Monday, May 28, 2012

Disappointments and Gratitude

So . . . the conference this year was disappointing for most of us in the family. I am not faulting the conference itself. I am sure it was the life-changing, empowering experience it always is for most of the people. I don't know if we had changed. .  or what.  We just didn't seem to connect with anyone like in the past. No long chats, no deep conversations, just quick hugs in the hallway and moving on. Nicole and I's song for the Talent Show (of which I was absolutely terrified of doing) just didn't come off the way we wanted it to at all. We were sandwiched in between three year olds doing dance moves and six year old violinists (all absolutely precious, believe me, but it made doing a song about Viagra seem a tad incongruous). The mike was the wrong height and the acoustics were such that we couldn't hear the music well enough to stay where we should be. Nonetheless, I did it--a major milestone I have struggled with since the years in the past when Jasmine wanted me to go up for the Clonlara Talent Show. And Nicole and I are sufficiently inspired to perform the song this summer at the VW camp out.

This was my first year leading workshops at the conference and I was very, very excited. I spent hours preparing outlines, getting prizes, sending out for freebies . . . . . and had to get up early to get there on time and set up. No one came. Zip. That has actually never happened to me at a conference. I usually draw a decent crowd. I was really disappointed and walked out for the rest of the day, cancelling my other workshop that afternoon. Yeah, I felt like a little kid stamping her feet, but I was just disappointed.

For a number of other reasons, the conference simply hasn't worked for us. We will pick Coryn up after today's picnic. Since we dropped him off on Wednesday, we haven't seen him for an hour. (Another issue, but that's for later.) Mostly we heard from him when he needed money or clean clothes. :)

On the other hand, I have a great reason to be smiling today. This is the 30th anniversary of my first date with Joseph. Thirty years ago, on Memorial Day, he pulled up in front of my parent's house is his T-top orange Corvette. I watched him through the window, nervous as can be. We had a great date . . . and it snowballed from there such that we were ENGAGED 17 days later, married six months after that.  Now, 30 years later, I still get butterflies when I see him across the room, and he can look at me and say, when I ask how he wants to spend this holiday, "I just want to be anywhere that you are."  Cue butterflies.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So Bad, It's Funny

We ate at a restaurant so terrible tonight that what started out as irritating, and developed into exasperating, finally turned into hysterical. We ate there on the recommendation of someone. We walked in, and picked a table. We sat down. We waited. And waited. And waited. We didn't see a single server, other than a busy bartender. We waited a little longer. Finally, I went up to the bar and asked for some menus.
Strike 1.
We got them and studied the options. In fairness, the menu was extensive and reasonably priced. We made our choices and finally the busy bartender took our order.  He walked away, leaving me holding the menus out to him. Finally, I got up and took them back to the bar.
Strike 2.
We waited for water that didn't come. So we asked for it.
Strike 3.
Just then, a small band began playing music. It was decent music . . . but WAY TOO LOUD. WAYYYYY. Such that I couldn't hear anything my kids and hubby were saying to me at the table. That is too loud.
Strike 4.
We ordered. We tried to ignore the loud music.
The first dish came. It had NO presentation and actually looked awful. (Cottage pie . . . their house "specialty".)
Strike 5.
The other three dishes came out one by one over a period of ten minutes. By the time the last one came, mine was cold.
Strike 6.
Nicole's cream of potato soup was almost too spicy for her to eat. (When is cream of potato soup SPICY!?!) My dish was unbelievably boring. They forgot the bread that goes with the soup and when we asked for it, we were told they would TRY and find a piece somewhere . . .
Strike 7, 8 and 9.
They never came back and refilled our water glasses so that we were completely out for the last half of the meal.
Strike 10.
When we asked if they could ask the band to turn it down a notch, we were told that no, that just wasn't possible.
Strike 11.
They didn't bring the bill to us. We had to ask for it. (I was all for walking out and not paying, but ethical husband couldn't do it.)
Strike 12.
At strike 4, we were annoyed. By strike 8, we were appalled. By strike 10, we were laughing and counting strikes.
We could have gotten so upset we ruined the meal. We could have been in rotten moods and not enjoyed each other's company. Instead we laughed, walked out and made jokes about it all the way home. Full of good food? Nope. Full of love? You bet.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Unexpected Situation

Sometimes your family still has the power to surprise you, even though you know them better than anyone else in the world.
Tonight, we did some running around, including picking Coryn up from his cooking class and Nicole from her Zumba class. We stopped for a quick dinner and then capped it off with strawberry shortcake from Burgerville (yum). We were all in a silly mood, making jokes about middle names and nicknames and making funny (and yes, lewd) shapes with our ice cream.
Just as we got close to home, there was a large shape in the road. We narrowly missed it and the car behind us hit it head on. It was a very large dog and it was clearly dead now. On the side of the road, a woman stood crying.
Joseph called 911 to report the dog, then pulled the car around and placed it in front of the dog so that no one else could hit it. I stood with the woman, telling her how sorry I was and occasionally patting her shoulder (I offered hugs but she did not seem receptive). We stayed with her for the long 10 minutes it took for the police to arrive. Minutes after the woman's husband joined her and just down the street, I could see several children holding hands and watching and knew this was their family pet. It made me cry.
It brought back memories too. I lost several family dogs to the very busy street in front of my parents' house as I grew up. My brother lost his first dog there as well. More than a decade ago, we also lost our beautiful collie Pasha when she nosed the gate open and ran out into the road and got hit by a terrified and tear stricken 16 year old boy. It was one of the only times, in 30 years, I have ever seen my husband cry.
Once the husband and the police arrived, we moved our car and came on home. I found out that both of my sons were extremely disturbed by the death of the dog--to the point of silence. When we got home, both were quiet and sad and needed a little extra touch and attention, in their grown up ways. :)
Tonight, I was reminded that my husband is a man of tenderness and integrity, my daughter is able to step in and take charge, and my sons still have sensitive hearts under those young adult facades. I am almost unbearably proud of each one of them.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Report

I was so busy spouting off, I didn't get to report on Mother's Day at the Orr House.
So here we go:
Caspian made us breakfast in bed plus gave me a lovely keychain I had admired two months ago. He bought it and saved it for me.
Coryn bought me a stuffed Tigger with a photo of Pooh and Christopher Robin, plus a Hoops and Yoyo card (my all time favorite).
Nicole gave me two singing sock monkeys :), a statue, a journal, a snowglobe, a smiling crab (as opposed to the generally nonsmiling crabs), a Vera Bradley computer bag, and a Pooh organizer. On top of that, she gave me a beautiful Zentangled card that I will be framing and putting on the wall.
Oh, and Joseph? He bought a wonderful floor lamp for our living room. We have been searching for weeks and he finally found just the right one.
Feelin' loved. Uh huh! Hope yours was lovely as well.

Too Quick to Judge

One of the lessons I have ever so slowly learned as I got older as how important it is to not JUDGE people just because they do things differently. Moving to Portland has certainly helped with that.. . . compared to Indiana, this place is a mecca of diversity and alternative lifestyles. The lessons started long ago though, when I chose to be an attachment parent. That photo on the cover of Time magazine that has people so troubled was a common image in my house. All four of my kids nursed for between 3 and 4 years. It wasn't weird. It wasn't sexual. It wasn't forced. It wasn't harmful. In fact, it was the opposite. It was compassionate, close, nurturing, gentle, loving, and very right for them. Labeling people because they do things differently as WRONG is  . . . well, wrong. People eat different ways, parent different ways, love different ways, work different ways, talk different ways . . . and that is OK. If it works for them and no one is harmed (and anyone who thinks that attachment parenting is harmful hasn't done enough homework), then just LET.IT. BE. (I now step off of my soapbox and return you to your regular, nonranting program.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day to All

To the moms who are just starting, like I did almost 28 years ago . . . scared and excited and absolutely head over in heels in love with this little person in my arms. To the moms of toddlers who are sure these long, tiring days will never end and yet they do, FAR too soon. To the moms of teens who hopefully discover that underneath the hormones and emotions, these young adults are amazing human beings that will turn into our best friends ever.  To the moms of grown up children who are continually astounded at the beauty, intelligence, wit, creativity, humor, and integrity of their babies. To the moms who can't sleep at night because they worry, worry, worry. To those who laugh so hard with their children that they can't speak and to those who cry with them when the pain is too much to carry alone. To the moms who listen to and keep secrets and to those who know when staying quiet is not the best choice. To those who see their children suffer and would do anything to stop it and to those who know pain is out there but continue to encourage their children to risk pain in return for love and adventure. To those mom who love with all of their hearts, even if it means the deepest hurt, the most frightening fears, the largest investment, and the hardest work. Because, in the end, every moment is worth it when they turn and call you "mom". Happy Mother's Day all.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Out on the Deck

Each spring, Joseph and I watch the weather report eagerly. We wait and wait and wait for the rains to slow down and the temperatures to rise because that means . . . it's time to put our air mattress out on the upper deck and sleep outside again. It's the most wonderful way to end a day. Fresh air, moonlight, the stars, breeze in the pines. It's private, sheltered, and just beautiful. This week was the first time we say a 10 day forecast that indicated little to no rain, so he blew up the mattress, hauled out sleeping bags and set up our bed. A few days later, he even brought out another one so that Coryn and Nicole could join us outside.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, nature is noisy but it is usually a wonderful serenade. We hear a lot of it even though we live in the city . . . bullfrogs, squirrels, birds, cats, dogs, and once even an owl. We hear wind and rain and chimes and distant traffic and train whistles. Other than one bird that I would gladly take an Uzi to (see last year's posts), I love all of it. I especially like that we have a baby next door this spring and I can hear it laugh and gurgle now and then.

Last night, however, I discovered what I can't tolerate . . . . a mattress with a leak. When we crawled in, all was well. However, I kept waking up every time I rolled over. Instead of just moving, I would slam into Joseph or almost topple off the side. When he got up earlier than I did, my head dipped down and my feet went up. If I hadn't been so sleepy, it would have been pretty funny. I dreamt that I was being swallowed up by some mysterious beast and then woke to find it was the air mattress. (We have been through SIX of these things now . . . are they just not built to last or what?!) Finally, at 6 am, Joseph woke me and we went inside and crawled into our bed.

We did sleep much better there for another couple of hours, but I missed nature. Gotta find a trustworthy air mattress before the next patch of summer weather!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Birthday Report

So, how did my birthday go? It was lovely, with a couple of unexpected serenades to make it even more special.
I received a lovely card from my husband and kids. I went out for early coffee with hubby and then got a special treat because we came back home and took a nap! That is a real treasure. We went to four Goodwills and one consignment store. What did I buy? PAPER, of course. Best find? About $150 worth of Asian style stationery, much like I buy when I am in Seattle, and all for about $6. Lunch at the Franks-a-Lot hotdog kiosk. Sunshine all afternoon despite a prediction of rain and gray clouds. (Although a wind storm came through and knocked down our umbrella on the back deck and shattered our glass table! What a mess.) Dinner at a restaurant I really like but rarely get to, then home for sitting on the couch, getting a massage from Nicole and watching episodes of "The Big Bang Theory".  Oh, and tasty pecan pie instead of a cake. All in all, a great day.

The best part (other than not working all day)? The unusual serenades . . . first, the lady who owns the hot dog stand put on her hot dog costume and brought us free desserts and sang to me, complete with a jump and a "WHOO!" after each line.
Then, an hour later, standing in Goodwill, my phone rings and it is my friend Ami. She puts me on speaker phone and then her entire class of 20 plus sing "Happy Birthday" to me, complete with the cha-cha-cha's after each line. WONDERFUL surprise that created happy tears.
Next, at dinner, the panic on the server's face when he realized it was my birthday and that usually meant everyone coming over to sing . . but it was late enough that he was the ONLY server really left. He weakly asked, "Do you . . . . want . . um . . . ME . . .to sing?" And I said, "Sure!" Poor man. He got out a single "Happy Birthday" before faltering. Fortunately Joseph, Nicole and Coryn all chipped in and helped him through the song. He was a GREAT server--a real sweetie.
Finally, almost 2 a.m. and in bed and Nicole and Coryn come in with a single lit candle, singing the song just one more time and urging me to make a wish before the celebration ended.  It was a no brainer. I wished I could always feel this loved.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy Birt-Day to Me

Yup, I am 53 today (53 on 5-3 . . . kinda cool). Worked hard all day yesterday so I could take most of today off of work. . . going out for early coffee .  . hitting a couple of Goodwills this afternoon, once Nicole gets off work.
What is about birthdays that makes us reflect on our lives so much? I guess it's due to the in-your-face reminder of time passing, eh?
So at 53, I would look back on life and say . . . I've been very lucky. I had wonderful, loving parents and a fun childhood. I met and married the man I still want to spend my life with. I gave birth to four shining, beautiful, unique children who I love dearly. I found a job that keeps us fed, clothed, and sheltered that I actually enjoy (MOST of the time . . . .bad week to ask). I live in one of the most scenic, accepting, diverse places in the country. I greet almost every day with gratitude (some mornings are a little harder). I have friends that love me and who I love in return. Some I see face to face, and some visit my mailbox on a regular basis.
I guess, if I had to define success, it would include all of these elements that I have found in my 53 years. Not a bad reflection at all.
Happy Birt-day to Me!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Well, the job I was excited about fell through. I was supposed to go out there next week and suddenly was told that they "went with another candidate". Trying really hard not to be bummed about it. I made it through the first three levels . . . so, back to life as usual. Work is keeping me busy, my family is happy, and I have a birthday tomorrow. Shake it off and keep on smilin'. Right?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Little Struggle

I am struggling today. . . . it is my youngest's 16th birthday and I am sure that plays a part in my rollercoaster emotions. To see my littlest guy get this big . . . not easy. Plus Mother's Day is around the corner and I miss my Mom so much. I think of all of the things I didn't say that I should have . . . all the time I could have spent with her and didn't . . . . all the love I should have shown her every day and while we were very, very close, I wish I had told her more often.
I think, most of all, I am aware of how much time has passed and how FAST it goes. It makes me want to stop every single person on the street and say, Forget any petty arguments you have had with friends and family. Let it go. Chances are they never meant to hurt you. They were doing the best they could with what they had at the time. Look past it and see how much they love you and love them back. Let the past go and make the present better and the future even more so. Don't let old arguments, or differing opinions, or difficult memories, or perceived insults stop you. Just LOVE. Because, before you are even close to ready, that person just will NOT be there anymore. And all you will remember is the words you didn't tell them and the moments you let go, refusing to partake.
So, there! That's my message to the world today. Nothing lasts forever. We have to grab life while we have it and make sure we love as fiercely as we can. Even the 16 year old who is trying to stick his fingers in the cake icing when he thinks I am not looking.
Maybe even especially him. :)
Go out and tell someone who IS NOT expecting it that you love or care about him/her. You will never regret it, but you will regret NOT doing so. Guaranteed.