Friday, January 28, 2011

A Touchy Topic

It's a touchy topic. I figure it is right up there with asking a woman's weight. (Don't even try it, buddy!) It is often one that is intensely personal and highly emotional. I know it is a very difficult topic for me . . . I'm an atheist and very comfortable there (I didn't come to the decision quickly or lightly). I still have a conscience, I still have morals and I'm even a darn GOOD person. For the most part, I have kept my personal decision relatively to myself, rarely discussing it out loud with anyone other than my family or a fellow atheist. Sadly, I've not been treated the same in return. My family and I left Indiana 10 years ago for MANY reasons, but one of them was religion. To name JUST a few stories . . . . my daughter and I were thrown out of a house we had been invited to for lunch because, when asked what church we attended, we said we did not currently attend one. We didn't say we ran naked in the woods, swinging chickens and chanting (sounds like fun though). We just politely said we didn't currently go to one. We were told to leave. We had to sit on the curb for 30 minutes waiting for our ride. My 5 year old daughter was taken to an Evangelical school and shown a crucifixion movie with no permission of any kind. She came home sobbing about the man with the blood running down him. That same daughter was locked in the bathroom of a friend's house for an hour while she was told she would eventually burn in hell because of how her parents were raising her.

I could go on, but I won't. Suffice to say, we were ostracized, criticized and ignored by people for a belief we never even spoke of out loud. We were generous, compassionate, friendly, polite and loving to our family and friends--but that wasn't enough. It meant nothing if we didn't accept a god for which we have seen no evidence of. Ever. At all.

There were exceptions, of course. I have a friend in Indiana that I have been friends with for 20 years. She is a Christian in the very best way. You want to see a good woman? She is one. I respect her deeply and am humbled by how she lives her life. We have had a friendship based on that mutual respect and love and put the issue of religious differences aside. I know that has not been easy for her either and for that, I respect her even more.

So, why bring this up? Knew you were wondering.

This week, I got a big package on my front doorstep. It was from an old friend from high school. We were friends from 12, when we met, all the way though adulthood. She was my maid of honor when I got married. In recent months, we had reconnected. A few weeks ago, we even had a 2 hour phone call which was great fun, full of memories and laughter. I don't understand her way of life--she choose to never get married, dedicating her life first to her father and, when he died, completely to god. I didn't get it, but it wasn't MY BUSINESS. It was HER life, not mine. She was the one who had to face coming home to an empty house every day, not me. I couldn't imagine it, but . . . .. again, HER life, not mine.

Inside the package were five DVDs, one book, a magazine and a catalog. Oh yea, and an eight page typed letter. Can you guess the topic? Have I accepted Christ into my life? The letter outlined all the terrible things that were coming and what would happen to me and my children if we were not "saved". I was in shock. Then I was stymied. How do I respond to this? Admittedly, my first reaction was anger. She refused to marry--should I have been free to send her movies and books on how important marriage and children are? I think not. That would have been rude.

But then, I stepped back and I reconsidered. I forced myself to look past the action to the intention. She did this because she seriously was concerned about my life. She wanted to share with me something that meant EVERYTHING to her. I tried to accept that. It didn't erase the anger, but it mitigated it. So, I sat down and wrote a letter back to her. I said, THANK YOU for caring about me. I recognize that you are reaching out in love. However, I am not interested and never will be. I am happy with my life as it is and do not plan to change my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) at this point.

Then, I offered to either mail the materials back or pass them on to someone else. And then I left her with this challenge. "I hope that we can continue to correspond and keep a long friendship going, but, if you are like many of the Christians I have known before, this will be the end of our conversations. While I can accept your religious choice, I am not so sure you can accept mine. If I'm wrong (and I hope I am!), drop me a note and I will send you a long letter . . . .However, if I'm right, and you'd prefer to stop communication now, drop me a note and let me know if you want the materials returned or passed on."

Any guesses what will happen? I'm certainly not sure.

I have only a few special, close friends in my life. After 51 years, I can count them on one hand. I have dozens and dozens of light friends, of course. But the friends that you can call in the middle of the night, the ones you run to when something really good or bad happens, the ones you know have got your back no matter what, I only have a couple of those (and you know who you are ladies). I cherish them. One is an atheist. One is a Christian. And guess what? WHO CARES? They're funny, kind, intelligent, incredible people who bless my life by being in it. What else would I need?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Back on the Rollercoaster

Strap in everybody. It's a wild ride.

The car starts up the hill . . . . slowly speeding up. You're on a new diet . . . you hate it but it gets a little easier every day and you know it is better for you. You're optomistic.

Top of the first hill. Take a deep breath.

And downnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn you go. Rushing through the air and too scared to scream. Work is being difficult. You're not keeping up with deadlines. Your blood pressure medicine either doesn't do the job, but if you increase it, knocks you OUT. On the couch. Sound asleep. Or taking four breaks to climb the stairs. Worst of all, HALF, yes HALF of the money you were promised this month, DID NOT COME. This means all of those bills you paid so optomistically at the beginning of the month are coming due again and in the meantime, you are living on air, baby.

You survived. The car is back up again . . . .a couple of new assignments came through. You got a big one done and turned in. The sun is out for a change. You've lost a few pounds already. But . . uh oh. Bigger hill ahead.

And downnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn you go again. You miss your mom . . . you miss having money . . . . you miss not worrying all the time. You miss time off. You miss long sessions of reading on the back deck which you can't do because your eyes give out after 15 minutes. You can tell you're entering the most dangerous part of the ride, the Unending Black Spiral. DANGER AHEAD.

Will our heroine avoid the Spiral? Will she make it past this next part of the ride and emerge triumphant on the end without having to sell more books for cash? (Heck, they won't take her blood!) Stay tuned, folks. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Doldrums

Hey gang. Having a rough day and what else to do other than post it for the whole world to see, right? :)

Nah, just a combination of things. This month has been a better one financially, but we were so far behind that it seems like everything that comes in is gone in a heartbeat. We just can't get ahead and the living check to check with a few scary times in between gets mighty old for me. Wears on me. I know a number of you know this song well. Probably can sing it in your sleep (which would look and sound rather odd, so I suggest not doing so.)

Add that to new medications that I am still tinkering with (they drop my BP so much I can't walk across the room without effort) to find the right balance . . . . impending deadlines . . . a new diet . . . and a perennially messy house that my husband is trying to clean up (and I can't keep my mouth shut and let him do it, no, not me. I have to get up and get involved.) . . . a lack of regular sleep, and you get a grumpy me.

Gave my son a haircut last night (no, not Caspian. Never Caspian). Cut it right where he indicated. Ended up way shorter than he wanted. Now I feel like I let him down. I know and he knows it will grow back but I feel bad.

Tired of being tired. Gee, ain't ya glad you stopped by to read my blog today?

Ignore it. I will improve. The doldrums are always temporary. They just don't feel like they are. Tune in a little later and I am sure life will be peachey again.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Menopause 300 Sleep 0

You know how kids look forward to Christmas? That's how I feel about menopause. Bring it on, baby! I've had periods for 40 years. Plenty long enough, thanks. In recent years, those periods have gotten pretty awful. I will skip the gory details but just let you know that one year I did my Christmas shopping in a wheelchair because I was too woozy from blood loss to walk around the mall and do it. And when a period starts, I have learned to not leave the house, otherwise I will just humiliate myself somewhere.

So, yea, I'm ready for menopause. And it really is on its way . . . but you know, some of the side effects kind of suck. Like night sweats. I wake up in the middle of the night most nights and the room in 150 degrees. Under a pile of blankets, snuggled between dog and husband--which felt wonderful when I crawled into bed a few hours ago--is now torture. If I pull the covers off of me, it pulls them off of those two, both who protest. So, I end up getting up and coming downstairs, surfing the net, posting to my blog (duh?), writing letters and eventually crashing on the couch--just in time for someone else to wake up and come downstairs, of course.

Last night I tried taking my BP meds right before bed in the hopes they would make me sleep soundly. (I currently can't remember sleeping through the night in a few weeks.) Heck, they certainly make me sleepy enough during the DAY to nod off several times. Apparently my idea didn't work, because here I am. . . asleep at 1 and up at 4.

Oh well. If it means menopause is close, I'm willing to lose a little sleep in the deal. I just hope I'm awake to appreciate it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

All or Nothing Man

I am married to an "all or nothing" man. No half ways for this guy. No attempts. Just do it.

As the new year has started he has taken this to . . . . heart. (Understatement)

The bedroom now has two pieces of exercise equipment in it.
He is cleaning out shelves and pantries and cupboards.
We are all on a new diet . . . paleo, without grains, sugars, processed foods, etc.
He is establishing set meal times and bed times are next.

Now, on principle, I agree with him. We eat healthier at home. We need exercise. We have too much stuff. We would all do better with a little more routine in our lives.

The problem is when he does it all at once and with five people in the family. We struggle a bit. We don't share his motivations, although I admire them. I am just afraid it will be too much and we will all burn out and hurt each other in the process. I am dealing with bunches of medication changes at the same time and they make me soooooooooooo sleepy, that all I really want to do is curl up on the couch and snooze (WITHOUT snoring).

Sigh. Why can't what is good for us be easy?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snoring Beauty

Do you remember watching the movie "Sleeping Beauty" and the lovely Aurora is cursed by the witch? She is told that when she is 16, she will prick her finger on a spinning needle and die. I always thought the same thing . . . .. so don't sew, you idiot. Just stay away from needles. Really, how hard is that? There are lots of other professions to go into . . . .

I've decided that the same witch has cursed me. Only she decided at 51, you shall start snoring. And, here's the kicker--since you are an auditory person, you will wake yourself up on a regular basis. So, sleep will be pretty much impossible for more than a few minutes at a time. It's karma coming back for all the times I complained and whined about my mother and father's snoring, I am sure. Drove me nuts. Now I am driving ME nuts. It used to only happen when I was on my back, but now it seems to be an issue on my sides as well. SIGH. An hour's nap today was interrupted nine times so I think that means I didn't rest a bit . . . .At least I don't feel like I did.

Any great snoring cures out there? Don't say ear plugs, cuz if you know me, I have tinnitus and listen to a sound machine every nite. Plugs in my ears would only make things worse and I'd have to start calling myself Snoring Ringing Beauty.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Early Morning Ramblings

Hey there. It is just past 7 am and it is still dark outside. Although this is the typical time to get up for many, it's pretty early for me. I prefer closer to 9 since I commonly stay up until 12 or 1. So why have I been up an hour . . . . . I could blame it on a backache that made sleeping more difficult. I could blame it on too much on my mind. I could blame it on the occasional hot flash I get that makes me push all the covers off in the middle of winter.
The truth is, however, I could not sleep because of the DOG.
Copper is a great dog. She has slept on our bed since we got her four plus years ago. And I like the feel of her pushed up against me. On chilly nights, I even appreciate the extra warmth. But in the last few months, she has started to SNORE at night (which I can't make fun of because in the last three years, so have I, damn it) and it wakes me up. I sleep with a wonderful sound machine by my head but she drowns it out too. Plus, each snore makes her vibrate and since she is up against me, I feel it. I try nudging her (which turns into gentle kicks after awhile) so she will stop and she does . . . for about 60 seconds . . . long enough that I relax and start to fall asleep and then get jerked back up. I know the solution is to have her sleep elsewhere but that makes me sad and will make her utterly miserable.
So, this morning I just gave up trying to sleep and came downstairs. Sat in front of the computer for a while, posted (DUH) and then I will attempt to go sleep on the couch. Or stay up and work, who knows?

I mentioned before we had out of town company coming yesterday and I am so pleased to say it was a wonderful visit. I have met pen friends in the past and been disappointed or surprised to the point that our correspondence ended after the visit. Not true this time. My friends were delightful and fun and I think they enjoyed Portland, despite the rain. We hit major bookstores, a thrift store, a couple of restaurants and saw a little scenery. We are hoping they return in the spring/summer when the city is much prettier and we can outdoor things like the waterfalls.

Today Nicole's room will get finished painting and mural and hopefully, tomorrow we can start putting things back in it and get the house back under control. She will be going through all of her things and making some donations to Goodwill.

If the dog doesn't quit snoring, I think I will include her in the donation box.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Correspondence and Chaos

Chaos reigns in the Orr household right now because we are repainting Nicole's room. This means everything in it (and believe me, if they had a young adult version of "Hoarders", she would qualify . . . but then she is her mother's daughter . . . ) has to be taken out and moved somewhere else in the house. Books are piled on the kitchen table. All of her clothes are stacked in her brothers' rooms (they roll their eyes at her and hope the paint dries quickly). Definitely chaotic. The room is shaping up nicely though and the new colors mean a new beginning. Tomorrow a friend is coming over to paint a wonderful dandelion mural on one wall. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

Of course, at the same time all this is happening, a pen friend is here from out of town and we are going to get together for the day. I wish I could bring her and her husband to my house but not when it looks like THIS. Instead, we will spend a rainy afternoon showing them what makes Portland unique . . . Powell's bookstore, maybe a drive by Multnomah Falls, a stop into VooDoo Doughnuts, a cool thrift store, etc. I love this city and hope to show it off as much as possible despite cold, wet weather.

Of course, throughout everything I do, my mind wanders to the loss of my friend. It's like reaching out the pulling on a wound each time. It hurts fresh without fail. Last nite I expected to dream of him, but instead dreamt of my oldest daughter--a common occurrence--and how she came over, spent the evening at some camp site with us and best of all, let me hug her for a moment without stiffening up but instead, hugged me back. Those dreams are tough. I wake up smiling and it quickly turns to tears.

Amidst the new year starting chaos going on, I took a moment to tally up my letter writing for 2010. Even I was a little astonished at the final numbers. I received a total of 585 letters and I sent out a total of 665. That's a bunch of fountain pen ink and paper, eh? I have met some really tremendous friends over the year through letters. I am so glad I rediscovered the joy of corresponding.

Okay, off to get ready to meet one of those correspondents. We will explore the city together and hopefully she will go home raving about Portland--albeit wet and cold, a fascinating place.

Next time!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Hey everyone. Happy 2011. Still sounds futuristic to me.

Hope you had a good Christmas and New Year's. We did. They were quiet but full of family and love, so couldn't be any better.

As this year starts, my life is so full. I have a family I love and a job I enjoy. I have friends who make me laugh and who care about me. I have high hopes for 2011 in many ways, but I am also facing it, as of this morning, without someone who has been with me for half my life. And while I know life is full of passages, some of them sure can hurt.

I met Shayne through a letter writing magazine. He was in prison and I was a new mom and somehow, we "clicked". Our letters began flying fast and furious, long missives in which I learned of his past and he of mine. Truly, we couldn't have been more different. The redneck, football loving, abused boy who would spend the rest of his life behind bars and the city girl-turned wife-turned mother in a small Indiana town. Odd combination for sure. Yet, as the years passed and the letters written and responded to, we grew close. We sent Christmas packages. We talked on the phone. My whole family sent him photos and drawings and letters. He was a part of our family.

For a few years around 2003-2004, we lost touch. Unbeknownst to me, his only daughter had been killed in a house fire and he was so completely devastated that he cut off all contact with anyone. He had loved her dearly and her loss was almost more than he could bear.

I didn't hear from him for several years and I missed him terribly. Then, in January 2008, I got a letter again. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given six months to live. At the time his letter arrived, I was in the process of losing my mother as well and it was awful. We took up right where we left off, writing long letters. As time passed and he was still here, the doctors were amazed at his endurance. He credited me . . . . I credited his stubborn nature. :)

Shayne was also a painter. I would get paintings from him every year or so. Stop by my house and you can see one framed on the wall. His handpainted cards and t-shirts were always such fun to get. Even the kids have some of them.

About six months ago, he sent me a cell phone. It took him months to earn the money for it. He sent it to me and arranged it so that he could call me straight from the prison. We spoke several times a week for a couple of months. Hearing that slow southern drawl (he was originally from Texas) always made me smile. We would only get 15 minutes to talk and were constantly interrupted by the recording that this was a call from a prison system (like either one of us had forgotten!), but these calls were sweet.

Two days after Christmas, I received a sweet letter from him. It was full of gratitude and affection and, in retrospect, I realize it was some what of a goodbye as well. Patrick Shayne Sesco, my friend, my correspondent, my family, a part of my life for 25 years, passed away in his sleep last nite. I was called by a friend of his and told this morning.

My heart hurts. I accept that with the passage of time, we lose people. I've survived the loss of my parents and even a few friends. And now, one of the dearest people in the world. I am grateful I've had him for 25 years. I'm grateful I got to meet him in person two years ago. I'm grateful he was part of my life. And I shall miss him more than he could ever know.

Shayne did not believe in god, but he did believe there was an afterlife. He was sure that when he died, he would be reunited with his daughter. He was also sure that he would find a way to come back and haunt me (usually he told me he'd mess with the toilet paper roll whenever I walked into the bathroom). I hope he's right. I hope he is sitting under a tree somewhere with his daughter. Then, I hope that later he wanders around and stops to say hello to my mom and dad. They can compare notes on what it was like to know me and then swap silly stories. I don't think for a moment that is possible, but I can hope.

Have a special friend who means the world to you? Take a minute and let them know today, ok? It will be our honor to a friend who is gone but never, ever forgotten.