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?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Recommendations

I love reading other people's book recommendations. I subscribe to a magazine called Bookmarks just so I can see what is new in the publishing world and see what people have to say about those titles. Often I will read book reviews of books I would never personally read just to see what people think.

Last year, as I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, I kept track of the books I had read in 2009. I read a total of 50, which isn't bad as it is almost one a week. Since I also have three kids at home, a hubby, my full time writing job and LIFE, I thought that was a decent rate. This year I have had more work, so less free time to read. I've fallen behind and am currently averaging about one every two weeks or two books a month instead. I thought I would pass along my recommendations, just in case you're off to the library or bookstore and want to look for something specific:

The Spellmans Strike Again/Lisa Lutz: If you've been following this blog at all, you know that I LOVE this series. If you want a chuckle, please pick one up and give it a try. The main character is such great fun and I wish I could meet her and hang out. This was the 4th in the series.

I am Not a Serial Killer/Wells: This was interesting. If you are a "Dexter" fan, give this one a try. Not for the squeamish though. The main character is a teenage boy and his family runs a mortuary. I chuckled at this one as well and loved the slight twist it included.

House Rules/Jodi Picoult: Personally, I don't think there is a fiction writer out there to equal Picoult. I mean, I love Koontz and King for chillers and adore Christopher Moore's sense of humor, but for drama and for truly walking in someone else's shoes, Picoult is queen in my book. I've never read any books that gave me an inside glimpse into other people's lives and personal challenges as much as hers. In this one, you meet a charming young man who happens to be autistic. He is amazing and the book kept me reading later at night that I had planned.

The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To/D.C. Pierson: I am currently reading this one and am thoroughly enjoying it. It is the first book since Doyle's I Love You, Beth Cooper that took me into the minds and machinations of teenage boys (I am raising two of them, so appreciate all of the insight I can get). I hope it stays as good in the second half as it has been in the first.

Others new in the Orr household . . . . Coryn's dyed red hair is now dyed blue/purple. Yes, he had permission. In fact, I am pretty sure I was the one doing the right side of his head . . . Caspian is still at Habitat twice a week and wants to go more often. Nicole continues to go on auditions and pursue acting. Joseph is working on a major repair on the bus which has to be completed and put back together in four weeks in order for us to go Maupin. (Cross your fingers!) And me, I am good although putting in a lot of hours and not sleeping the way I would like.

Have you read something great lately? I would love to hear about it. I am always interested in other people's recommendations. Add a comment!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mama Tiger

We have a really small, cute diner about 3 minutes from our house. We have been going there pretty regularly for a few years now. We knew everyone who worked there by name and they knew us. We even knew the regular customers. In fact, I gave one a birthday gift last month and got one from her on my birthday. It is just a cozy, homey place that made me feel like Norm from "Cheers" when I walked in because everyone knew our names.

Last week, we discovered it had been sold (without warning!) and was being remodeled by the new owners. Today, we went in to check it out. There is new carpeting, new booths, new paneling and eventually there will be new menus. Clearly, there is also new staff. Our waitress was a nice woman who apologized frequently and profusely for the fact that, since they didn't have a fryer yet and had just started grocery shopping, they only had about half of what was on the menu. We dealt with that. We dealt with their awkwardness, their lack of some of the ingredients we asked for and the smaller size of the portions. After all, everyone is new at least once in their lifetimes and we know how tough it can be. We even dealt with the fact that they didn't have a credit card machine installed yet and only took cash, meaning we had to leave and go to the bank, get cash and come back and pay our bill. Joseph and I are pretty mellow people.

However, if you want to get under my skin . . . . if you want to see Tami get bitchy, give one of her kids a hard time.

After we ran to the bank, leaving the kids to finish their food, the young teenage worker (daughter of the waitress) proceeded to tell Coryn that his hair needed to be styled, it was wrong for his soft, round head and she thought he was a girl.

Excuse me? At what point did she think she could say personal things to him like that? He shrugged it off but we all know what the ego of a 14 year old male is like, especially when a teenager female is the one talking. I was really annoyed. That was just out of place and wrong.

So I went back into the restaurant. And I went up to the mother, and I laid my hand on hers. I told her, "mother to mother", that those comments were inappropriate and she should talk to her daughter about how easily feelings can be hurt. I told her that I was upset and didn't want this to ever happen again. She reassured me she would talk to her daughter and, in fact, was already doing so by the time I walked out the door.

As a consumer, I can be patient and understanding. But as Mother Tiger, do NOT piss me off. Those hands of mine are hiding a pretty sharp set of claws and I am not afraid to use them if necessary.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Small World After All

The other day, I was sitting at the kitchen table writing a letter. My cell phone rang to let me know I had a text message. Seeing as my entire family was home and 90 percent of my messages are from one of them, I was surprised. I looked and it was wishing someone named Michael a happy 40th birthday. Hmmmm. A wrong . . . . text?

So, I texted back and said that I wasn't Michael and I had just had a birthday but 40 was many years ago. She texted back and thanked me for letting her know . . . and asked if I was also in Portland. I said yes and texted to see where she lived. Long, stretching out over a couple of hours story short . . . . She lives in Quincy, Illinois. Joseph and I were in Quincy 24 years ago to stay with a chiropractic colleague. I mentioned that to this woman and it turns out that her children and this doctor's children swam on the same swim team years ago. (Please cue "It's a Small World After All" theme song.)

It also turns out that she has two daughters, her husband has cancer and he is in hospice. In the end, I asked for her address and I am sending her a letter and a photo of the family so she knows who she accidentally met by sending a text message to the wrong number. Isn't the world wonderful in how two people can connect like that?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my 51st birthday. Despite the fact that I keep getting older, I am one of those people who really, really loves birthdays. I don't want people to overlook them. I don't say, oh no, don't worry about it, friends. Nope, I like birthdays and I relish every card, email, and gift. It isn't a factor of being greedy or wanting "stuff", I just like feeling like one day out of the year is a special one.

So, here is how my friends and family made it special for me this year.

In the days leading up to my birthday, I received two wonderdul boxes in the mail from faraway friends sending me gifts like scented soaps, beautiful file folders, personalized cards and more--they made me oooh and ahhh. The day before my birthday my darlin AmiMental brought me a lovely framed photo for my wall. Is it my children in their splendor? No. Is it my handsome hubby? Well, yes. But it's a rather candid shot of him wearing my bra on his head. Yes, it was taken months ago by cell phone and shared with her. She honored the moment by blowing it up and framing it. With friends like that . . . .

Just after midnite on Sunday/Monday, my kids and Jon sang to me. I was wakened Monday morning by the hubby singing to me. A colorful note was on our bedroom door. Coming downstairs, I was delighted to find my children all had gifts. (They even used THEIR OWN MONEY for them. Is that a sign of maturity, or what?)

Nicole gave me a carved wooden pen from Multnomah Falls that said, "Mom" and of course, the perfect card.
Caspian gave me a stone bracelet from Multnomah Falls and a handwritten card I cherish.
Coryn gave me a diachronic glass locket from Saturday Market and a lovely note.
Joseph gave me a gorgeous paperweight I had coveted at Pike's Street Market when we went to Seattle a few weeks ago. Oh, and a huge card that plays "Bad to the Bone" so loudly, it vibrates!

Then we went out and spent the day having fun. I didn't do a smidgen of work, which was fun. We went to four Goodwills, had lunch and dinner out, stopped by Title Wave Bookstore and the Mystery Gallery (new age card shop). In other words, almost all of my favorite shopping spots. I came home with a variety of wonderful treasures from a Winnie the Pooh snowglobe to new shirts, stationery to plaques for the wall. Shockingly, I know, NO purses. Of course, I also bought 2 pairs of jeans for my hubby, 3 dresses for Nicole, and countless new jeans for the two boys. After all, birthdays are for sharing as well, right?

Came home at 8 exhausted but happy. Then, Nicole's Jon came over, bringing a gorgeous red rose, a Pooh card and a gift card to Barnes and Noble. What a perfect ending to the day. Instead of sitting at the computer and getting some work done before bedtime, I curled up and watched a movie on the couch, got a great foot massage from Nicole and read my book. As I drifted off to sleep, I took a moment to reflect on the voices I misssed today. I missed my oldest daughter telling me happy birthday. I haven't heard that for several years now and one would think it would hurt less with time, but nope. Not yet. I missed hearing my parents call me and sing. I miss their voices every day. Time hasn't done much to dull that one either. I miss the voices of several friends who are gone now . . . Rosemary, Lee, and others. All of them, however, help me to be more grateful for the voices I still hear.

Today I am making myself return to reality. Coryn's belated birthday party is this afternoon, so I will be coordinating teenagers, as well as doing a phone interview for an article and going to Powell's to get some important research done. But you can bet I will go through the whole day with a smile on my face. Birthdays are important and the people in my life helped me to realize that I was important too. What a great gift, huh?