Friday, December 24, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas

It is still Christmas Eve but I have experienced several "spirit of Christmas" moments. Here they are:

(1) An unexpected gift
This morning I received a gift from an old friend. It was completely unexpected and very sweet and thoughtful. I am surprised and touched.

(2) A just right gift
I very much wanted to come up with just the right gift for a special friend of mine . . . she has meant so much to our family since we came to Oregon and I just felt like I wanted to share something special with her that showed how we appreciated her. I thought and thought and thought and thought. Then, I came up with it. I gave her a ring that I had bought for my mom 12 years ago. It was an important gift to my mom then and I have had it since she died 3 years ago. I took it over and gave it to my friend and I think that she liked it as much as I had hoped.

(3) An only gift
We are BIG thrift store fans (that is putting it mildly). One of the stores we go to the most (because it is close to where Nicole works so we go by multiple times a week) has a lovely woman working there. She always has a big smile for us, greets us by name and makes the experience even nicer. I wanted to give her a gift as I knew that she didn't have any family around. We took it to her and it made her cry. She then said, it was the only gift she would get this year. That made me cry. It really, really made me glad that I had thought of it and we stopped by.

Those three experiences have reminded me that Christmas, to me, is all about showing our love and appreciation of others. It's about saying "I love you, I care about you, you are important to me" in whatever way we can. I felt loved and loving today. Hope you did too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Freelancer

After 25 plus years of doing what I do, if you asked any of my family members what I do for a living, they would probably say, "She writes" and that would be it. To be honest, even though they share this house with me daily and hear me rant loudly and frequently, they have little of idea of what I actually do. It is just too hard to explain.

For example, take yesterday. I spent about 10 or 11 hours working. I researched how lighthouses were built for a book I'm writing in a few days . . . wrote a bunch of college level questions for a course on educational technology planning . . . revised a book I recently wrote about Afghanistan . . . applied for three new jobs . . . and interviewed two people by email for a book I'm doing on ancestry. . . . filled out an instructional design document for a college course . . . . and that isn't even everything (I am guessing your eyes are glazing over by now so I will stop here.)

Most of the time, I love my job. It's hard and demanding but it's also diverse and I can do it at home in my pjs. Today is different. I was contacted by a company six weeks ago about a project. Was I available? Sure. Ok . . . assignment coming any day. . . . soon . . . . pretty soon . . . just hold on. It came through on Tuesday. I got a call saying we need you in on a conference call in 30 minutes . . I couldn't make that was I was in the middle of a store when they called. Ok, we will send you all the documents you need. They did . . . OODLES of stuff that was incredibly confusing to piece together. Then, here's the kicker. They gave me 48 hours to get it done. Yes, the week of Christmas, new project, no training and I was given 48 hours. I stayed up late last night and got up early this morning and worked on it. Skipped my morning coffee run with the hubby. Sent it. Now guess what? It came back. I did it all wrong. I rewrote it. Sent it. Guess what? Still wrong. Talk about frustration for everyone involved. So, after more than EIGHT hours of working on it, they gave the assignment to someone else. I don't get paid for a single word.

Today is NOT one of the days I love my job.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Look! There's a Light!

I am infinitely happy to report that life in the Orr household seems to be on the mend. A few well timed checks have made it possible to breathe again. And best of all, although my girl still cries at least once a day, I have heard her beautiful laugh ring through the house again. I see light in her eyes. I see signs that although she is still deeply wounded, she isn't terminal. I had forgotten how much sunshine she brought to my life but when it was covered up, its loss was overwhelming.

So Christmas may just be a nice day here after all--I had my doubts, but it seems to all be coming together. I owe thanks to many places . . . my friend Susan who always, always, always comes through for me when I need her (and usually finds a way to make me laugh in the process), my kids who have been patient and sweet and compassionate, my husband who manages to look at this 51 year old, frumpy, stressed out woman and still think she is beautiful and correspondents who have sent me emails, letters and left comments to let me know they are thinking good thoughts for me. No one wants heartache in their lives, but sometimes I think it exists so that we can be reminded of the power and importance of the joy.

Enough of the philosophy. Time to go decorate our tree and sing Christmas carols in the process and do the inevitable walk down memory lane as we hang ornaments. Hope you're all finding the light appearing/reappearing in your lives as well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Keep On Keeping On

On the one hand, as I look into 2011, I am heartened. I am continuously getting new jobs now . . . they appear each week and I am oh, so glad. I suspect 2011 will be much, much better than 2010 . . if I can just survive the next few weeks.
The sadness in this house is palpable. My poor Nicole either sleeps, or wanders through the house putting on a fake smile or just sobs. And sobs. And sobs. For a child I hadn't seen cry more than a couple of tears in years, this is difficult for everyone. The boys look sad and hide in their rooms until it stops. Joseph wants to help and listens so sweetly but his way of responding is foreign to her and doesn't help much. So, I do my very best to listen, love, hug, give gentle advice and then repeat. I'm not feeling very competent right now though. I just want to FIX it. We are coming up with ideas but getting Nicole to do them may take some carefully placed dynamite and firm coercion. Mostly she wants to stare, ramble and cry. Broken hearts are just so hard to survive for a while.
Her sadness and our finances are making for a slightly less than cheerful Christmas, that's for sure. I am clinging to good spirits with all the duct tape and crazy glue I can muster, but there are days where I can feel my grip slipping anyway. I keep hearing my dad's voice in my head . . . "Tami, this too shall pass" and I know he was right. But, as I've said before, it sure does pass SLOWLY, digging painful furrows in hearts as it goes.
I'll hang in there. Keep on keeping on. All of those platitudes from the 70's. But is it okay if I say it isn't fun?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Individually and Collectively

Individually taken, it makes complete sense.
This person misplaced my invoice so could I send another one and oh yea, that means it will take another month to process my check.
This company hired a new accountant who is working to get up to speed on writing checks but, in the meantime, checks will be delayed.
This editor got my assignment four weeks ago and hasn't had a moment to read it yet, so hasn't submitted the paperwork needed to instigate payment.
This company is waiting on the check from the client and until it comes in, even though the contract says writers will get paid at 60 days out (yes, SIXTY!), we won't get paid until they do.
This editor reassures me that payment will be sent just as soon as the other person on the project gets back from vacation and takes a moment to read through what I wrote.
However, when you put it all together, you know what it means?
It means Tami isn't getting paid. Not today. Not tomorrow. And not in time for Christmas.
Sure, January appears to be the best month in almost a year . . . but that doesn't help me today when I have no gifts under the tree and limited groceries in the fridge and multiple people calling me up asking for payment. Somehow my telling them that I'm sorry . . . my 17 checks due this month have all been delayed doesn't fly with them.
I'm guessing that is because individually, each one of us make total sense, but together, collectively, we cause them a problem.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mail Me Some Wisdom. Please?

After 26 years of being a parent to four children, I thought I'd learned wisdom. No magical solutions, of course, but at least good advice, helpful hints, strong guidance. But then a situation comes along with one of your kids and you find yourself stymied. It has happened with all four of my kids, of course, and every time I get remotely cocky or smug about being a good mother, something rears up and humbles me.

I mean, this week Caspian fell and broke a toe. I didn't panic. I put ice on it, had him keep it elevated. I wrapped it and gave him advice on what to do and not do until it healed. Several days later, he is almost all better.

This same week, however, my Nicole had her heart broken and man, is that harder than a toe. I just don't know how to help her heal. I listen and listen and listen and listen and hug and hug and hug and hug. Now and then, I make her laugh and for a moment, she forgets and then silence falls and brings such sorrow with it. Endless tears. And I offer her ice cream because she won't eat and I offer her time out in a coffee shop because she doesn't want to leave the house. And I listen. And hug. And love her with every fiber of my being. And the pain just doesn't get any better.

I'm the MOM. I used to be able to offer a hug, a band-aid and an ice cream cone and no matter what was wrong, it got better. I miss those days. I know she does too. We are trying to come up with answers and ideas and possibilities and her whole family is behind her with hugs and love but this is tough.

So, if you have some extra wisdom lying about in your parenting toolbox, send it to me. I promise to apply it carefully and with tenderness. Because you know, when her heart breaks, ours all break along with her. They don't seem to make any band-aids big enough for that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Send good thoughts

Tonight someone I love very much is hurting emotionally. Her heart is wounded and even though the wound will eventually heal, her pain is mine as well. I shed tears with her and hold her tight. Please send good thoughts out to the universe for her, will you? Thanks guys.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Domesticness and Discoveries

Yea, I know that most likely is not a real word but it works for me.

The other day I had a moment where I felt like there had to be a camera somewhere recording me for use on "America's Funniest Home Videos". First, I was sliding a pizza into the over and the piece of cardboard underneath it collapsed just a slid it forward. The pizza fell to the oven door and since I had preheated the oven, it was too hot to just pick it up. With a tricky combination of forks and tongs and swearing, I got the pizza back onto the oven rack but NOT before several wheels of pepperoni went spiraling into the bottom of the oven and onto the heating coils. I managed to get all of them but one and it immediately caught on fire and sent smoke tumbling through the kitchen. Just as I stood there thinking what to do, my son came down the stairs quickly yelling that the toilet upstairs had overflowed and there was water anywhere. (Too bad I couldn't think of a way to use the water to put out the fire . . . ). Fortunately, Joseph walked back through the front door at that moment and he tackled the water issue while I handled the burning pepperoni. We met up a few minutes and bemoaned the craziness of domesticness. :)

Then tonight, I had a little discovery that made me pause and wonder. Just last week, I discovered that a character on many episodes of "How I Met Your Mother" was also a teenage actress from the old comedy "Roseanne". I was shocked to make that connection. Then, tonight, I was watching a holiday movie with Dixie Carter. I knew she had died recently, so I looked her up and it said that she had starred on the soap opera "The Edge of Night" way back in the mid-1970s. That was my favorite soap opera to watch with my mom. I wondered who she had played, so I looked it up on You Tube and she had played my favorite character--the one named Nicole that I liked so much I decided that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her Nicole. (And look, I did just that!) I had never, ever made that connection before and it was a neat moment.

So life is full of domestic emergences and unexpected discoveries. It is also full of a slowly increasing number of assignments, which I am grateful for. It will still be a very, very lean Christmas but at least I'm not looking at classified ads for part time jobs any more. That's a relief. I worked in retail a few years ago and decided that was NOT the direction for me. I have an all new appreciation for clerks now.

Okay . . . I've put in a 10 hour day today (and I'm still not caught up, darn it!) and it's time for bed. I got my holiday letter done finally--hours of writing and choosing photos, more hours of printing (and running out of ink twice) and then an hour of signing, collating, folding and putting into envelopes, but it will go out in tomorrow's mail. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, all 15 pages and 26 photos of it.

Okay, I really have to go. I am one tired woman. G'nite friends.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Catching Up

Hello gang. Sorry for the disappearing act. I've been busy with work deadlines, applying for more work, and just being a mom/wife/friend. In other words, life has been keeping me occupied more than usual. Concerns over finances have made it harder for me to concentrate on the more fun aspects of life too--like posting to my blog.

Work is looking a little better but I keep applying left and right to anything that seems possible, so I imagine that early 2011 will be even stronger. The thing I notice is that my drive to find new jobs, apply for projects and learn new skills is not what it was five or even two years ago. I still chase after them but, somewhere in the back of my mind, I admit to thinking oh man . . . I don't wannnnnna do that. I wanna sit on the couch, read, nap, watch movies, go camping, write letters, and then repeat. I imagine there isn't a person on the planet who works who doesn't go through this. And I really do love my job but I guess I am just getting a little older and looking forward to "down time" more than I used to.

I've been giving thought to teaching again. I've been asked by various homeschoolers to teach a writing class to adults and I'm interested but I have to earn enough to make it worth my time (as I won't be writing during that time and so will lose money if I don't charge enough to make it at least somewhat comparable) and yet not cause stress/strain to the homeschoolers themselves. I keep mulling over different possibilities in my head.

If you didn't already know this about me, I am a big time letter writer. I love writing to people, picking out stationery, decorating it, sticking "bits-n-bobs" inside them, wrapping up little gifts, I just get a kick out of it. I have more stationery than any human I know (other than shop owners and I may have them tied) and little thrills me as much as a great paper find at the local Goodwill. (Are you rolling your eyes and thinking I need to get out more about now?) Now if only I could find a way to combine writing letters and getting paid. Can't you see it? "For a mere $25/month, I will write your Grandma Martha for you once a week!" or "Tired of responding to those pesky letters from relatives you don't remember? Let me take care of it for you." A letter writing service--gotta love it. Actually, I am hoping to write a book about letter writing for students in the coming months. I usually have my fishing line in so many writing jobs ponds, even I have trouble keeping track.

So, I'm still here and still kicking. Well, okay, not kicking perhaps, but moving around. Stay tuned--you know I'll be back.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy 20!

Remember the remarkable Nicole that I introduced to you a few weeks ago? Well, as I write this, she has officially become 20 years old. Now I know that it actually has been 20 chronological years, but emotionally, it feels like it has been . . . about six years or so. I can clearly remember my triple chinned baby. I can see her playing dress up. I can recall her struggling to learn to read and the adorable way she transposed letters when she spoke. And yet, as sad as I am to see that delightful little girl disappear, I am equally thrilled to see the young woman develop. She is just one of those people that make the world a better place. Virtually anyone who gets to know her absolutely adores her. Her parents certainly do. Her brothers do. Her boyfriend definitely does.

So, if you have a moment, please stop to email a happy birthday to Miss Nicole. Her address is She is a unique, funny, kind, talented young woman and if you take the time to get to know her, you will be glad you did.

Happy Birthday beautiful daughter o'mine.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

28 and Counting

Yesterday Joseph and I celebrated 28 years of marriage. Since we were relatively broke, it was a quiet celebration. We got some coffee, cuddled on the couch and read the newspaper, took a lovely nap together and made a tasty dinner. In the evening, Nicole's boyfriend Jon, treated the family to a double feature at the local movie theatre. We saw "Inception" (fascinating, confusing and impressive) and "Salt" (action heavy, unbelieveable and fun). We came home and he had some wine, I had some chocolate and we called it a day.

28 years has gone by so very fast. We have raised four kids, suffered through three miscarriages, ended one career and developed another, moved across the entire country, endured heartbreaks and victories, bonded through health emergencies,. switched places within the family unit, lost people we loved dearly and throughout all of it, we have managed to stay in love. I find that pretty remarkable. And in a completely secular way, I also consider it an amazing blessing. I only wish for my children to find mates that they can feel this way about 28 years later. What a treasure.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Torture Time

Today has been a day I wouldn't wish on anyone . . . . I am older, wiser and so much more tired, I cannot begin to tell you.

Yesterday I had blood in my urine a couple of times and hoped it was just a period getting started. I felt a pang when going to bed but slept all night. When I got up this morning, I took a shower and by the time it was over, my back and side were getting pretty touchy. Trying to ignore it, I got dressed and climbed in the car to go and pick up Nicole. Within five minutes, I had Joseph take me back home. I did NOT feel good.

I thought it would help to lie down. Nope. In fact, made it worse. Moving seemed a little better. I began pacing. I paced and paced and paced the bedroom floor. I tried drinking water, using a heat pack and stretching. No relief.

After almost an hour of pacing and even walking up and down the street in front of the house, I began crying. Soon, I was also vomiting. Finally, after calling the doctor, Joseph told me we were going to the hospital.

I fought that decision because I knew what it would cost . . . without insurance, it would be astronomical. I knew we would be paying the bill off for months to come. But in the end, I agreed simply because I have never, ever, ever felt pain like that.

I've had four babies completely without any anesthesia.
I've had a broken rib while 8 months pregnant.
I've had several car accidents.
I've had a number of surgeries.

NONE of them compared to this. NONE. This was a pain that was so intense and so non-stop that I began hutting myself in other ways in an attempt to distract myself. I bit my hand. I pinched myself. I did whatever I could think of. On a scale of 1 to 10, this was a 42.

The trip to the hospital was the worst. We hit construction and were in bumper to bumper traffic. I hit the door, cried, shook, cried, and pleaded with traffic to move faster. We finally got to the hospital and when the admitting clerk told me I had three people in front of me, I thought I would die. I paced and paced and cried and paced and they finally got me in. My BP was 250/110 and I could barely stop moving long enough for them to take it. Thankfully, they processed me through pretty fast . . . . and then I had a horribly painful IV put into my wrist (spraying blood all over the floor in the process). But then, bless 'em, they gave me morphine. All hail morphine. Good stuff, baby. In about 2 minutes, I was floating and finally, finally, the pain stopped. I cried again, this time in relief.

They took me in for a CAT scan (which is wayyyyyyyyyy better than an MRI) and, as we had pretty much figured out, I was passing a kidney stone. By this time, it was almost to the bladder which means I was close to being done with the process. They took some blood, gave me some pain meds and finally sent me home.

I am not sure I have ever been that tired. I slept for 90 minutes and then got back up. I have spent the evening on the couch and am ready to collapse from fatigue already. I am counting the seconds until I am back in bed and this day is completely behind me.

It was a very bad, no good, rotten, awful, terrible, lousy day.
If you know anyone who has passed a kidney stone, call them and tell them how sorry you are, no matter how long ago it might have happened. I am pretty sure they will remember the event quite well--this is one kind of pain you just never forget.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Questioning Yourself

I have been going through a bit of an emotional "funk" lately. I'm trying to pull myself out of it, but so far, it ain't workin'. I find myself going through a period of questioning myself, questioning things about me that I believe are true and then suddenly, I feel like maybe . . I'm not.

Case in point #1: I worked on a nightmare of a project for six months. I put amazingly long hours into it, did enormous amounts of research, wrote, rewrote, revised, re-revised, trying to complete it as the editor was asking. Directions were vague to say the least. While working on it, the company gave me two other projects to work on . . . . it was stressful and I really poured myself into it. Editor B said I did a great job on project 2. Editor A, however, started with comments like "could use a few changes" and escalated to "we have hired someone else to fix everything you did, so you aren't likely to get paid". Many rants have been inspired by this project, lemme tell ya. At this point, I am guessing the $2000 I was expecting will turn into something like $200.

Case in point #2: I, like a billion other people on the planet, was looking around Facebook and came across my fiancee from back in the late 1970s. Thinking, apparently like a WOMAN, I thought I would say hello to him. Since then, we have exchanged about a dozen emails in which I have been told I basically ruined his life. I mean, it was 30 years ago people. I figured he was long married and had kids and I wanted to wish him a happy life. Best of intentions. But clearly, I have caused him a life time of pain. Okay then . . . .

Case in point #3: I wrote a column for Home Education Magazine that yes, had some seriousness to it, but was mostly just a call for young people to take parenting seriously and to educate themselves on important issues before blindly making childrearing decisions. Once again, best of intentions. Instead, I seem to have upset some readers and even a friend of mine found a lot to question in what I said.

So, I find myself flucuating between confidence in my beliefs and abilities and memories and self-doubt about them. I know this ties into the fact that work is slow, income is down, winter is coming and my emotional well-being is a little shakier than usual. See that huge black spiral I seem to be caught in?

I think I'd better find a life preserver pretty quick.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Meet Nicole

I am not even sure where to start with this one. Besides being my daughter, she is one of the dearest friends I have. She is who I wanna go to Goodwill with. Who I want to watch a movie with. Who I laugh hardest with. Who I share deepest secrets with. Who I like to hang with. She is just a wonderful person, not just my child. Funny, smart, kind, loving, silly and adorable.

So here is Nicole. She is less than a month from turning 20. (EEEEEEK). She is madly in love with a handsome guy who has pretty much become part of our family (Jon). She has a part time job as a cashier at Sizzler's. She is a budding actress. She writes up a storm and is getting ready to do her fifth National Novel Writing Month/NaNoWriMo competition.

She has a wonderful relationship with her brothers. They both adore her and look to her for advice and encouragement. She actually enjoys spending time with them and they take walks, go out to eat, ride the max into the city and just talk, talk, talk. She has a relationship with them that I would have loved the chance to have had with my brother.

Nicole has a lot of living to do before she settles down . . . she hopes to do a lot of traveling and exploring the world. She wants to discover more passions than she already has and most likely will do this by seeing other people, other parts of the world. I will enjoy each moment vicariously. I am alrady planning on fantastic care packages to send to her.

Nicole hates spiders.

Calls the mound of mess in her room her personal POC (pile of crap).

Dreams of buying a kayak.

Gives amazing back massages.

Is graceful, elegant and articulate.

Despites doing research.

Wishes people would ask her more questions when they chat.

Is crazy about Neil Patrick Harris and "Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog"

Writes fantastic letters.

Makes me laugh uncontrollably.
Brings me occasional chocolate.

Searches for a best friend (mothers only go so far in that deparment).

Is a sucker for a good romance novel.
Adores theatre as much as I do.

She is an amazing person, more beautiful inside than outside and I love just atching her blossom and bloom and become. And I get a front row seat!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Meet Coryn

This handsome fella is Coryn Aslan Sebastian Orr. He is 14 years old. . . technically. I believe his soul is closer to 40 or so. His sense of humor has been years ahead of his chronological age for a long time. It is wicked and funny and often embarassing.

If you met Coryn while he was out and about, you would come away with the impression that he was sweet, quiet and polite. If you got to know him well, you would know that he is sweet. He does have good manners. Quiet? HA. Not for a moment.

Coryn is smart--and knows it. He is a smart . . . a. . . let's say aleck. He reads faster than the speed of light can hit the page. He is our resident computer geek. He recently went from a shy homebody to a teenager desperate to connect with other teenagers.

From the time he was born, he was a ham. Bring out a camera and he smiles. At only a few months old, he seemed to know there was a camera in the room and would pose. By the age of one, he would stop, smile and wait for the flash. Today he still makes faces for pictures and if someone picks up a camera, unlike his other brother who immediately hides before he can be caught, he turns to the photographer and waits. Perhaps that is why, today, he seems to lean toward a passion for photography.

He has an infectious laugh that makes me smile whenever I hear it. He loves a dirty joke more than almost anyone I've ever met. I can't tell you how many times he has read the jokes in the National Lampoon book.

Coryn had problems with homesickness for a long time. On the one hand, I felt bad for him. On the other, since he is my youngest, I didn't really mind. Now that he is completely past it, I kinda miss it. But I really AM happy for him. I was pressured to force him to get over it . . . but I waited, loved him and you know, he got over it when he was ready.

Recently I wrote a tongue in cheek article for Home Education Magazine that apparently upset a few readers. I feel badly about that because that was never my intent. When one reader wrote a letter to the magazine stating that I was clearly a bad mother, all three of my kids responded by writing letters to the magazine. Their words of love and support warmed my heart. Coryn's letter stated, "My parents are loving, caring, noncontrolling, helpful and full of great advice. They let me be who I want to be. If I ask for their help, then they help. They would never push thier ideals on me. Coryn Orr--a child who is a giant fan of his childhood and family".

Not too shabby, that boy. He makes the world a better place for me and for anyone who gets the chance to spend time with him.

PS Please note that Jon, Nicole's boyfriend, wants to take this opportunity to say hello to the world. And that he is great (and obviously humble).

Meet Caspian

I have amazing kids.

I had someone recently say to me that if they had had to take a vacation with three teenagers, it would have ended up in tragedy and an arrest. But you know what? I can't imagine any people I would rather go on vacation with than my kids and husband.

So, I've decided to introduce you to my kids via this blog. I'd love to introduce you to our oldest but we don't see her or hear from her enough to know how she is. But rest assured, she is a great one also. We have countless wonderful memories of her growing up and I see her in all three of her siblings all the time.

Rather than go in order of age, I decided to be random. I know! Me? Random. Hard to believe.

Caspian-Rolf Alexander Orr is our oldest son. He is 17 and will turn 18 (gulp) in about six months. From the time he was little, Caspian was the one who wouldn't sit with the rest of us for family pictures. He was too busy doing something off in the corner. He was the one who wanted to sleep when we were up--and wanted to get up when we were sleeping. If we all liked a food, he was sure to hate it and vice versa. When we were vegetarians, he wanted to eat meat. When we began eating meat, he wanted to be a vegetarian. Although this trait has made me pull my hair out and bang my head against the wall many a time, it is also endearing.

Here are some facts about this unusual and charming son of ours:

1. He loves his hair--it is down to his waist now and admittedly, some of the most beautiful hair on the planet. He brushes it often and has me braid it. He is the only one of our kids to have no interest in dying his hair (continuing his character trait described above).

2. Although he professes that he has no interest in having a girlfriend, all of his friends are girls. He has more phone calls and meetings with girls than any teenage guy I know. Perhaps it is because he treats them all as friends . . . . plus I think he is just charming and handsome.

3. He is STUBBORN. He decided he wanted to go on a fast. We have all fasted before. Joseph is quite knowledgeable about the topic, having done it and read and researched for years. So, we said yes, but we monitored it very closely, checking blood pressure and keeping him home with us at all times. How long did this teenage boy go with water only? Two weeks. Yup. Two weeks. Of course, he has since rediscovered his passion for bean burritoes but he also proved to himself that he is tough and has enough willpower for a small town.

4. He loves to read but reads the same set of books over and over and over, once again, something no one else in the family does. I know of several books he has read a dozen times.

5. He gives out amazing hugs. One thing Caspian definitely does is show that he loves you. Joseph and I, as well as his sister (rarely his brother but hey, they're . . . guys, ya know?) get regular daily, heartfelt hugs. He brings me ice water without my having to ask. Puts a heat pack in the microwave for me. And on those special occasions, when he knows I'm stressed out, he even grabs a bottle of lotion and gives me the world's best foot massage. He has also been known to walk down to the corner and buy his mother a couple of Three Musketeers bars and then dole them out when he knows I'm having a rough day.

6. He has one of the biggest hearts on the planet. If someone needs help, he is there. He holds open doors for everyone. He jumps in to move furniture or lift something heavy for total strangers. He can't stand to see someone in need without addressing it. He has done volunteer work for a number of places and I suspect his future holds a career in helping people, one way or another.

7. He is fascinated by people. . . . .he is the one who is always talking to people about what they do and how and why and when . . . Even when he was little, he would walk up to the street sweeper or the window washer or the baker and ask all kinds of questions. When we recently had our major power surge/outage, he was outside for two hours talking to the electricians. I think he absorbs knowledge about his world in this manner.

8. He hates to write but loves to read. He can't stand the Beatles but loves classical. He makes me groan in frustration and laugh in delight.

So, that is our son, or at least the highlights of him. I am going to attempt to post a picture with this so you can put a face to the description. Hope you enjoyed meeting him. I certainly enjoy sharing my life with him.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pardon Me While I Hibernate

Hey friends. Sorry for the disappearing act. Since I got home from vacation, it is like I've been taken over with a combination of chronic pain, lethargy/fatigue and worry. Ridiculous, but true. My workload has dropped such that I am back to combing the part time job ads, yet I know, deep down in my heart, that between a sore hip and back, a completely useless right arm and unreliable vision (we will overlook the high BP and the tinnitus), taking on another job might be more than I can handle. I have been sending out emails and reminders to every one I've ever worked with in an attempt to drum up some more assignments, but this is the lull that happens every year about this time. I know it will turn around but it makes for tight holidays and sleepless nights full of worry.

So, I haven't posted because I don't want to be the Eeyore of blogdom, bringing everyone down with a discussion about not being able to find my tail (a metaphor for not having work, for those of you not keeping up. Grin.). I'm sure I'll be my sunny self again soon. Maybe after a little more sleep, a couple more Advil and a few more assignments.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

. . . and the Nut House becomes Nuttier

Last night, while cooking dinner, I heard electric crackling in the living room and then saw sparks. My computer began to emit smoke and I was yelling at the kids to get back from it. Thus began an odd and not terribly enjoyable evening. Two utility type trucks were outside. We went running out to talk to them and they told us they were tracking down a household that was sending powerful currents out of the lines and that house was us. All of the lights in the house began to pulsate, going dim and then burning so bright they hurt our eyes and began to pop and go out. It was scary. The guy up on the power pole had gotten mighty zapped when my computer went out and the other guy got zapped when he checked the box out on the deck with all of the electrical lines. He said, you have a serious problem here and it is a dangerous one. Shut down everything except your fridge and don't turn it back on until you get an electrician out here. G'nite.

ACK. It was only 8 pm and already dark and we had flashlights and camp lanterns but that was it. J. suggested we leave the house and go somewhere lighted and comfortable until it got later, so we went to Shari's and hung out for a couple of hours, eating pie to make ourselves feel better. J. was worried because our electronic garage door was open, which meant anyone walking by could help themselves to his tools, etc. So he and the boys went back home and figured out how to manually get it back down.

When we got to Shari's. I encouraged him to call the electric company (the utility trucks from before were from the cable company). He did and they sent someone out to investigate. Another truck came back at midnight and three guys worked until 3 am to trim some branches and cut some wires and do other stuff I can't begin to understand. This morning, everything was working again except my downstairs computer. We haven't even been able to turn it on. The electric guy told us to call and talk to their tech people about it and we will.

In the meantime, I am grayer and worried and tired and it really wasn't much fun. I searched, however, and I found those damn silver linings. . .

1. No one was using the computer when it sparked.
2. I don't currently have a looming deadline that this will interfere with.
3. I didn't have anything on that computer that I can't reconstruct.
4. Maybe, now that the electric company came out and made changes, our bills will go down and the house will be safer.
5. We were supposed to be gone all evening and chose to stay home. If we had left, the boys would have been home alone when this happened and that would have been frightening for all.
6. The whole incident did NOT start a fire.
7. This did not happen while we were on vacation.
8. I got a piece of pie for dinner. :)

Stay tuned and if you don't hear anything for a bit, it is because we are trying to reconnect the internet and resurrect my computer. Send good thoughts people.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Orr House Becomes a Nut House

This morning, we were awakened to the rather unusual statement from our son that he had a squirrel in his closet.
Now, if you know us, our first reaction was to laugh and make a rude joke. Our second was to reassure him that he was dreaming. Our third was to investigate. And guess what?
He had a squirrel in his closet.
Welcome to Monday, post-vacation Orr clan.
So, we closed the bedroom door, took out the clothes in the closet and there was indeed a terrified, quivering squirrel in there. (How it got in the house is a mystery to us all . . . but I am glad it didn't get out and wreak havoc in the son's bedroom!) With all of us standing around watching, my brave hubby approached the problem.
Okay, not quite true. First I had to call my friend Susan. She is the one the entire family says to call whenever there is a question, problem or issue going on. Apparently we believe her to be one of the smartest, most capable persons on the planet. No pressure, friend. :) She suggested a trail of nuts . . . or something clever about nuts at least.
So, not having any nuts that were unattachable in the house (snicker), we went with Plan B. Joseph put a plastic wastebasket over the little fella, slid a book underneath it and voila, out the door he went. We planned to capture the special moment with the camera, but with three of them in the house, ALL were dead thanks to vacation. So instead we just promised to commit the moment to memory.
Joseph lifted the wastebasket and the little guy took a nanosecond to freeze (why are all of these people looking at me?????) and then executed a jump that I would think would qualify him for the Animal Olympics. Off he went into the trees. I hope that by now, he is calm, his heartbeat and breathing have slowed down and he is ready to reflect on his poor decision to enter a human's territory. Most likely, however, he is back to thinking about his nuts. Typical guy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Yes, we have returneth-ed. :) What can I say? I haven't written anything professional for two weeks. Instead letters, postcards and journal entries have been it. Deeeee-licious.

So, here is the abbreviated report on our trip. Comment away!

We travelled 2,200 miles down the coast of Oregon and California, changing our minds on our next day's route on a regular basis. We went as far south as San Francisco and then came back up through central California and into Portland. We stayed at KOA Campgrounds every night except one in which we were at a county park. We learned how to pitch two tents, including pumping up all three mattresses, plumping pillows and spreading out sleeping bags and blankets, in less than 30 minutes--even in the dark. It took coordinated teamwork on everyone's part but by the end of the vacation, we had it down to a fine science.

It is impossible to relate everything that happened over the days, so here are the highlights:

We were serenaded by so many different things as we went to sleep each night, which for me was a gift since I usually hear nothing but a high pitched emergency signal in my head. Over the course of two weeks, we fell asleep to the sounds of chirping crickets and cicadas, hooting owls, croaking bullfrogs, howling coyotes, whistling trains, roaring highway traffic, rolling surf, babbling brook, pouring rain, dropping pine needles, blowing wind, strumming guitars and murmuring voices.

We saw amazing scenery including miles and miles of brown velvet rolling hills, endless rows of grape vines, millions of soaring pine trees lined up on mountain sides and ocean views that left us gasping. The huge white eaves crashing into black craggy rocks never got old. We went through tiny tourist towns and complex hectic cities. We were humbled by the ancient redwoods. We toured a lighthouse and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge during heavy fog, making it feel as if it (and us) were suspended in the middle of a giant cloud as we could not see the water below, or the bridge ahead or behind.

We stayed in tiny campsites and huge ones. One was next to a field full of donkeys who made the same noise as our air pump. Another was next to a farm and we were wakened by the sound of a crowing rooster--who does not stop with the dawn--and the mooing of cows. One site was in the middle of a cedar and pine forest where we were sheltered under a leafy, green canopy that soared almost 100 feet into the sky. In one place we walked on pine needles and the next in sand. One gravel, the next grass. What made one place better than another? Price? No. Services? Nope. Pool? Nah. How close it was to the bathrooms? You bet. I truly do not care to see the inside of an outhouse ever, ever, ever again.

We were reminded that tourist sites are fun but can cost a fortune for a family of five so we chose carefully. No to the Mystery Trees and the Sea Lion Caves; yes to lighthouse tour and Confusion Hill. We found a number of Goodwills (much to the boys' total despair) and scored a few treasures, including about $400 worth of greeting cards we love to send for a mere $9. At another, I found two Thanksgiving candles like ones I had when I was about 6 years old. For 98 cents I bought them because they woke the little girl underneath all of these years and gray hair. We stopped at countless gift shops and I am sure that Nicole and I increased postcard stocks because we sent out more than 50 of them. We somehow managed to come home with MORE stationery than we left. (oops)

We found that food cooked and eaten outside always tastes better. We found out that it is difficult to take a shower in under four minutes but eight is more than enough. We found out that soap works as shampoo when Mom packs two bottles of conditioner by accident. We found out that, between all of us, we can read 26 books in 12 days. We found that a 34 pound dog on an air mattress with two adults somehow takes up far more than one-third of the room. We found out that reading out loud is still fun and that no one writes a better metaphor than Ray Bradbury.

We found that changing the route on whim is fun and misreading the map entirely can result in fun detours. We found that KOAs charge hugely varying prices for the same exact tent site--we paid a low of $29 and a high of $67 for the same darn thing. We found that nothing is quite as beautiful as a full moon with brown/red aura around it shining through pine tree boughs above our softly lit tent below.

We stopped at a nursery that specialized in carnivorous plants, i.e. sundews, venus flytraps, etc. They are amazing plants in all colors, sizes and styles. We took dozens of pics of us being eaten by the oversized styrofoam plant inside the store, as well as the huge 10 foot metal plant in the field out front. We made a campfire one night, thanks to Nicole's outdoor skills, and sat around it for hours talking, laughing, telling stories of our part and watching the kids poke, poke, poke at the fire as they wished we had packed ingredients for s'mores. We found out that Nicole can sneeze so loud it echoes throughout the campground and woke people from a sound sleep wondering if there had been an earthquake.

We encountered temperatures from 90 to 32. We had bright blue skies and pouring rain (which is lovely from inside a tent if you can quit worrying about leaks). We hit elevations of 5000 feet and rode on some of the curviest, craziest highways full of hairpin curves. We ate in restaurants that had amazing service--and appalling. We ate fast food, food from the cooler, food made on the camp cook stove, food from gas stations and food bought from fruit stands on the side of the road and blackberry bushes. My personal favorite was the medium rare prime rib eaten with plastic utensils standing around the trailer in some small coastal city.

We laughed-a lot. We told stories. We sang stupid songs. We read. We talked. We took walks. We connected as a family and when I walked back in the front door when we got home, I knew I had achieved everything I had hoped for on the trip. I had spent time with people I love more than anything on earth. I didn't work for 12 days. I saw amazing beauty. I relaxed. Most of all, I fell in love with my family all over again. I appreciated anew their humor and wit, their patience and kindness, their skills and qualities, their individualism and their love. It was exactly what all of us needed.

A wonderful, memorable, special time.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


It is 10 a.m. as I write this update.
We FINALLY left about 8 . . . . stopped for gas. Found out a tire on the trailer was put on backwards so stopped and switched it.
Got a quick bite to eat.
Then stopped at a Starbuck's for coffee before hitting the highway.
At which point, the engine began to squeal. It smelled hot. It shut down.
So, we called a tow truck (thank goodness for AAA). We are all back home now while the van is taken to the nearby mechanic. Now begins the wait on what is wrong with it, how much it will cost and how long it will take to fix it. I really, really, really want it to be later today but don't have a lot of hope for it.
So, we are back home and the kids are falling asleep and I am trying to decide what to do to make it still feel like a fun day because you know what? So far, it sure hasn't.
Stay tuned.

TRYING to leave . . . . .

It is 6:30 a.m. We had planned on being the road about 90 minutes ago. We got up at 4:15 in order to do so. But . . . we're still here. Did you know it takes a LOT of stuff for five people to go camping for 2 weeks? By the time you put in tents, coolers, stove, lanterns, tarps, mattresses, bedding, clothes, dishes . . . . it takes up a LOT of space. We filled the trailer up to the brim, shocking and disappointing my husband no end who pictured it holding everything and having room to spare. That segued into putting the luggage carrier on top of the van . . . an arduous and time consuming project. Now we are repacking and Nicole and I are trying hard to keep the mood light and happy but it ain't easy, folks.
So, two hours later, we're still here. The sun is coming up. Nerves are a tad frayed. But I keep reassuring myself that this just means we will appreciate the relaxation of vacation even more, right?
Remember the two things I had hoped would not happen when Joseph and I snuck away for the weekend a few posts ago? I am fervently hoping they do not happen on this trip either. Cross your fingers for me.
I hope to check email from the road and if possible, I will post from there as well. If not, then I will catch you all up when we get back around the 24th or so.
Of course . . . . . first we have to LEAVE.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

See ya Soon!

As I sit here at my computer NOT working (wahoo!), I am counting the hours until vacation starts. Actually, for me, it started late last night when I finished my last assignment due before I left. Today I have "loafed about" doing things like paying bills, packing, running to the bank, stopping by to refill meds, packing . . . . getting ready.
Did I get all of the assignments done? Yes and no.
The writing prompts? Yes
The passages? Yes
The items? Yes
The book . . . . I checked and had way more time before it was due than I realized and I took the easy option and bumped the assignment until I come back. By then I will be refreshed and ready to hunker down and work. Right now I am just weary. I had an editor contact me over the weekend to let me know that they were "disappointed" in my literary analysis (this after spending HOURS and HOURS and HOURS trying to write it correctly and in an interesting way) and a reader of my Home Education Magazine column write in to let me know she was offended by a humorous comment I made. Sigh. At this point, never writing again sounds pretty good. I know that will all change by the time I get back, but gee. Ouch.
Today Joseph asked me what I wanted out of this vacation--what was my goal. I rambled a bit but in the end, the answer was (1) time together as a family, (2) making memories, (3) seeing new places and (4) not working. Where we go is actually almost irrelevant to me. I just want to GO. I want to sleep in the tent, read by lantern light, sing in the car, laugh at my kids . . oops, I mean WITH my kids . . and I don't really care where I am as long as it is not sitting in front of my computer working. Make sense?
I will be back around the 25th and with a full report. . .. yes Coryn, with the MORNING report.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Goodwills RULE

When I was growing up, I was taught that Goodwills were for those less fortunate people who couldn't shop at "real" stores. I felt sorry for them.


What a hoot that is.

Today, 90 percent of my shopping is done at Goodwill. I have found deals that have kept me smiling for days--even weeks. Today was the perfect example. As we prepare to go on our trip, we have longed for a bigger tent. Joseph and I wanted one that was roomy enough to STAND UP in to get dressed without standing on the mattress. I wanted to be able to be in it for something other than sleeping. Today, we found a GREAT tent . . . 16 X 7, sleeps 7, has built in lights, windows, door handles, even a PET door. . . . orignally $180 . . . . got it for $30. Can you see me smiling from there? (pic above)
Also, I have been wanting an old-fashioned hardsided suitcase, a small one, to carry my books and papers, pens, stamps, etc. I wanted it to have CHARACTER, ya know. I wanted to look at it and wonder where it traveled and with whom. Same Goodwill trip . . I found a Samsonite suitcase from the 1950s that was a little large but otherwise perfect. . . then I opened it up to check the inside and there was ANOTHER one in there that was exactly the size I wanted. I brought them home and spent an hour covering them in stickers about children, family, road trips, etc. They look wonderful and so ME. You'd know a lot about me by reading the stickers on it. I just love it. Together they were only $20. Heehee.

So if you are like the old me and think Goodwills are for the unfortunate, throw that attitude out the window and give one a try. You just might be shocked at the treasures you will find.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Making It through the Obstacle Course

See the shining light wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy at the end of the tunnel?
That is vacation.
Two weeks of being on the road, exploring the state, camping out, sleeping outside, hanging with my hubby and kids--in other words, heaven. We weren't sure we would be able to afford it this year but we are making some sacrifices here and there and staying within the state and it's gonna work out! Wahoo.
But that shining light is just a pinprick right now. It's a tease. It's taunting me. Because in between it and me are:
80 essay prompts
an 8000 word book on Afghanistan
52 multiple choice items
5 passages

And until I am able to get THOSE all done, I can't go on that vacation. And you know what? It's hard to keep on task. It's hard to concentrate. It's hard to sit here and work when I want to make packing lists and pick out books and select clothes to take. It is Friday afternoon of a long holiday weekend and I won't spend it at a picnic or BBQ. I won't be out on the deck reading. I will be doing all of those assigments above.

And when Tuesday dawns early, I hope I will have them all done. If I don't, I make the family wait while I finish (no pressure, Tami). Sigh. So wish me fast fingers and a faster brain. Wish me strong eyes, a silent hip and copious amounts of coffee. Because I can guarantee that the minute I get in the van and we hit the highway, work is going to be the LAST thing on my mind--what I have left that is after writing 80 essay prompts, an 8000 word book, 52 items and 5 passages.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A'Campin' We Will Go!

This afternoon I am going to do something with my husband I've never done with him before.
Man, that sounds kinky, doesn't it?
Sorry to disappoint you. . . but it is going camping WITHOUT children. The first time I ever went camping with him. . . well, camping EVER, was in 1987 with our first child. Every time since then it has been with two, three or four children at a time.
However, this weekend, one is at camp, one is with her boyfriend and one is happy, no, thrilled, to be home alone. So we're escaping. We're going to the coast and camping in the VW camper bus. Just the two of us. Lots of books. Letter writing materials. Planning for naps. Can NOT wait. Someone asked me if it was going to be like a second honeymoon and I wanted to point out the differences between 23 and 30 and 51 and 58 but I didn't.
So we're off and I will blog when we return. Wish us good weather, deep sleep and a nice time just being US instead of Mom and Dad.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Please Reset My Circadian Clock

Apparently, while I was busy paying attention to one of the thousand million trillion other details in my life, someone snuck in and reset my inner clock. How do I know this? Simple. Every afternoon, about 4 or so, I get so sleepy I think I will pass out sitting up. I type with my eyes closed. I get up and put water on my face. I take a walk out on the back deck to wake up. I am absolutely, cannot walk around the house, I'll tell you any world secrets if you let me take a nap, tired.

But I don't nap. I struggle through. I work and I make it to bedtime. Midnight arrives. Joseph has already been in bed for an hour. I go upstairs to the world's best bedroom. Fans are going in the window. It's cool and airy. My sound machine is already on making waves on the beach sounds. I crawl into the world's best bed. Snuggle up to the world's best husand and a not too awful dog. Get my pillow just right. Close my eyes.

And wake up. My mind starts going a million mile an hour. I think about what work I got done that day. What I have to do tomorrow. How much money I earned. How much is in the bank. How much is due in the mail. What I have on my calendar for tomorrow. Where to get shirts for Nicole's work. What we need to get ready for Coryn going to camp next week. The answer to a question someone asked me earlier and I couldn't remember. The weather forecast. ARGGHHH. I just want my head to shut up. I start counting. Counting often works wonders for me. I start at 100 and slowly count backwards.

I get to 1. I'm still awake. Not even sleepy. I cannot get comfortable. In this position, my hip hurts. In this one, my arm. In this one, I will snore if I finally do fall asleep and then I will wake myself back up. Wait . . wait . . this is pretty good. I can sleep like this. . . except the dog, who is sleeping pressed up against my right side, is now snoring. Sigh. Awake again.

So, after 45 minutes of lying there and tossing and turning, I am back up. I am going thru a pile of pictures I had developed today and labeling them for sending out to family and friends in letters this coming week. I have "new age" music playing on iTunes in the hope it makes me sleepy. I brought my pillow down and put it on the couch.

Maybe if I can trick my body into thinking it's 4 p.m. I will get sleepy. Or maybe I just need someone to readjust my clock.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Life at the Orr House

So what's new here, you ask? (Didn't know I could hear you, did ya? Wicked laughter.)

The potluck that wasn't has come and gone. We cleaned for a week. I don't mean a little dusting here. I mean, renting a sander and redoing the deck and then putting a water seal on it. I mean rearranging furniture. I mean hanging up clothes that have been in a laundry basket for six months. CLEANING. And then, the weekend for our potluck arrived--and brought 100 degree weather with it. It was HOT. And no, we don't have A/C. I worried that people would be too miserable to enjoy themselves. So, with regret, we contacted everyone and cancelled the party.

Of course, there is always SOMEONE you can't reach, right? And yes, this was the case with us. We had one lovely couple we couldn't reach. We've known them for seven years and they'd never been to our house. We only had a work number for them, so couldn't call and let them know about the change in plans. So, yup, they came over. And you know, it was nice. They remind me a great deal of my parents and so their visit was lovely. Getting hugged by them is always a poignant moment for me because they remind me so much of my mom and dad, who I miss every single day. I loved having them over for a while and heck, my house looked pretty good!
Do you know what one of the worst ways to wake up in the morning is? A charlie horse. I get them about 2 or 3 times a week. Some are minor. Some are major. The major ones make me whimper like a little kid. I wake up crying and all day, I limp. I've gotten so many, I don't want anyone to touch my calves because they're too touchy. I think charlie horses have great potential as torture methods . . . . .
We're hoping, hoping, hoping to go on vacation in September. We can't do the big travel several states, stay in hotels and eat out kind because finances just won't allow for it. So, instead, we are thinking about a two week trip down two lane highway 20. It crosses from one side of Oregon to the next for abou 450 miles. It is full of little towns and beautiful scenery and truly, it is the TRIP that we love, not the destination. We plan to camp all the way and eat out of our cooler to keep costs down. We will see if it all works out. Between camp schedules, my work, Nicole's part time job, it isn't easy to pin down dates.
The other day Nicole made me almost fall over laughing when we were talking about classics . . . . Coryn wanted to read The Lord of the Flies so we were discussing what it was about . . . and I said, "How about Catcher in the Rye?" and she said, "Isn't that a sandwich?" Snicker.
Caspian was recently in a place where he was very uncomfortable. The family rules were quite different than at home and what he has been raised with. This wasn't the first time it had happened at this house and when he called me and said, I'd really like to come home . . . I said, of course. I want my kids to always know that if they need help. we are there to provide it. If our oldest called tomorrow and said she needed us, we would be there. When I was a little girl (5 or 6ish), I was sent to my grandmother's house for the night when my parents had a big party or some other plans. I loved my grandmother--she was a sweet lady. However, I got homesick. I wanted to go home. I called--and was told no. I still remember how it felt. When my kids call, I say YES, we are on our way. They have never called without a good reason and they are more able to branch out and try things knowing they have an out if they need it. Caspian told us we were awesome parents--and I told him that no, we were just the parents of awesome kids.
A couple we have known for some time is separating, at least for a while. It makes me sad every time. It also makes me turn and hold onto Joseph even more tightly with love and gratitude. This morning I left him a card by his keys and wallet. It was one of those cards that plays a song when you open it. I found it the other day and was so thrilled because it played OUR song! How could I NOT get it? He loved it too. Said he would keep it forever. I am unbelievably grateful that I found the right guy 28 years ago and was smart enough to nab him.
I have a frickin toothache. Now, what did I do to deserve this one? Someone thought I needed something ELSE to handle? I've been brushing and flossing and yes Joseph, waterpic-ing, and hoping it will get better. Next to charlie horses, a dentist drill is my top torture device. Between the feel of it, the SOUND of it (shudder) and the vibration next to touchy ears, it is not my idea of a good time.
Coryn leaves for camp in one week. ACK. Hard for me to believe. He is our fourth child to go to this camp. He dealt with a lot of homesickness issues for years so this is a huge step for him. I am positive he will deal with leaving far better than his sappy mother who will smile until he can't see me anymore and then cry because this is, after all, her BABY we are talking about.

Thanks for tuning in for the latest. Life in the Orr House (say it carefully!) is always interesting, if nothing else. Except for charlie horses. Those just . . . . hurt.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Menopause, Where Fore Art Thou, Menopause? Part TWO

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water . . . . . (snicker)

Yes, just to keep me from becoming complacent, my period arrived two weeks early this time around. And yes, once again, it has been, as they say in the oil biz, a "gusher". (Except it means money to them and it's just torture for me!). All I can say, is it's a darn good thing that I'm not squeamish or I would have spent as much time fainting or throwing up as I did bleeding this week.

So, I think last night was the worst of it. Let's hope so. Many more of these and I will start to consider taking up vampirism. It wouldn't work well for me either because I am pretty terrified of bats. Bad combination.

But I am hoping this is a sign of menopause. That's my silver lining right now. C'mon, hope with me. Cross your fingers. Say a prayer. Throw rune sticks. Whatever makes ya happy. I'll take it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reason #490,806,434,881,905,438,783.6

You know how there are a number of decisions in your life that you've made and then later thought, Shoot. Can I have a do-over on that one? It was the wrong decision. Or the wrong timing. Or the wrong attitude. We've all had those moments.

And then there are the other decisions. The ones you made and even though you knew they were right, time has only proven to you a billion times over HOW RIGHT they were. For example, marrying Joseph. There's a decision I made (some accused me of making it hastily!) 28 plus years ago that I am reminded daily of how wise I was to do so. Having children? Another extremely good decision. It has made me gray, caused me sleepless nights, brought heartache and worry and heaven knows expenses, and still so worth it, I wouldn't think a nanosecond before doing it again. Moving to Oregon? Yup, another one that continues to make me smile as I get up every morning living in the prettiest place I've ever seen, surrounded by people who like me and I like in return. Becoming a writer? Absolutely. Except for some days. When I have to do revisions. Or editors change their minds. Other than that . . . great job.

Anyone who knows us well also knows that homeschooling was one of the best decisions we made. The affirmations of our decision often come at us so fast and so frequently that we lose track of them. This week two of my kids are taking a swimming class at the public school. When I signed them up I expressly said, Please, they know how to swim. I need a class to teach them to not hold their noses so they can dive, swim underwater, etc. No problem, I was reassured.

Well, day 2 comes and when they return, my son walks through the front door with that body language that all mothers recognize as things are not well in his world. Seems like the instruction for holding their noses is 2 minutes worth of class--you know--here is how you do it--go! Now let's move on. We have a class to teach. Everyone must learn at the same speed. No, there's no time to practice. We've covered it. Zooooooooom. If you don't have it, too bad. Deal with it.

He dealt with it by sitting in the bathroom with a stomach full of chlorinated water and a bruised ego. GRRRRR.

A reminder of why I don't follow this entire philosophy of education. So, last night, despite looming deadlines and some other issues that made climbing into a pool one of the last things in the world I wanted to do, I went to the pool with my teens (along with handsome hubby) and we spent 90 minutes in the pool practicing. No rush. No pressure. Give this a try. Try that. Did that work? Great. That didn't? Ok, let's try this. Need me to stand right next to you when you try that? Sure thing. Need me to move away and give you space while you do that? You got it. You know--the homeschooling method. Learning at their own pace? That stuff.

When we left, they had both made tremendous progress. Egos had been bandaged and we all celebrated with dinner out at Burgerville, still dripping in our suits as we pulled through.

The class is not really a setback. No . . . it is just reason #490,806,434,881,905,438,783.6 why we homeschool. Thanks, I needed that affirmation.

Now, what decisions will I face today?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Welcome to the Carnival!

Welcome to the Carnival de Vertigo. Please, step. . okay . . stumble on in.
You get a ticket even if you didn't want one. No, you get to come in even if it is the last place on earth you want to go. Fact is, you don't get a choice here. You're coming in here and you can't leave until the great Karma King says you can go back home. Had other plans? Ha. Doesn't matter. Deadlines? Family events? Places to go, people to see? Doesn't matter. Your plans have been pre-empted.
Settle back and enjoy the ride. The first one is the rollercoaster. Not only does it go up and down at this Carnival, but also left and right, forwards and backwards and upside down. All without warning. What you think is solid ground, isn't. Hang onto the walls and railings, folks, or you may just forget which way is up. Don't look up or down. Don't turn your head. In fact, don't tip it. If you do, you trigger a sudden dip, turn or plunge.
The next ride . . . well, it's a quick trip to the nearest bathroom. Yea, the rollercoaster has that affect on people. You may not be sure whether to sit down or bend over so experts advise you sit down and grab a bucket. That way you're covered either way.
You might as well strip too. Yea, this is a nudist Carnival. It's not for fun but because you are sweating like you're in a sauna and you can't get cool, no matter what you do.
Tired? Well, don't close your eyes for goodness' sake. Everything you're feeling just gets worse. Now you don't have a focal point to stare at and use for stabilizing. Keep those eyes open. Don't blink if possible.
You're shaking? Don't worry about it. Comes free with admittance. Your hands shake. If you get the bonus ticket, your eyes will also dart uncontrollably left to right in ways that remind you of the worst drinking night of your life or the drugs you never took but might have wondered about.
Yes, Carnival de Vertigo is an exciting place. You go there without warning. You go to bed at night, fall asleep and then, when you roll over in bed during the night or first thing in the morning, you're THERE. Welcome, come right in. What? You don't want to? I must not have explained this one right. It's not an invitation. It's mandatory attendance.
If your ride is an exceptionally bad one, however, don't despair. There's a bonus round at the end. When you think you can't take another moment, your brain reboots. This means you fall asleep. . . no, you pass out mid-sentence, unable to maintain consciousness another moment. You sleep like you've run a marathon (and let's admit it, folks, it feels like you did!) and when you wake, you're back home. The rides are over and your trip to the Carnival is done. For now. You might return later today. Tomorrow. Next week. In six months. Who knows? Never being able to predict you're going is part of its charm.
Thanks for taking the journey with me. I'm going to go and revisit the bathroom part of the trip now. Who ever said I liked Carnivals anyway?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Who's With Me!?!?!?!

I have made a decision that I think could change American culture as we all know it. I think we should enforce an afternoon siesta period. I think it should be federally mandated that from 1 to 3 p.m., every weekday afternoon, all work should shut down so we can all take naps.

If you're under 18 and a nap sounds more like punishment, you could spend the time reading, listening to your mp3 player or something else restful.

If you have a small child in the house, you can coordinate your naps with his/hers.

If you're over 30 or so, and have matured enough to realize that naps belong under the heading of "Precious Life Gifts We Rarely Appreciate Enough at the Time", you can use this time to SLEEP. (Or, if you're really lucky, have a sexual encounter with someone you love and THEN nap.)

Just think what better moods we would all be in? Our efficiency would go up, our impatience would go down. Our efforts would be dedicated to doing our jobs well instead of trying to keep our eyes open. We would be more tolerant and less grumpy. We would smile more and complain less. Sure, we might have to work a little later in the evenings to make up for it, but it would be worth it. And, since we were more rested, we wouldn't mind nearly as much.

The only people I see suffering from this new rule is coffee companies. They thrive on the fact that none of us get enough sleep anymore so we turn to caffeine in utter desperation (it isn't just me, right?). However, they could branch out a little. Offer more cookies and less espresso. More juices and less shots.

So, who's with me? Ready to start campaigning to get this on the next ballot? I would lead you into battle, but frankly . . . I can't keep my eyes open long enough.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I'd love to report that many exciting things have been happening, but it's not true. Life has been happening, which means a blend of good, bad and routine. So, for those of you who stop by to see what's new in Tami's life, here is a quick overview:

*We took Caspian to the year end Habitat for Humanity volunteer picnic where he had a great time and earned a free t-shirt for his hours of volunteering. This past week, he had a friend of the female persuasion over for a couple of days and although they are just friends, it made me keenly aware that this boy of mine is a young MAN.
*Nicole's play has opened and is doing well. The crowds are small because it is a summer play mostly starring teens, but she is doing well in the lead role. It has been a really good experience for her. She also took a three day firefighting camp and LOVED it. While part of me is happy for her, the other part is gasping in horror at the thought of blending one of my children and fires. Not a happy match. (HA. Pun not intended but appreciated.) This week Jon is in California taking another martial arts training course. We took him to the airport and will pick him up when he returns. It seems strange not to have him around but it is nice to be able to wear what I want or wander down the hall in bra and panties or hang out one on one with Nicole without worrying about it.
*Coryn, after months of being in limbo, found out yesterday that he DID get into Not Back to School Camp. He is 80 percent thrilled and 20 percent angsting, although those percentages are apt to change depending on the time of day. He is the fourth of my children to go to this camp. It has been an ENTIRELY different experience for each one of them and I am eager/apprehensive/excited to see how it affects him. He leaves in one month and I promise I won't let him see me cry when we drop him off and I begin one of those, "But he is the BABY" mother moments.
*Joseph's internship at the local VW repair shop is going well. He is really enjoying it and I think he is learning a great deal. I miss him (a lot) every morning and it has altered our lives in some ways, but I am happy for him.
*As for me . . I'm pretty good. I did two school presentations this week about being an author. I enjoy talking to the kids but it was a somewhat frustrating experience for a variety of other reasons. Coryn went with me on the first trip and Nicole on the second. Both of them spent at least half an hour thanking me for never sending them to school. :) Work is keeping me hopping and I am constantly wishing for more time, but it also beats being broke, right?

So that's what's new on the Orr Front. If you stop by, say hi. Love knowing you were here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Menopause, Where Fore Art Thou, Menopause?

I had high hopes, I really did.
8 weeks.
No period.
Could it be? Had I finally reached that magic age?
9 weeks.
Maybe, just maybe.
Guess what?
Naturally, it was waiting for the perfect time . . . . the night I put on our new $300 (got for $50) mattress topper. Karma loves me.
Now I suspect I may bleed to death so I wanted to stop by and say goodbye to all of you before I go. I appreciate those of you have stopped by, read entries and even left comments. It has been fun.
I have lost so much that the world is gray every time I get up or down and I am running out of black clothing, not to mention underwear. I am starting to look at Depends with an entirely different attitude. I wish I could convince one of the local vets to make me a project on spay/neuter day. $25,000 for a hysterectomy just ain't in the cards. I am sure menopause has to be happen soon, RIGHT? Right, please, right?
Oh well. It's not like I have a dozen deadlines on my plate right now. (Yea, I do.)
It's not like I have a daughter whose opening night for her play is tomorrow night. (Yea, I do.)
It's not like I had two birthdays to prepare for this week. (Yea, I did.)
I can just sit around, gush and nap.
Yea, right.
I ran an errand today and by the time I had been on my feet for 30 minutes, I was ready to go in a corner and pass out for a couple of hours. My wonderful husband forced me to come home and get on the couch for a bit. Now, I'm back at it.
So, wish me luck or send a huge cork. One of the two?

(And thanks for the reminder to count my blessings, Ami.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vice President Schmice President

It has been a long couple of weeks in my life. I have had computer glitches. I have had extremely challenging writing projects. I have had limited sleep. I have had health issues. And now it's hot. No, not hot. H O T. As in triple digits.

So, today was to be a treat. A moment I had been looking forward since mid-February. I was going to get to see "The Lion King" on stage. I was beyond excited. I had heard about how amazing it was. Nicole and Coryn were just as excited as I was. We left in plenty of time and headed for I-84 West. We were on the on ramp. We came to a halt. Why? Was there an accident up ahead? No. Was there heavy traffic? No. Cars came to a total stop. People were getting out. They were sitting on the side in the grass. No one knew what was going on. The guy next to us in the spiffy convertible (the extremely tan, shirtless, muscled guy that I took absolutely no notice of at all) went up and asked. We waited. Time passed. The time for the play got closer and closer. I was up from worried to frantic. Next would be depression and tears.

The hot-guy-I-didn't-see-at-all told us why we were at a halt. "Look at the highway," he said. "It's empty." He was right. I-84, the busiest highway in our state, was EMPTY. (I could hear the theme music from some disaster movie starting to play and I figured doom was imminent. How sad that I was more upset about missing the play than the utter end of human life on the planet.) We were halted because Joe Biden, the VP, was in town, taking the highway and there is some security rule in place that states the highway has to be cleared 15 minutes and 15 minutes behind his entourage.

How long did we sit there? 40 minutes.
What was the temperature? 100 degrees.
How upset was I? Priceless.

Did we make it? We actually did. We missed 10 minutes in the beginning but there were about 60 people late, so they had delayed it a few.

Was it wonderful? Beyond wonderful. Most amazing play of my entire life. Cried all the way through it because that is what I do when I am emotional. Sad? Cry. Happy? Cry. Amazed and thrilled? Cry. My friend Susan says it is endearing. I find it exasperating. And wet.

So VP Joe Biden, I am not a happy American. I think shutting down an entire highway on a triple digit day without any warning stinks. I think you owe us all an apology. My kids were sweltering in the back and it was miserable out there. There was just no regard for where people were going--I kept wondering if there was some poor baby in a back seat of one of the non-air-conditioned cars or an elderly person. And they would die because Biden needed a secure highway. May I suggest that next time he pick a different time or take one of the many helicoptors that were circling the skies the entire time. You're not getting my vote if you run.

So there.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Passage of Time

In the last 24 hours, I have had the opportunity to be reminded three times of the passage of time. Although it is a fact of life, I don't have to like it, right?

The first one was lighting fireworks last night. Our typical tradition is to put chairs at the end of the driveway (we live in a very quiet neighborhood with little traffic by the house) and the kids do all kind of fireworks. For the past two years, Jon, Nicole's boyfriend, has been in charge of the pyrotechnics and does a wonderful job. Joseph holds onto the shivering dog (fireworks terrify her but she wants to be with us) and cuddles and reassures her and I sit in a chair ooohing, ahhhing and reminding my children to be careful. Last nite, the boys were as involved in lighting and shooting off fireworks as I would let them and Jon would show them and I marveled at the growth and size of these young men. Nicole and Coryn snapped pictures and took videos and then we came in and watched all of them on the tv, thanks to the marvelous electronics that still amaze me but the kids take for total granted. The skies were filled with lights and pops, bangs, whistles and booms and although I know, on the logical side, that it was adding to air pollution and making some people miserable, I selfishly grinned through all of it and soaked it up like a sponge. We all ate Oreos--a silly tradition that started more than 15 years ago when we lived in Indiana when we would go to the fireworks at the county fairgrounds and sit on the hood of the car or in chairs. It was a good family time.

My second reminder was the two naps I took this weekend--one yesterday and one today. Remember when you had to be forced to take a nap as a child? It was often what you needed but never what you wanted. I remember luring my chidlren to naps by nursing them, rocking them, playing the "lie still for 2 minutes and if you're still awake by the time I say 'done', you can get back up" game. As a teenager, the only time I took a nap was if I was sick or had pulled an allnighter the night before. I clearly remember seeing my mom and dad taking naps and swearing that, no matter what, I would NEVER get that old. Ha. Yes, I hear you laughing at me now parents.

As a mother, I loved napping with babies, but once I had more than one, I never could time their schedules so that I could do it. I do have precious memories of turning on "Scrooge McDuck" cartoons in the afternoon and lying down on the couch with sleeping Nicole, while Jasmine curled up in the crook of my knees. It was her hour of watching cartoons each afternoon and my chance to snooze.

Today, naps are GIFTS. I spend most days longing for one but not getting one. When I actually give into one and fall over on the couch, I am always astonished at great it feels. Today, my children all conspired to make sure I got a nap. One brought a blanket, another a pillow. One took my glasses and the other one sternly warned me that I was NOT to get up for at least an hour. Heck, they are all bigger than I am now, so I didn't fight it. And you know what? It was a GREAT nap. Woke up energized and at peace with the world. Maybe all the people at war need is just a few extra hours of sleep . . . . Ha.

So, the third reminder of time passing (you didn't think I would forget to add a third, did you?!) is that today is Jasmine's 26th birthday. How that is possible when I stopped at 39, I don't know. But I am wishing her a wonderful day full of her friends and unexpected delights and heartfelt hugs and forever memories. I hope that is what she was given this year and every year.

So, yes, time is passing too fast. Some days last forever and ever and ever but the weeks fly, the months soar and the years are a blur. When I look back, there are so many wonderful memories and I know that even though the kids are growing up, the memories will just keep being made and I will hang onto them as hard as I can. Happy 4th of July to all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summertime and the Livin' is. . . Changin'

Summer seems to have FINALLY arrived here in Oregon. It has been the wettest, coldest spring in 50 years and at our house, we have all mourned the dearth of sunshine and heat (except for Caspian--Mr. Anything-all-of-you-like-I-don't. He loves the cool and the rain.) Now the sun is coming out every day and the temperatures are rising and although I love it, it makes it that much harder to stay sitting in front of a computer working instead of out on the deck reading.

Have had a number of changes happening on this end that will make July an interesting month. First, Nicole has gotten the lead in a community production of "Up the Down Staircase". Ironically, the lifetime unschooler is playing a high school English teacher. :) She has almost 400 lines to memorize and she is shocking all of us with how well she can do it. Of course, we all take turns running the line with her, so I think we could be stand ins by the time the play starts in mid-July. In addition to the play, she has also gotten a job as a cashier at Sizzler's and starts this week. It will give her some good training and also some cash to use instead of relying on us--something that bugged her more than it did us.

Also, Joseph started this morning on an internship at the local VW repair shop. It is a family owned business that he has bought parts from, asked questions from and hung around in for years. I suggested he think about volunteering there so he could learn more about VW repair, meet people, and perhaps, maybe, someday turn it into a paid job and he decided it was a good idea. I am hoping, first and foremost, that he enjoys it and gains from it. A paycheck down the road would be icing. So, he will be gone each morning for a few hours and while I will miss him, I think it's a good step.

Coryn is getting ready to build his first computer (once Mom comes up with the bucks to fund the experiment) and he and Jon have a long list of what they will order as soon as I say "go". In the meantime, he has given his computer to Caspian. Coryn wondered what he would do in the interim between giving away his computer and building his new one . . . and decided to fill it with learning how to speak Spanish and other educational endeavors.

As for me . . I'm doing ok. Took a lousy fall a few weeks ago that I still feel if I move my arm wrong. My right hip continues to make me swear and wince and take a lot of aspirin. No more vertigo attacks though. I even drove last week and that felt great. Lots of work to keep me busy for sure. I am glad too--I like being busy and having projects to work on. I just wish I could smooth them out so they were less famine and feast. The only time off I have had in more than a month is when we went to Maupin. Other than that, I am putting in 10 to 14 hour days in an attempt to keep up. On the other end, however, I am hoping I can build up enough extra money for us to head out of town right after Labor Day and go on a 2 week vacation into the southwest regions. We didn't get a vacation last year, so we are more than eager for one this year. I know that with the kids geting older (14, 17 and 20 this year!), we don't have that much time left before they have other lives to lead that don't include family vacations.

That's the news from this side of the globe. If you stop by to read, let me know. I will try to keep you up on all the changin'.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Well for goodness' sake.
Little did I know that those two fires I spoke of last time were simply the tip of the iceberg. (How is THAT for mixing metaphors--and temperatures?)
Sometimes I think that we are very, very lucky that we cannot see the future. I think if I had known what was coming I would have just stayed in bed with the covers over my head.
Remember the missing 25 questions? If you don't, you need to get your memory checked or at least go back and read the last blog entry. Well, those fires turned into a out of control conflagration, a raging inferno. And I forgot to pack my fireproof uniform!
My computer did not JUST eat one document. It ate multiple documents. As I was working ono them, I would try to save and watch a document full of hundreds of words turn into a BLANK page. Zero bytes. NADA. And it did it randomly, sometimes minutes after I finished and sometimes hours. I called my first computer guru. He "fixed" it over the phone. Ah . . nope. So then I had Jon, Nicole's boyfriend and my second computer guru, spend an hour on it doing a lot of "hmmmms" and "interesting" comments. (Mine had been MUCH more colorful earlier, believe me.) He did more to help it but I still could not trust it. I spent almost ALL of Friday rewriting all the words that had gotten eaten.
Today I got up and worked on the upstairs computer which APPEARS to work ok. I rewrote until I was back where I had been and then went on to write another assignment. I am still wayyyyyy behind but at least I am closer than I was.
So the day had improved. The sun was FINALLY shining . . . I was getting some work done . . . and I went into my office to start packing a birthday package for a friend of mine (hey Bev!). I bent over to pick up the box, stood up, swiveled and promptly lost my balance and fell into a bookcase. Man, did it hurt. Moreover I was stuck and couldn't move. (And yes, thank you, I did flash on that old woman on the commercial who complained she had fallen and could not get up . . . and I even wished I had one of those call buttons around my neck.) In lieu of that, I called out to Coryn in the next room and had him come and rescue me. I've downed some aspirin, used some ice packs, moaned and groaned a lot and felt old. My arm is bruised (we won't discuss my ego) and I sure can tell I fell but I'm not broken and for that I am grateful.
So . . . enough sparks, embers, flames and fires. Please. I'm whipped. I'm worn out. I wanna spend tomorrow out on the deck in the sunshine taking turns taking a nap and reading but I won't. I will spend it at my computer, trying to catch up and fervently hoping that there are NO MORE FIRES. Because this firefighter is out of water. Out of energy. Out of everything. OK?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Putting Out Fires

I do not recall signing up to be a firefighter.
I didn't get the training. I didn't go to classes. I never learned to slide down a pole (gosh, I am SURE I would remember that part). I am familiar with "Stop, Drop and Roll!" but that is about it. So why have I been given the job of putting out fires for the last two mornings?
Morning 1: An editor could not find a document I sent in a couple of weeks ago by email. I was told the project was done, so I deleted the file. I had to start from scratch and recreate it. *Check*
An editor changed the slant of a particular test item and I had to rewrite three items. NOW. *Check*
An editor needed me to add "conflict/resolution" to a passage. NOW. Added 200 words full of conflict. *Check*
Now it's 11 a.m. and I still haven't started on today's assignments because I've been putting out fires.
Morning #2: I woke up to be told that (1) the document you sent of 25 test questions is BLANK and (2) the passage you sent [different from the ones mentioned yesterday] has only a paragraph on the page. Where is the rest of it?
My responses to both of these was WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!
I found the passage in its entirety for fire 2 and sent it in. She chalked it up to my being overworked but it was sent in its entirety the first time. The computer glitched, not me. As for the other one--the 25 test questions--they are GONE. The document is there. It has the right title. The page has nothing on it. A search turns up nothing. What does this mean? You got it. The first two hours of today will be spent recreating it. Believe me, I already had a day FULL of work to be done and do NOT have time for this. Doesn't matter if you have time for fires though. Even untrained me knows you have to put them out right now, not later.
So, you know what? I'm tired. I want to keep up and am grateful as can be for the work. I love my job, honestly. But I just don't remember signing up for fighting these fires. Why can't I have a flunkie to take care of them for me? Oh yea, I AM that flunkie.
Wish me a good weekend. Any guesses how it will be spent? Ooops! Time to climb on the truck. I can hear the fire alarm and smell the smoke from here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Just What We Needed

This past Memorial Day Weekend (most of it, Thursday through Sunday) was spent at a hotel about 30 minutes from home. We were attending our first "Life is Good" homeschooling conference. Although we have been out here for almost 9 years, this was the first year we had heard about it. And, to be honest, after homeschooling for 20 plus years, Joseph and I had a general feeling that we had "been there, done that" and didn't really need to go to any more conferences. We had gone to 10 or so over the course of our children growing up and now that they were all teens, and we had moved to a much more nurturing, supportive place, we hadn't felt the need to get to a conference for a while. If we did go, we tended to go as vendors or presenters and I spent most of the time sitting at a table selling books or teaching workshops.

Not this time. We just went as us!

It truly was an amazing experience. We took a great deal away from it, including:

(1) The refreshing, renewing experience of being surrounded by loving parents was inspiring. How wonderful to see parents respecting their children and vice versa. To see gentle words and honest affection instead of the yelling, unkindness and violence we so often see around us. To even be able to go to a class on how do we handle uncompassionate/violent parenting when we run into it . . . .
(2) Ah, to be next to nursing little ones again is just an experience that makes me happy. I even got to hold a four month old baby for about 5 minutes . . . . highlight of the weekend.
(3) To have the opportunity to talk to hundreds, yes hundreds, of other families who think like we do--so validating.
(4) To realize that after this many years of homeschooling, we can STILL learn new things and improve. That was an eye opener. I went with very few issues but I walked out having changed my mind on how I had approached them. The kids will see the changes immediately. They will like them too!
(5) To see your children in a new light . . . . that was one of the best gifts. I saw sides of my children I hadn't been as aware of before. Coryn was a social butterfly and he blossomed in an atmosphere of making new friends and connecting with old ones and playing games and doing DDR and going to the concert and hanging out. Caspian spent time with a select few, and at least half of the time, they were mothers and fathers or little ones. I can't tell you how many people came up to me over the course of the weekend to compliment us on our amazing son. His strength is on being one on one people and their age doesn't matter. When I couldn't find him one afternoon, where was he? Standing next to the outside hotel pool in the cold, pouring rain babysitting for a little boy so the boy's mom could go to class. "When is she coming back? I don't know . . . I just promised I would stay with him." And Nicole . . . . I spend a LOT of time with her and you'd think I knew her inside and out. But then the Talent Show came along and she didn't have anything prepared. She contacted two other teens she knew to see if they'd like to do a Buffy the Vampire Slayer song with her. They said ok, she put her name in the list--and then those two decided NOT to do it. I figured she would cancel. Nope. She got up, walked on stage and, holding the microphone, did the song alone, a capella. She sang really, really well. She looked utterly at ease. We were blown away. We hear her sing in her room to a CD but this? We had NO idea. People came by and asked her when her CD was coming out. :)
(6) I connected with new friends and had the chance to meet up with a few old ones we hadn't seen in years. Finding them again was such a blessing.
(7) I desperately wanted to take people I knew that really weren't familiar with homeschooling and attachment parenting ideals and say, please, just stay here for a few hours and watch the families interact. See the mutual respect. The teenagers who love their parents--and vice versa. The affection. The kindness. The relationships among siblings that touch your heart. The enthusiasm and passion and uniqueness of these children who are not in school every day. Immerse yourself in this and see why I really want to create my own "parenting pre-nup" agreement that all serious boyfriends and girlfriends of my children must read and sign before wedding bells enter the picture. :)

I walked out of this conference with my soul and heart utterly refreshed and renewed. I saw a generation of children being raised by amazing parents and was so glad to be a part of it. I was even prouder of my own children than I had been before going. I had more hope for the world that all of these people were in it. If I had ever once had a flicker of concern that we had forged the right path for our children by homeschooling the way we have, that concern disappeared.

Now, if I can just get the hotel to charge me the RIGHT amount for our stay, I will call this trip an unqualified success--and something I am already marking in my calendar to do again next year. Heck, we hope to one day go and watch the grandkids while our kids go off to classes . . . . how is that for planning ahead?