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Friday, December 25, 2009

An I.O.U. Christmas

Merry Christmas to all, as always. I hope your day has been filled with good friends, close family, and warmth. As I listen to the wind roar outside, I am grateful that I am not in the states that were hit with such a violent snowstorm or those that are stranded in airports. I will take my cozy house anytime.

It has been such an odd Christmas at our house. After a tough year, my work is really picking up. I am actually at a point where if someone else asks me to do a project for them in January, unless it's great money, the answer will probably be no because I can't fit it in. It has been a long, long time since I've been able to say that. It's another thing I am grateful for right now.

However, due to strange timing of checks, banks, holidays and karma, money just was not available like it should have been for Christmas shopping. When we did get some in, we used it to buy gifts for those far away because those presents had to be packaged up and sent to other parts of the country. After we did that, paid for the postage costs, and bought groceries, little was left. Coryn got his new computer tower--his Christmas money from Grandma and Elsie made that possible. Caspian got a full weight lifting set and bench--again, thanks to the holiday money from Grandma and Elsie. Nicole was able to go out and buy presents for her siblings, parents and boyfriend with that same money. Other than that, however, pretty much ZIP. When it came time to wrap, I had virtually nothing to do. The tree looked bare. As the mom and the breadwinner, I felt guilty. REALLY guilty. Rotten, depressed, awful guilty. I decorated the tree with envelopes full of I.O.Us for when the checks arrive next week. I apologized to everyone, with tears.

Guess what? No one cared. The day was still special. Everyone was still happy. At the risk of sounding like the narrator describing the enduring spirit of the Whos down in Whoville, not having lots of gifts did not matter. They know that next week I will run out and take advantage of checks cashed and post holiday sales and get them some treasures. Moreoever, they know that they are loved and maybe that is the best gift I could give them.

It was a lovely day despite the lack of presents. Jon spent it with us and made it even nicer with great gifts for each of us (Starbuck's will be seeing a great deal of us now!) and appreciating what we gave him. Joseph and I took a 90 minute nap in the middle of the day--a definite rare treat. I am refusing to do any work until tomorrow, another treat. People were missed, of course. Our eldest, who we haven't heard from since spring, was missed and we are hoping she had a wonderful holiday with her hubby and friends. My parents who LOVED Christmas were missed. I always got such a kick out of calling them and listening as they opened what I sent. I miss their laughs.

It is slowly getting dark outside but I know that each day now, the daylight will last a little longer and the night a little less and that means summer is returning. That is always a reassuring thought in the depth of winter.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas. May it bring you what you want. Mine already has.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Update Time

I was online this morning bemoaning people's blogs that hadn't been updated and then I felt hypocritical as I haven't updated in several weeks. So, here I am, although not with any terribly exciting news, events or announcements.

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Joseph and I did all of the cooking together (a first) and instead of turkey (which takes a lot of effort and no one is all that crazy about it), we made his incredibly delicious pot roast (which is ridiculously easy to make but tastes amazing). We also made steamed cauliflower with cheese, nutty brussel sprouts, rosemary potatoes and rolls. Jon brought pie for dessert. It was the six of us and we laughed and talked and as my husband says, "We were happy". I can't think of a better way to spend Thanksgiving.

I've been busy and getting busier. Work continues to pile in and my next three months are full of projects that will keep me "out of the bars" and in my computer chair. If my right wrist and my two eyes can just hang in there and not betray me, all will be well!

The kids are doing great. Nicole and Jon have been together for almost 11 months now--hard to believe! He has become a part of the family to the extent we can text him and ask him to bring toilet paper and ice (not to be used together in any way, mind you!) on his way to our house. Nicole is trying to get an application into the Police Cadets Program. . . . it is the most complicated application we've ever dealt with (19 pages and requiring transcripts and fingerprinting. . . ) She is also looking into a job with an all female construction team. I still enjoy spending time with her so much, I can't begin to tell you. I have deeper conversations and laugh more with her than with anyone else I know.

The boys are getting bigger all the time. Caspian is suddenly into exercising and using hand weights and hanging out with his father as much as possible. Coryn is developing an even more wicked sense of humor and last night we went to another play together and I was astonished at what good company my son can be. He was witty and smart and funny and just plain fun.

I am getting ready to do my annual Christmas newsletter, complete with pictures. Some of you reading this will certainly be getting a copy in the mail within the next couple of weeks. If you don't get a copy and would like one, you can always ask for one . . . . It is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season because I get to recap the year at the Orr House and share it with people I care about!

So, off to get that first morning cup of coffee (usually my only cup of coffee) which contains a small amount of coffee and copious amounts of chocolate and then to work all day. I plan to do it sitting in the living room with the family, probably watching a movie and appreciating both.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wet, Windy and Wonderful

Last night we returned from a trip to the coast . . .well, the coastal area. This time we stayed in a new place that is not actually near the ocean but about 25 minutes away. We got a great deal on it and since we hadn't been on any kind of vacation in eons and it was just after Nicole's birthday, we took a couple of days and headed out. (Left Monday at noon and returned Wednesday at 7 pm).

It was a fast trip but a very good one. Here are the highlights I wanted to share:

1. When we arrived in the middle of high winds, rain and darkness, we could not find the lock box that held the key to get in. I had brought all the info with me, including the code, but had forgotten the email with the owner's number. It took some ingenuity but I got it, called, found the lockbox, used the key and got in. WOW, what a gorgeous place. Very modern and airy and open and lovely. The keys explored, we unpacked and oohed and aaahed over the rushing creek in the backyard, the cubby hole hidden outside (inspiring thoughts of plots in the writers and trouble in the teenage boys), the Jacuzzi in the huge bathroom and soft, comfy beds covered in pillows.

2. We wanted dinner (hadn't eaten all day) but it was so terrible weather wise outside (the whole area was under a High Wind Warning, but did we know that? Nope.) that we were desperate for anything. We found this little place called Pronto Pups where everything you order comes with a side of grease. Did we care? No. We were hungry. We ended up with WAYYYYYYYYYYY too many french fries, to the point of ridiculousness but it was still fun. As we were leaving, the manager came over and said how nice it was to see a family having fun together for a change. That was nice to hear.

3. Going to bed and listening to the pouring rain on the skylights, the wind howling around the corners and the rushing creek in the backyard was heavenly for this tinnitus woman. Didn't even need my CD player!

4. Spent the day in Lincoln City exploring stores. Had a great time in several of them, found things to buy, things to admire and never pay the price for and even some great bargains. When we went into a Christian bookstore because I wanted to see if they had any neat stationary, each one of my children whispered, Mom, you know you're in a Christian bookstore, right? To which I replied, Yes. If we're not out in 15 minutes, we will spontaneously combust. :)

5. We found a Goodwill . . . thrilling Joseph, Nicole and I and making the boys writhe in horror at the idea of going to a Goodwill ON VACATION. (They find the stores infinitely boring.)

6. We went to the grocery store to get food to take back to the cottage for the next couple of meals. On the way in, we saw a homeless young lady . . . probably about 20 or so. She had a nice sign and gave us a smile that didn't look manufactured or contrived in order to get us to give her money.

While I was in the store, Caspian came up to me and asked for money. I figured it was for a game or something but he wanted to give it to the girl outside. He said, I cannot take back this much food for us to eat and know that she is hungry, mom. Can't we do something for her? He was seriously bothered that this girl was going to go without. Now, you may not personally know Caspian. . . but he is sometimes a challenge. Whatever we want, he doesn't. Wherever we want to go, he doesn't. If it's cold, he wears short sleeves. If it's hot, he wears long sleeves. If we're all going to bed, he is wide awake. If we are all in the car talking, he falls asleep. He wears his ear buds as much as we allow and when we are talking at a table in the restaurant, he is much more apt to be reading. On the other hand, he is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest, most compassionate person I know. He has a heart of gold and always wants to help people. While I am pounding my head against the wall at him, I am usually smiling and being grateful he is my son at the same time.

So I said let's pick out some food for her and give it to her as we leave. He pointed out that she might be vegetarian (this IS Oregon) so we'd better not get meat. :) So we got veggies and dip and fruit and dip and cheese and as we walked out, we handed her the sack. Now, if you live anywhere where there are homeless people and you have ever given them food or money, you will know that you get a variety of reactions. The ones that just mumble at you and walk away usually don't make you feel like you did anything nice. This girl looked right at Caspian and smiled and thanked him. It was sincere and he was blushing and it was one of my favorite moments of the trip.

So, it was a wet, windy and wonderful time that went by WAY too quickly but we loved it and came home renewed and appreciative of each other. What more can one ask of a mini-trip?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Of Sleepyitis, High Tech Music and Good Friends

Strange title, I know, but those were the topics that are on my mind right now. And if you tune into my blog, you get special insight into what is going on in my mind . . . please ignore anything you find offensive or odd. (Yes, there are a FEW things left . . . )

Sleepyitis. One or two of the medications I take cause me to get sooooooooo sleepy every single time. Another one makes me pee. So, for a good portion of the day, I am typically fighting to keep my eyes open as I stumble my way down the hall to the bathroom. As amusing as it may sound, it isn't a lot of fun to experience every single day. I've tried shifting when I take them but to little avail. It isn't a major life problem . . just one that bugs me.

High tech music. After fighting it tooth and nail for some weeks, I finally allowed Joseph to convince me to download about 200 CDs onto my computer rather than use my CD player. It took what felt like forever but currently, I have over 1700 songs on my computer and I have to admit, it's fantastic. No CDs to open and load in and then shift around. No plastic cases piling up. 1,700 songs that I like and with shuffle on, I just hit Play and my own personal juke box begins to play. I'm going to do the same upstairs but I have 700 CDs up there . . . . (no comments necessary) and it will take a long time and require an external hard drive. I'll do it in my "spare" time.

Good friends. This past week a good friend of mine had a double mastectomy for breast cancer. She has weathered it wonderfully and is cancer free ( and happy to get some new boobs soon). Tomorrow my darlin friend Susan is having rotator cuff surgery and while I know she will be fine, it's no fun and it's gonna hurt and it's a major inconvenience for her. I just hope she remembers that friends exist for times like this and she must call on me when/if needed. (I have a list of her favorite sweet treats on a post it note by my computer so I can randomly stop by and drop off something for her.)

Deviating from the title . . . c'mon, you knew I would have to deviate a little, right? . . . I've been writing letters like crazy of late, as well as rediscovered my dormant obsession with stationery. I have more than I will ever possibly use in a life time but I love it. I will be using some of it as Christmas gifts and since I write to several soldiers in Iraq, plus some friends and a mother in law far away, I put it all to good use. I have recently joined the Letter Exchange and the Letter Writers Alliance (check them out online!) and am single handedly trying to salvage the U.S. postal system before we only get delivery by Pony Express. Emails are convenient. Phone calls are nice. But nothing beats a letter that you can read and re-read . . . and then later curl up with and take time to answer. It's one of life's special pleasures. I highly encourage you to rediscover it like I did.

Everything else in the Orr House continues well. We did some major room rearranging (and the house still looks like a tornado ripped through it from the process) and now, for the first time, my two boys have their own individual rooms. They are the best of friends but they needed a little space, I think. They will be 17 and 14 soon, so it is understandable.

My work continues to pick up and today I was hired for a new job that has me smiling. I have more than 16 books assigned to me in the coming 6 months, so that number of titles on Amazon will keep growing. I may also be going to some of the area schools and doing presentations on writing--which I will love. I recently went to an elementary school where my friend Susan works and did a presentation. It was great fun. I gave away free books and the kids were so tickled. They lined up for my autograph and I felt like a rock star for just a few moments.

Tonight being Monday, I will head to the Lucky Lab Brew Pub with Joseph and Nicole. It is his VW Night and Nicole and I go along and sit at another table and spend 2 hours writing letters and chatting. It's a special time that we both cherish. Moments together are more limited as time goes by and I want to hold on to each one and bottle it like the boy in Dandelion Wine wants to bottle summertime. Too soon, she will be off and gone and these days will be bittersweet memories. Sigh. Time goes far too quickly.

I shall get my sleepy eyes ready to head out for the evening, turning off my music and grabbing my letter writing supplies . . . . and carrying thoughts of my friends with me as I go. Tune in again soon!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Sweet Time at Sweet Tomatoes

Today, our family went out to lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. It is one of our favorite restaurants. It is a buffet that specializes in salads and soups, with some bread and pasta thrown in on the side. It means you can eat a lot and stay relatively healthy, unlike some buffets.

During lunch, we did the usual--a lot of talking, chatting, laughing, teasing and so on. When Nicole and Coryn went up to get some soup, they walked up with arms around each other's shoulders, talking a mile a minute. When Caspian walked up with me, he had me take his arm (I wasn't feeling my utmost best). We didn't take much note of any of this until the lady at the next table said, "Excuse me. Are you mom, dad and kids?" We said yes. She said that it was lovely to see a family enjoying each other's company so much. "You laugh and talk and it's clear how well you all get along," she said. "How wonderful it is to see that. You've done a wonderful job as parents." (Now of course, I was all ready to launch into a lecture about how it was all MY doing, but Joseph was sitting right there. . . . smirk. Just teasing. Could never do any of it without him.)

We thanked the woman and being us, we talked for a while. I ended up giving her a business card because she wanted to look at my books for her grandkids. It was a nice conversation and it served as an excellent reminder of how wonderful my family truly is.

The second reminder was a few minutes later. Throughout the meal, this one guy at another table (who looked a lot like a young Hank Azaria on drugs) kept getting up and, since he was wearing ear buds and apparently listening to music with a very steady beat, he danced his way from one place to another. Now, I'm not talking a little head bob or finger snap. I am talking head to toe jivin' and shakin'. When I first spotted him I suspected Tourette's but no, it was actually a dance. It was a hoot. We all managed to watch him without being rude and made guesses as to what he was listening to and how NOT thrilled his girlfriend was with his behavior.

As we were all walking out towards the door of the restaurant, my husband . . . . bless him . . . . was walking ahead of us and he began dancing like the other guy. I stopped and said, Oh dear lord . . . . and the kids all stopped and burst out laughing. They offered to let me walk with them so we could all pretend we didn't know him. Then Joseph challenged each one of them to dance too but they just dashed (dash, Nicole!) to the van.

Good moments both.
Both moments that will slip by and be lost in the stream of paying bills, meeting deadlines, doing laundry and marking days off calendars. Yet, both moments that make life so much sweeter. A sweet time at Sweet Tomatoes indeed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Tunnel to Avoid

Ha. Intrigued by the title, eh? Well, in this case, it is a play on words. This is not about the tunnel of love (I had a doctor sing that during a OB/GYN exam once . . . . very disconcerting but amusing). It's not a tunnel on the highway that I am here to advise you to drive around because it's not safe. It's not the tunnel some people see when they are dying, although I think I would probably advise you to avoid that one if at all possible as well. At least avoid any situations that might lead you to seeing that tunnel.

No, this tunnel is carpal tunnel, which I suspect I have in my right arm. I have had it for years and I have a half dozen drug store wrist braces lying about the house. This time around, however, the sore wrist has spread upwards to my elbow. I now have a spot that, when it hurts, feels like someone is holding a hot metal poker on it and pushing. (And man, I wish they would stop it!) It will hurt if I use the arm to lift anything at all, which I can protect against, but it also will just start hurting out of the blue and surprise me. (And while I like surprises that involve chocolate and presents, this one I don't care for one bit.) Pulling out my seatbelt, picking up my purse, etc. now suddenly cause the kind of pain where you stop talking and just breathe for a moment. When it isn't doing it's hot poker imitation, it just aches like a deep toothache, literally throbbing as I struggle to find any position to put it in that doesn't hurt. Sometimes the skin even hurts to the touch, so I wear short sleeves so nothing touches it. How ridiculous is that?

Of course, the good news is that I am left handed so I can still write. The bad news is that I use the computer mouse with my right hand and sometimes it hurts enough that I reach over with my left hand to use it. Joseph asked me why I didn't just learn to use the mouse with my left hand instead but I told him I was afraid then BOTH arms would end up hurting.

I am hoping that like in the past, my arm will just stop hurting for unknown reasons and I can ignore it again. In the meantime, however, I am wincing a lot and I desperately wish I had one of those slings to wear because taking the weight off it helps. Yes, I could buy one but I would look dumb wearing a sling . . . . What did you do to your arm? Ah . .. fight off lecherous men? Hold back flooding waters until children could get to safety? Rescue puppies from an evil witch? No. . . . . I type too much? I don't know what I did to make it hurt. I just want it to GO AWAY.

Of course, my hubby works with it, with me wincing throughout the process. And for a while, it does lighten up and relax. Usually just long enough for me to stop protecting it when I use it and then BAM. I am in pain again. I know my friend Ami is nodding away in sympathy throughout this post as she has a torn rotator cuff and a torn ACL so is lined up for two surgeries soon. I was going to call her doctor and ask if he could do a two for one special and fix my elbow before I resort to amputation but figured the paperwork would be too much to handle.

So, gimpy Tami will muddle through, wishing she was more ambidexterous and grumbling about avoiding this tunnel the next damn time around. It won't help but it will make her feel a little more righteous about it.

Send chocolate. That helps too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The VooDoo that You Do So Well

Last night, as the movie we were watching came to an end and everyone did their usual stretch and head off to brush teeth and go to bed, Joseph whispered to me that he "had an idea". (Ok some of you have very dirty minds and I can hear your snickers from here. Just stop it. This is a family rated blog. Sheesh.) About 30 seconds later, I yelled, "Road trip!" The boys had a friend over for the night but I yanked all three of them off World of Warcraft, yanked the two lovebirds cuddled on the loveseat and yes, even the dog, and we all piled into our van and Jon's car. (Mind you, it was 12:45 a.m. at this point.) We drove . . . and drove . . . and drove with everyone making wild guesses about our destination.

Where are we going?
Out.
Where?
A place.
Called?
A name.
(frustrated groans) What letter does it start with?
One from the alphabet.
WHICH one?
One from the second half.
Is it M?
No more clues.
ARGH.

All the way there, Joseph and I were forced to endure the WOW conversation in the back seats. "So does a blood elf have the power to . .. . ", "Did you see that hysterically funny joke about the orcs in dresses?" "If I want to power up so that I am on level 70, do I have to . . . . " Mostly we tried to ignore it and insert the occasional grunt here and there so it sounded like we were following along.

From 182nd street where we live, we drove to 14th street. Yea, that's a lot of streets. But it went by quickly. Finally, we pulled up in front of the new (as opposed to the old, which is another 30 streets downtown) VooDoo Donut shop. (http://voodoodoughnut.com/) It is decorated with pink neon lights. Donuts are made with ingredients like Tang, marshmallows, Nesquick powder and other assorted things. Some donuts are even made in the shape of . . . well, use your imaginations. Weddings are held there. They have bacon maple bars (which are tastier than they sound).

Since there were 7 of us (the boys' friend and Jon), we ordered a dozen different donuts (including a day old one that one boy declared was the size of Vermont!) The place has few chairs (sitting and lingering is discouraged) but we managed to squeeze into a few spots. We even had our pic taken to commemorate the moment. And you know, it was fun. We laughed and chatted and then all piled back into our cars (after almost forgetting the dog . . . )and headed down the road to find a gas station that had a bathroom since that was yet another kind of seat the donut store did not have . . . .

We came back home and headed for bed, arriving about 3. Now it's the next morning and we are still yawning but heck, it was a fun moment. I love living in this city and taking part in the Voodoo that you do so well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Back to Books

Some time back, I posted some personal book reviews and asked if my hordes of readers (I may be up to 10?) would like me to do that again. I was swamped (3 or 4?) with responses saying that yes, they would like to see more, so here is the second installment in this bestselling, riveting, not to be missed Tami's Book Reviews. (Can't you feel the excitement?!)

I've read several autobiographies of late and while I am sure it would look better to say I had read about some political leader or philanthropist or something along those lines, these were of celebrities. I know I am a bad role model for my children. Deal with it. So, I've read:

Cloris by Cloris Leachman.
Fun book . Going behind the scenes of "Young Frankenstein" was great. She is an amazing lady.

Send Yourself Roses by Kathleen Turner
Disappointing. I love her as an actress but I found myself skimming the book and reading the highlights. Her struggle with rheumatoid arthritis was interesting--and heartbreaking--but I sure wish she would have talked more about her movie roles and less about her attitudes towards acting and such.

The Time of my Life by Patrick Swayze and Lisa Neimi
I loved this one although I cried at the end. I had a wicked crush on Swayze before I got married, partially because he looked a lot like my number one crush throughout junior high and high school. I admired his dancing and respected his lifelong marriage to his wife. A good friend of mine has pancreatic cancer too and is struggling with it. This is a well written book with a lot of insight into favorite movies ("Dirty Dancing", "Ghost", etc.) and an inside look at a wonderful relationship.

OTHER than autobiographies, how about these:

The Strain by Hogan and Del Toro
WHOA. If you like creepy, exciting, page turning books, this is the one. I loved it and only detest the fact that the next one in the series won't be out until next year.

Something's Missing by H. Dicks
A really, really unusual book that I loved. The main character is a thief with OCD. He is just fascinating and you love him. Why he does what he does, HOW he does it and how it all ends up perfectly is a blast to read.

The Rapture by L. Jensen
Hmmmm. Interesting idea indeed. A teen girl who is in a mental institution is able to predict major world disasters, one of which includes the "end of the world". NOT a religious book although many tie ins with it (from a secular point of view). Read it but don't expect a happy ending where everyone walks away smiling.

Have you seen the book Level 26 on the shelves? It's the first "digi novel" in that you read a few chapters and then you go to a site online and watch a 3 minute film relating to what you just read. The "cast" in these films is excellent and well known. I am so fascinated by the concept. BUT it is NOT for the faint hearted. The "bad guy" in this book is SO scary that when I watched the first film (let's put it this way, I have told my kids they may NEVER watch it and I don't do that), I was scared to walk upstairs in the dark for . . . .well, heck I still am. *shudder* The book's plot, however, is extremely well done, intriguing and I will definitely keep reading although I may watch some of the films during the middle of the day with my husband nearby.

According to my records, I have read 44 books this year. That's pretty pitiful compared to when I was younger but then, I didn't have a job, a husband, kids, a house, a cat, a dog and other responsibilities back then either. It may end up averaging about a book a week which "ain't bad".

Hey, send me your recommendations on good books to read! Or send me warnings about those to avoid. On my personal AVOID list, I currently have one to offer called The Music of Razors. The worst part about this book is that the first chapter is SO interesting, so well written, so unusual, so intriguing that you can't wait to read more. From there, it just gets confusing as it crosses time periods and stories and then, every so many chapters, it will be absolutely fascinating and riveting enough for you to say, Ok I will hang in a little longer because this part is just SO GOOD. And then, in the following chapter, you are back to skimming and if you're me, mumbling WTH DOES THIS MEAN?

Ok, off to spend my day writing items and working on the next book down the line. Thanks for stopping by. Chances are I already know you (most of my readers are either family or personal friends) but if I don't, take a minute to introduce yourself. I'd love to know you came by.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tag, You're It!

Wow. I got tagged for the first time. (Does this make me a tag virgin? I didn't think I could qualify for any element of a virgin title by this age . . . Ha. Think of all those disappointed people who googled 'virgin' and ended up here . . . ) So, here Ami, thank you, although I strongly suspect you are doing it way more to make me post then to see my answers. None of them will surprise you.

The rules of the award are:
Answer the questions below using only one word (good gawd, I'm a writer, people. That's like asking me to have only one bite of chocolate . .. sheeeeeesh)
Thank the blogger who sent it to you (check)
Pass it on to six of your favorite bloggers ( I don't have six but will pass it on to those I do know)

1. Where is your cell phone? Purse
2. Your hair? Tangled
3. Your mother? Missed
4. Your father? Gentle
5. Your favorite food? Sandwich
6. Your dream last night? Peculiar
7. Your favorite drink? Water
8. Your dream/goal? Freedom
9. What room are you in? Office
10. Your hobby? Reading
11. Your fear? Illness
12. Where do you want to be in the six years? Country
13. Where were you last night? Bed!
14. Something you aren't? Thin
15. Muffins? Sweet
16. Wish list item? Money
17. Where did you grow up? Indiana
18. Last thing you did? Email
19. What are you wearing? Nightgown
20. Your TV? Downstairs
21. Your pets? Demanding
22. Your friends? Blessings
23. Your life? Fascinating
24. Your mood? Lucky
25. Missing someone? Always
26. Vehicle? Ancient
27. Something you're not wearing? shoes
28. Your favorite store? GOODWILL
29. Your favorite color? Teal
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Yesterday
32. Your best friend? Endearing
33. One place you go over and and over? bookstores
34. One person who emails you regularly? Ami
35. Favorite place to eat? Home

I haven't a clue how to link this to other people's blogs. But I will pass it on to:
Nicole
Jon
(just to get them to post)
Coryn

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some Appliance Advice

My pain truly should benefit someone, so here you go.

When your dryer stops heating when you turn it on . . . and your husband:

tears it apart
buys a piece to fix it
breaks in when installing it
buys another one, puts it in and it doesn't solve the problem
hangs all of your laundry out on the deck for week after week (forgetting the king size sheets and it rained)
FINALLY calls a repairman and it turns out that it wasn't heating because someone turned the dial over to "fluff, no heat"
and you have to pay $80 for the repairman to point it out and leave chuckling

don't get divorced
don't get mad
don't roll your eyes

just love him . . .. because you know that one day you will do something equally stupid and you will need to bring this one up to blackmail him with.

Today's marriage advice brought to you for free by the woman in Portland who is $80 poorer but who truly loves her husband.

And is writing down every detail.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Tale of Promises, Polyps and Peppers

Hey there. Thanks to those of you who have contacted me to see how the surgery went.

The GOOD news? (1) It's over and (2) the test came back benign. Take a deep breath with me. Whew. (3) They found four polyps that appear to be the source of the ridiculously heavy bleeding and removed them. This next period should tell us all if that was the right answer.

The BAD news? (1) The "You won't feel a thing, I promise" was a pack of lies. The drugs they gave me made me slightly sleepy but wouldn't have gotten me through a pedicure without wincing. It hurt. It really hurt. I was miserable and angry and scared and walked out of there pretty shell shocked. (2) There was no 90 lb. fibroid even though I offered a $100 bonus for finding one. (3) My uterus is extremely enlarged and so tipped over it almost makes a circle. What that has to do with ANYTHING, I have no clue. I go back in on the 22nd to get a final report on everything and hopefully will be able to ask that question. I will also tell them that they should never, ever, ever promise a woman that the procedure will be painless because that is nothing but a LIE.

I have recovered pretty darn quickly and there is actually even a spring in my step. Since I've had some time without bleeding now, I have a bit of energy and everything. Of course, my really low BP had rocketed back up to crappy numbers for reasons I just DON'T GET but that's a story for another day, right?

So, here's my latest tale of my always interesting life. To make its point, however, you have to know a little about my background. For those of you who have known me forever (Hi Bev! Hi Elsie!), this will be redundant so feel free to skim ahead.

I was raised in the city with a wonderful mom who made great meals from food that came in boxes and cans. I married a man whose mom made great meals from things she actually planted, weeded, grew, picked and canned. Culture shock indeed. Over the years, I have come to deeply appreciate that way of living. This year, when Joseph put a huge amount of work into growing a garden that has taken over our entire back yard, I was equally appreciative. I watched with delight as things grew and then one day, LOOK! If you need a tomato, there are may right outside. Squash? Right there! Zucchini? EVERYWHERE. Pretty cool.

The other morning, Joseph and I were out in the garden admiring it and mourning the end of summer. I got a bowl and decided to pick some tomatoes and green peppers for our lunch later that day. It was fun . . . although I make him pick up the tomatoes that the slugs got to first. (Ewwwwww.) I came in with a mounding pile of produce, so lovely in the morning light. At lunch time, I began chopping peppers, throwing them in a skillet with onions and garlic and herbs. I thought they would make a great topping for our baked potatoes. Smelled fantastic too.

I cooked . . . . sauteed . . . . stirred . . . . set the table . . . got the taters out of the oven . . . . began feeling some discomfort on my face . . . ignored it . . . . got out the silverware . . . . face really hurt now, what the heck? Went in the bathroom, washed it with soap and back to the table. Uh oh. Serious pain now. What had I done? I hadn't burned it . . . Suddenly, I look at the lovely bowl full of sauteed veggies and I say to my husband, "Those WERE all green peppers from the garden, right?" I mean, they looked a little funky, but all home grown veggies look funky to me. They don't grow like the ones you see in the stores.

He paused. (By now, I had an ice pack on my face.)

Crap.

Apparently he had forgotten that along with the green peppers, he planted hot peppers. Oops. And yes, that is what I had chopped up. And yes, I had touched my face and WOW, did it hurt. I washed my hands. Didn't help a bit. I went online and read scads of recommendations (most of them telling me to never cut peppers without wearing gloves but fat lot of good that did me AFTERWARDS). I saw a recommendation of putting lemon juice on your hands, then lotion. We didn't have lemons, we had limes, so I used that, followed by lotion. By then, my face burning was down to a dull roar and eventually disappeared. I thought my hands were safe but you know what? 24 hours later I still wince when I touch my eyes because there is a little left over under a nail or somewhere.

Of course, the only one who could eat the topping I made was Joseph.

The one who forgot to tell me about the hot peppers.

Good things I love him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

LIfe as a Game Show

Well gang. It's 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. In four hours, I will hopefully be soaring along on an opium/valium/vicodin based high while I get surgically explored to find out what is causing my intense periods. I figure there are four possible outcomes:

1. We didn't find anything, Tami, so we have no idea what your problem is. Pay the bill at the desk on your way out and good luck.
2. We found a tiny fibroid that may be causing issues. We took it out, you're good to go so pay at the desk on your way out.
3. We found a 90 lb fibroid that we will remove in the hospital next week. Make an appointment before you start clothes-shopping for smaller sizes. (Note: this is the one we are hoping for.)
4. We found . . . .well, you know what they could find with my genetic history. When Tami regains consciousness and stops crying, have her pay the bill at the desk on her way out.

I will hate #1. I've heard it too many times and it puts me right back where I started with no relief, no answers, just more bills. I will accept #2 and hope the doctor's right and my problems are over. I hope for #3 because it would explain so much and I wouldn't mind (HA) dropping a few pounds. I dread #4 because I went to too many doctor's appointments with my father when he was told he had cancer, and I know the ramifications.

So, think good thoughts for me today. I will make sure to post ASAP and let me know if it was door #1, #2, #3, #4 or something completely unexpected. Life IS just a game show, right?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is that a Light at the End of the Tunnel (or am I being told to "go toward the light"?)

Hey everyone. Once again, apologies for disappearing for so long. The days have been like molasses lately and I use up all of my energy fighting to stay on the surface.

So, life is . . . improving, I think. Work definitely is. I have gotten a few new jobs and notices of more coming down the line. After months and months of nothing new coming through, it's nice to get an email asking me if I am available for work. (Am I available . . . . oh yea. I am. For sure.) My schedule for the rest of the year is filling up more and more and I am starting to be able to breathe again.

Health wise. Well, mark your calendars. I go in for surgery on Sept. 9 to see what the heck is going on with my female plumbing. While I am certainly not remotely eager to undergo the actual procedure, I am eager to open my eyes and have the doctor tell me what the heck is wrong and what to do about it. Personally, I'm hoping she finds a 90 lb fibroid (I'm not being greedy--the largest on record is 140 lbs!) that she removes and I walk out a size 10. Really . . . is that so much to ask? I think not.

Rest of the family is doing great. Nicole left for her 5th year of Not Back to School Camp today. It will be a long week until she returns. As long as it feels for me, I suspect it will feel even longer for her dear Jon. The two are going strong, rolling up fast on 8 months together. He meshes with all of us wonderfully. Last night we all met for a late night downtown dinner and had a great time with he and Joseph sharing an oyster sandwich while Nicole and I looked on in horror and threatened a serious lack of kisses if they ate any more seafood.

Joseph is well and fine . . . .enjoying his mulch and gardening deeply. We have harvested many tomatoes, some very odd aubergine eggplant, handfuls of blueberries and a single green pepper. I truly think that in another life he would have been a farmer. How any person can get such a thrill from dirt and compost is beyond me. I just find it wonderfully endearing.

Boys are well and fine. I've turned Coryn onto the James Herriot series. Caspian is reading Monk novels. They amuse me endlessly. We had a speech therapist here to look at Caspian and discovered that he had humungous tonsils. Truly gargantuan. No idea what to do about that one other than surgery which we cannot begin to afford. Sigh. Darn kids.

I'd love to recommend some good books to you but I haven't read much at all lately. I did read a dark novel called The Music of Razors and have to admit, I didn't understand at least half of it. No, I wouldn't recommend it. On the other hand, reading a fascinating, fun mystery called Something's Missing that I highly recommend. It's about an adorable thief with OCD and a heart of gold. Really great fun to read. Pick it up.

So, there's my update. Nothing too exciting for sure. I will be sure to check in after my surgery, if not before, and let you know I am still here and I promise, even though the surgery is being recorded VERY up close and personal (cameras going into places never meant to be featured on "Film at 11"), I will not put any images on this blog or even on YouTube.

You have my word.
Even if I'm heading toward the light, I will take the film with me.
Honest.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Damaged Reputation

I'm gonna be honest. The reason I haven't posted for a while is frankly, I've been too down and too stressed out and I thought, heck, why would anyone want to read another blog entry about (say it in a whiny tone) "poooooooooooooooooor Tami . . . .". But then I also reminded myself that most of the people who read this blog like me. . . no, I'm not assuming all of you do (but if you don't, don't tell me. I'm fragile right now!) but I think most of you do (the ones who leave comments, at least.) I think of myself as a generally happy person, an optomist who looks for the silver lining or finds the hidden blessing buried under the crap! So posts like this seem to damage the reputation I've developed. Imagine, still worrying about your reputation at 50.

So . . . I went to a new doc for my "female" problems and she wants to do an endometrial biopsy. I paled at the idea because I went through that two years ago and I'd rather (literally!) have a root canal with no anesthetic than go through that again. However, she has assured me that she has a totally different method and that I, thanks to a charming combination of Vicodin and Valium, will feel no pain. That has its appeal. So, I agreed and was told they would call me to set up the appointment (third day . . . no call yet).

Then, yesterday afternoon, the light spotting I had turned into full-fledged bleeding. . . mind you, my extraordinarily heavy period just ended 9 days ago. And here I am again. My BP went from 190/110 to 105/60 in a matter of hours. Today it is yo-yoing all over the place which certainly makes it challenging to know if/when to take my meds. My back and front hurt like a deep toothache and I am flashing back to labor (but with no cute new person as the prize!) The doc suspects a prolapsed uterine fibroid (sorry to those who googled that term and ended up here). I don't know what the hell it is but I am beyond ready to have it go away. Over the last couple of years, I have ruined clothes, stained furniture and carpet, almost destroyed a friend's SUV seat (still sorry about that Ami!), gone through ridiculous amounts of underwear and ya know, none of it is any fun. MENOPAUSE, HURRY UP PLEASE!

Sigh.

So, that's what's up there . . . money continues to be a source of stress. In the past two weeks, I have had three new jobs come through with a possible 4th in the wings, so things are improving. However, the time lapse between getting a new job and getting paid for it is typically THREE months or so, which means my good news right now won't help pay the bills until Thanksgiving.

Sigh again.

See, why I don't post? I feel like all I do is bitch and what fun is that to tune in for?

So friends, forgive me. Send love. Send healthy thoughts. Send chocolate. Heck, send money. :)
Maybe I can regain that reputation.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Scorching Days and Mondays always get me Down

Today is the first day of three or four consecutive 100 degree days for Portland. It has already been in the 90s so we've already spent the days showering, moving fans with us wherever we go and drinking more lemonade and ice tea than any human should. But it's going to get hotter anyway . . . and my husband will smile through every degree. The hotter it gets, the happier he is. I guess SOMEONE should enjoy it, right?

PLUS my period (if this is too personal, just skip ahead peeps) is three weeks late and keeps starting and stopping just enough to keep me in a permanent case of PMS. Yes, it's crappy for my family but you know what, it's not much fun for me either.

Then this morning, I get up to find out I am fired from one of the best long term gigs I have ever gotten. No warning, no feedback. Just "you aren't up to our standards" goodbye. I hate to sound smug, but I've been in this business for 25 years and I AM good. Couldn't they work with me if what I did wasn't quite right? Point out what they would like me to change? Guess not, eh? When my work load is already so low, this is just a huge blow for me and I want to lie down on the floor and throw a tantrum instead of shoulder it and keep going.

So that old Carpenters song is running through my head as tears are running down my cheeks and I gotta admit, today is not one of my favorite days.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Love this City

Over the past eight years, some people have asked our family if we would consider moving back to Indiana. Those that ask do not know us very well at the time. Those that know us would hear the question and snicker because they know that the answer is a pretty huge NOPE. The last 24 hours have reminded Joseph and I again of why we are so happy here. If you live in the Portland area, all of this will seem terribly familiar and certainly not new. If you live where we did before, in Indiana, however, you would see how starkly different this new life of ours is.

Yesterday I had a tough day. I am working on a project that is turning me grayer by the second. It is terribly hard, long term and low paying--not the best combination. But it is also WORK and I need that. After literally walking away from the computer in tears not once, but two times, my hubby whispered to me that if I would just hang in there, he had a surprise for me later that night. (Minds out of the gutters, people!) At 11:00, an hour after what I know he would like to be his bedtime, we left the house and drove 170 streets west to the downtown area of Portland. I could already feel my nerves letting go and the day's worries falling by the wayside.

The night life was alive, as it always in in larger cities on hot summer nights. The sidewalks were full of people laughing and chatting and of course, the usual "street drama". Different themes of music burst out of different doorways. Sidewalk tables and chairs were full of people enjoying a cool breeze and cold beer or glass of wine. You feel energized just driving down the street and soaking it in. Joseph and I remarked on how glad we both are that our days hanging out in bars and hoping to find someone are long over. We much prefer being one of the oldie couples walking down the sidewalk hand in hand.

He surprised me by driving to this one area we had commented on several times in the past but never stopped by. It is a corner parking lot where six to eight food vendors (in portable wagons) gather in a circle and provide food for the late night crowd. They open at 8 or 9 pm and go until 2 or 3 in the morning. We parked across the street and walked over. The area was bustling and so alive with people. As always, I was struck with the incredible diversity of this city. There were blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics and Russians. There were gays, straights, queers, questionable . . . It was a rich mix of city folk indeed.

We scouted out the food selection and ended up with J getting a pastrami dog and me a double chocolate creme fried pie. We found an open spot at one of the picnic tables set up under an awning. We were entertained by people watching and an occasional overhead firework when we least expected it. It was a truly perfect Portland moment. We spent most of it talking about how glad we were to live here.

The experience was further enhanced today when we went to the Division/Clinton Street Fair. For a couple of hours, we wandered up and down the sidewalk soaking up the culture once again. We smiled at babies in slings and packs, appreciated the clothing styles that ranged from a bikini top, shorts and more tattoos than skin to Muslim burkas to bohemian tie dye (oops, that's me!) to rhinestones and pink lycra (on a guy). We stopped to listen to a FABULOUS three man band called Sneakin' Out (mandarin, bass guitar and percussion) and took extra time to chuckle at the drummer who managed to play drums, bongos, xylophone and TYPEWRITER while wearing a bright red taffeta skirt, black t-shirt, shaved head and mohawk. We snacked on bratwurst from a sidewalk vendor and tried (and discarded hybiscus ice tea). We connected with Nicole and her friends walking about and stopped by Voodoo Donuts for a quick last sweet bite. We naturally dropped into our favorite thrift store in the area and I picked up a couple of dresses for Nicole and a statue for me.

Once again, it was a day that reminded all of us are fortunate we feel to live in a city like this one. I know that some of the things that make it special to us are also the very things that others would or do not like--the free esxpression, the crowds, the sounds, the swearing, the tattoos, the sweat (it is in the 90s) but for us, it made a perfect Portland 24 hours.

Now I am back home, way out in the suburbs, far from the distinctiveness of downtown Portland. But as I enjoy my quiet deck, I know that it is still out there, only 20 minutes away and I can dip back in and soak it up anytime I want. That's a blessing in my book.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

One is Silver, the Other Gold

Friends. In my list of life blessings, they are pretty high. I've had a number of them over my lifetime but only a few have made the "list" of best friends. (And yes, i believe you can have more than one best friend . . . ) Let me introduce you to them.

The first one is my husband. You've heard plenty about him over the course of these blog entries, of course. I truly cherish the man (even when I'd cheerfully throttle him) because he is the kindest person I have ever met. He has more integrity than anyone I know and I still wonder how I was lucky enough to nab him almost 27 years ago. I can be totally myself with him in ways that I know other couples haven't yet discovered. He truly has seen me at my best and my absolute worst and he is STILL HERE. Whew.

The second is my daughter, Nicole. I once was very close with my oldest daughter, Jasmine. I lost her somewhere around the age of 16, I think. I miss what we had every single day and harbor the hope that one day we will rediscover a fragment of it. However, I am incredibly lucky because I also have Nicole. She is almost 19 and she still likes me! We share secrets, laugh to the point of crying, and generally adore each other's company. She reassures me, by who she is, that I must have been a decent mom because wow, look how she's turning out! If I am gonna hang out with another female, she is my first choice. We 'get' each other in a unique and special way that I had in some ways with my own mother--another best friend whose loss I mourn.

But guess what? I'm lucky enough to have TWO more incredible friends. One used to live two blocks from me and now lives 2000 miles. The other lives 10 minutes from my house and I hope she always will.

My Indiana friend . . . . anyone who knows her is blessed. She is the heart of compassion and gentleness. She loves her family with a passion I admire. She is strong, determined and if you hang around long enough to really know her, you find out she has a wicked sense of humor under the surface. She is one of the most ethical people I have ever met. I used to call her my "ethic barometer" and seek out her advice and thoughts on the issues that mattered most to me. I can't tell you how many hours we spent sitting across a kitchen table talking about everything from the mundane to the ridiculous to the profound. I miss those times terribly. Almost 8 years after we left our Indiana lives behind, I cling to our friendship and write letters and emails because she is the epitome of a forever friend to me and I never want to lose what we have developed. I just adore that lady.

My Oregon friend. . . . just thinking about her makes me smile. She has the best, quickest sense of humor I have ever known. I would never, ever want to get in a verbal joust with her because I would lose big time. (And if I ever get on her shit list, I am just going to pack up and move to a foreign country.) She is clever and witty and makes me laugh every day. Under that ironic, sarcastic sense of humor, however, is one of the gentlest hearts in the universe. She has been there for me too many times to count, whether it's a last minute birthday cake for one of my kids to a loan when she knew I needed one to teaching me how to do crafts (kicking and screaming) because she knows I can do them even I happen to disagree vehemently. Stashed in between our joking and our almost nightly instant messaging are thoughts about life, love, marriage, men, children and other deep subjects that we trust each other enough to confide in about. I love my life in Oregon and moving here was one of the best things I have ever done . . . and this friend is one of the reasons why. I adore this lady too.

My life is so much richer for the amazing people that share it with me. I try to count my blessings on a regular basis and you can bet that everyone I mentioned here (and yes, a few more along the line) are top of the list. I hope you're just as lucky in your life. And if you haven't found that best friend yet, keep waiting. You just never know where they are hiding--hoping to meet a friend like you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Crisis, a Trip, Another Crisis and a Scary Mystery (which is actually another crisis . . . )

Did that intrigue you enough to keep reading? Good.

Ok. The first crisis was that, an hour before we were heading out of town with three children, dog and boyfriend (our daughter's) in tow, the clutch cable on the VW bus went out. It took 3 1/2 hours to repair . . . I spent most of it sitting out on the grass trying to provide emotional support for the frustrated husband lying under the bus trying to figure out what to do. The pavement was hot (he burned his back), the cable was the wrong year so too long (a friend showed him how to temporarily fix it) and he was filthy, sweaty and at times either smug over learning how to do something new on the bus and guilty for making all of us wait so long. Our noon departure turned into a 4 pm departure and so we stayed in our lovely, last minute, discounted cabin for a whole 15 hours. Sigh. What time we had there was great fun though. It's interesting to have someone with us that isn't a member of the family. You become much more aware of things you do and say that otherwise, you'd never notice. Jon meshes with us pretty well and after almost six months, we are pretty used to having him around. We swear less, put on more clothes and see a lot less of Niciole. :) Our time at the coast was nice, albeit way too crowded with all of the other people who thought it would be fun to hang out at the ocean on the 4th.

We headed back into town to go to a friend's potluck. It was a really nice gathering but it was HOT and we were weary. We ended up going home, doing a little unpacking and then sitting around watching TV.

On Sunday, Jon suggested we all go to Vancouver Lake for a picnic and swimming. So, off we went. What a lovely park it was too! The kids swam for hours while J and I sat on the beach and talked about life, money, work, family and other profound topics. It was just a lovely day. It was Jasmine's 25th birthday and she was on my mind often throughout the day.

Monday was like a bubble bursting. . .just full of tension and unpleasantness. We had to take the van in for its $750 repairs and I couldn't get it to idle long enough for me to drive. J. was frustrated with the situation (and me), I was feeling completely incompetent . . . ugh. THEN, an editor told me I did a project all wrong and I have three days to fix it. I don't mind fixing it (well, yes I do, but not much) but I mind that my reputation with her has been damaged now. In the evening, Nicole and I went to Lucky Lab for J's VW group. She and I sit alone and write letters, talk and do other fun stuff. It was relaxing and lovely. All of that changed when I got home though and discovered that my blood pressure is 205/115. Scary stuff. I am taking all of my meds as perscribed. I am walking 3-4 times a week. WTH? I have stuff to take if it goes too high. I took it. Nothing changed other than it made me feel like crap. It was a long night. I thought it would be better this morning since I had slept, but no. It's the same. So, yes, I have called and emailed my doctor and am waiting for a response. I suspect it is my kidneys but it is odd to have a jump like this . . and really unnerving too.

So . . . that's it in the Orr house. Think low blood pressure thoughts for me, would ya? I have had enough crisises . . . however you spell that. . . . to last me a while. Really.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Good Book

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to read. Not only do I spend a lot of my time writing books (200 to date) but I also love to read them. I buy them wayyyyyyyyy faster than I can possibly read them, mind you, but books are my only real vice. I mean, I don't smoke, drink or gamble. I don't cheat on my husband. I just love to buy books. That has, naturally, changed in recent months as my income has dropped . . . well no, the LOVE of books hasn't changed, just the PURCHASING of them.

Anyway, I have a friend online who writes a GREAT book review site (check out Worducopia) and it inspired me to share a few brief reviews of books I have read recently. If you're not a reader, then skip this post and tune in another day.

When I was younger, I kept a journal of all the books I read. This is no surprise--I am a list maker from way back. I had reached more than 400 on the list when I got married. Over the years, I have lost that journal which saddens me. Of course, this way the kids can't blackmail me with information like, "Can you believe Mom read 17 Partridge Family books?" either.

At the beginning of this year, I started keeping track of what books I read each month. Sure, a detailed review of each one would have been good but I stuck with title, author and a grade of A to F. So far, in the first half of the year, I have read 35 books. There are no D's and F's. Why? Because if I am reading a book that bad, I STOP. Time is toooooo precious to spend it on crappy literature.

So, I am going to share with you some books that earned A's with me. That way, in case you're headed to a bookstore or library or Goodwill and want to pick up a recommended title, you have a few of my suggestions.

The Messenger by Jan Burke
Typically Burke writes a series of mysteries with a main protagonist named . . . Irene, I believe. I have not read any of these. I picked this one up because the story line sounded like my type. It was. It had romance, intrigue, supernatural elements and a damn fine story. I really, really liked this one.

Dog on It by S. Quinn
This is such fun. It's a story of a mystery that is solved by a guy and his dog. Much of the story is from the dog's (I will not tell you how many times I typed god instead of dog . . . ) point of view. It's entertaining and cute and just plain fun. Another book I recommend for sheer laughter is The Yes Man by D. Wallace. It's the basis for the Jim Carey movie but wayyyyyyy different (and better). I laughed out loud so often at this one that I ended up reading entire pages to my family.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
If you haven't read Picoult, you have missed an amazing experience. I have never in my life read books that made me THINK more than hers do. She has this incredible ability to put the reader right in a situation that requires you to figure out what you would do. Her book, My Sister's Keeper, is coming out as a movie any day now and I am sure there will be an upsurge in reading all of her titles. I recommend keeping tissues nearby (my family always knows when I am reading one of her books because I am sitting on the couch sniffling a lot) but don't let the emotionality dissuade you from trying one. Really, her topics are riveting. Try Nineteen Minutes for an exploration of school violence . . .A Perfect Match for child abuse . . . Vanished for child abduction or Change of Heart for organ donation. Honestly, if I could only recommend one author to people, it would be Picoult.

One Second After by W. Forstchen
What happens to the U.S. when it is hit by an EMP blast? This book explores that topic from the perspective of a father trying to take care of his family in a mysterious national crisis. Not for the faint-hearted--no supernatural stuff here--no zombies or alien forces--but researched, accurate and sometimes horrifying focus on how people cope in a disaster like this one. I was completely fascinated from beginning to end, even when what was happening in the story was not what I wanted at all.

The Spellman File books by Lisa Lutz
Please, please pick these up--there are three to date and the first two are in paperback already. I guarantee you will laugh out loud at each one and be sooooo sad when you're finished. These are the types of books that I loan to my friends the minute I am done because I want them to have as much as I did. They are truly delightful--and I hope Lutz keeps writing them for my entire lifetime. The characters are so real you miss them when the books are over and the side notes written at the bottom of the page, plus the many appendices at the end are hysterical. Don't miss these.

Relentless by Dean Koontz
Okay, yes, I am prejudiced. I read EVERYTHING this man writes. Most of the time, I love it. Sometimes I am a little disappointed. But Relentless confirms why I adore his books. No one on the planet can nail a happy man/woman relationship and its dialogue better than Koontz. Despite the fear and tension and thriller parts of the book which I enjoy, I laugh out loud all the time at the conversations characters have. I can tell this man must be happily married because he NAILS relationships. In this book, the happy couple have a fabulously intirguing young son and an equally fascinating dog (a hallmark of Koontz's books), all pursued by one of the nastiest villians I have encountered in a long time.

All right, that is enough for now. If you do happen to pick any of these up and read them, I'd love to hear about it. It's even okay if you don't love them as much as I did. Let me know if you'd like to see more reviews or possibly a list of the Don't Bother titles as well. I love feedback.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Orrs Survived! Film at 11!

It was a weekend only somewhat jokingly fraught with peril . . . . but we not only survived, we enjoyed! I hope to add some pics to my next post as illustration of our weekend. Joseph took more than 200 of them. . . most of them of the exterior and interior of 70 various buses and no, I won't make you look at those. Frankly, they are only interesting to him and his other VW aficinados (yes, I had to stop and bring up Microsoft Word to make sure how to spell that one).

To encompass four days into the highlights. . . hmmmm. . . .let's go with my semi-traditional best and worst moments. In my dad's tradition, I will do worst first so as to end on a high note.

Worst: The WIND. The weather was warm, although WAY cooler than last year (70s instead of 90s) but the wind picked up each afternoon about 1:00 and stayed around all day until about 10:00. It blew away chairs, it made hot food impossible, it made you put on a jacket when it blew, take it off when it stopped and then repeat the process every few minutes all day. (On the other hand, it made the people who brought kites very, very happy.)

The PORT A POTTIES. We parked near them because I hate having to trek to the bathroom on a repeated basis. We were there last year and no problem. This year, thanks to that wind, we were treated to "Eau d'outhouse" constantly. (At first we tried to blame it all on the dog.) When I got home last night, I took a shower just to make sure I couldn't smell that smell on me anymore. Shudder, shudder.

The MECHANICS. We traveled to the resort with three others, Hal (and his wife), Barry and Adam. Hal is a VW master--just always know these tricks and tips for getting a VW to run. His bus was having issues and he actually spent the entire weekend working on trying to repair a major engine issue. When we left on Sunday, we barely made it to the gas station before his bus was in trouble again. Joseph and I then made the supreme error . . . we spoke out loud about how well our bus was running and the fates just had to screw with that smugness. So, as we pulled into the gas station, our bus died. Then, Barry yelled, "I see smoke, Joseph! Smoke in the engine!" J. jumped out and grabbed a fire entinguisher. I got out too, but without a sense of panic. Then, Barry yelled, "Flames! Fire!" That was when I wrenched the side door open in a nanosecond and got the kids out and away from the bus. Fortunately, it turned out to be a fried auxillary battery cable that was pulled out and the bus was fine. It ran perfectly from that moment on, which we were smart enough NOT to mention out loud. Hal's bus, however, was not as fortunate. By the time we had been on the road for about 30 minutes, he was pulling over. After working on it, with three other VW drivers standing around trying to look helpful, he gave up and went back into town to order a tow truck. All in all, we sat on the side of the road for 2 hours. At one point, I pulled out the cooler and we all snacked, plus I turned on the portable speakers for music. As waits went, it was actually not too bad.

J. GETTING SICK. The first night there, Joseph had just a few beers from the Pony Keg we brought and for some reason, they hit him wrong. He felt awful for most of the night and into the morning. That was lousy because if my guy isn't having fun, neither am I.

OKAY . . . . now . . . . THE BEST.

The SCENERY. Man, oh man, oh man, this place just takes the prize for gorgeous. It is surrounded by mountains, which are speckled with multi million dollar homes that make all of us ponder what the owners do to earn that much money and how hard it must have been to get construction equipment way up there. . . .The Deschutes River is right there and it rushes quickly past inviting white water rafters to explore. The sound of it is like white noise coming from another room. I adore it. The grass is so green it seems unreal. We are down in a valley and I even saw a deer roaming the edge of the field at one time.

The SOUNDS. Beside the rush of the river and the wind in the pines, this place is full of the most amazing sounds. There are bird calls of all kinds. There are children laughing and people talking and endless dogs barking. One woman brought an accordion and played it wonderfully. Another guy brought a tuba and entertained at random moments. Both nights had musical concerts with all types. . . one guy played a bongo drum and sang the King Louie song from "Jungle Book". Others played mandolins, guitars, saxaphones . . . it was so fabulous. Children from babes in arms through my own teens talked and wandered about. I cannot tell you how I loved crawling into the tent at night and just listening to the sounds around me as I went to sleep.

The PEOPLE. There are more than 70 buses this year--the biggest gathering to date. There were more than 200 people. It was amazing. Everyone there is friendly and chatty. It's like you belong to a club you didn't even knew you joined.

The TIME with my kids. While J. wandered around taking yet another picture of a bus interior or talking parts with drivers, I spent most of my time at the camp site with the kids. I realize that this is really our last year with it just being us. Either someone will join us next time or, more likely, one or more of the kids will not want to come back. They are, after all, becoming full fledged adults with their own agendas. So, I relished these moments. We all read copious amounts. We laughed A LOT. We made meals out of the cooler together. We took walks. For 4 days, no computers got in the way. No business or work for mom. No friends over. Just us. I loved it too. I have amazing children and I am lucky to get the chance to spend time with them. Actually, the TIME alone in the tent with my hubby was nice too. Usually, when we camp, we have a child close by . . . very close by . . . . and this time had the tent to ourselves while the kids slept in the bus. Even after 27 years together, we can still giggle in the dark and appreciate our togetherness.

So, that is the trip in a nutshell. It was a marvelous time and I loved it. Even the worst parts were so tempered by the good ones, that I know we will all look back with fond memories to all of it. We are already filling out the paperwork for next year's gathering and making lists of all the things we want to either do to the bus or buy before then . . . . a trailer, camping chairs, better cook stove, etc.

Film at 11, nah. But pictures will follow as soon as I download them to the computer. So stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Peace, Baby


About 6 weeks ago, our family van's "rear main seal" went out (whatever that means) and to drive the van again, without putting a quart of oil in it every single day, means $550 in repairs. So, our van has been sitting in the driveway on temporary retirement. Instead, we have been only using our '77 VW bus, affectionately referred to as the Avocado Crib. (pictured here)


Although Portland is a mecca for old VWs of all kinds, people still respond to the sight of a bus making its way down the street. Since we have been using it as our daily driver, we have lost count of the number of people who stop, smile and flash us the "peace" sign as we go by. Grizzled Harley drivers, homeless guys with carts of their belongings, young teens on skateboards--all of them have waved and flashed their fingers (and not the not so nice one). We have had people pull up next to us in their modern and expensive vehicles and look at us wistfully, recalling a bus they had once in their youths. The other day, two young girls, about 13, stopped by the bus and asked permission to take a picture of the front wheel cover (which has an orange duct tape peace sign on it). They giggled throughout the whole thing.


When we park in a parking lot somewhere, chances are someone will walk over and start talking to us about the bus. (Joseph loves every minute of it too.) We parked next to another VW bus the other day and went into the bookstore. We were sitting in the cafe reading when a guy came up to us and said, Hey do you own that bus out there? I was trying to figure out HOW he knew it was US, out of all the other people in the store. Then I looked at Joseph's ponytail and my tie dye dress and grinned. Yea, I guess we really are just a couple of hippies at heart.


Yestrday we parked and when we came back out there was another bus exactly like ours parked next to us. We left a note on the window and of course, the owner called us last night and we chatted for a half an hour. There's something about bus owners . . . .


Speaking of which, this weekend we will be surrounded by them. It's time for our third annual VW bus drive in in Maupin, Oregon. 50 plus buses of all shapes and vintages gathered in a breath takingly beautiful green meadow . . . . Deschutes River roaring on one side and mountain tops soaring upward on the other. No wonder the place is called the Oasis! We will camp there for four days with a potluck, a catered BBQ, a talent show, countless dogs, many children and kick off our official start to summer. Joseph lives for this trip--he can talk VW nonstop for four days (in between beers). I just enjoy hanging out with kids, reading and NOT working. I suspect this is our last year with all of us going, so I plan to cherish each moment.


So peace out baby. The Orr hippies are off on an adventure. No summer vacation this year, sadly, so this will have to do. I will take lots of pics and be back to report on it all soon. Remember, make love, not war.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This Too Shall Pass

My father was known for saying, "This too shall pass" whenever I was bummed about something as a kid. If I got a rotten grade, got into an argument with a friend, got dumped--everything earned a hug, a kiss on the top of the head and a familiar motto that whatever I was experiencing was temporary and things would get better.



His motto has become my mantra in recent weeks.



This will pass, Tami.

Better times are ahead, Tami.

You have weathered worse, Tami.



The verdict is still out on when . . . and if I can stay patient until then . . .



I have been paid ONCE in almost a month. The down time I had in March is coming back now to haunt me. A family of five cannot live on $1400 for very long. It has been a lean time and I am working as hard as I possibly can to remind myself to treat this like an ADVENTURE. Learn what I can from it. Be humbled so as to appreciate the better times more instead of taking them for granted. Be patient. Remember that THIS TOO WILLLLLLLLL PASS, damn it.



So, share with me my "lessons".



We have learned to have fun without doing many of the same things we used to do. No lingering at bookstores. No trips to Goodwll. No late night trips to Denny's for a fun meal. No trips to the movie store to get the latest movie for that night's viewing.



We have learned that while some people give blood to get money, we give books. We have been to Powell's store six times to sell books . . . . often it is the money that pays for that week's groceries. At first finding the books was easy--we DO have an inordinately large supply. Now, however, we are all dipping into books we either haven't read yet or want to keep. It's starting to hurt a bit.



We have learned that the Dollar Store is a remarkable place. We had never really gone there before and now I think they may know us by name. . . We have learned that we can make an entire meal for all 5 of us for $5. Healthy? Not particularly. Filling? Not usually. But it works.



We have learned that our children are very generous spirited. Each has found a way to offer their money or time or work to help us. That is a gift in itself to us.



We have learned that banks do not care at all if you are struggling . . . and have no second thoughts about piling on additonal charges when you don't have the money to pay them in the first place.


We have learned that people simply do not mail out checks when they say they will.



We have learned that staying home at night and watching a movie together and/or reading is one of the best types of evenings you can have.



We have learned that being flat broke seems to be an invitation to the universe to send bad karma so that, naturally, our washer is making weird sounds, the tags on our bus are expired and the rear main seal on our family van is ruined and thus pretty undriveable.



We have learned that we have friends who truly love us and show up with a bowl of strawberries and a heart of gold that allowed me to buy the medications I was supposed to get, gas for the van and food for my family. (You know who you are too, darlin!)



We have learned that being broke is hard, but not impossible. It is depressing (at least for me) but it is also humbling and a reminder to appreciate what we do have. It is also a call to be creative in ways I don't think we would have thought of otherwise.



So yes, Dad, I know this too shall pass. I know that I have been hired for more work, that my assignment list is filling up more and more, that my free time is shrinking by the day. I know that better times are ahead. In the meantime, I will do my utmost best to absorb the lessons and gain from them.



But Dad . . . . . couldn't it pass just a little faster? Please?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Not so Lazy Days of Summer
















Hey everyone. Let's just skip the apologies for my taking so long to post and pretend I said them, you accepted them and I am properly chastised and motivated to do better. (I am sure that is how my kids would prefer I scold them as well.)




It has been summertime around here and I glory in each sunny, hot day because I love this time of year. More than anything, I love sitting out on my swing and soaking up the rays and listening to music. Perfect peace.




So, here is a peek into what has been going on around the Orr household. As usual, some good, some bad . . . in other words, LIFE.



On Memorial Day, we had a big party that went very well. We had about 30 people here and while having large parties is not all that unusual for us, this one was different because it was a very eclectic mixture of people. We had homeschooling friends, Jon's family, a good friend from Texas who fortunately happened to be visiting that weekend, my computer guy and family, my massage therapist and wife--a really eclectic mix. And you know? It worked. I think a good time was had by all. Food was delicious, weather was perfect and conversations were fascinating.



We are, however, being TORMENTED by a demon with wings at our house . . . no, you don't need to send us a referral for an exorcist . . . this winged devil is a bird. A "scrub jay" as they are known out here. This BIRD (not what I want to call it) apparently has a nest nearby and believes that somehow our cat is going to catapult herself 15 feet in the air into the arbor vitae hedge and grab eggs/babies. Now I completey agree that our cat should not do that . . . she is fed every day and hunting for helpless baby birds is unnecessary. HOWEVER, this bird is sooooooo paranoid that staring at FOUR IN THE MORNING, it perches on our decks (up and down) and proceeds to squawk. Over and over and over again. At three second intervals. As an auditory person, this sound drives me insane. In fact, it is driving us all a little nuts. It wakes up everyone in the entire household. A friend suggested we get a water gun and blast it . . . which we are giving serious thought to. Okay, okay. I admit to occasional delusions of just blasting it with something more permanent but really, I don't want to HURT it, I just want it to GO AWAY, especially since we are attempting to sleep out on our deck again and I don't want to be wakened at 4 a.m. (I say attempted because every single time we have tried it so far, the air mattress--and we have several we are rotating--gets a leak and by sunrise we are flat on the hard, hard, hard boards. At one time, I wouldn't have noticed. Now, OUCH.)



This morning, I thought to myself . . . wow, that bird is almost echoing itself or something. Listen to how often it is squawking. To my never ending delight I discovered that now there are TWO of them in the yard.


Oh.
Lucky

Me



Health issues are jumping up a bit. My vertigo is gone (celebrate!) but I found out last weekend that my BP is way up again. I have been on several different meds for this. Don't add salt to anything. I don't get it. But have an appointment with the doc tomorrow. BP is a pain because there really aren't any symptoms and if you don't check it, you don't know it's up. My biggest clue is my ankles swell while I work at the computer.



Speaking of feet (a smooth segue, wouldn't you admit?), last night Joseph stumbled and ran his foot into the base of the bed. I believe he broke at least one toe. Would he sit down? No. Would he put ice on it ? No. Is he a stubborn man that makes me wanna pull out my hair? You can guess that one. Today the foot is swollen and it hurts to walk. When I suggested perhaps, you know, sitting down and putting some ice on it, he ROLLED his eyes at me. Yes, he did, the dickens. I said, Fine.........suffer. Argh. Men.



On the work front, things continue to improve ever, ever, ever so slowly. I have been picking up some new jobs and already have 6 books on the schedule for 2010 which is reassuring in these troubled economic times . My biggest headache has been projects where I am not given all of the info I need until I have struggled, angsted, wept, screamed and vented and THEN they say OOPS, this bit of instruction might help. Oh well, I like my gray hair, I guess.



So that is about it on this end. Kids are good. Restless. Always hungry. Nicole and Jon are going strong at 4 1/2 months now.



Going to ATTEMPT to add a couple of pics to this post. If they are there, enjoy them. If they are not, I tried, and gave up. Let's just pretend you saw them and say, wow, what an amazingly beautiful woman writes these posts . . .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Dizzy Dame . . . and the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hey there. You know, this morning, as I did my usual routine of checking my favorite blogs (and you know who you are!), I realized that I was a tad bit hypocritical. I would sit here and grumble and grouse about those who had not updated their blogs in days . . . even weeks (Ami, you are a role model to us all) and then realize I was complaining about the very same thing I did myself. I let days, even weeks, go by without posting. Shame on me.

So, what's new? Well, starting on Monday May 11, I have had an ongoing case of vertigo. It comes and goes but it is unpredictable so I never know when I am going to turn my head, bend over to pick something up or just LIE DOWN and find the world spinning off its axis. Not fun, lemme tell ya. If it lasts much more than 30 seconds, nausea and the shakes kick in. I "think" it is getting better each day, but it's taking its own sweet time.

We are preparing for a big party at our house on Monday, a Memorial Day potluck. We are looking forward to it because we have a very eclectic mix of people coming. The weather is supposed to be fabulous, for which I am very grateful. Of course, the two weeks before the party we have to decide to rearrange rooms . . . Nicole and Caspian switched and the computer room is now a . . .guest/Jon room for when he stays over . . which, let's admit . . . is about 4 or 5 times a week so not exactly uncommon. (So clearly, yes, they are still together. Four months this weekend which they are spending in Seattle together.) I am desperately hoping that all of the furniture rearranging will be done by the party because I am tired of tripping over extra pieces in the hallway or opening doors to utter catastrophes.

Work, ah, work . . . it is improving I am pleased to report. I think I mentioned that I was up for three new jobs. I was given two of them. The third I didn't get because the company didn't get the job, not because I wasn't selected. I have also gotten several new books and new courses so the work schedule is looking way nicer than it did a month ago. It is still not near what it used to be, but you know, that's ok. I don't mind not being swamped.

So, life is good . . . I'd rather it was a little more stable in regards to vertigo . . I also wish I would win the lottery since our van's "rear main seal" (whatever that means) needs replacing and we aren't driving it until it is. Yea, $650 for repairs. Time to go stand out on the corner . . . . "Help. Family van out of commission. All donations welcome. Goddess bless you." Think it would work? So we are getting from one place to another via the 1977 "Avocado Crib" VW bus that only Joseph knows how to drive. It has been interesting. Usually we just use it for camping, so everytime we get in just to run to the bank or pick up/deliver one of our kids, I feel like I should be toting a cooler full of juice and beer, plus wondering if I rememebered to pack something vital.

Hey, if you stop by, leave a comment so I know. It's nice to know that people are actually reading these words now that I have paused being hypocritical and actually posted. . ..

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mama's Day to All

What a lovely day it has been! First of all, it was sunny and warm almost all day, reminding all of us that spring really is here and summer is on its way.
Secondly, I got up this morning to a sweet husband who shared Sunday comics with me and then a cup of coffee at the closest Starbuck's. As the day wore on, I was treated to a delicious meal made on the grill, two lovely journals and a card from my Nicole and a Mother/Child ring, complete with diamonds, from my entire family. Tonight, one son is giving me a foot rub and the other a back rub. Wow, huh?
To top it off, one friend brought me a picture of Nicole and I that she had enlarged and framed while another had the coolest video made that named me "Mother of the Year".
In the evening, Jon helped to treat us all to the new movie "Star Trek" which was fantastic and sparked a passion for the series' movies in my kids. (As I write this, we are watching "The Wrath of Khan").
So, yea, a delicious day all around. I will crawl into bed later tonight missing hearing my mom's voice, missing the sound of my oldest daughter's voice, but otherwise happy and extremely blessed. I hope all you mamas out there had the same.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy 50 to Me!

Today was my 50th birthday. It has been full of unexpected surprises and precious moments.

It began yesterday with a birthday package in the mail from my darlin friend Bev in Indiana. She sent me goodies like tea, lotion, and of course, chocolate!! She and I have been friends for 19 years and a little something like 2200 miles of separation could never change that. We are forever friends by now. As they say, we have to remain friends because we know so much about each other, we are dangerous.

Then, today, I was wakened by my husband inviting me out to breakfast. When we got back, he handed me a beautiful love letter that I know he suffered through to write. Writing does not come easy for him, so those two and a half pages were precious.

In the afternoon, Nicole surprised me by taking me to the Chinese Gardens in downtown Portland. It is such a gorgeous place with photo opps around each corner. We took lots and lots of pictures and laughed and just enjoyed time alone--a precious commodity these days.

We came home, after getting a delicious rosemary mocha, and my friend Susie and her son Jake and friend Randy brought over a lovely chicken casserole for lunch, plus decadent chocolate, coconut, nutty bars for dessert. As they were leaving, my special friend Susan and her hubby and daughter came by, bearing a gorgeous floral bouquet from their garden, a homemade cake, a matching Writing Goddess key chain and even a beautiful butterfly necklace for me.

Later, my sons gave me a gorgeous turquoise purse I had been admiring. Finally, Jon, Nicole's boyfriend, made the evening complete by ordering dinner for all of us. Tomorrow I have a package coming from a friend in Texas and several friends from all over the U.S. have sent me cards. My old college roommate even remembered and sent me a book!!!

Am I lucky or what? Truly, I am feeling deeply loved right now. Two voices were missing. I didn't hear from my oldest, but I don't hear from her on birthdays for reasons I guess I don't understand. And I desperately missed my mother's voice calling me to sing a purposely off key rendition of "Happy Birthday". She and I were 30 years apart and often kidded about turning 50 and 80 respectively. I am sad she isn't here to give me a hard time about it.

Nonetheless, I am feeling blessed in many ways, with caring kids, charming husband and loving friends. I mourn what is gone but cherish, more with every passing day, what is here with me. As I look back on 50 years on this planet, I realize that as good as life has been, today, this moment, is still the best. Happy Birthday to me!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Highlighting the Ups and Downs

Life recently has been full of ups and downs. I don't know why it hasn't gotten the memo that Tami is too old for rollercoasters now, but apparently it missed that one. Overall, I have to say though that the ups are coming along faster than they were . . . thank goodness. I am working hard to see those elusive silver linings as well.

DOWN:
Still twiddling my thumbs without much on my work schedule.
UP:
I have done more reading and reorganizing around the house.
I was hired for a new job this week and am up for another one next week.
I have been told that I am getting several new projects once May gets here and they kick in.
I THINK we have enough money to get us through until the new stuff starts. I hope so--I didn't wanna stand on a street corner with a "WILL WRITE FOR FOOD" sign.

DOWN:
My children are all achieving milestones in their lives and I feel O L D.
UP:
Nicole is head over heels in love with a sweet boy we are starting to consider a 5th child. Jon has really become a part of our lives and she simply can't break up with him because we'd all miss him now.
Caspian returned from New Hampshire and turned 16 the other day. He vaccilates between adorable and sweet and sullen and silent at the speed of light. Goes with the age.
Coryn turns 13 next week and is campaigning for a laptop that I simply can't afford to get him at this point. Sigh. I will find a way to make the day special anyway.
Joseph has a red letter week, scoring first loads and loads of pine needles and then TONS of grass clippings for his gardening project. Many trips loading, unloading, spreading and rearranging going on. He smiles a lot in the process.

DOWN:
Haven't been able to afford "Rent" tickets yet but I am working on it. "Cats" and "Lion King" are coming next year . . . . do you think people would put money in jars labeled "Tami's Broadway Play Tickets Fund"?
UP:
We saw "Grease" last night and it was a truly wonderful performance. Taylor Hicks (from "American Idol") was in it and did a great job. Nicole went up to his afterwards (he was signing CDs) and leaned over to tell him he was gorgeous (he is). He was startled and gave her a great smile. She was beaming. Where did my shy little girl go?

DOWN:
It isn't summer yet.
UP:
For three days, it felt like summer here. It renewed our hopes that isn't far away. I got tan in 2 days. I love our deck.

DOWN:
No long summer vacation this year.
UP:
Hoping to take lots of short 2 or 3 day trips around Oregon. We have the VW bus, so why not? We figure Nicole wouldn't be able to leave Jon for 2 or 3 weeks straight anyway. She would start to twitch uncontrollably and he would be driving all over the country in search of her. Gosh, those two are sweet.

Ok, that's the ride for now. Come back later, pay for another ticket and I will see if I can get you an empty seat. Unless, of course, life gets my memo . . .. .

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sorry for Being M.I.A.

Sorry for the disappearing act there. Sadly, it is not because I am swamped with work . . . . my assignments are slowly picking up but still remain far, far, far lower than any other time since we moved 7 years ago.

So, let's do a catch up on life, shall we? Hope you just nodded or whispered or at last thought "yes". If not, go on to the next blog now.

Starting with the youngest and moving upwards . . . .

Coryn is fine. He will turn 13 in just a couple of weeks and is mighty excited. He has missed his brother, of course.

Caspian returns from his trip TODAY and I am counting the hours. We have all missed him, made worse by the fact that the visit did not go as he had expected and it has made for some tension and unhappiness for all. I am sure he will come home looking much older and wiser and more mature. . . and get this, NOW he likes green beans. Who knew it would take a cross country trip to change his taste buds?

Nicole is great. Still with Jon. Still happy. Heading out this weekend for a Search and Rescue outing. She and I don't get as much time together as we used to, so I take advantage of every minute I get with her. We have done quite a bit of thrift store searching lately and have come up with some awesome clothing to add to her ever growing wardrobe.

Jasmine is . . . I have no idea. I check her blog fairly often but she hasn't posted. I dropped her an email the other day and hope to hear back from it. I do miss her something fierce sometimes. I miss the friendship we once had and just hope that one day, in time, she will think of me as a friend again. In the meantime, we just love her from afar.

I am fine. I have had too much free time on my hands and I don't really like it. I am all caught up on letter writing. I am reading at least a book a week. I am even (gasp) doing housework here and there. I am constantly searching for work and new jobs and have leads on several. I know that the economy will change and I will eventually return to desperately searching for a free moment, so am trying to enjoy this extra time off.

Joseph is well also. He has been working on various and sundry VWs and made some progress there. We are all counting the days until our trip in June to Maupin--our kickoff to the summer and camping fun. Recently, J rearranged the living room for me so that my desk is on the opposite side of the room and I LOVE it. The room seems completely different now. He did a great job.

That's life in the Orr House. Oh yes, we survived Tax Day too. We owed, OF COURSE. But it was less than half of what we owed last year, so that was better. I sent them a mere drop in the bucket . . . .although I was tempted to just send them some Starbuck's coupons instead of a check . . . I swear that Tax Time is the only time of the year when you are THRILLED that you made less money the year before. Anyway, keeping with tradition, we put on our PJs, left the house at 11 pm and drove to the only post office in Portland that was taking returns up until midnight. We sang bawdy, raunchy songs on the way to and from and got ice cream cones on the way home. This year, we didn't have Caspian but we did have Jon and that was fun. He was a nice addition to the tradition.

More soon, I hope. If I don't remember, NAG me.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Early Morning Hours

It's almost 4 am and I am wide awake. I think it is because my heart and head are too full for sleeping right now. I am having one of those times in my life where I am intensely aware of my world changing and I want to relish and experience and absorb every minute of it.

My kids are growing up. That is to be expected and it's certanly an ongoing process, but I am aware intermittently of it. Nicole is, for the first time in her life, in love. What FUN it is to watch. She is experiencing things she never has before. She misses him every second she isn't either with him, talking to him on the phone, instant messaging him or texting him. Although those moments are few and far between (smile), they are long ones for her. I can remember being that way . . . where no matter how much you are with someone, it is never enough. When you want to not be more than a few inches from each other for hours and hours on end. Jon has become her favorite topic of discussion and it is a rare moment when his name is not in current conversation. Every song on the radio has new meaning. (REMEMBER that stage???) Love scenes in movies are more relevant. I am honored to watch this relationship. Being in another person's heart and allowing another person into yours is such a cherished time. I am glad she has chosen someone who apparently treasures the experience as much as she does. I know he will handle her carefully.

In less than two hours, we also leave for the airport to take Caspian for his flight across the country to the other coast. For the 5 1/2 hours he will be in the air, I will keep the news on just to make sure there are no accidents. We recently saw the movie "Knowng" which portrays the most horrific plane crash scene I've ever seen and it was lousy timing . . . I know he will have a marvelous time. The people waiting for him on the other end are so excited he is coming. I send him with a happy heart but it's bittersweet. He is taking a girl to the prom and I won't be there to make sure his shirt is tucked in properly or give him last minute dancng advice and that is hard. He has grown so much . . . he is tall and has this deep voice and, just in time for his trip, he has gotten his braces of two years off. He makes us very proud.

Coryn is about to turn 13. THIRTEEN. A teenager. He is taller than I am and has a wicked sense of humor. Recently friends commented on how much he had grown and how the little kid was now a young man. It made me happy . . . mostly.

Today was April Fool's Day. It's a fun day. I've pulled some pretty good pranks on people in the past. I find it a very delicate art though. You don't want to do anything that hurts or scares or disappoints someone. One year I told Joseph I was pregnant when we had a 6 and 3 year old and newborn in the house already. That was amusing. Ask Nicole about chocolate syrup and April Fool's sometime . . . one of my better moments. This time I fooled Coryn that the computer virus had wiped his computer. Then, I helped Nicole concoct a good joke to pull on Jon that went off fairly well. It made her chuckle all day. We all helped from coming up with the idea to paying for it to drivng her to Vancouver and back. On the way, we all had lunch together and did a lot of joking around. At one point, Coryn said, "This family laughs together more than any I've ever seen." He's right--we do. We all have strong senses of humor and can often create quite a scene in places because of how hard we are laughing. Jon hasn't seen that aspect of us yet . . . we are pretty tame when he is around. . . Man, I hope we don't scare him off.

We leave for the airport in 90 minutes so perhaps I will try to close my eyes for just a little while again. I will close, however, with the best April Fool's story ever. Those of you who already know me well, know it, so you can skim right to the end.

Several years ago, my mother called me up and told me that she had gone flying in a World War II plane with a friend. It was an open cockpit plane and she had had an amazing experience. I knew she was going and I was eager to hear all about it. After all, the woman was 75 and I thought it was great that she had the gumption to do this. She then proceeded to tell me that she loved it so much, she was going to get flying lessons. She did her best to convince me she was telling the truth and finally, I just said . . . OK, Mom . . . well, that's great. At this point, she said "April Fool's, honey."

I paused a moment. I grinned. I said, "Mom . . . it's July 1, not April 1."

She paused. Then she said, "Well . . . . sh--."

I started laughing. I heard her say to my Dad, "Jim! It's July, not April". I heard him mutter, "Well, da--".

I laughed so hard, I cried. It was one of the funniest moments in my life.

Today, when I tell that story, I cry too because I miss those people more than I can say. As I said before, life changes. People change. People leave your life and new ones come in. I just want to stay awake enough to appreciate both.