1. (Let's ignore how old Tami turns on May 3).

Caspian's life has suddenly gotten much busier--just about the same time that Nicole's tended to kick up. He has a new friend and they are hanging out together. He is taking his first exercise class and although it is challenging, he seems to like it. He has volunteer work once a week and when summer starts, it will go to twice a week. He is at a stage that he cracks me up as often as he irritates me. He can be surly and tempremental one second and then hugging me or sliding across the kitchen in his socks the next.

We have a couple of short upcoming trips that I am looking forward to. On April 11-13, I am going to Bend with Nicole. She is going with her Search and Rescue group to a tracking class and as the only girl, she would be staying alone in a hotel room. That just didn't work for me, so with laptop and suitcase in hand, I am going with her. She will go out and track and I will read, work and NAP. Sounds glorious to me. Then, on May 2-4 we are going to Sacramento, CA to check out the NCCC campus and learn more about the program. It looks pretty sure that Nicole will be enrolling in January. (That breeze that just blew through your house was actually me sighing.) We are tentatively planning to head out for summer vacation in mid June, destination unknown at this point in time. Suggestions anyone?

My swimming class is a good one--discovered I can't hold my breathe for crap and that my balance in water is not what it used to be, but I enjoyed the class and know I will benefit from it. I plan to supplement it with a membership to Curve's as well. Once these sore muscles wear off, I am sure I will feel fantastic.

Dreamt of my mom again last night. As in all of my dreams, I think she has died but she hasn't. I just so miss the sound of her voice. I've actually been talking with my brother a lot this past week and each conversation has been CIVIL. I attributed it to April Fool's Day but it has continued since then. I will just appreciate it while it lasts.

Nothing else new to report. Off to type and type and type and type, for a change.