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.