Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy 16th Birthday, Coryn!

16 years ago, our family welcomed Coryn Aslan Sebastian Orr into our household. He was our only "unplanned" baby . . . and what a blessing he has proven to be. From the very beginning, he was a ham who posed and smiled as soon as a camera was brought into the room. He has turned into a handsome, sweet, funny, smart, delightful young man. We are proud of him, when we aren't rolling our eyes at him and his smart ass-edness. Please join me in wishing this "baby" of ours, a very HAPPY 16th BIRTHDAY.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Don't MISS this Book!

I have been a huge fan of Kathy Hepinstall's for years. When I read Absence of Nectar I was absolutely mesmerized. I then tracked down her other books and read those, finding them just as wonderful. Prince of Lost Places especially touched my heart.

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Kathy was coming to Powell's in Portland to promote her new book. Nicole (who has also read all of her books) went with me and we had a wonderful time. Kathy was funny, pretty, young, and entertaining. I honestly felt like I could invite her out for coffee and we would have had a wonderful time. Nicole and I stopped to chat with Kathy's mother as well--a charming lady that reminded me sweetly of my own, who I miss every day.

Nicole and I, of course, bought Kathy's new book, Blue Asylum. which she sweetly signed for us.  Then, Nicole and I took turns reading it, 50 pages at a time. We would read, talk, point out favorite scenes and lines (the woman can write a metaphor that gives you goosebumps) and then read again. For the last 20 pages, we took turns reading aloud so that we could experience the ending simultaneously instead of consecutively.

We were both in tears. Stopping in our reading to take a deep breath, wipe our eyes and then read again. When we were done, we just sat there . . . sighing, sniffling and marveling at what a wonderful novel it was, how sad we were that it was over, and how much we would miss the characters.

 If you enjoy reading, if you want a story that will touch your heart and create characters you will likely never forget, please read Blue Asylum. Stop at the bookstore, go to the library, grab your e-reader, but read this book. It is not to be missed.

Pride . .. and Joy

Yesterday, the four of us packed into the van, each one of us with books and pillows and music, and we headed south/west to the coastal region of Oregon. We were going to Caspian's Parent's Day 300 miles away. We left at 10 am and didn't arrive until 5 pm . . . . thanks to two gas stops, multiple pee breaks thanks to multiple coffee stops, and of course lunch! It was like a mini-road trip. Nicole took the wheel for part of it, and we all took turns reading.

After not seeing Caspian for three weeks and wondering every single moment how he was doing, we were all eager. As we got out of the car, I looked up and noticed a handsome guy headed our way (no lack of them at this camp!) and I went to point him out to Nicole (her radar for good looking young men is always in the "on" position) when I realized it was Caspian. It was a shock. In three weeks, he was taller, thinner, older, wiser . . . I worried about hugging him--didn't know how it might affect his reputation at the camp with his friends, but I didn't worry long before I was clasped in a huge, powerful, heartfelt hug from him. (I got at least ten by the time I left.)

The transformation in Caspian was startling for all of us. He has always been kind and funny and sweet and handsome, but he has struggled with fitting in, with speaking out or letting go enough in front of others to be silly. He tended to be quiet and stay on the sidelines. Now he was introducing us to people left and right. Everyone knew him. Three people stopped us to tell us how wonderful he was--kind and supportive and INSPIRING to others. Apparently Caspian is the one that helps keep his team going when they are tired and want to stop pulling weeds or carrying heavy loads in the rain.

I tear up again thinking of watching him there. He was in his "element". He SWAGGERED. He was CONFIDENT, the one thing that had eluded him for so long. He was as happy as I have ever seen him. His feet are a mess of scaly skin and blisters, and he has had a cold, and his tent got flooded--and he is smiling. He dropped and did THIRTY push ups for us just to show he could. He hugged us all repeatedly, even the brother. During the circle activity, he raised his hand and volunteered answers. We were told that during "personal history", where campers speak about themselves for an HOUR (an HOUR!?!?!?!), he volunteered to go first. This, from the boy who preferred to keep quiet and just let others talk. His leaders had heard the story of how Joseph and I met, Nicole's trip to Alaska, and Coryn's penchant for computers. He even said there were rumors he might be voted as the worker of the week . . .

The moment that about did me in was the moment where he took me inside his tent to show me where everyone slept (a crowded and muddy mess of blankets that I can't imagine sleeping in . . .  ) and he said, "Here, Happy Birthday, Mom". He handed me a beautiful glass sculpture of the lighthouse that is right next to where they are camping. "I knew this would be important to you." He knew my dad loved lighthouses, so I have a soft spot for them.

So, in the middle of working, when they had a little time off, he went into town to the gift shop and he bought this for me. His leader told me they had to hustle to get there before the store closed. It is the only thing he has spent money on, other than showers and laundry, since he left. I cry every time I think of it and you can bet the lighthouse will go somewhere where I can see it every day. He also brought me a shell that he had found on the sand. I cannot begin to explain the depth of appreciation I had for this moment.

We have all missed Caspian every single day and are eager to have him back in two weeks. There is no doubt in our minds, however, that this was the single best thing he has ever done. He is already planning to go back in June. He earns a good amount of money at this camp and deserves every penny.

Our drive home was FOREVER, along dark and winding roads with endless pine trees on each side. At  one point, we pulled over and got out to gasp at the ocean under the light of the moon. It was mysterious and beautiful and one of those forever memories. We were driven inside by the cold wind, but the moment of standing there under the moonlight, listening to the surf and feeling my heart full of gratitude for my family will remain.

We pulled in our driveway at 5 a.m. Checked mail, fed the cat, brought in stuff from the car, noticed the morning birds, and then fell into bed. Up four hours later, I find myself still with that smile on my face and a heart full of gratitude--and a beautiful glass lighthouse on my desk. I am truly full of pride---and joy.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Brain Implosion Imminent

My life seems determined to make me bipolar.
Today was supposed to be a relaxing day . . . we had tickets on Amtrak to go to Seattle for the day and we were all looking forward to getting away for a bit. I was especially eager because work has been keeping my crazy busy and I needed some down time. We got up early and headed out and to sum it up, had a GREAT time. The cold, wet and windy weather that was predicted ended up being warm, and wonderfully sunny. We went to some used bookstores, a great stationery store, had a lunch outside at a Mediterranean spot (who knew brats and cream cheese were good together?) and hung out at a great coffee shop reading. So, wonderful trip.
BUT . . .
while I was on the train, I was called about taking a full time writing job in Vancouver. I was in the middle of an interview when the train went out of cell range. So there was work  . . . .on my mind again.
Then, we came home and I had an email offering me a full time job at a company (which can be done remotely from my house) and asking me to fly to the east coast in three days!
And there were more than 50 emails for me, many of them about work. Can you do this? This? That? Now? And now I am working my way through a pile of mail, 50 emails, two job offers and I feel like my brain is going to implode.
Tomorrow I will be putting in a 14 hour day to make up for being gone today.
Saturday I will be traveling to see Caspian (YAY! RAH!) and Sunday, I might be flying to the east coast.
I am exhausted just thinking about it.
Good thing I got some relaxing in today then, eh?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Frog Porn and Spitting Flowers

Tell me now . . . isn't that a title that just insists you keep reading?
This past week, Joseph and I have had the chance to sleep outside on the deck for the first time this year. It has been 80 degrees during the day, so nights are a balmy and lovely high 50s. We put up the air mattress and brought out the blankets and returned to our lovely bed on the upper deck.

Now, as I have posted before, nature is noisy. This is actually a good thing since I have tinnitus and can't sleep in silence anyway. In the past, we have dealt with grouchy squirrels, irritating birds, hyper dogs, lovely windchimes, entertaining neighbors, and lovely breezes in the pines. This week, however, we had two new experiences.

The first was . . . spitting flowers. We have this amazing vine that grows on our deck. Each spring, it blooms in beautiful pink blossoms . . . so pretty that we often use it as a photo backdrop for family pictures. I love that vine. The other day I was looking at it and I saw . . . . .something . . . a little like pollen but heavier, a little like rain but lighter, coming off of the vine. It didn't stop after a few seconds . . . it just kept coming. I STILL don't know what it was (and I kept checking to make sure none of us were turning into pod people afterwards). As I was lying in bed on the deck last night, I felt something hitting my face and knew it had to be the spitting flowers. This morning, I had hoped to wake with superpowers or something . . . but sadly, no.

And then there are the bullfrogs. In the yard behind us, we clearly have some MEGA bullfrogs. They start croaking all at once and they speed up, get louder and louder . . . . and then all of them stop at once. Joseph and I theorized that the first calls were mating calls because we heard croaking from one spot and then a response from another. Later, the calls were merged and louder and more . . . intense. So, we figured the mating call had been successful and this was now the sound of frog porn. (I am not embarrassed to tell you that Joseph made a sincere attempt to imitate it one night, leaving me doubled over in laughter.) I am astounded at the sound these creatures make and how they begin and end at the very same moment . . . leading my daughter to compliment them on what is, apparently, skill and good timing on both their parts.

Ah, nature.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Books, Books, and More Books!

Hey there, I haven't reviewed books I have read for a while, so here I am with the good, the boring, and the disappointing.
So far, in the first four months of 2012, I have read 13 books. That is pitiful compared to some (like my son Coryn, who could read that in a week, easy), but not bad compared to the national average of 16 per YEAR. I tend to "grade" them and if they rate less than C+, I QUIT reading them. That is a huge improvement from the old Tami who would just KEEP READING in the hopes the book would get better. It never did, so why I persisted when there are so many books and so little time is beyond me. So, anyway, here are a few of the reviews:
Worth Fighting For by Lisa Neimi Swayze. I have been a HUGE Patrick Swayze fan since I first saw "Dirty Dancing" (we will not discuss how many times I have watched it again) and "Ghost" (still makes me cry like an idiot every time). He is one of the few celebrities whose death made me cry. Reading his wife's story of his last few years from diagnosis to his death, was sobering and sweet and raw. If you're a Swayze fan, I recommend it.
The Pack by Jason Starr: an entirely different take on the whole werewolf theme (and hey, at least it isn't zombies this time). I enjoyed this one--light reading that made you re-think single dads and a bottle of beer.
Cemetery Girl by David Bell. Hmmmmm. I wanted to love this one, but I didn't. I think that someone with a different family dynamic might, but I found the relationship between the father and daughter implausible. It disturbed me enough that it made it hard for me to accept the rest of the story. It does have an intriguing plot line though.
Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz. I realized, while looking through the journal where I write down what I have read, that I have read a Spellman Files book every March/April for the past four years. I think that's amusing. I LOVE these books. In fact, if I am giving someone a gift, I tend to choose the first one in the series as a gift because I like them so much. They are funny enough that I am quoting them out loud all the time. They have FOOTNOTES, which tickles me no end. If you haven't read them, let me know your birthday and I will make sure you get the first one too. :)
The Thirteen by Susie Moloney. I just finished this one last night. On the down side, there was nothing surprising in it--no last minute twists that made my eyebrows go up. On the plus side, I really, really enjoyed the book. Predictability aside, it was a good story with strong female characters (some of them a little to strong since they were also evil) and I enjoyed every page. A spooky tale about witches and their control on a small town.
Blockade Billy by Stephen King. Yeah, yeah, this one has been out for ages and I am just now reading it. I had to wait for my husband while he went in search of an auto part, so I sat in the car and read this (so short, you can easily do in one sitting). It was quick and fun and surprised me, which I like. I'm a long time King fan and I am sure I would have enjoyed this much better if I liked and understood baseball.

Last night was Saturday night and we couldn't do our former tradition of hanging out at Border's and listening to live music because, tragically, Border's is a part of the past. Barnes and Noble doesn't have music. The usual Saturday night B-movie on sci-fi had been abandoned for an Indiana Jones marathon, so we did something different. We all went to Fred Meyers department store (it has a decent sized book area) and since paperbacks were buy two, get one free, I told Nicole, Coryn and Joseph to each pick three. It was fun! We shared books back and forth, made recommendations and just enjoyed looking for almost an hour.

Then when we paid, they forgot to give us our free books . . . so we had to stand in line at customer service. Finally, we got our money back and left. The kids had a really, really good time, which made me smile. We came home and instead of watching a movie or TV show, we turned on music and all curled up on couches and read for three hours. It was fun and peaceful and just . . .. nice. We missed Caspian, of course, (and NO, he didn't call this weekend like he was supposed to) but I am so glad we did it. I forsee more reading evenings like this to come. And when they do, I will write up some more reviews for you.

What have you read this year that you loved/hated?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

An Orr Moment

If you didn't know much about our family, you would have learned a lot tonight.
It was 11:18 and we had just finished watching the movie, "Tin Tin". It was the third of the three we had rented and we had 42 minutes before it would be considered late. (Or so we thought.) So we all popped into the car and headed to the closest McDonald's where we had Red Box'd them. We thought, just maybe, if we drove through the drive-in, we could hand them in since the restaurant was closed.
Of course, being in line at a fast food restaurant, Nicole and Coryn were hungry.
So, we ordered sandwiches and went up to pay. Guess what? Food, yes. Take movies for us? Methinks not.
So, laughing, we sat in the parking lot and ate. Then, Coryn pulled out his iPod Touch and found the next closest Red Box with an outside box. We drove there, turned in the movies at 11:45.
Of course, being in line at the movie kiosk, Nicole and Coryn had to get out and look at movies.
We returned the movies and then got in the car. Kids still looking at movies. We honked. Kids continued to look at movies. Mother told Father to drive on home and see what happened.
We backed out and pulled away.
The kids just waved goodbye and went back to looking. Yes, they are that confident that we wouldn't leave them.
Finally, they came over to the van. Did they get in?
Methinks not.
They proceeded to run laps around the van, Nicole with her snuglie blowing behind her. Sheesh.
FINALLY they got in and we came home, laughing at how much time we had spent trying to return those movies on time.
Walked in the door, checked my email and guess what?
Got charged for an extra day. SHEEEEEESH.
Wasted trip?
Methinks not.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wanna send a card?

Caspian will be spending his 19th birthday at Northwest Youth Corps and I thought it might be fun to make sure he got lots of cards to celebrate the day (plus make him blush). If you would be willing to send a card to him, leave me a comment and I will send you the address. Thanks. What almost 19 yr old son doesn't want lots of cards from people in front of all his new friends? Snicker.

Monday, April 9, 2012

And then there were four . . . . .

Caspian is now gone for five weeks. Sigh. His being gone is not what causes me the most angst. It is the not knowing how it is doing that causes me to lie in bed at night awake and worrying. Is he having fun? Making friends? Glad he is there? Not knowing is tough. No matter where the kids have traveled so far (Nicole to Alaska, Coryn to California, Cas to Indiana and New Hampshire), I was always able to get the occasional call or text or email. This time I can check online to the organization's "Field Notes" every Friday afternoon to find out where they are and what his team is doing but it doesn't answer any of MY questions . . . is he having fun? making friends? glad he is there?

I am often told by people I know that my kids are so much more adventuresome than others, but partly, I believe, it is due to the fact that they have the TIME to be so. They aren't in school every day, all day. Instead they are meeting people, exploring ideas, traveling to places and making decisions about what to do--or where to go--next. Nicole is heading to Australia in September; Caspian hopes to follow this outing with another with the same group and then either join Americorps or go to Alaska and work where Nicole did. As for Coryn, he is still counting the days until the Life is Good conference in May and then Not Back to School Camp in August. After that? Who knows? He is already asking about going to Australia's camp for homeschoolers.

Joseph and I just sit back and take a lot of deep breaths, buy a lot of equipment, pay for a lot of tickets, and Mom tries not to cry too hard when they leave (at least not until I am out of sight.) I got the first taste of that many years ago when Jasmine boarded a plane to New York. Back then, you could walk all the way to the gate with them. We did and I smiled and waved until she was out of sight and then I cried. All the way to the car. All the way home. Now I just blink a lot, swallow, sniffle and try to focus on the good parts instead of the missing. But I still lie in bed and wonder . . . .is he having fun? making friends? glad he went?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My First Ever Contest

For all my DOZEN of readers (snicker), I have a give away for you. Be the first person to comment on this post and you will receive a beautiful address book in which to keep anything from penpals to relatives to businesses you work with to work contacts to whatever you want. I will send it to you in the mail and even foot the postage.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"I'm SO sorry"

You often hear references to those "three little words" we all want to hear and the implication is often that it is "I love you". While I agree that those are VERY important words that I say and hear no less than a dozen times a day, I think that almost as important are the words, "I'm so sorry". I don't mean apologizing for something you did wrong--although you should and without prompting and with sincerity--but just the acknowledgement that you ARE sorry for what is happening to someone.

I was inspired by this the other day when I was waiting for some food I had ordered. A family came into the restaurant where we were and as the little boy came in, his fingers got caught in the door. If you have ever had this happen to you, you know it hurts TERRIBLY. It really, really hurts. I have had it happen to a couple of my kids--once to Jasmine when she was about four and once to Coryn when he was six. It really hurts--there are a lot of nerves right there. So this little guy (he was about 8-9) yelled and then began crying. For the next ten minutes, the rest of the family (dad, two older brothers and a sister) argued about whose FAULT it was that it happened. No one took the time to just wrap their arms around the little guy and tell him "I am SO sorry!" I was aggravated . . . .

Have you ever seen adults do that do kids when they cry? Oh, you're okay . . . . you're fine . . . . no need to cry . . . or just ignore them completely? I cannot fathom that. I always tried to respond to my kids with, "I know it hurts and I am so very sorry. It will get better." And then I would hold, hug, get ice, band aids and of course, kisses. I remember once when Jasmine was in the woods on a tire swing at Grandma's house and it swung into a tree. It hurt and it was scary! I heard her yell all the way in the house. My mother in law went after her since I was holding a nursing baby at the time and I heard her tell Jasmine, "Oh, you're okay honey. Stop crying." I know she meant well, but it wasn't comforting. I sat down with her, we cuddled, she cried and I told her how sorry I was that she had gotten hurt and scared. Isn't that how we, even as adults, would want to be treated?

When I see a child that has gotten hurt physically or even emotionally, I want to reach out and just say, I am SO sorry. When my friend recently lost her husband of 35 years, I said the same thing. We cannot stop the pain, but we can let people know we care and we are sad for them. And certainly we owe our children that!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Half Empty or Half Full?

I am constantly amazed at some of the conversations the Orrs have during the course of any meal. Eating together is important to us, as I have mentioned before. Much of our days are spent scattered and meals are often a time for us to catch up with each other's activities. Conversations truly run the gamut from trivial and shallow to profound and meaningful, with many, many hilarious topics in between. I spend as much time laughing as I do eating at most meals.

The other day I brought up a question. I said to each kid, "If you had to define yourself as a pessimist or an optimist, which would it be?" I already suspected what their answers would be but kept quiet. I was dead on right too. Coryn said optimist; both Nicole and Caspian said pessimist. I had already seen this trend in them and thought it was time to discuss it. It actually led to a fascinating conversation which I think we all enjoyed and learned from. Since depression tends to run in our family (Joseph and some of his relatives, my mother), it is a topic we take seriously.

Clearly, we all accept that no one is a 100 percent optimist or pessimist--we all have moments of both. I remember my parents--mom was an optimist, dad was a pessimist. I always knew when I shared news with them that they would have vastly different responses. Dad was always seeing the possibility of trouble and complications, while Mom was always thinking of possibilities and adventures. Watching my kids, I could see those traits reflecting back to me and I was worried. Nicole was just called back into work at an old job and what I thought she would see as a perfect opportunity, she saw with dread. We talked about it and then the whole family discussed it and now a couple of us are listening to positive affirmations/positive outlook CDs at night.

I consider myself a definite optimist. I greet each day with gratitude and I try always to look at each situation in the most positive light possible. I falter, for sure, but I try hard to remember that life is precious and so limited. I am just so glad that I get to share it with these wonderful people--pessimists and otherwise. :)