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.