Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Coffee Run!"

In our house, the words "coffee run" mean many things.
It may mean that Joseph and I, and usually Nicole, simply want a morning cup of coffee. Sure, we could have our own coffee maker at home so we wouldn't have to go out for that java, but . . . . then we wouldn't have "coffee runs".
So, when we go out for coffee, the least we do is get a cup of coffee. We also stop by the bank, go to the library, run by the post office, and other mundane errands. Not terribly exciting, I know, but I enjoy it. (Keep in mind--if I am home, I am working . . . if I am not home, I am not working. Make more sense now?) What else do we do? It usually depends on how much time I have that day to call my own, but those "coffee runs" typically include any of the following:
(1) delightful trips to Goodwill
(2) explorations of new coffee shops
(3) meals at exotic restaurants
(4) people watching galore
(5) singing to the radio
(6) laughing and talking with the family
(7) not working.
So, when someone yells, "COFFEE RUN!" in our house, it is little surprise that Tami shoves her shoes on quickly and finds her purse and one, two, or all three of the kids head for the van. In the Orr culture, "coffee run" means F-U-N, mixed with a little caffeine.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Please Send Healthy Thoughts . . .

Nicole was sick.
We put it down to some kind of food poisoning.
Until Joseph woke with it this morning. So please, please send healthy thoughts that no one else gets it. Coryn is supposed to go out of town this weekend for the holiday. Caspian works at the nursing home. Tami makes the family income. We really, really don't need this one. That has become my first official New Year's Resolution. The vomit stops here. :)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Odd, but Wonderful

A recent saying in our house--the worst experiences make for some of the best stories. We are absolutely positive this Christmas will qualify.
We planned to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve because Nicole's new job required her to work all day on Christmas. The night before (Christmas Eve Eve), we got the presents put into the stockings and planned to put the others under the tree once people were in bed and not peeking.
We went to bed that night with great anticipation . . . I was looking forward to this Christmas more than I had in years.
The morning started with a touch on my shoulder and Caspian's voice saying, "Nicole needs you, Mom. She's sick."
Sick does not quite cover it. She was SICK. Throwing up uncontrollably sick.
The day was spent holding her hair back, bringing her water, emptying bowls, providing large amounts of sympathy, warming up heat packs, and hoping she felt better after each round. On the plus side, both of our sons were amazingly patient and kind about opening presents and waiting til she felt better. No pressure, no unhappiness--just sympathy.
We opened up some gifts about noon. Got about 1/3 through and then she needed a break to be sick. Then sleep. And sleep.
About 4 pm, we opened up some more. We finally finished and Nicole slept a bit more.
My favorite moment of the day? We were all done. Everyone had been pleased and surprised and we were heading out to our respective rooms when I said, Oh hey--Caspian you might want this, and handed him the P90X exercise program he had been wanting . . .he was so surprised. Then, I said, Oh Coryn, you might want this too and I tossed him the iPod Touch he has been lusting after for six or more months. He was SHOCKED. Almost speechless shocked. And I got the BIGGEST hug ever. Yea, best moments for sure.
And now it's Christmas Day. Nicole isn't going to work because heading to a kitchen to make baked goods for the elderly when you've been sick isn't wise. And presents got opened. And now the house seems quiet. I admit to really missing hanging out with family today. I wish we had a big family dinner to go to--wish I would spend part of today surrounded by people and chatting, but alas, no family out here to do so. I will, instead, most likely hang out in Powell's Bookstore, drinking coffee and looking across at my family and being infinitely grateful. A part of my heart is with those not here--always with them--but I send them love as well.
Hope your Christmas was wonderful or at least odd, but wonderful also.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blindsided by Kindness

You know how life can sometimes just jump up and kick ya when you're least expecting it? We've all been there. No fun.
But sometimes, it does the opposite. You find yourself suddenly given something wonderful . . . something completely unexpected and kind and so generous. That happened to me today. I was given a gift from a friend--an amazingly generous, exciting gift that left me in tears and speechless. I have no idea how to say thank you enough . . . . except to let you know that my faith in the kindness of people was restored once again. Thank you, Delaine. Thank you more than I can say.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Light . . . . . .

Look! See that???
That glimmer in the distance? S L O W L Y growing brighter?
That would be the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Meaning . . . I might be, sometime soon, perhaps, just maybe getting closer to being caught up.
Of course, I am still behind four books, but it WAS EIGHT books, so a definite improvement. And I have several new companies that will kick in with work in January but right now that is forever away.
Of course, NO WORK for several days would be my number one Christmas wish anyway. I just want to sit back and relax and enjoy having my children here. I will deeply miss the people not sitting here, of course. Years later I miss the sound of my parents' voices on the phone. I always, always miss the sound of our oldest daughter's voice and hope she knows somewhere, somehow, in her heart or mind, or both, that she is loved and missed. I miss the slow southern drawl of my Texan friend who died a year ago. But, oh the golden sound of my kids laughing and talking, my husband's hand in mine, AND no work. Wowza.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

WHAT Eclipse at the Orr's?

We got up.
We put on warm PJs.
We went outside.
Yes, the moon was slowly disappearing.
Just wait, we said, just wait 'til it hits full totality and we see those amazing reds and oranges.
We waited.
Guess what?
The moon simply disappeared, as if under a cloud.
No colors, no excitement, nuthin'.
We kept checking, really we did. In between I read, Joseph surfed the net, the kids chatted.
At 6:15 we all said "to hell with it" and went back to bed. Now it's 10:30 and I'm back up and my whole schedule is whacked, and the eclipse? Next time I'll stay in bed.

Eclipse at the Orr's

The news and email kept letting us know that there would be a total lunar eclipse very early this morning. So, as we crawled into bed about 1 a.m, we set our alarms.

Blearily crawling back out four hours later, we donned warm PJs and came downstairs to find one boy already on the computer playing WOW, one son sound asleep, and one daughter walking around having not gone to bed at all. Oh, and a moon that is slowly disappearing.

So, here it is at 5:30 a.m. at our house and we walk out on the deck (brrrrr) every 15 minutes or so to watch the moon disappear. No pretty colors yet, but that is supposed to get here about 6, so trying to be patient. Once it is here, I plan to go "ooooh" and "ahhhhh" a lot . . . . yawn, take off the warm PJs and then crawl back in the bed with warm flannel sheets and a husband, and go back to sleep for a couple of hours. I have an entire book to write this weekend (what else is new lately?) so I need some rest.

How is the eclipse at your house?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Thrill of the Hunt

When I was growing up, my grandparents, who were actually quite wealthy, often behaved in ways that seemed poor . . . They wore worn, shabby clothes. They took all of the sugar packets and jam samples off of restaurant tables and took them home. They never spent money without agonizing over it. They even, my mother would tell me in hushed tones of embarrassment, went to (add a disdainful tone here) . .. GOODWILL. So, I was raised to think that going to Goodwill was a terrible thing. It was something only the poor people did if they couldn't afford to buy NEW things. When I lived in Indiana, I almost never, ever went to a Goodwill, even if I was broke. It was what the poor people did . . . right?

I have come a long way, baby. I now love Goodwills like no other store. I am in one of the six to eight stores in the Portland area every single week. I have found more treasures there than any of those silly pirates out on the ocean. I have found everything from electronics to purses, collectibles to furniture, clothing to books. And you know what? I am spoiled now. I walk into a retail store and my first reaction is LOOK AT THOSE PRICES!!!!! I cannot fathom putting out $30 for a pair of jeans, $25 for a sweater, $40 for a sweatshirt or $20 for a pair of shoes. No way.

About 90 percent of what I buy now comes from Goodwill . . .the only things that don't are items like underwear, toiletries, groceries, etc. And to this day, every time I walk into the store, I cannot wait to see what I will find. Unlike other stores, the merchandise here changes all the time. Even if I was just there two days ago, it will all be different. Almost everything I pick out will be less than $10 and often less than $5. I find beautiful paper, gorgeous wall hangings, lovely bedding, fashionable clothes, amazing purses, and comfy shoes. And I get everything I need for a tiny fraction of what it would have cost at a retail store.

Of course, my parents were horrified that I did so much shopping at Goodwill. I still have friends who don't go to thrift stores who tend to think I am either secretly poor or just eccentric for going there. They have no idea how exciting it is to walk in and paw through shelves to find that perfect item. They can keep their department stores and boutiques, their high end fashion shops and chains. I will happily go Good Will Hunting :) instead.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Overworked Woman in Gresham, Film at 11

I know, know, know how many people there are out there right now struggling to find work. I have been there, done that, and no t-shirt. It just sucks.
But right now, I have more work than I can handle and I am being hired by new companies left and right. Which is wonderful. Really. It is. But there are signs that I am getting overworked . . . I have nightmares, wake in the night shaking, wake up feeling nauseous, and can't let go at night when I crawl into bed. These are not good.
Last night, when going into a semi meltdown over something due and a site not allowing me access so I could finish it, my sweet oldest son came out and asked me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. (I don't do that for just anyone, ya know.) I did and in them he placed a kaleidoscope that I had raved about in Seattle. I have always loved kaleidoscopes and this is a truly gorgeous and unique one. We had all looked through it and oooohed and aaaaahed. Unbeknownst to me, while Nicole and I strolled on down the road, he went back and bought it for me.
I now keep it tucked in my front desk drawer. When feeling too stressed, I pull it out and sit back and watch it for a few minutes. It rests my eyes and my brain and it fills my heart--all at the same time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Imploding Brain Imminent

Crazy, crazy day.
Did a huge project in one day . . . . about did me in too. I can feel parts of my brain wincing and whining from overuse. I hate to inform my cerebral cortex that I am not done for the day. It won't be pretty.
Job interview tomorrow. Seven pending jobs at the moment. NOT complaining, really. NOT.
Just . . . . weary.
My family is tiptoeing around me . . you know, the "Mom is stressed out, so don't talk to her" aura. That's not what I mean to project . . . . I just am struggling to keep on top of stuff and sometimes, I run out of steam.
Or chocolate.
Or coffee.
A hot mocha would cover all of this, wouldn't it?

Friday, November 25, 2011


I would LIKE to say that we spent Thanksgiving dinner in a deep and profound discussion of all we are grateful for (and in all fairness, we did take turns stating at least three things that we appreciated), but actually, our discussions were all over the place, including the role of Hannibal Lector in scary movies.
When I mentioned that a scene included a fancy dinner secretly centered on the remains of an orchestra player, my youngest made us all proud by pausing to say, "Yeah, they ate him and decided he was a little bit stringy."
Best moment of the meal.

Thanksgiving, Part Deux

On Wednesday, Coryn was one sick little pup. Throwing up and just miserable. Bad mother that I am, while bringing him water, a towel, and lots of sympathy, I was also desperately hoping it was a food poisoning and NOT the flu. The stomach flu right before Thanksgiving was just too mean. When, the next night, Joseph was not feeling very well, I was full out worried. Fortunately, Thursday morning dawned with everyone feeling fine. However, Joseph was not quite up to fixing a full Thanksgiving dinner, so we ended up going to the Portland Hostel and sharing their potluck dinner. Nicole has been spending lots of time there and making friends, so we brought food and joined in. It was loud and chaotic and noisy, but a nice change. All of the accents floating around the room just added to the experience. I enjoyed it, but my favorite part of the day was coming home to PJs, slippers, movie, couch and family.

Today we hope to make that special dinner. In a rare burst of lethargy, Tami took yesterday off AND today. I will work all weekend, but today is still mine. (Insert wicked laughter here.) I am NOT shopping. I am NOT cooking. (That's Joseph's department.) I am going to hang out at a coffee shop and read with Nicole and then come home and eat great food and be genuinely thankful for all of it. Hope this holiday has found gratitude in your lives as well.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Send Good Thoughts

Not having one of my best weeks . . . .pretty stressed out on many different levels and trying so hard to stay serene and pleasant, when I really just wanna curl up and cry. It will all work out . . . it always does. Just one of those times where you feel sad the minute you open your eyes and spend the rest of the day trying to cheer up. So, if you have some extra humor, laughter, happiness, smiles, giggles, or chuckles hanging around that you don't need, please send it to Tami. Hugs also welcomed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ranting and Raving

I am a pretty mild-mannered person. Honest, I am. It takes quite a bit to upset me.
I am upset.
It is one of my editor rants . . . where directions given--and followed by me--are now being changed and the result is a great deal of hard work and reduced pay. It upsets me because, you know, reputation is everything in the freelance business and anything that hurts mine is scary.
So, I am not going quietly into this dark night . . . or, in other words, I am battling this one a little and hoping that they stop and say, Well hey! You know what? This woman is RIGHT, although I suspect what they will say is, Well hey! You know what? Let's not hire this mouthy woman again.
Sure hope that rich relative I don't know hurries up and names me in the will so I can retire. Now that would NOT upset me.


The trip WAS amazing, but now we are all trying to recover.
Nicole and Coryn are scurrying to get their Nano word counts to where they are supposed to be.
Caspian is dealing with the discomfort in the aftermath of toe nail surgery.
Joseph is getting over his cold and still sneezing and coughing.
Tami is trying to catch up on deadlines (a never-ending battle) and yes, now she has the family cold. This means that while she is typing and researching, she really, really, really wants to be on the couch with a thick blanket, a pillow, slippers, a heat pack, a stupid movie to watch, and perhaps some cookies to nibble on along with her hot mocha.
Apparently Tami's recovery period includes detailed delusions.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Surprise in Seattle

(This is long . . . . sorry. Don't read unless you have time. Bring a lunch.)

It took weeks of planning and constantly shushing the two brothers and a husband who kept forgetting the top secret designation it had been given. Despite the warnings (known as glares from mom and discreet shaking of her head), the fact that a hostel was involved was leaked (in the best of intentions) at the dinner table. Crisis was averted when I had someone else “accidentally” leak that we were doing something at the Portland Hostel, thus leading the Birthday Girl in the wrong direction of speculation entirely. Weeks of details like how to get to the train station, what to pack for her to wear, what to do with the pets while we were gone and how was I to get all of my work done before leaving were muddled over.

The day before the trip, the dog (Copper) was taken to a kennel. Of course, first, we had to take her to the vet for $80 worth of shorts, then to the kennel. What will we tell Nicole when she asks where the dog is, I wondered. No worries. The observant child never noticed Copper wasn’t home. J

Thursday morning multiple alarms went off at 6 a.m. In hushed tones, we loaded pre-packed duffel bags into the car. Tickets? Check. Money? Check. Litter box out for the cat? Check. Time to wake Nicole.

I went into her room and flipped on the light, stating loudly that, “Good morning! Good morning! You are the grand prize winner of the 21st birthday sweepstakes. Get up and get dressed.” The rest of her instructions were written on a tablet telling her to give me her laptop and dress warmly. Before we walked out the door, she put on a blindfold.

We drove to the train station, stopping only for coffee along the way. When we got to the station, we had her take her blindfold off. She was utterly confused. Where was the Portland Hostel?

We unloaded baggage and Nicole just stared at it. Where had it come from? We walked in and I scanned our papers to get our tickets. Then, finally, we revealed the plan. Two nights and three days in Seattle, staying at a hostel. She was shaking, she was so excited.

Day One

The train ride there was smooth as ever. We were given the four facing seats which was awesome and then one just across the aisle. Everyone took turns napping and reading on the way there, while Coryn checked Facebook and worked on his Nanowrimo book. Once we arrived in Seattle, we walked about five blocks to our hostel, getting lost along the way, naturally.

The hostel was great. Neither Joseph nor I had ever stayed in one before, but of course, Nicole spent the last five months in them. The rooms are as plain as you can get—we got adjoining rooms. Two sets of bunk beds in one, and a bed with a double futon on the bottom and single up top in ours. The bathrooms are down the hall. It is a lot like a college dorm room. We were on the fourth floor and out of our window, we could see the colorful entrance to ChinaTown. We set down our stuff and then headed out to Seattle. The weather was picture perfect. Sunny, about 65 degrees and a bright blue sky. Unheard of for November in the Pacific Northwest.

Our first stop was Uwaijimaya, a Japanese super store. We ate at the food court, each of us trying something different. Then, Nicole and I went to the stationery part of the store. GREAT fun for us (the boys wandered through manga and counted minutes until we were done.) This store has the BEST journals and stationery sets for $10 and under. Our biggest problem is restricting how much we buy.

Next up, we took the underground bus through the tunnel to the Westlake Mall. We got off and bought tickets for the Monorail. This is a very short trip but so cool, because you are up above the traffic and see great sights of the city. It took us to the Space Needle. If you’ve never been, the Space Needle is pretty amazing but also very expensive. To get in the elevator and ride to the top is $18 per person. Yikes. So we explored the gift shop instead and then, in one of those moments you just know you will remember for years to come, we all sat on the outside steps and listened to a group of South American musicians who were playing tiny guitars, and pan pipes. (Yes, Tami bought the CD.) We soaked up the sunshine and just BEING there. It was a wonderful moment indeed.

Back to the Monorail, and back to the mall where Nicole and I had to check out Daiso, a dollar store type place with Asian products. Our goal? The paper aisle, where we got fountain pens and stationery sets for $1.50 each.

By now, it was long dark and it was cooling off quickly, although still a gorgeous night. We took a walk that turned into a WALK. Now, keep in mind that in the middle of all of this, Joseph has a rotten cold and Tami has a hip problem that ended her walking routine a month ago. Despite these factors, we forged on, step after step, block after block. We searched for a place for dinner and found ourselves in an area where dinner was almost impossible to find but guys lurking in dark doorways and making snide remarks were plentiful.

On the way, we found a fantastic toy store that was still open. We went in and explored it and I was laughing about how I still loved stuffed animals and wanted to take one home. Unbeknownst to me , Nicole slipped away and bought me an adorable, soft koala bear which she gave me later that night. Naturally, his name is Seattle. I also admired these amazing kaleidoscopes, designed entirely differently than anything I had ever seen. They were beautiful!

After the toy store, we finally found a restaurant open called Jimmy John’s—similar to a Subway. We gratefully sank down into chairs (some of us more than others) and ordered sandwiches. We had our picture taken there as well and then began the long, long trek back to the hostel. On the way, we encountered an older gentleman (“Be 70 in two weeks,” he proudly told us) wearing a purple velvet hat with leopard spots. He was a former radio/TV sports announcer, he explained (and his voice certainly sounded like one), and he would be happy to answer any questions we might have about the city. Before we could even think of one to ask, however, he began telling us about how popular his purple hat was. In fact, he said, a man had offered him a $50 bill for it just the other day but he had turned it down. Even more colorfully, a woman had offered him sexual favors of several kinds in return for the hat and yet, he had still turned her down because, he said, “I am a man of morals, you know.”

While he was talking to us about his hat, a person came down the apartment stairs next to us and walked by. This person was clearly male—full 5 o’clock shadow and six feet tall—but dressed as a hooker with little taste—short leather skirt, tank top and heels. I felt my eyes widen and turned to look over my shoulder at Caspian, whose eyes got bigger as well. He nudged Nicole, who nudged Coryn and we all just smiled and kept listening to our purple hatted storyteller.

After walking for what felt like close to forever, we returned to our hostel, gratefully slipping into pajamas. Then, grabbing books and postcards and pens, we all headed down to the Common Room in the hostel. One of the best parts of a hostel is the Common Room. People gather here to hang out, read, eat, talk, write, whatever. You meet people from all over the world. The ambiance is exciting and fun. We would spend many hours here before the weekend ended. When the clock struck midnight, Joseph stood up and asked everyone in the room to sing “Happy Birthday” to Nicole, which they did, and it was a wonderful moment.

Day Two

Friday morning we got up and decided to start the day off at Pike Street Market. We had been there before and it was such an exciting, exotic place. It is sensory overload . . . . the smells of lavender and fish, flowers and fruit . . . the sounds of multiple languages, offers to taste this apple or that grape, children laughing and the live music that is performed around every corner . . . splashes of color, from fruit markets to tie dyed clothing, from shaped glass to sparkling jewelry. Everything is expensive enough that we are selective, but we did buy two handmade, cloth bookmarks and some tie dye shirts that were on sale—one was free for Nicole’s birthday. We also bought some jam for Joseph’s mother—a tradition when we go there.

The fishmongers are the most popular spot in the market and there was a TV crew filming their antics this morning as the workers threw fish back and forth. One fish (very dead) hung over the side and when people went to touch it, it would flip up and startle them. You could see the guy pulling the string on the other end and he was laughing as much as everyone else.

We had planned to eat at the Crab Pot, a restaurant that we had gone to several times before and we walked many blocks to get there, only to discover a HUGE waiting line. Standing in line didn’t sound very appealing at this point, so we began walking the Puget Sound walkway in search of something else. After almost 20 blocks of additional walking, we settled on Red Robin, yes, a chain, but we were beat by now. You see, that lovely weather I mentioned from our first day was LONG gone. This day was cold, wet, and windy. Not slightly. I mean, POURING rain, harsh winds and temperatures that didn’t go above 45 degrees. Miserable weather to be walking outside in (especially when umbrellas were something you neglected to pack). So we were more than ready to come in out of the weather and sit down. Fortunately, Red Robin was a great choice. The food was good and Nicole was served her first legal drink—a strawberry margarita. Which she LOVED, I might add. She even got sung to by the crowd and a free chocolate sundae.

Lots of walking, a bus ride, more walking, stairs, more walking, escalator, more walking, and then back to the hostel, wet, cold and happy to be back. PJs, the common room, postcards once more. This time, the kids played several rounds of Foosball, Joseph read his VW manuals and talked to people and I wrote more postcards. We ordered sandwiches in from Jimmy John’s (they delivered by bike in LESS THAN 15 minutes) and then later, extra food left over from an earlier event was shared with everyone in the Common Room. Chicken satay, fried rice—all good but too spicy for this woman. Sleeping that night was challenging—Joseph kept coughing and my hip felt like someone took a sledgehammer to it thanks to all of those miles we walked.

Day Three

Admittedly tired this time, we had plans in place to head over to Vashon Island off the coast of Seattle to visit some friends. Coryn had stayed with them in the past and we were eager to meet the family. We got directions on how to get to the right ferry dock first. We had to walk about 10 blocks to pick up a bus. The walk was actually very pretty—not raining at the moment and in the middle of the city where the architecture was fascinating. We finally got on the bus, and rode it to the dock, about 30 minutes away. We got off, paid for tickets and got on the ferry. That was great—a big ship with lots of comfy seating and amazing views out of the window. The ride itself is only about 15 minutes or so. We got off, met our friends and climbed in the minivan they had borrowed to fit all of us.

Vashon was a lovely place and our friends’ home was amazingly beautiful. Many acres with a forest of riotous color and texture that made you keep looking out the window. We had a delicious meal and found out that this couple is a LOT like us—heck, they even look a little like us. I have a feeling we are going to be friends for years to come and this was the first of many visits. (I hope so!)

After eating and chatting, they dropped us in the small town of Vashon, and we grabbed some coffee. That was when chaos kicked in. Already a little concerned about time, we found out that the bus we thought we would step out and get, only came once every hour. The next one wouldn’t arrive for 45 minutes—and we would never make it. After all, to get to the train station from where we were meant a bus ride, ferry ride, another bus ride, a 10 block walk, a stop at the hostel for luggage and then two more blocks to the station. We had 90 minutes.

Here is what happened . . . . Nicole and Coryn had a friend who owned the bookstore in Vashon. We ran back to her, explained the situation. She called her boyfriend. While we were waiting for him to arrive, a man in a bandana scurried over thinking that our little cluster was a group of pot smoking peers and he hoped to join us. How disappointing to find a hectic set of parents and their kids waiting for a ride.

The boyfriend picked us up in a TINY car . . . Nicole, Joseph and I squeezed into the back and Coryn literally LAID across our laps. Cas got in front. We raced to the ferry dock, got on, rode 20 minutes . . . . got to the dock and caught the next bus. We asked directions to another bus so we wouldn’t have to walk those 10 blocks again. Got it, got off, found the bus stop, got on the bus and got dropped right in front of the station. At this point, I pulled out the tickets and discovered instead of boarding at 5, it boarded at 5:30. That HELPED.

So, Joseph and I headed to the train station (three more blocks), while the kids raced (and I mean RACED) back to the hostel to get the luggage we had stored there. Then, they raced (and again, I mean RACED) to the station. THEN, I get out the tickets and there are FOUR, not FIVE. Joseph’s ticket is missing. EEEEEK. We ask what to do at the information desk and are told that even though the computer system shows we have FIVE tickets, we have to HAVE five tickets, so we had to BUY ANOTHER ONE. Eeeeeeeeeek again.

BUT, we did it. We got on. We sat down. We finally started breathing again. The train started. The trip home was brightened by meeting a young woman dressed in medieval garb behind us. We commented on her lovely outfit, began chatting and soon bought her wonderful CD, which ALL of the kids like (a rarity indeed). Caspian spent most of the trip talking to a young man and woman across from him, plus a non-English speaking grandmother next to him had her granddaughter call and ask him to help her get off the train and meet her in the lobby.

Other than a 30-minute delay while the train repaired a broken air hose, the trip was smooth. We arrived in Portland at 9:30, got in our van and came home. As much fun as we had, it sure felt good to be back in our house again. It was a fabulous trip—with so many memories created, I know it will linger for a long time to come. For now, I will wait for my hip to heal and forgive me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

And for THIS week . . . .

Continuing my theme of "Just what does Tami write anyway?" (What?! You didn't know there was such a theme? You're clearly not paying close enough attention.)

This week I have THREE different training sessions for three different projects. The first one was a meeting about how I should write the online and on ground lessons for a web design course for college students. The second one is about how to create in-class activities for Kindergartners. The third one is about writing items for employees who will be working in restaurants and with food.
In between these sessions, I am writing an American Lit course, researching electric trains, writing about heat waves, and preparing to write two poems with matching passages.

And the family wonders why, when they ask something innocent like, "What time do we have our class today?" or "Why are we out of toilet paper?", mother just falls over in a gelatinous puddle on the floor and whimpers.

Yes, you're welcome for that image.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

29 Years . . . . Like 5 Minutes

Today is Joseph and my 29th wedding anniversary. (Does "my" need an apostrophe to make it possessive if it is already a possessive pronoun? I don't know . . .. some writer I am, eh?)
Anyway, 29 years ago we said "I do" and today, 10,585 days later, I know I would still say it--and even to the same guy. Snicker.
We had discussed going away to celebrate . .. camping, hotel, something. But in the end, thanks to problems with the vehicles and my stupid workload, we ended up staying home. I slept in and woke to a beautiful love letter on my keyboard. For me to write a love letter, not difficult. For him? Agony. So even more deeply appreciated.
So we are home and I could be disappointed, but I'm not. I slept in (a rarity for me), came down to find a wonderful letter and in a few minutes, I'm going to coffee with the sexiest, handsomest, kindest man on the planet. . . oh and Joseph can come too. Okay. Sorry. It was there.
Anyway, Happy Anniversary to us. I am sure the next 29 will fly by as well. As Joseph delights in telling people: Our time together of 29 years has felt like five minutes . . . .. (wait for it) . . . . underwater.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Just in Case You Asked

When people find out I am a full time writer, they typically react one of two ways:
(1) They ask me if I've written a novel . . . when I say no, they lose all interest.
(2) They immediately launch into a long and involved regaling of how they have ALWAYS wanted to be a writer . . . and here is their idea . . . . and this is what they have written of it so far . . . and could I connect them with an editor or publishing house please?
RARELY, ever so rarely, someone will respond with a, "Really? How interesting . . . tell me about it."
So, because I'm feeling self-centered today :), I am going to pretend you asked me this and I'm gonna tell you what I've done in the last 24 hours to give you an idea of what I do.
1. I am writing a book on heat waves . . and have found VERY LITTLE info out there to help me. Very few books, for sure, even at Powell's, Amazon and the library. So I have been downloading technical articles from the web and trying to understand what I am reading, and then taking notes.
2. I just finished filling out the Excel sheet columns for 2,212, yes, TWO THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND TWELVE, medical assessments. I had to click on the link, watch the video and then fill out info about it. It took forever and when I was done, I went out and celebrated.
3. I am writing assessment questions over a dinosaur unit. I am writing it at three different levels, so have to adjust my vocabulary and type of questions.
4. I am writing a college course on American Literature, so have been researching elements about Early American writers and finding articles to reference for the course.
5. I am getting ready to write a book about trains during the Civil War, so have been at the library gathering resource.
6. I am writing 23 passages and 78 items for grade 1. Sound simple? It's NOT. The vocabulary for first grade is so limited (less than 200 words or so) that it is very, very hard to come up with sentences and stories to write and stick to those words only.
That is THIS week's agenda. Just so ya know. In case you were gonna ask. And heck, even if you weren't.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Almost 29 and Still Going Strong

What makes me smile today?
I said to Joseph that I was making a list of editors who were interested in offering me a writing job. There are actually enough of them that I have to make a list in order to keep them straight. I labeled the list, "People Who Currently Want Me". He saw it and said, "Make sure my name stays at the top of the list."
Later, he was checking my pulse and was trying to find my heart. I said, "Silly man," and touched his heart, "It's always right here."
We will celebrate 29 years in just a couple of weeks. The fact that we can still say things like this to each other and MEAN it is the key to why.

Side note . . . Nicole and I went to see the Blue Man Group tonight. I am still reeling from the experience. Amazing. Drums you could feel in your bones. Visual tricks you couldn't believe you were seeing. Truly incredible show. Wow.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Welcome to the Orr's Dinner Table

Eating together at the table as a family is pretty important to all of us. It doesn't happen every single day thanks to work, friends, classes and other complications, but it happens the majority of the time.
Today at lunch, I was absolutely overwhelmed with the dynamics of the meal. All the kids are back home now, so we have five people sitting at the table. It's noisy. It's fun. It's probably a sociologist's nightmare . . .. :). So, in the hour we spent sitting there, we covered "Chucky" movies, vampire-staking toddlers, the size of King Kong's . . . . manly part, as they say, how much alcohol it takes to get drunk and how to recognize when you've gotten there (we don't drink, other than J's occasional beer or glass of wine, but J and I have memories), the origin of the idiom "the exception that proves the rule" (which then sparked Coryn, Nicole and I to sing lines from "You are the Only Exception" by Paramour) the whoooshing sound that a line in a play determined was the sound of angels overhead, and why there are so many spiders in the garden this year--oh, and even took a moment of quiet sadness in honor of a dear friend who lost their family dog today. In the midst of it all, I was attempting to establish the timeline for the afternoon of who needed to go where and when and what order we would do them in. Yeah, I gave up. Not in frustration or irritation. I gave up because I was laughing too hard.
I love, love, love being part of this family. Welcome to the Orr House.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Back to the Basics

I am very lucky that my husband does not do the "I told you so" dance.
Actually, HE is very lucky. If he did, I would have to hurt him.

In January, we went on the paleo diet. In three plus months, I lost more than 30 lbs. Moreover, the blood pressure issue that has haunted me for the past few years was no longer a problem. It dropped from its usual 180/100 (on full meds) to 100/70 (some days even lower). It wasn't easy but I was pleased about the side effects. Then, as time passed, we slipped off the diet . . . a little here, a little there until finally, we were back to eating like we had. To be honest, Nicole and I were the most responsible diet wise. We ate a truckload of salads, avoided bread, didn't eat much fried foods and dessert was a rare treat. Despite that, I stopped losing weight (didn't gain it back though) and my BP crept up again. Sigh. I tried quitting coffee, walking five times a week--nothing made it drop.

So, today we are back to paleo. I don't want to worry about my BP. It becomes this ridiculous spiral of worrying makes me tense which makes it go up which makes me worry which makes me tense . . . and so on. Instead, I want to relax and know that I'm not going to have a health crisis when I least expect it. I have so much work on my "platter" right now, I need breaks wherever I can find them.

As of this morning, we are back on it. I had a paleo breakfast--which is NOTHING new. I often do. However, when I was done, I checked my BP. 147/90. WHY? It can't be in reaction to a diet that just started a few hours ago. Grrrrrr. Wish I knew the patterns to look for. In the meantime, I will just keep an eye out to make sure Joseph is NOT doing that dance.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I See the Signs

These are my signs that Tami is working too hard:

1. When a company loses its funding and cancels the project, I am relieved instead of disappointed.
2. When I wake up in the morning, my very first thought is what I have to get done before I crawl back into bed that night.
3. When I slip on a step on the stairs my FIRST THOUGHT is oh, if I broke my wrist that would probably buy me some time.
4. When walking down the aisles of my beloved Goodwill thrift stores, more of my thought is on guilt over what I should be doing than pleasure at what I am doing.

What do you think? Time for Tami to go on vacation? Get a massage? Take a long afternoon nap?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mulling It Over

Have you ever noticed that as you get older, some of the things you enjoyed doing in the past aren't as much fun anymore? They take longer, more effort . . . more tiring. (Hey! Get your minds out of the gutter . . . I'm not referring to THAT. I like doing THAT just as much as I always have, thank you very much.) In this case, I am referring to writing books.
I have been writing books for about 15-18 years now. I think my first one came out in 1992 or 93 or somewhere in there. Since then, I have written over 300 of them. I commonly have 2-5 of them due each month. And I have always loved the process of researching and writing and then seeing it all flow together.
Until recently. I fell behind on assignments . . . not due to procrastination or laziness but simple lack of time. My assignments have really increased this summer and I find I cannot put in 14-16 hour days like I could ten years ago. I just . . . wear out. I get grumpy. I do things wrong. I don't feel good. It just takes more out of me than it did before. I find myself resentful because I'm not on the couch reading or curled up writing a letter. Instead, I am sitting at the computer trying to meet another deadline.
Lately, I have been waking in the morning with a panicked feeling. My first thought of the morning is what do I have to get done today. Instead of just mulling over possibilities, I go right into full-fledged panic that I won't get it all done. Not the best way to start my day.
So, I am giving some serious thought to trying to cut back . . . starting by not taking many book assignments. Just the most well paying ones, maybe, or the topics I like the best. I do have work I really, really enjoy and want to keep doing that. But maybe, just maybe, if we do some careful cutting back on expenses, I could say no to a few more jobs and find more time for relaxing. I know I'm not OLD (although there are days), but I also know that at 52, I simply can't keep up the schedule I did ten years ago.
What do you think? Good idea? Am I ready to not write a dozen plus books every year? . . . . I think I just might be. Still mulling.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Big Day at the Orr House

Today is Tuesday. A hum drum day of the week as days go. Not the pressure of Monday or the excitement of Friday. Just a Tuesday.
But not just ANY Tuesday.
Because you know what happens today? My girl is coming home. After 162 days in Alaska, after horrible co-workers, hideously long hours, some grand adventures, too many of the wrong men, and tours that included touching a glacier, holding sled dog puppies and riding in a jeep into Alaskan wilderness, she is COMING HOME. Her plane arrives at 4:38 this afternoon. We will be there, dressed up and with open arms. This time, unlike when she left in April, I won't hide my tears because this time they will be ones of joy. I have so missed this girl. We have talked on the phone for hours, written pages of letters, exchanged enough cards to keep Hallmark in business for at least another six months, texted a billion times a day, but you know what? It wasn't enough. I need to hug her and see her smile and listen to her laugh in the same room.
She is older and wiser and more experienced and will be off on another adventure within a few months, but for right now, she is coming home. And I can hardly stand the wait.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just Keep Juggling, Tami

Lately, I feel like I do more juggling than anything else. I have multiple projects due at the same time and literally, I work on one for a few hours, then shift, work on another, shift, another, shift , another and then back to the first one and start all over again. It's like a constant juggle and unfortunately, lately I've had to deal with very tired arms. (I even wear a brace on the right one.) I typically have anywhere from 20 to 30 assignments in a given month and this month, as well as last and next, I have closer to 40 or even more. When combined with traveling children and pesky demands like sleeping and eating, I keep running out of time and energy long before I run out of work.

Don't misunderstand. I am unbelievably grateful. In a time where people are still struggling to find a way to get a job, I am extraordinarily lucky and I really do feel blessed, but I am also tired, overworked and wishing I had a break. So send me good thoughts and lots and lots of energy, cuz I could use some extra.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Joseph's Comment on "The One"

I read my post to my bleary eyed hubby this morning. His response?

"No, it is because you're so damn sexy."

MEN. I had to edit that comment before posting, believe me.

"The One"

I was recently watching a show about a young girl angsting over whether or not her current boyfriend was "the one" and I couldn't help but take a moment to be grateful that I am married. Happily married. I know I have found "the one". He wasn't necessarily "the one" when I married him, of course. Then he was just a really sexy guy I sort of knew and he seemed right for me. I was right. Whew. Now, almost 29 years later, he still a really sexy guy but I know him very, very well.

My son Caspian also recently remarked to me that our family says, "I love you" to each other more than the average family he has been around, but, he said, "I don't see you and Dad say it as often as you used to." This observation surprised me. I am guessing, on an average day, Joseph and I say, "I love you" to each other more than a half to a dozen times. It is never said out of habit or obligation--we mean it each time. We say it consciously.

Yesterday morning we ran some errands together, including a stop at our local and favorite Goodwill. On the way in, my left shoe came untied. Joseph stopped--in the rain--went down on one knee and tied it for me. Was I not capable of doing it? Of course not. He did it cuz he loves me. Ten minutes later, in the paper aisle, my right shoe came untied. I started laughing, he looked down and saw it, and with a smirk, he tied the other one. Later, when I was hit by hot flash #4903950-3 of the day, he stood behind me in the furniture section and blew cool air across the back of my neck. (Leading to many sexual innuendo comments in the process, of course.) Then, as we were leaving and it was pouring rain, he took all of the packages and told me to wait inside while we went and got the car, which he pulled up right in front.

How do I know he loves me? He proved it to me at least four times in Goodwill yesterday. Yup, no question about it. I found "the one".

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Do you know people who struggle to say "Thank you"?
I do.
And I am always somewhat amazed by it. Why is showing gratitude difficult? Honestly,I don't get it . . .
I am a gift giver. I don't do it to show off . . . . I don't do it out of guilt or obligation. . . . I honestly LOVE finding gifts for people. It brings me pleasure. I don't want a gift back. I don't want gushing. But an honest, wow, thanks . . . that's appreciated. The best part is the smile on the person's face, but the thank you is nice too.
Every month, I send off between three and ten packages to people I care about. Some are family, some are correspondents, some are friends who have moved away. I love filling up the boxes over a period of weeks and then sending them off.
But recently I have run into a few people who simply do not know how to demonstrate gratitude. (Whether or not they FEEL it, I don't know.) One person's ingratitude ended our year long correspondence (he not only didn't say thanks, he yelled at me for sending anything and returned it unopened) and another hurt my feelings last night. I had found something when I was out of town that I knew he'd like and brought it to him. Handed it to him. He looked at it, chuckled, put it in his pocket and never even LOOKED at me. No thank you. No acknowledgement whatsoever. In my book, that's just RUDE.
So you know what, I want to take this chance to say THANK YOU to all of the wonderful people in my life who have shared their love, time and life with me. That is the best gift of all and I thank you. Yes, I am exceedingly grateful--and not afraid to show it either.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A True Loss

Yesterday afternoon I went into our neighborhood Border's . . . .the last trip into the store to see what they had at 90 percent off . . . and I put my head down and cried. There was nothing left other than empty bookshelves and bare walls. Men were taking furniture apart and carting out tables and display stands.

Crying over a store seems a little stupid, I know. In this economy, a closing store is certainly nothing new. Let me explain why this is so sad to me.

I love books. Don't like 'em . . .LOVE 'em. Probably a little addicted to them, in fact. My family teases me that if I live long enough to read all of the books I have in the house, I will break all longevity records. When I was a teenager, loving books meant begging Mom to go to the mall and hanging out in Walden's while she distracted herself at the fabric store next door. It meant smiling at my dad, my sweet dad, and asking him to put up another set of bookshelves for me. (He always did.) Years later, that same smile worked on my father in law and he hand made me some lovely bookcases I still have stuffed full today.

It's little surprise that I went into English. Less of a surprise that I grew up to be an author myself. When I say I love books, I mean it! I love reading them, but I also love lining them up on a shelf and just looking at them. In my dream house, I have a library where they are all together in alphabetical order and I have one of those rolling ladders from one section to the next. . . . Anyway . . .

When we lived in Indiana, we were more than a little lonely. Joseph and I and whatever kids we had would often travel about an hour east to the larger city of Ft. Wayne. They had good restaurants, a mall and . . . yes. . . . glory be . . . a Border's. I still remember the first time I walked in. I thought maybe heaven existed after all and I had finally found it (without dying first, how clever of me!). I became somewhat addicted to the place and we went there often. No one there asked us what church we went to. They didn't ostracize us for not attending one. That was a welcome relief, believe me.

Fast forward to 2001 and I am in Oregon, alone . .. kids and husband back home . . . and I am being shown nine houses for sale. I've never stepped foot in Oregon before so I don't know neighborhoods or anything at all about the city . . . overwhelmed? Yeah, a bit. What house should I choose? Where should we live? As I tried to take in everything the realtor was telling me about areas and prices and taxes, I looked out the window and I saw it ... Border's!! Wait, I said . . . .there is a Border's only seven minutes from the house you just showed me? I'll take that one. Yes, I really said that. Yes, we made an offer on that house and yes, we got it. Still live there today . . . but now the Border's isn't going to be seven minutes away.

Over the years, I cannot tell you how much time (or money!) we spent in that store. I met friends for coffee, conducted interviews and was interviewed and attended meetings in their coffee shop area. My entire family went there almost every Saturday night to listen to music. They read, I wrote letters and we soaked up the incredibly different musicians, from xylophone bands to brown jug bands and everything in between. When my mother visited from Indiana, we took her there to listen to music and meet our friends.

Friends? Yes, friends. Because over the years, we had met the people who worked at Border's and they had become friends. We went to their weddings. We meet their children. We went out for a drink. At one point, when my writing workload took a nosedive, I even worked at Border's. I knew the store forwards and backwards anyway, so thought I would give it a try. I worked the (shudder) holiday season and learned that retail is not the job path for me. People are just. .. . strange. But I learned even more about the store and the people who worked there. I had some amazing times and when I had to suddenly leave my job for a few days because my dad was in the hospital in Indiana and very sick, the single sympathy card I was sent when he died was from the staff at Border's.

Now, they are closing and yes, it breaks my heart. My kids grew up here. I can point to almost every corner and tell you a story about it. Nicole asked a guy out there. Caspian met a friend in that aisle. Coryn read a billion books in one sitting here. My mom was here. Nicole's ex was here. My friend who died a few years ago sat at this table with me.

So, thank you Border's for some of the favorite times of my life. You helped me feed my addiction, you gave me a social place to hang out, you introduced me to some fun people, you facilitated spending time with my family and you will be terribly, terribly missed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

Like many, many people across the world today, I am pausing to take a moment to think about this anniversary. Like every one else, I too have one of those stories about where I was when it happened, how I responded and so on. I didn't know anyone killed in the tragedy, but wept along with them because I recognized this was one of those events where your life, perspectives, politics, and country would change. It was a before/after situation and forever changed the world. It changed my world in subtler ways.

9/11 changed our world in Indiana. Four airplane tickets in my hand suddenly become null and void and I would have never been able to put my kids on a plane with me at that time anyway. We were supposed to come out to Oregon via the plane just a handful of days after the disaster. Instead we came out on the train--a better choice in hindsight.

A writing assignment given to me in late August, to write a book about a terrorist group I had never even heard of, suddenly turned into a totally different project in September. Al Queda went from a foreign term to the number one phrase used in the world overnite and certainly make the writing job more complicated.

Writing assessment materials for a dozen different companies changed .. . when writing, we could not use the words airplane or skyscraper for two years. Might upset the test takers, you know.

9/11 changed the world in countless ways. More than anything, for me, it rattled my belief in safety and made me look at the world with a more jaded, cautious eye. Today, ten years later, my heart goes out to those who are not just mourning the way the event affected our country, but who lost someone they cared about in the tragedy. Find peace in whatever way you can and hold those lost souls close to your hearts.

2 a.m. Post

In about 46 hours, our time alone as a couple will return to being time as a family. We are eager to start welcoming home our kids . . . one on Monday, one on Thursday and one on the 27th, but I admit to sadness that our time is coming to an end . . . for a while. I know years and years of that time is down the road waiting for us.

Today, we had a wonderful Portland day. We went to the Saturday Market and came home loaded down with melons and berries. We had coffee. We went to two Goodwills. During the afternoon, he worked on the bus and I worked on meeting another deadline and then, in the evening, we met on the couch and watched a surprisingly good movie. Just as I thought the day was coming to an end, he said, "Hey, let's go for a drive." So, we left at 12:30 a.m. and headed to VooDoo Donuts, a Portland all night spot. We each got a donut and ate it outside on a bench under the streetlights. Then, we came back home, a leisurely drive in the summer night air, under an almost full moon. It's 2 a.m. and I'm whipped, but I'm heading to bed smiling. I just am not sure it gets much better than this.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Second Honeymoon?

So. . . . first, apologies for taking so very long to post. Life has been kicking my butt lately with keeping me busy, but still.

Right now, we have NO CHILDREN at home. NONE. One is in Indiana visiting family and friends. One is at Not Back to School Camp. One is still in Alaska. Joseph and I spent the first 48 hours or so really missing them and bemoaning the quiet house and then. . . . well then, . . . we got a little giddy with freedom. We began acting like we did 27 plus years ago when we were childless. A little slower perhaps . . but still . . . it has been rather wonderful. We leave when we want, go where we want and return when we want without worrying about hungry kids, places they need to go or get picked up and so on. It has been wonderful. We've hit multiple Goodwills, garage sales, coffee shops, bookstores and food carts. We have teased and flirted and laughed and talked and I have loved every moment. Children will start returning next week but until then, I love being just "us".

I also wanted to blog about . . . . wrong numbers. My friend Amimental says I seem to attract odd wrong numbers and this is true. I had one guy call a few years ago and we started chatting and he ended up asking me out. (Yes, I turned him down, but flattering nonetheless.) I had a woman from an Asian restaurant call and believe I was a woman named Doris who had ordered food and then never come to get it or pay for it. When I attempted to tell her she had the wrong number, she proclaimed me a "RYING BEECH" in very screechy tones. I finally hung up. To this day, someone in family will still stop and call me a "rying beech".

Yesterday, I got another one. At 11 pm, I got a phone call on my cell from a local number. I answered but no one was there. I hung up and then called the number back but no answer. I dismissed it.

At 5:20 that morning, my phone rang again. (I was sound asleep, naturally.) I answered it (with three kids out of state, you bet I answer any calls) and an irritated young woman said, "My boyfriend's cell was called by you last night and I want to know why you called him." I paused, trying to remember and thought, oh yeaaaa. So I said, "He called me and wasn't there when I answered, so I called him back but got no answer." She said, "You called him at 11 PM?" and I said, "Yes, since that is when he called me."

"So you mean you don't know . . . . a . . Cuban guy?"

I sighed and said, "Honey, I'm 52, been married for 29 years and have four kids . . . I do not need or want a Cuban guy."

And she said, "OK, sorry for waking you then." And hung up.

And I wanted to say, "I do not need or want a Cuban guy . . . because I am on a second honeymoon with my husband and I'm very, very happy."

And I am. Children, I miss you every single day, but life with your dad is simply wonderful.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The UPS Man Cometh . . .

I am always eager for the mail to arrive. I've been known to stand at the end of the driveway and attack the mail truck as it approaches. I have even been known to stand in the middle of the street and walk quickly towards the truck even when it is still a half block away. :) And really, that makes more sense that it might to some . . . I get every single one of my writing "paychecks" through the mail. I also get wonderful letters from many people scattered all over the world in the mail. So being eager for it to arrive is understandable.

This week, however, I will be more than eager. I will be anxious and excited and impatient. Why? Because two things are coming that are probably going to change my life . . . the first one is a new computer. Oh man, this is the DREAM computer too. I special ordered it, piece by piece, to be exactly what I've always wanted. Three monitors. A built in TV. Lots of memory for speed. In preparation, we've been cleaning desks and rearranging furniture. I am anticipating that this new computer will make going to "work" a lot more fun.

The other other thing I am waiting for? New bras. Yes, new bras. Not too exciting to most of you, I am sure. However, I am . . . . well . . . let's go with my boobs are definitely one of the first things you notice about me (after my brilliant smile and scintillating personality, of course.) A well fitting bra is truly a BIG DEAL. And one night, I got sucked in by a new infomercial showing the best and the latest in bra technology (did you know there was bra technology? News to me!) and I ordered those bras. Now, after I ordered them I was offered:
1. a second set of bras at a discount
2. a set of bras with built in lace
3. a hair care system
4. discounted magazine subscriptions AND
5. a Walmart gift card to go along with me (drumroll please) . . . .. FREE THREE DAY TWO NIGHT CRUISE TO THE BAHAMAS . . . travel agents standing by . . . .

I said no to all of those things . . .just stuck with the original order of bras.
Which are supposed to arrive Monday or Tuesday.

Do you think if I promised to model them for the mailman he would bring them faster?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Parting Really IS a Sweet Sorrow, Mr. Shakespeare.

When old Willy wrote the line in "Romeo and Juliet" that "Parting is such sweet sorrow", he sure was right. He was referring to the pain of lovers saying goodbye until the next day, but this Mom is keenly aware of the feeling this summer. In April, I said goodbye to Nicole for six months. In May, I said goodbye to Caspian for 6 weeks. Today, I said goodbye to Coryn for a one to two weeks. Each parting was full of the joy and excitement and anticipation of a new adventure waiting around the corner. I was thrilled for the opportunities my children were being given, excited at who they might meet, what they might see and how they would interact and evolve from their experiences with the world.

But DAMN, I miss them. And saying goodbye is hard. I want to hug a long, long time. Until they are squirming and trying to get away, in fact.

Coryn held my hand in the train station today. Although I frequently take his hand, it has been a long time since he has reached out for mine and gripped it so tightly. It brought back many memories of holding little hands over the years and marveling that all of these hands today are larger and stronger than mine.

I know they will come back . . . but in the meantime, I miss them dearly and know they will return changed from their interactions and more independent and more apt to want to take another trip very soon. And really, I am glad for that. I know that that means Joseph and I did our jobs well . . . but,

DAMN, I miss them.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Perfect Portland Moment

I had a perfect Portland moment today and I wanted to share it with my half dozens of readers (snicker).

Joseph and I spent the morning running around doing typical errands, interspersed with some fun things like checking out a garage sale and buying a camping cook stove. After dropping off a check at one place, we decided to stop at a cartopia--for those who don't live in big cities, that means an open area (usually a former parking lot) that is filled with individual food carts. These are HUGELY popular in Portland and I am so glad. I love seeing small businesses thrive--run by husbands and wives, moms and dads . . . featuring every kind of food under the planet and then some. The one we stopped at today had a dozen different cards including Lebaneser Scrooge (Lebanese food), The Wrapture (salads and wraps) and many more . . Thai food, hot dogs, BBQ, smoothies and shakes . . . something for vegans and vegetarians and carnivores and everything in between. The biggest challenge was CHOOSING. I was in a hot dog kind of mood, so got a beef dog and garlic french fries (I haven't eaten fries in months, but GARLIC fries? Yes, I gave in.)

In the meantime, Joseph (who ALWAYS chooses the most exotic option he can find) chose food from a cart called Viking Soul Food (wife is Norwegian, husband is black. .. hence the name) and OHMIGAWD that food. The food is served in thin wraps a little like crepes . . . one had sweet and sour purple cabbage, with melted chevre cheese and porcini, button and morel mushrooms. The other one was meatballs, arugula, pine nuts and melted cheese. AMAZING!!!! Melt in your mouth, don't talk kind of delicious. So we HAD to get dessert . . . J got "drunken strawberries" . . . strawberries, cream cheese, toasted almonds and some magical sauce and I got lemon tart with spiced pecans. We sat out in the sunshine and ate these and just soaked up the perfect Portland moment of sunshine, summer, Friday afternoon, food carts and this city we love so very much.

I am going to be working hard all weekend to get caught up to deadlines. . . . I just got hired by the 5th new company in 2 months ( go me!) so I have a lot to do but you can bet I will carry that Portland moment with me all weekend. Sigh. I love my life--hope you feel the same way about yours.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nature . . . and the World . . . are Noisy

For the last several weeks, Joseph and I have been sleeping outside on our upper deck. It is completely private, roomy and beautiful there. We have an air mattress and lots of cozy blankets for the chilly nights. We snuggle down and listen to wind chimes, distant train whistles, the wind blowing through the tall pine trees in our yard, and the distant murmur of traffic on the busy street a few blocks away. For this very auditory woman, it is lovely.

Well .. . until morning comes. And then nature gets just too friggin noisy. The chirp of morning birds is fine--very nice even. The increase in traffic is also a welcome background sound. Here are the sounds that are not so welcome:

1. The Bickering Duo . . . . apparently we have a squawking bluebird and a chittering squirrel who do NOT get along. I don't know what they find to bicker about every single morning, but they do. Like clockwork, the bird squawks, the squirrel responds and they do this back and forth for over an hour. (I had NO IDEA squirrels could be so loud!) Do they want the same tree real estate? Vying for the same snack (worm? nuts? they have different diets . . . )? Just grumpy until they get their morning coffee? WHAT? I am about ready to hire a mediator to step in and negotiate a truce.

2. The Cat from Hell . . . now we have this neighborhood cat who sits on either our bottom deck or our stairs and YOWLS. I don't mean a gentle meow. I don't mean a little purring. I mean Y O W L I N G. Miserable unhappiness piercing the late night/early morning hours over and over. It moves fine so doesn't seem to be in any pain . . . doesn't act hungry. I am guessing it is in heat, which means it sure picked the wrong house since our cat is also female and fixed. I don't suppose if I tossed down a sex toy and told her to get lost and take care of the problem, it would help? I'm about to try anything to shut her up. I also spend way too much time wondering how awful it would be to have to announce to the world you're horny and just yell until some cat comes along to help you out. Hmmm. Guess it does sound like a few college friends I used to know . . .

3. Earth Swallowing Trucks . . . This morning, added to our mix, we had a truck of some kind. Not sure what it was since it isn't trash day. . . but it was amazingly loud and was doing something at each house . . .it sounded like it was sucking up the foundation and crunching it into compost, to be honest. It was 7:55. Seems a tad early for foundation sucking, but then, who knows, the truck driver might have made a deal with the cat, the squirrel and the bird. Maybe it's a conspiracy to get those Orrs off the deck and into the house?

Hmph. Not until summer is over. Until then, where are my ear plugs?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Knowing the Future? NO Thanks.

Are you one of those people who wishes you knew what was going to happen tomorrow or in the future? Do you wish you could close your eyes, look into a crystal ball, cast rune stones--whatever--and know what was waiting around the corner? Although I think we all have moments like that, where we wish we knew the outcome of a certain situation or a common concern (will she fall in love? will he find the right job? will I eventually get grandchildren?), I have decided that knowing what is going to happen could be detrimental to my initiative.

Case in point (and you knew that there had to be one, right?), I just finished up the second most intense and demanding (and well paying) job of my 20 plus years of writing. It came out of the blue . . . a quick email from an editor I just finished working for saying hey, I have a new project--interested? In all honesty, it should have read, "I have an insane project that will require you to stop sleeping or doing any other work, that will involve miscommunications, confusing editors, missing documents, a huge amount of work and virtually no time to do it--are you interested?" Had I been able to glance into the next four days, I am pretty sure I would have had some serious doubts. But since I couldn't and the money was goooooooooooood, I said "Sure".

Cue . . . .five days of craziness. I mean, such intense craziness that several times, I pushed my chair back from the computer and went storming up the block on a walk trying to keep my cool. Rants. Crying sessions. Texts to editors at midnight. That kind of craziness.

Everything had to be turned in by July 1. I finished at 2 a.m. that morning. When I did, my amazing family--who brought me ice water, heatpacks, nightgowns, chocolate, coffee, made me take breaks and just breathe, gave me massages, endless hugs and multiple rally sessions--put me in the car (yes, at 2 in the morning) and took me for a drive so I could just R E L A X. Then they poured me into bed.

Friday morning I opened my eyes and my first thought was, Ok, what do I still have to get done.? Then that GLORIOUS, just-like-the -last-day-of-school feeling hit me--I was DONE. Not only was I done but,
(1) It was Friday of a holiday weekend.
(2) It was warm and sunny.
(3) I was paid, actually PAID, for another project and had enough money to not only take a deep breath but hit a couple of Goodwills without guilt.

That, my friends, made for a PERFECT weekend.

So, this weekend, what have I done? I sat out in the sun. I took a nap. I read a book. I wrote letters. I watched a movie. I am going to see fireworks. I am going to probably take another nap and finish my book. PERFECTION. And while that is a good weekend, what came before it, those intense days, made it a perfect weekend (ok, not perfect. Nicole isn't home. But close). And within 30 days, when that check arrives in my mailbox, we are going to sit down and just stare at it for awhile. Then it will get dispersed to things like taxes and bills but also a few fun things. (Of course, to me that means road trips, books and paper and to J that means anything VW related. The boys are just counting on new computers.)

If I could have glanced into the future and seen what this job entailed and what a mess it would be, how stressful it would be to me physically and emotionally, would I have taken it? I doubt it. But I"m glad that I wasn't psychic and I did say yes because when that check comes, you can bet I will be smiling.

Now excuse me, I have an almost perfect weekend to get back to. . . Oh, Happy 4th of July. May it be your own version of a perfect weekend as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Desert Adventure--and Returning to Reality

If you know me and the family, or have been reading this blog very long, you know that each year, in June, we head to the desert region of Oregon (yes, there IS a desert region of Oregon, complete with tumbleweeds and sage brush) to the annual Volkswagen Camper Bus gathering in Maupin. This was our fifth year to go and it was delightful. The weather cooperated (mostly), people were friendly, food was tasty, scenery was awesomely gorgeous (roaring river on one side, brown velvet mountain side on the other), and I didn't work a bit for almost four full days. We had the usual VW adventure . . i.e. broke down on the side of the road. Snicker.

Five minutes after Joseph caught karma's attention by remarking out loud how wonderfully the bus was running, it conked out. We spent almost two hours on the highway with two friends trying to pinpoint the problem (which they did) and fix it (which they did). On the way home, getting gas for the long trip, the bus . . . . can you guess? . . . conked out. Refused to start. Needed a new battery cable. Okay. Bought a new one. Halfway home? Strange smell. Ahhhhhhh, alternator belt chewed up. Why? Oooooops, that's where you left the wrench you were missing? Mystery solved. Finally home, tired, tan, happy.

The only real down side to the entire trip was that there was this enormous BLACK HOLE of emptiness that followed me around. It was always next to me when I sat down. Always there when I looked up. Hovering over me when I crawled into bed in the tent. What was it? It was the Nicole-isn't-here-black-hole. I missed her more at Maupin than any time since she left. A lovely man who had a cell phone with service (unlike ours) loaned me his so I could at least call her a couple of times to let her know how much she was missed.

Returned to work Sunday night . . . and I'm not sure I've slowed down yet. I'm thrilled to say that I'm being hired by new companies, people love my work, I'm getting referrals . . . . all SO GOOD, but man, keeping up may be the end of me. If one editor knew what I was doing for other editors, they'd never believe it. I am back to being in front of the computer screen 16-17 hours a day. Ugh. Eventually, of course, i will be rolling in money (which means paying back loans and catching up with bills) but right now, all I can see is deadlines and more deadlines.

So, here is what I wishing for . . . .

that stress burns calories . . . . that I am able to meet my deadlines . . . that coffee and chocolate are never in scarce quantities . . . . that my right arm doesn't fall off from too much time on the keyboard . . . that editors keep liking my work so I don't have to do any (shudder) revisions . . . . and that I get the chance to sit back, breathe, cuddle with kids and husband, and relax now and then. Wish with me, wouldya?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Future Looks Bright

It has been a long month . . . and yes, it's only half over. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, this month, through various circumstances, we are basically not getting paid. Only one check is slated to come and that has been delayed a week because "it missed the cutoff by an hour". Sigh. So this has made for a long month. The stress of it has been mitigated by the kindness of those we love and who so clearly love us.

Caspian handed us the $40 we had given him to go to the organic farm. "Here," he said. "I am fed three times a day and don't need anything else, so use it."

Nicole called to say, "I'm sending you a $300 Safeway card. Eat for the rest of the month without worrying and don't even think about paying it back. We're family."

Coryn went online without being asked and cancelled his WOW account.

AmiMental took money that her family needs almost as much as mine and handed it to me, not even allowing me to open my mouth and object. I was only allowed to say "thank you" (which I did) and "I love you" (which I do).

All of these acts humble me. The compassion and love and kindness overwhelms me. It also has kept us going when things are at their lowest.

On a happier note, work has been cascading in at an exciting but intimidating rate . . . I've been hired by several new companies and an old familiar company asked me to do a rush job that may kill me to get done in time but will also pay me very well (in two months or so . . . ). It means that August and September will be great months . . if we survive until then. But if we had to live on love, it is clear that this family would feast like kings.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Too Close for Other's Comfort

Lately I have been having the same conversation repeatedly with Joseph, my kids, Ami and mentally (and man, can I carry on a fantastic internal dialogue!). Why is it that our culture sees maintaining a close relationship with your parents as wrong? Why does it lessen you in their eyes? Why does turning to your parents for advice, encouragement, emotional support, or just a needed dose of love and affection, mean that you are weak? immature? incapable? That simply does not make any sense to me.

If you were at work and you ran into a problem or obstacle or issue, you wouldn't be laughed at for turning to co-workers or managers for help. If you were sitting in a classroom and were confused or frustrated, you wouldn't be ridiculed for asking the teacher for assistance. If you were having a terrible (or wonderful!) day, no one would think twice if you grabbed the phone to share the news with your best friend.

BUT substitute PARENT for any of those positions and suddenly, it's wrong.

When Nicole walked into her new kitchen with the new team, they had put up a sign welcoming her. Awesome, huh? We were all pleased with that. The new team has been wonderful and she is sooooo much happier. But, on break, when she reached for the phone to call and talk to me as she does each afternoon, she saw it. The head shaking. The couched question . . . Calling your folks again? The veiled looks.

When Caspian walks into the kitchen at the farm and the only piece of mail on the board is for him from me, he gets the same thing. When he picks up the phone and calls us to tell us about his day, people wonder why in the world he wants to talk to his (say it with disgust here) . . . . p a r e n t s.

Why??? Why is that wrong? These children are certainly not immature and overly dependent. Look where they ARE! Nicole is 2,500 miles away in Alaska, living on her own. Caspian is spending the summer in a tent doing extremely demanding work. How can examples like that be linked to immaturity because each one of them takes a minute to call us and tell us what is happening in their lives?

Society is messed up, especially when it comes to our children. We know that. A weekend spent at Life is Good unschooling conference helped me to re-connect with the loving, supportive, bonding kind of families that give me hope for the future. And just because our children are too close for other people's comfort, we couldn't imagine them being anywhere else.

Thank you for listening. Stepping off of the soap box for now.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mostly Great . . . with a Little Challenge Thrown In

Life is pretty good for us right now is many ways.
Nicole is MUCH MUCH happier with her new team. It isn't perfect . . . her new boss was told that she was a "meek, parent dominated, sheltered homeschooler" (grrrrrr) so she has that false reputation to overcome. I have no doubt she will do it in a matter of days seeing as she is NONE of those things.
Caspian is home for the weekend so the house seems fuller. He called to say he was "hug-deprived" and needed some family time and so he is here for a couple of days (and double his usual share of hugs).
Work is picking up . . . I have two new companies in the process of hiring me and a familiar company called to give me extra work because I had done so well for them in the past.
Even the weather is cooperating for the first time. The sun is out, the rain is gone and the temperature is hitting actually summer levels. I sat outside in the sun this afternoon and soaked up as much vitamin D as I could.
So, all of this adds up to happiness and harmony . . . except for one thing. In the month of June, I am not getting paid. Yea, you read that right. Through a confluence of bizarre circumstances, in June, I will virtually go without a single paycheck. And you know what? I don't know what to do about it. I've been brainstorming, of course.
Taking on more writing jobs is fine, but it won't help because the lag time in getting paid is always a month or more.
Taking a job outside the house is possible, but they are hard to find and frankly, I have enough writing assignments that I don't know if I could juggle it all.
I can sell some things . . and will. A trip to Powell's with books. Perhaps a VW for sale.
I can always depend on my darlin friend Ami to make sure I have groceries. :)
But otherwise, I simply am not sure what to do. We wrote a resume for Joseph tonight but it's a bizarre one. He did the same thing for 22 years . . . . so how do I turn that into a generic resume? Plus there just aren't that many jobs out there . . .
July will be a terrific month. One of my best in a year, in fact. But I have to survive June first and honestly, I am not sure how. No wealthy relatives to beg. Don't play the lottery. So, if you happen to win a million or find a treasure chest or win big at poker or have a savings account you'd forgotten about, keep your good friend Tami in mind, wouldya?And come onnnnnnnnnnn July.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Embarrassed: Zero. Grateful: One/Won.

Occasionally the Mama Tiger cannot be silenced.
Nicole has had a terrible struggle with her job on the train. The hours are long, the work is hard--but she can handle that. No hothouse flower this one. She is TOUGH. What made the job nearly impossible to bear, however, was her co-worker. This . . . . think of a neutral word to use here, Tami. . . . person was overbearing, rude, unkind, selfish and downright cruel. She abused Nicole verbally and emotionally, and, I suspect if she thought she could have done it without getting her ass fired, it would have been physically as well. Each day she called me to report in, I heard more despair and frustration and desperation in her voice.
We gave her suggestions and advice, of course. We suggested she talk to her manager (she did) and do everything possible to work things out with her co-worker (she did) and nothing helped . . . in fact, it just got worse.
Finally, I had had it with the last phone call. This girl was ready to come home but wouldn't allow herself because she is not one to quit. When I got off the phone with her, I went to talk with Joseph. We were really waffling with whether or not to step in. On the one hand, we wanted to step back and allow Nicole to handle this alone and be totally independent. On the other, we wanted her to know that she was not alone and that no matter where she is or what is happening, we have got her back.
Option B won out. Neither Joseph nor I feel that our children reach a point where they are on their own, where we say "sink or swim." If our children reach out to us, we will hold out our arms. (This goes for the oldest one as well. She has needed help several times in the past and we did all we could from handing out money to carrying heavy items up very narrow stairs. I hope that she knows, somewhere, in the back of her mind, that we are still here with open arms if she needs us.) Ironically, it seems that their knowing that has made it such that they rarely need to reach out.
We called the man who hired Nicole in April and we talked to him. He called in his boss. Skipping over many details, the supervisors met with Nicole and she has been transferred to a new train and team. Her first day is tomorrow. Finally, she will be away from that . . . . remember, Tami . . . person who was making her life miserable.
Two important final notes on this story. First, her manager came to Nicole to ask how upper management found out about this situation. After pressing her relentlessly, the manager finally got Nicole to state that her parents had called. To this, the woman said, "My goodness! Aren't you embarrassed to have your parents get involved?" And our girl replied, "No, I'm grateful that I have people who love me that much."
And then? The last night when this . . . . person . . . was walking to her car, Nicole followed her. Did she call this coworker names? Yell at her? Finally tell her what a bit-----PERSON she was?! No. She thanked her for what she had learned from her in the kitchen and wished her the best. Shook her hand even. Didn't break out into hysterical laughter when the girl admitted that she was not really a very good teacher and co-worker.
Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is integrity.

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Anniversary . . . . . Angsting . . . . and An Event

Today was the 29th anniversary of Joseph and I's first date. Periodically, throughout the day, we have reminisced about what we were doing 29 years ago . . . getting ready for the date, saying hello, going to a movie, kissing goodnight . . . for an hour. :) Those years have certainly flown by. I miss the 23-year-old me, but I much prefer who I am now.

The day was spent doing a number of things, including going to the Life is Good conference in Vancouver. It started on Thursday and ended today. It is always so refreshing to be immersed in hundreds of people with the same basic mind set about parenting and education as your own. I am continuously amazed at the unschooling community and the families in it. The love, the trust, the communication, the connections and the bonding are truly inspiring. The classes and workshops, even though I've been unschooling for 25 plus years, are still enlightening and empowering. I walk out feeling energized and loving my children even more than usual. This year was sobering, however, because instead of four kids with me, or three, or two . . . I had one. And that one was completely independent. He stayed in a hotel room with friends, checked in now and then for food and then was off again. He had an AMAZING time and I was thrilled for him, but will admit I cried more than a few times over the fact that I had no little ones to hold and chase and nurse and carry and play with and change. There were lots of them there and I considered wearing a sign that said, "Grandchild deprived. . . will hold your baby for free for as long as you need me to." I was afraid people might think I was a tad odd, though.

We got to see Caspian today, which was wonderful. We took up some items he needed (warm coat, more socks) and stuff he wanted (snacks, books) and visited for a little while. He already looks older and is tickled that he got the chance to use a chain saw already. (shudder) He is sick of rain and living in a tent already so I am hoping the weather gets better for his sake. He took us on a walk to see the outhouse and all I could think was, NO THANKS. Did I cry when I said goodbye to him this time? I bet you can guess.

Wonderful anniversary . . . . amazing conference . . . . and a daughter in Alaska who is struggling so much that she is never off of my mind. Her job is proving to be wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy more difficult than we had imagined, in terms of rough co-workers and unbelievably demanding work (4 hours at a time of doing dishes . . . 14.5 hour days . . . ) I am listening and commiserating and doling out advice when asked and just hoping she can get it all figured out. I am also duct taping Tiger Mother's mouth so she stays out of it. Grrrrrrrrrr.

So a busy time indeed. Hard to believe June is almost here, especially since the weather has been cold and wet and very March-like. Helps me keep working instead of playing in the sun though.

Stay tuned. More life to follow soon, I'm sure. In the meantime, send my girl in Anchorage some good thoughts, ok?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Left my Heart in San . . . No, in Anchorage and Rhododendron

I have recently learned something about myself. I am not ready for my children to be adults. I know that I don't have any choice. I know that they are turning into fabulous human beings that I am proud of. I know that growing up is inevitable. I know that I LOVE these grown up people they have become. But since growing up also seems to mean GOING AWAY, I am voting against aging.

Today we took Caspian to Rhododendron, Oregon to a 55-acre farm that is having young people from all over the country come out to help them with building yurts, landscaping gardens, clearing forest and lots of other major outdoor projects. He took his tent, sleeping bag, suitcase, and iPod. We got there and got the tour and it is a beautiful place indeed. Huge mountains surround the area, covered in blankets of pine trees. The team will spend the summer turning rough country into a future resort/retreat and the work will be HARD and physical and exhausting--and I suspect he will absolutely love it. That will come. . . today he was just understandably overwhelmed at the barrage of information they were giving him.

I followed him on the tour, taking pictures, oohing and aahing over the scenery, nodding politely at the details of their projects and at the same time wondering just why the HELL these people expected my little boy to be able to do any of this stuff. Then I looked at this big 18 yr old man in front of me and realized that I was the only one seeing that little boy standing there. Everyone else saw this muscled young man and I saw this tiny, tow headed prankster.

When it came time to say goodbye, I found myself fighting the same tears I just went through with Nicole a month ago. How can you be SO happy and excited for someone and so heart broken at the same time?!? How can you want to admire their stepping out into the world, while you really want to super glue them to their rooms? I've never felt such ambivalence in my life as saying goodbye to my children.

I will cope. I will adjust. I will cry less. I will keep busy. I will buck up and be a . . . . mom. But I've already warned Coryn that if he even mentions going anywhere, I will have to hurt him. He does not look frightened. Sigh.

I am sure any day he will say, Hey mom . . . . can I go . . . . and I will say, of course and help him pay the bill, pack the bags, make the plans and walk out the door.

Then you can just stop by and see me curled up on the couch, crying and wondering just what the hell I am supposed to do with myself without these people in my house to pester me and remind me that they are hungry AGAIN.

Bring chocolate.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mother's Angst, Update

My mind kept wandering today as I knew Nicole was talking to her supervisor about her struggles and I wanted so badly to know how she was doing. When she called, I couldn't grab the phone fast enough. It turns out that at least three other people had noticed how unkind a co-worker was being to Nicole and had reported it. This was validating, of course. We tend to think we are being oversensitive or taking things too personally sometimes, and so it helped to know that Nicole's assessment of how she was being treated was accurate. The supervisor stated that the combination of these two was a dreadful one--very different personalities and work styles. She agrees that ultimately a transfer is the best idea and I am betting that will happen. In the meantime, the employee is being "talked to", which may help but I suspect will only make this co-worker more hostile.

In the meantime, Nicole is hanging in there, being stubborn and determined and very unlike the word her supervisor described her as ("meek"). So keep those prayers and good wishes and thoughts heading our way and I will keep you updated on the situation and the mama's angst.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Motherhood ain't for Sissies

There is little in life as disturbing and unsettling to me than any of my children being in mental and/or physical discomfort. Right now I'm juggling a bit of that and it reminds me that being a mom ain't easy. Every gray hair is earned.

So, having Nicole 2,500 mile away is really, really hard but if she is horseback riding and making friends and getting flirted with, it's bearable. When she is going to work and being mistreated by co-workers and putting in 15 hour days, it's not so bearable. She is working in the kitchen with the head cook who happens to be a . . . . well, fill in your favorite word for unpleasant female. She is rude to Nicole, insults her, ignores her and generally makes her very long days much longer. Nicole has done everything she can think of to cope with it, but is running out of options. Tomorrow she meets with a superior to ask for some guidance and we are all hoping that that turns out to be the solution. I suspect a transfer to a different team will be the ultimate solution, but we will see. In the meantime, Mama is angsting like crazy for this girl so far away.

Caspian is doing well but is getting ready to leave for the summer and I am not ready to send him off. Coryn is doing well. . .counting the days until Memorial Day weekend because we are going to the Life is Good unschooling conference and he looks forward to it all year.

I am doing well although swamped with work. The last few days have been really lovely and so Joseph and I have been sleeping out on the back deck under the stars. We have an air mattress, lots of cozy warm blankets and it is so lovely . . . I think people think we are nuts but there are no bugs, no morning dew . . . the only thing there is is this DAMN BIRD who greets the dawn by making this incredibly unpleasant squawking noise about three feet from my head. I would sic the cat on it, but the cat is usually curled up next to me on the mattress sleeping thru it all.

So that's life. Oh, although the diet is not as strict as it was, I am sticking to it pretty closely. As of today, I have lost 33 lbs. It's painfully slow, but it keeps trickling down and that makes me happy. Until I think about Nicole . . . . and then Mama ain't happy for long. Keep your fingers crossed for her, say a prayer, throw the runes, whatever you do (assuming you weren't taken up in the rapture today, that is, snicker) and send her good thoughts, ok? Thanks.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Whazzup with the Orrs

Life in the Orr house is coming along well, albeit a tad hectic. Latest news includes. . . .

Joseph finally found out why the VW Thing was not working properly. It was driving him nuts and he had replaced everything he could, read about it online, posted on forums and called friends. At last he has it figured out. We indirectly rejoiced for him.

Nicole's adventures in Alaska continue. She is finished with her training and then she got a week off. She has spent it in Palmer, staying at a horseback riding farm. She has been riding for hours every day and seeing amazing sites. She has also learned to do some cooking and baking, has fed chickens, entertained a persistent kitten, and learned coping skills for living with a couple that tends to fight quite a bit. She returns to Anchorage on Monday, and starts work on Tuesday. Then, she works three days, gets two off, works three, two off, and so on. As an assistant prep cook, she will prepare plates and foods for the servers to take out to passengers.

Caspian leaves on the 24th (only 9 days) for his summer at the organic farm. He is getting eager and already wanting to pick a suitcase and start packing. I admit I am loathe to see him pack bags as I shall miss him terribly, but I am also happy for his upcoming adventures.

Coryn is looking forward to camp in August but worrying, along with his parents, at how we are going to afford it. The balance must be paid by the first of June and since they combined sessions this year, the price is a WHOPPER. I've been trying to save it but it has not been successful as of yet. I keep hoping someone will pay me more or extra or early or something, but we will see.

As for me, I am doing fairly well. I recently was given FOUR new jobs and of course, they aren't due consecutively but simultaneously and it will be quite the challenge to keep up with all of them. I will do my best, but I am guessing the coming two or three weeks will be stuffed full of stress, chocolate, pressure, deadlines and coffee. If I can make it through, I will have earned a bundle and have learned quite a few new skills in the process. I just hope I won't go crazy at the same time.

That's all that is new at the Orr House. If you stop by, leave a message. I always enjoy checking who has come by to see me (except for those damn spammers, that is!)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blessed Mom and Wife

As you probably already know about me, I write a lot of letters. Some of the people that I write to are single men. NO, not that kind of letter writing! Sheeesh. These are just guys who actually like to put pen to paper and I appreciate that. I write to them and we talk about all kinds of things. One topic I've asked them about is marriage and family. As a person who cannot fathom going through life without either one, I am curious about those people who make the decision to not marry or have children.

I've been amazed at what I've heard from these people. It doesn't seem to be a case of they didn't find the right person or they almost married and something went terribly wrong. Instead, these men have deeply cynical viewpoints about what marriage is. One wrote, "I don't want to live a life of someone telling me what I can do and say. I don't want to get permission to make a decision." Another stated, "I hear about all the stress and anger that comes in marriage and trying to raise children, and I am grateful I never had to deal with that." Apparently their role models for marriage must have been pretty lousy.

Maybe it was parents, Maybe it was neighbors or friends, or more likely, some of the couples you see on television. Fortunately, both Joseph and I have had great role models for marriage. Both of our parents were married for more than 50 years. Perfect marriages? Hardly. No such animal, methinks. But strong ones with lots of love.

If I could do my life all over again, I would certainly make some changes. I'd spend more time with this person, less with this one. Study less and travel more. Worry less and celebrate more. But there are a couple things I wouldn't change at all. I wouldn't change who I married (although wish we had met earlier) and I wouldn't change having four children. I might have done everything I could to hold on to the oldest one, in hindsight, but I wouldn't give up the years I had with her for anything. And the other three? I cherish every day. They are all blessings. I feel sorry for those lonely guys that they don't know how it feels to have someone who loves them put their arms around them and reassure them that everything will work out fine. A child's hand in theirs. A close bond of years. A whispered "I love you" in the dark. A child's voice on the phone calling you "Mom" (or "Dad"). An internal knowing that part of you goes on forever.So, on Mother's Day, I will be grateful for my own mom (pictured here, and man, would she be upset that I put her picture online when her hair and makeup wasn't perfect. . . but this is how I remember her), my mother in law, my friends who are moms, my children and my husband. Live alone? Please--no. Never. I'm the blessed one.