Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Apologies

This has not been the most fun blog to read lately, I know. I apologize for that--life has just been a bit challenging and this is where I go to spew about it. (Well gee, now that I wrote it as spewing, I am sure you're more eager than ever to read it. . . )

My doctor's appointment is in 90 minutes (finally). I have my list ready. Heaven knows, I am ready.

I am a frustrated woman, I must admit. The ankle and foot pain HAS improved, thank goodness, but honestly, last night it took me almost two hours to get to sleep because I would lay there, and one by one, my joints would hurt. First one ankle, then the other. First one shoulder and then the other. And my back and hips ached terribly. If I tried to roll over, I would gasp the whole time. I dread having to get up to go to the bathroom. I just want to fall into bed and shut down for some hours. Joseph and I's bed is a sanctuary . . . a place to go to for refuge, relaxation, comfort, security. In recent weeks, I feel my worst in bed, struggling to find a comfortable position to sleep in and then STAY THERE until morning. I am sure I am sleeping about 4-5 hours a night tops, which helps nothing of course. I find myself being bitchy during the day. Yesterday, I went upstairs, laid down on the bed with a heat pack, and just CHILLED (yes, I know heat--cold, I get it.) I felt like I would snap otherwise.

So yeah, I'm ready. I'm ready to be able to work all day without having to work around pain. I am ready to tackle the new year with energy and hope and confidence.

Gee, that poor doctor has no idea what she is in for when she walks into the room today.  Poor woman.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Back to the Grind . . .

Oh gosh, did I love having three days off. Truly a gift for the holidays! I wish I had felt better so I could have made better use of the time, of course. I didn't make the cards I'd planned or finish all the books I'm reading (although I did finish two and hit my reading goal for the year!). I did a lot of swearing and limping and sitting on the couch, but I got to be with my guys, and I had long talks and video chats with my girl.

Now, it's back to reality. Dead lines. Due dates. Sigh.

Sure, we have a short week thanks to New Year's, and I am grateful for that, truly. I plan to take off New Year's Day and hopefully feel so great, I will spend it doing all of those other things I didn't do this past week.

Update on the whole foot/ankle thing. . . I suspect it wasn't gout as the meds made no difference at all. The foot is still very swollen and I have little motion, but the pain level has backed off. This is good because on Thursday, yes, Christmas morning, it was so bad, I began asking Joseph to go out and buy me an axe and put it under the tree. We even ended up renting a wheelchair. Sheeeeeeesh. Doctor's appointment is Tuesday. List is ready. Questions are written down. Wish me luck. This girl needs some answers.

Oh, and more time off. I like that a bunch!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Warning! Warning! Pity Party

How awful am I to post a pity party on Christmas Eve? Sheeeeeeesh. Please, don't read it now. Wait until the presents and parties and time off and fun is over. It's just me whining, cuz I need a place to whine.

Gout hurts.
I know it sounds like an old person's disease and is easy to dismiss with stuff like bursitis and arthritis. But  . . . I am utterly humbled by this pain. It is as intense as kidney stones, but does not send me pacing or throwing up. Instead it keeps me up all night long, despite two of the strongest pain pills I have, in too much pain to read or watch tv or write letters because I simply cannot get past the pain enough to focus. It is like having multiple bones in my foot and ankle broken, and then set on fire. I have no motion in the toes at all and limited in the ankle so I have to walk "funny".

Today, I have ONE MORE assignment to get done and turned in before my days off begin. It will take all I have to push through, but the reward will be worth it. I've been using two canes and this morning, once Joseph is up, I will have him bring in my walker (remember Pippin?) and that might help me get around the house a bit better.

I truly  have cried more in the last 24 hours than in last six months. I cried from pain countless times. I cried because decorating the tree, despite the loving efforts of my men, is just not the same without Nicole. Every time I picked up one of her ornaments, I cried again. When the boys still decorated themselves in garland, a family tradition since they were tiny, they did it for me, and I cried more.  Shoot, I am crying as I write this. I guess my tear ducts are in good shape, eh?

Certainly people out there have it a million times worse. They are in tears because they miss people who are truly gone, not just on the other side of the globe. They are in tears because they have a terminal illness that there is no recovery from, and I have something that will be gone in 3-4 days (otherwise amputation is my chosen method for a cure). I am home, safe, loved, and about to share a wonderful couple of days off with my wonderful sons and a husband I adore.

I. am. lucky.
But DAMN, gout hurts.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Have Enough Character, Right?

Woke this morning to blinding pain in my right ankle.

REALLY? REALLY! Come onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.

Red? Swollen? No. But it feels like I took a huge fall and really sprained it. (Maybe I am channeling Joseph . . . he fell last night and really banged up his shin. Sympathetic pain?) I can barely walk on it and it was the GOOD LEG. So now I am hobbling around the house with a cane, swearing nonstop as I do, and vacillating between crying because it really, really hurts and laughing because this is just so STUPID.

Honestly, I have enough character now. I don't need to be tested any more. I have survived four gout attacks, a grand mal seizure, four, yes, FOUR episodes of kidney stones--I think that is enough to prove I'm tough.

I'm considering becoming a grizzley bear and going into a cave and hibernating. I will grab a few books, my slippers, some coconut water, and I'm good. I shall emerge in the spring, thinner, rested, and ready to take on the world.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Too Much

Too much work.
Too many responsibilities.
Too little time.

My doctor's appointment, which I have literally been counting the hours until because I am so eager, was today. Not tomorrow when I had remembered. Not tomorrow when I had planned for. This morning. So I missed it. And I will get over it--I will. But right now I just want to go upstairs, crawl under the covers, pull them up and cry for a little while.

I won't do it.
I'll sit here and keep writing and hitting those deadlines.

But . . . too much. Just . . .too much.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

On Tuesday

In a couple of days I am going to the doctor for a much overdue visit. The reasons for not going before now are long and boring, so we will skip those. I have a long list I am taking with me so I don't forget to say something I need to. I am pretty darn sure she will immediately refer me out for either a MRI or CAT scan--both of which are expensive, so I may wait until 2015 when insurance kicks in .  . . we will see.

I made a list of all of my primary symptoms last night and this morning I put them into a search box. It came up with a condition that every single symptom fit. . . . Hmmmmmmm. It's not a common condition, it's hard to pinpoint, most of the main causes do not apply to me, and there's little to be done about it  overall (well yahoo), but if I had a NAME for it, there would be tremendous relief in that alone. I've been in significant pain since August, so I would be thrilled with just some answers.

I am fortunate that I have finally, finally, FINALLY found a doctor who (1) listens without her eyes glazing over, (2) doesn't get upset that I've done my own medical research on the topic and (3) doesn't treat me like whatever is wrong with me is MY fault. (Because what is pain without a load of guilt thrown in, right?!)

So, send prayers, hugs, dance with chickens, read the tarot cards, think good thoughts, whatever you personally do and I will happily take it. I just want some answers. It's been a bit challenging to keep up with everything and deal with this much discomfort. Answers would sure help.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

In a Mere Six Hours

Trying to really make the most of every minute today in the fervent hope I can take off Dec. 24, 25 and 26. To that end, welcome to what I have done between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.:

1. Ordered a Christmas present for Joseph.
2. Looked in vain for a Christmas present for the boys.
3. Answered 44--yes, really--44 emails.
4. Got three job offers. Accepted one, said maybe to one and no to one.
5. Wrote a passage on how to become a professional bicycle rider.
6. Wrote a passage on useless inventions.
7. Got interviewed by phone with a new company about working for them.
8. Finished a letter and got it in the mailbox.
9. Taped up a present for a friend and got it ready to go to the P.O.
10. Went out for coffee, doing errands on the way back.
11. Cleaned up (okay, only a LITTLE, but it still counts, right?)
12. Had lunch with Cas and Joseph.
13. Researched sinkholes.
14. Repeatedly contemplated a nap.

Not too bad for the first six hours of the day. Of course, until I stop working about 9 or 10 pm tonight (7-8 hours from now), I still plan to:

1. Write a Power Point lesson on accidental inventions
2. Write the sidebars for a book on sinkholes
3. Research Bangladesh floating schools for a passage I am writing tomorrow
4. Finish a letter that is half way done
5. Flesh out the list of what is going into the holiday letter (which has turned in to an end of the year letter rather than Christmas because I am so far behind--thank you, Nicole)
6. Tape up the last set of boxes of gifts to send to the post office (trip #4)
7. Talk to Nicole before she goes to work, or after, or on break or whenever she can call
8. IM with Susan after she gets home tonight
9. Clean up more (ok, maybe not this one . . . .)
10. Have dinner

Fall into bed, try to read, can't keep eyes open, cue end of day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hard Days

Why is life harder some days than others? I have tried analyzing it, and am coming up pretty blank.  I often find myself in that trap of "if only I was _________" (fill in the blank--richer, younger, thinner, etc.), "I would be happy." I know that is not true. I have had none of those things and been happy; I've had all of those things and NOT been happy, and everything in between.

I know, on a conscious level, that everything is good for me right now. I have a wonderful husband and amazing kids. I have a great job. I love where I live. We are fine money wise. And yet, for the past week, each day I go through periods of such sadness and frustration that I get MAD at myself for being sad and frustrated. Ha, how intelligent is that?

I find myself missing people a great deal right now. I miss my parents so very, very much. I feel like I can relate to them more than ever, yet I can't pick up the phone and discuss it. I miss being someone's daughter.

I have one daughter I hold in my heart even though I've not had contact with her in a long time. I dream of her often and we are always friends again in those dreams. I wake with tears, missing her deeply.  I have one daughter who is on the other side of the planet and is truly my best friend, and having her happy in the Land Down Under is wonderful, but oh how I miss her. Christmas without her is just . . . incomprehensible.  I have two wonderful sons who are handsome and funny and smart and doing so well. Caspian leaves in two weeks for his internship, so I am already missing him. Coryn is itching to travel and is putting plans in place for the spring. They are happy, healthy and thriving. But the house keeps getting quieter and emptier.

I have a doctor's appointment in a few days that I both anticipate and dread. I suspect I will never get through it without crying. I fear that, even though she is such a patient woman, she will stop listening when I am only half way through trying to explain what is going on. I fear that she will insist on a scad of expensive medical tests that will just deepen our debt load, and reveal little to nothing. And while nothing sounds good, when you are in pain every single day and rarely going anywhere without a walker or a cane, you want them to find SOMETHING. Please!

I will get out of this funk. I will have a wonderful Christmas. I will meet these endless deadlines. I will smile and laugh and be happy. But it isn't going to be easy. Why can't we burn calories by concentrating, pushing through, and accomplishing? At least that would be a nice bonus.

Yeah, hard days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we will take turns saying what we are thankful for, but I'm going to take a moment to share mine now.

I am thankful I have a husband who loves me and shows that love to me in a hundred ways every single day. I am so grateful that he puts up with my paper/purse/book hoarding, my constant messes, my stupid and annoying ongoing medical issues, and my poor housekeeping skills. 

I am thankful that I have a marriage that enriches my life, and that I want to go on forever and forever, never worrying that either one of us would have an affair or do anything to hurt the other one. 

I am thankful for four children. I only spent about 17 years with Jasmine, but I loved those years. I loved the jokes we told, the games we played, the time we spent together in the car, ushering, going to and from her jobs. I still read her essays and papers she wrote so long ago and I send her mental hugs every single day and hope life is treating her with great kindness and happiness. I am thankful for Nicole, who is so very far away in body right now, but often right next to me in spirit. I am so, so thankful that she is my best friend in the world and that we can share anything, from life's biggest challenges and pains to its greatest joys and surprises. I am thankful for Caspian, my sweet, tender, hard working son who always takes the time to hug me, and ask me about work (and actually wants an answer!), and I am grateful that he turns to me for help and guidance on issues, even when I am absolutely clueless on the right answers. I am thankful for Coryn, the smartass who makes me laugh, fixes, my computer, shares good books with me, and hangs out with me to watch TV, responding to my side comments with eye rolls. 

I am thankful for my career. It makes the most of what I love to do most anyway, and by gosh, it earns enough (most of the time) to pay the bills, go to Goodwill whenever the mood strikes (usually daily), and have enough left over for me to visit Etsy without guilt, and help the kids if/when they ever need it. 

I am thankful for living in Oregon. I feel "at home" here, and although, admittedly, holidays are hard since family is so far away, I still want to be here. The scenery, the freedom, the diversity, and the culture make it perfect for us. 

I am thankful for my friends. I can count them on one hand, but that is as it should be as they are the ones I know I can call on day or night for help, a friendly ear, a hug, or whatever else I need. You ladies know who you are and I am grateful for having each of you in my life. 

I am thankful for my pen friends. Although I know virtually none of them face to face, I have shared my life, thoughts, worries, hopes, and dreams with them on paper for months and years. Going out to the mailbox each day is a treasure. Making mail art, sending tuck ins, writing long letters--it is very gratifying for me (okay, other than the occasional whackadoodle letter writer who makes me wonder what in the world they were thinking . . . ) I do count some of these people as true friends and they certainly enrich my life. (I guess I should do a shout out for the postal system as well then. Even though it is bleeding out money every year, I do all I can to personally support it and keep it alive.)

Life isn't easy. From day to day, it can be very difficult with hard decisions to make, incredible pain to bear, huge challenges to overcome, and terrible losses to endure. Despite it all, I am thankful I am here to confront each one and to cherish the moments in between.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gout Be Gone!

Gout was something I had never heard of until about two years ago. My first experience with it was pretty hideous. I compared it to having glass shards embedded into your foot and then lit on fire. Since then, I've learned what does and does not trigger an episode with me, as well as what symptoms to watch for to signal it's back.

Apparently  . . I forgot. I ate a dish with anchovies in it (I despise anchovies most of the time but in this dish, they are amazing) and about 36 hours later, bam! My foot began to feel tight. I procrastinated doing anything because I was out of the medication for it. Finally I checked with my pharmacy (yes, thank you Nicole and Joseph for nagging me to do it) and I had a prescription refill left. HAPPINESS. Six pills--$40!

I took the first two doses and waited. My foot continued to swell, turn red, and inflamed. For the first time, the pills didn't seem to knock it one bit. In fact, when I went to bed last night, I ended up snuggled with Joseph and crying because of the pain. I took something for it and finally drifted off to sleep, waking every time I moved. (My sweet husband brought a small box to bed and put it under the covers so I could put my foot next to it and the covers wouldn't touch. Gosh, he is a sweetie.) Now it's 4:30 a.m. and I am up again for another dose and more pain medication because damn, it is NOT any better. Only one pill left, so it had better work soon!

Yesterday I pushed through and finished two assignments. Today I have two more to tackle. What I want to do is spend the day on the couch with my foot elevated and chanting, "Gout, be gone!" every few minutes. Read, nap, repeat, until this is gone. Will I do this? Unlikely, but it sounds good.

Thanks for coming by just to read me bitching and whining. It doesn't help my foot, but it helps my heart.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meet my Soulmate

I tend to write a lot about my job, my kids--but feel I sometimes overlook the person who helps make it all possible. My husband.

Joseph and I have been married for 32 years now, and I think I have come to appreciate him more with each passing year. Let me show you why.

On an almost daily basis, Joseph:

  • does all of the dishes and all of the cooking
  • gets up at 4:30 a.m. to take his sons to work (without complaint!)
  • gets my walker in and out of the car and sets it up for me (and then tells me I look sexy using it!)
  • helps me get dressed on the bad mornings when my back hurts too much to bend
  • brings me my slippers even before I mention it's cold
  • opens every door for me
  • walks behind me in stores with a cart, so I can keep my walker free to sit on
  • brings me a chair and has me sit down while he dries my hair since, once again, he knows it hurts my back to do so
  • actually believes I am beautiful
  • listens to me rant about work
  • listens to his kids and helps them in any way he can
  • puts up with the neverending mess that is paper, purses, books, and collectibles
  • compliments me to every one he meets
  • stops and helps any driver with a flat tire, engine problem, or anyone else he sees in need
  • makes me laugh
  • gets coconut water for me at the store even though it ain't cheap, but he knows how much I like it
  • makes every single day of life with him a pleasure.
I am one lucky, lucky lady. Of course, since Joseph is also a man, he will somehow translate all of this into sexual favors. Sheeeesh. :) 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Now What?

Most of you DOZEN of readers know that I like writing letters. Naturally, I enjoy writing to some more than others. But  today I got a letter that honestly boggled my mind.

I can read almost anyone's handwriting if I try. Until today.

It was an introduction letter, i.e. the first one. It was four pages of college ruled notebook paper. Both sides.

In pencil. But wait . . .that's not it.

There was not a single paragraph break--in the entire letter.

No, wait!


That's right. No periods. No commas. No question marks.

One LONG sentence from beginning to end.

She did not dot her I's. She did not cross her t's.

I gave up trying to read it after the first page. I feel badly . . . . I'm sure it was a sincere letter and it took her time to write it, but . . . it was absolutely illegible. How do I tell her this?

I wrote a polite card and will hope I didn't offend her. But goodness. . . she is the daughter of an English teacher. How can you NOT USE PERIODS?

Okay, rant about done now. Thanks for listening. I just don't get this . . . .

Keeping Up!

If you've read many blog posts here, you know that I tend to ping pong between a lot of different topics for my writing assignments in any given day. Let me give you a glimpse into what I will be doing this week, for example:

1. Attending TWO phone conferences, each one launching a new project. I will have to get up to speed on their unique templates, guidelines, and requirements.
2. Writing a 4th grade passage about Arthur Conan Doyle.
3. Writing 15 PRE Kindergarten items on inferences, analogies, and classifications.
4. Writing a Power Point module for employers about disabilities in the workplace.
5. Researching and writing a book about walking sticks (the insects that is.)
6. Writing 54 items over a children's book.
7. Researching the life of Hilary Clinton for a book.

Yes, that is THIS WEEK. In between them, I will make some mail art, write 8 or 10 letters, video chat with my far away daughter, help my sons in whatever they need, IM with Amimental, spend time with Joseph, eat an occasional meal, read a few more chapters in the three books I'm reading and, if I'm lucky, shower and sleep (not simultaneously, I hope).

I'm tired just thinking about it. Better fit in time for some coffee!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Time Keeps on Slipping, Slipping, Slipping . . .

(Did you finish that lyric in your head? If so, you must be around my age or have someone in your life who plays hits from the 1970s. Yes, I will hold on while you Google it to see what the rest of the line is because you are too young to know it or so old you forgot it. You're welcome.)

So--life is good here, but running me a little ragged trying to keep up. I've had a pretty nasty back and leg issue since mid-August, necessitating a cane most of the time and a walker if I'm walking around for more than 30 minutes. I hate, hate, hate it. Makes me feel 110 years old, despite my sweet kids naming the walker "Pippin" just to make me feel better. Please love me, but don't send me a long lecture on why I should go to the doctor for this. I know I should but it is much more complicated than that. For now, I will continue to ice it, wear a Tens unit, take OTC painkillers, limp, and swear a lot. Oh, and keep thinking that if I wait long enough, IT WILL HEAL on its own.  (Did you just compare me to an ostrich? I could hear you from here.)

Kid report--all are doing great. Nicole has been in Australia for over a month now. She has had such fun already and this week, she moves into her own apartment. We talk daily, since we can choose from IMing, FB chat, email, Skype, or cell phone. (Ah, the wonders of the modern world.) She is deep into her Nanowrimo novel, and going to tons of fun write ups with others in Oz.

Caspian--he may be leaving us soon too, for an internship in Connecticut at the American School for the Deaf. He has been wanting to learn more ASL and get "immersed" in it and we found this opportunity. He is waiting for the final "yes", but it is looking like he will leave in January.

Coryn--working full time at the airport and still grinding his teeth over the early hours (as are we, since we provide morning transportation). For the first time, I saw him look at possibly moving up in the company in a few months time. That could be interesting--would love to see a job shift more into a career. He is only 18, so has time, but still!

Joseph--preparing to drop the engine in the VW bus again. I am pretty sure the man could do it blindfolded by now. Just as he does NOT understand a number of my personal passions (mail art, letter writing, PURSES!), I cannot fathom why anyone would want a vehicle that demands so much time, skill, money, and knowledge to get it to run. Same with this vintage audio equipment he is collecting fast and furious. I don't get it, but since I'm 55 now, I am just grateful he is into vintage! :)

Me? My back and  leg are kind of awful and make moving anything from uncomfortable to agony, so I pick and choose carefully. Mostly, I sit in this chair and type, type, type. Work is rolling in as fast as I could ever want it to, and I am always so grateful that I have managed to create a business that is successful, can be done from home, and puts my best skill and interest to work. I may not always enjoy my topic, but I virtually always enjoy the process.

Overall, I am feeling quite blessed with my family, my friends, and my work. And if my back and leg don't heal up soon, I may go all postal on it and cut it off, thus losing a lot of weight very quickly and creating a better reason to keep that walker handy.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Message from the Land Down Under

Gee, what does the daughter from the other side of the world get her parents for their anniversary? A post that makes both of them cry, of course! Enjoy. 

Happy anniversary lovebirds

I usually do this earlier. I usually do it better and longer and with more forethought. I usually do it from my Portland home and I usually start thinking about it months in advance. All of those things changed, so why not the theme? I once celebrated my mom and dad's anniversary with a blog post featuring, not only profound words and flattery, but also pictures of my parents over the years. In order to not repeat myself, (perish the thought) this time I am including a collection depicting our family.

You know how you can visit a city you've been to before and think it's gorgeous? You'd never get tired of those mountains and you'd go to that beach every day and you'd go camping every weekend. Then there are those days when you realize that people look at YOUR city that way and for just a second, that light bulb that lives between our ears bursts into Frankenstein life. (It's ALIVE! It's ALIVE!) All of a sudden YOU are looking at those mountains, that beach and those woods and wondering how you'd possibly forgotten all that was there.

The answer? We get used to it. You think everybody who lives in Hawaii must spend every day swimming, but there are many islanders there that never dip their toes at all. You think the cornstalks of Indiana are boring compared to the lumpy, mountain-strewn Midwest? Live there awhile and you forget those distant peaks. Your vision ends at the edge of your car, your fingers, your cell phone......

Until somebody turns on your light-bulb.

It is a cliche that kids go out to their friends houses and come home wishing their parents were more like their friends parents. "Why don't you let us watch TV all the time? Caleb's mom lets him!" "Why can't we walk down to the park by ourselves? Lucy's mom lets her!" It happens. I've seen it happen to my sister and I've seen it happen to my friends. How many times did I have people over and they saw how laid back my mom and dad were, how they put on awesome movies, ordered pizza, ran and got bagels the morning after sleepovers? They saw this and then they went home raving, yes, raving, because it wasn't just the food or the movies. My parents treated everybody that came in the house as equal to themselves. They asked questions. They showed interest. They joked around with them where they could. They made each and every friend of mine feel like they belonged at our dinner table, that they were welcome.

I can name three friends off the top of my head that went home to their parents, (whom they already had difficult relationships with) and wished they were still my place. I felt sad for them, but grateful for me and mine. Never once in my life have I wanted any parents but my own. They've shaped me and with the exception of a few pounds here and there, I like my shape.

I think my family had our light-bulbs turned on a couple days ago. My parents and my brothers went to see the first ever documentary on homeschooling. It inspired endless conversations, debates, predictions, and eve thank you's from the children to the parents. The film got us looking in at ourselves through a window made up of social conventions, had us wiping away the silly cultural definitions of "family" and seeing us for what we are.

Not lucky.

I say "not lucky" because I don't believe in luck. Our family is what it is because of the people who are in it. "Luck" may have played a hand in my parents meeting, but that's not what had them calling each other and saying all the yes's that then domino-ed to the creation of me. Luck did not give my mom the guts to call my dad. Luck did not urge my father to say "okay, I'll bite" in response to the suggestion of a date. Luck isn't responsible for the closeness between my brothers and I, that's homeschooling and love, two things our parents dished out. Luck didn't give me my best friend of a mom, who I would go running to no mater what chased me, be it a Huntsman spider, a nightmare or future-inspired fears. And damn right that luck isn't to be thanked for my mom and dad still being together. THEY did that. They are STILL doing that. I don't know how they do it, but I know "special" is the sticker that should be slapped on it.

Being on the other side of planet earth, I get to look in at my family from afar. I get to see, just a little bit, what they look like to the rest of the world. You know what I see?

We're a little nuts.

Alright, maybe we're an entire handful of nuts.

Okay fuck it. You could make an entire jar of peanut butter out of us.

But we like it. You only tease the ones you love and in this family, we adore each other. We're friends. How many families can say that? Maybe not all of us are best friends and maybe some of us don't spend as much time together as we used to. Maybe there is the exception of my sister and maybe there my travels to consider. We're still special. We're still amazing. Ask any one of us and we'll all tell you the only place to be for Christmas, the only RIGHT place to be for Christmas, is home.

They say home is where the heart is. Nope. Home is where you are loved and you know what I know without a doubt? My siblings and I were loved before we were named. We were loved before we were ever held or our genders known. We were loved when all we were, were kicks and heartbeats. We were loved when we were just a realization and a light in a couples eyes. We were loved before that even, when we were just a figment of the future, to marvel at and dream about the same way teenagers do getting their license or buying a drink. How amazing and sort of ridiculously weird is it that we kids were loved before we existed?

It's a crazy kind of magic is what it is.

Because if we've always been loved, we've always been home.

And if we've always been home, we've always been loved.

And you could attribute that magic to so many things. You could link it to homeschooling. After all, consider all those hours spent together rather than at a desk in a school. Consider being taught by your brothers and your sisters as much as your mom and dad. Consider the lack of bullies and humiliation, the absence of clicks and social ranking and having the opportunity to build who you are with the people who saw you start at square one. You could also link our special magic to both parents being at home most our lives, which would be educational for the children entering into the age of job-hunting and life-managing. You could link it perhaps to living in Portland, the land of the open minded and the all-accepting.

 But you know what we kids attribute it to? What Caspian and Coryn and me all think when it comes to how we are the way we are? Why our window is so much nicer to live behind than others? Why our friends peer in and wish they could turn thief and steal the glass? Want to know what the boys and I think is responsible for our lives, our childhoods, and thus, for the way we intend to craft our own children's lives?

Yep, you guessed it. I know it really wasn't very hard.

Mom and dad.

I remember taking this shadowy photo. It was at Maupin this year. I was coming back from the restroom and saw everybody grouped up around the lantern, reading. The combination of the books, the grouping close together, the lantern-light and the was too magical not to capture. And even though it goes against what I was saying earlier, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the feeling of being lucky.

My dad, a true atheist and evolutionist at heart, has stated many times that humans weren't meant to give birth alone, grow up alone, live alone or die alone. Humans were meant to live together, mostly for survival, true. With my family though, I felt like we were our own clan.

Mom-you're my best friend in the world. You're one of the things I am most proud of. I hold you right up there with my having self-published books, published a real one and having traveled the world. That's how high you are on the list of My Living a Happy Life. When I had that nightmare a few days ago, there was that inevitable few seconds when my eyes opened and I wasn't sure it wasn't true. For a flash, for a second, for one tick of eternity's clock, I thought the world existed with me in it and you not. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my lifetime, but once I heard your voice, the world was okay again. I don't know how you do it, but you always manage to make everything okay. Is it too sappy to say you're the North Star that keeps me from getting lost and always steers me back? It is? Okay, then let's just say I want to be the kind of mom you are and were, but with you standing at my side just to make sure.

Dad-you know how worried I get about finding a man who can be my husband, who can provide and protect and father. I want you to know that I blame you for the bar being set so high! I need my husband to take care of me the way you take care of mom, the way you hold her and make things better, be it pain of the skin or pain in the thoughts. I want a husband with your kind of heart, who sees the good in people FIRST. I want a guy who sees a human in need and rushes over with jumper cables because that's who you are. I want a husband that if one of his kids is nervous or upset, he hugs her and there is nothing safer than those arms. You are the most human man I know dad.

 Know one thing I would never say about my parents? I would never wish them the fairy-tale ending of riding off into the sunset. If you've met my parents, if you've even just seen pictures of them together, you know that they're getting their sunset every day of their lives.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

T Minus . . . too little time

Not feeling particularly clever and creative today. Down to the last 24 hours before she leaves and it is a little bit too real. I know this is a good decision. I know she will have a wonderful adventure. I know she will make memories she will cherish for the rest of her life. She may find her future husband. She will see sights and parts of the world I certainly never will. Being happy for her and this opportunity isn't a problem. She has worked hard for it and I am beyond thrilled that she is grabbing this chance and going out to explore and discover.

But it is hard.
And I spend many quiet moments crying.
Because I will miss her more than words can say.
YES, I know we have Skype and email and snail mail.
YES, I know she is 23 and she is an adult.
YES, I know I will have Joseph, Caspian, and Coryn.
YES, I know I will adapt to her being gone.
I know all this and it really doesn't help a bit--not right now when I have to say goodbye.
Nope, not right now.
Send hugs.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ambivalence, Thy Name is Mother

Today I will spend almost every waking moment cleaning. We are hosting a potluck/Bon Voyage party for Nicole today as she leaves in just over a week for Australia. I will make grocery lists, make food, put away endless STUFF, greet people, smile, have a good time seeing friends and meeting my kids' friends--but inside there is a little war going on between Good Mom and Bad Mom.

You see, I am THRILLED that Nicole is going back to Oz. She has made some incredible friends there--some of the best in her lifetime. Even though it has been two years since she went the first time, these friends have reached out across the miles during that time and listened, laughed, supported, shared, and kept in contact. Really great people. And it totally makes sense that she wants to go back and spend time with them.

She has worked full time plus for more than a year to raise the money for this. She has saved her tips and spent money carefully, frugally. She bought her work visa, and her tickets. I am so proud of her.

And I WANT her to go. It was ME who originally threw out the suggestion months ago. Hey, you had so much fun there, why not go back? It started the ball rolling.

But oh my, I do NOT want her to go. My husband adores me. My sons love me. My daughter GETS me. She knows how I am doing from the way I sigh, my tone of voice in a single word, or the way I move. She is almost telepathic in how she knows exactly what I am thinking. She also makes me laugh harder than anyone I have ever known. We share hobbies--spending hours crafting together and writing letters and reading.

And letting my daughter go thousands of miles to the other side of the world, you got it. Opportunity, adventure, excitement, friends, all of it. Letting my best friend go, however, not so easy. Who will search the bottom shelves of the thrift store on my favorite aisles for me? Who will squeal at a great finding and hug me? Who will sit at the craft table with me and show off her current masterpiece and then oooh and aaaah over mine? Who will make me say and sing and do incredibly stupid stuff just because she asked me to? Who will I buy Minions for and hide them around her room? Who will know, without my saying a word, that I am struggling and come over to hug me? Who will tear up at poignant scenes in movies with me? Who will wrap Christmas presents with me the day before Christmas, listening to music and laughing too much to do a decent job?

Ah yes, ambivalence . . your name is mother. Because I am sitting here helping her pack and prepare, and internally wanting to super glue her to her room. Because seeing her go off into the world full of excitement and enthusiasm and independence means Joseph and I did something very right with her, and I guess, the intense pain I feel at our separation means the very same thing. Sigh.

But it ain't easy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Too Fast, Too Much, Too Loud

Life is flowing past me a little faster than I would prefer. Ha, hence taking this long to post again! I can't seem to hold onto time the way I want to these days. It just slips by, and I feel like I am running after it like a pet owner who has dropped the leash and is scrambling to get it, but the dog is hell bent on running for eternity. Yes, you're welcome for the incredibly odd metaphor.

August just . . . flew. We had a houseguest--Joseph's youngest brother rode his motorcycle here from Indiana, as he did last year, and spent 5 days visiting. I think he had a good time--at least he had a more comfortable bed this year, and he got to spend time with each of the kids since all were home.

In early September, we went camping at a local campground. How in the world you can go from being in the busy city to the deep woods in under 30 minutes, I just can't understand. I felt like we drove through a portal of some kind while I was blinking. Suddenly we were surrounded by 80 foot tall pine trees and moss and ferns--and the sounds of birds, and wind--it was wonderful. We are pretty experienced at setting up camp, so within an hour the five of us had three tents, two tables, six chairs, and a kitchen all set up. We spent the time reading, napping, talking, laughing, and relaxing. No work. No phones. No computers. Just nature. At one point--a little too much nature as a deer came wandering into our site, stood three feet away from me and munched on some of our trash. I chatted with him a bit before he wandered off. A few hours later, he returned with a couple of friends and they tried to take ALL of our groceries--Nicole stopped them.

Now fall is already sneaking in on chilly breezes and dropping leaves, and I am not ready, never ready. I love summer and it is hard to see it go. October means Nicole is leaving again as well--she is returning to Australia to live with the friends she met there last time. She has her work visa and places to stay, and this time, I suspect it will be six months or more before she returns. Coryn is planning to "join" her in January when he flies to New Zealand. Suddenly the house sure will feel emptier. I suspect a great deal of time will be spent on Skype.

This morning, along with wishing I could make time SLOW DOWN DAMN IT, I also wish I could turn my hearing off. You know--you climb into bed and close your eyes so vision stops. Why can't we do the same thing with hearing? Just close our ears? We have a snoring dog that has ruined many a night for me . . . I usually foist her off onto one of the kids, but since all three are working full time at the airport and have to be up at a ridiculous 4:30 A.M. to get there, I just can't do it. I've tried putting the pillow over my head, playing music, and yes, even kicking the dog. All to no avail. The couch was bed for me all night last night. Good thing it is a fairly comfy couch!

Work was slow and intermittent and then WHAM! I have been deluged with ongoing assignments that--thankfully--give me job security for the last 2-3 months--a rarity in the freelancing world. I won't be sitting around twiddling my thumbs any time soon . . . . No, I will be the one chasing after that leash and hoping when I catch it, the dog doesn't start snoring.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Using that Happiness Formula

Today I am making sure I follow my happiness formula carefully. It is Saturday morning and Nicole has the day off from work--a miracle. She ALWAYS works on Saturdays. I worked really hard all week so that I had today off too. 

So, I got up, scanned the CNN headlines, watched six videos of returning soldiers, and cute babies laughing, and funny kids, and silly commercials--laughter and happy tears--CHECK. Next, I will hit the shower, then get dressed and fill my day with getting coffee, getting a snack at the local Saturday market, going to a favorite coffee shop and writing letters for HOURS while I talk endlessly with Nicole (she has some BIG decisions to make in the coming weeks, so I am sure our conversations will veer into the profound here and there), and then coming home, sitting at the kitchen table and CRAFTING with her until dinner . . . then watching a movie on the couch snuggled next to my handsome life partner, and finally, reading before bed. I have no doubt I will go to bed with a huge smile on my face, having had darn near the perfect day. 

Happiness? Check. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Happiness Formula

I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours with a good friend of mine this morning (and you know who you are), and our main topic of discussion was happiness--finding it, and maintaining it. It was a great conversation and I hope she walked away from it feeling as rewarded as I did. She always asks me some pretty profound questions, and today she asked, "How do you manage to stay happy in a world so full of conflict and misery and chaos?" (along those lines!) What a question! It inspired more talking, and then, after leaving, even more thinking on my part. Here is what I have come up with so far. . . .
1. I surround myself with people I love. If I don't love--or at least really like them, unless I have to somehow work with them--I keep my distance.  For those I love, I touch, hug, and kiss often. Repeat.
2. I surround myself with positive affirmations . . they are all over my walls in every single room. Happy sayings, sayings about family, love, friends, gratitude, happiness, kindness . . . every. single. room. In the living room alone, I have 20 or more. Too much? Probably, but I believe it works.
3. I focus on doing what I love as much as possible. Do I have to do things I do NOT love? Sadly, yes. That makes me human. But if I do, I give myself rewards in between. Finish this project and you can decorate some envelopes. Write this assignment and you get to go get coffee with Joseph. And so on.
4. I don't watch the news. Yeah, I know. Ostrich Tami . . but really, I do keep up with headlines, but I can NOT watch local or national news about murder and starvation and kids dying and stupid people . . if I did, I couldn't get up in the morning. And most of all, WATCHING it will not make a difference.
5. I focus on making my home happy and full of love. My kids are loved and listened to and supported. I know that by raising wonderful children, they will go out and make their own differences in the world.
6. I choose ways to make a difference, even though it may be small. I write letters of comfort to those in need. Send gifts. Get involved in organizations like ChemoAngel. I help anyone I see that I can--with carrying something, finding something, paying for something. If there is an opportunity and I able to do it, I will.
7. I focus on laughter. I laugh with my kids EVERY DAY. I tell jokes. I laugh in the dark with Joseph. I watch funny TV shows. I read funny books. I skip past the negative Facebook videos and watch the stupid ones that make me smile. Or the returning-soldier-to-family videos that make me cry happy tears.
8. I search hard for that silver lining. It may be buried, but if it is there, I swear I will find it.
9. I count my blessings. I try to always remember how fortunate I am. There is always someone out there who has it worse, and I need to focus on gratitude.
10. I remember the saying "To become, act as if." If I want to be happy, I will act as if I am . . and suddenly, life improves.

So, does this mean I am always happy? No, life gets in the way now and then (like sending me kidney stones or gout). And money and &*!)($)(%&*@ taxes become problems. Or the kids are struggling and I am worrying. Or I miss people I love and can no longer see for one reason or another. Or someone is rude or ugly to me. Or . . . whatever. But in the end, when the day is over and I crawl into bed next to a man I adore and who thinks I am beautiful, all I can feel is gratitude. Oh yeah, and that happiness I mentioned. Lots and lots of that.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stones Gone, Pain . . Not so Much

Hey gang. Another quick note. I had emergency surgery this morning. Three, yes THREE ,stones were stuck in the ureter, plus a huge one still in the kidney. Thanks to lasers and sound waves, they are all gone now. I am grateful for that, but right now I am still in so much pain (the after effects and the stent) that I am utterly exhausted. All I want to do is sleep, interrupted my multiple trips to pee, which end up making me cry. and nausea waves. Enough complaining. Better days coming soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Thought "Stoned" Would be More Fun than This

Only going to write a short note, friends. These are rough days. I've been in pain for six days now, a LONG six days. Kidney stone pain, coupled with other various and sundry related issues that make resting, working, and just living pretty difficult. I can't eat and I pace a lot . . . went to the doctor yesterday and had blood work and an ultrasound, so now I am just waiting to get results and figure out what to do next. In the meantime, I pace, and take pain pills, and cry a little here and there, and try to think about how I must be losing weight if I walk and don't eat . . . because there's a silver lining somewhere, right?

Send hugs, thoughts, prayers, whatever you prefer. I'll take it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Running . . . and Stumbling

All around my house, you will find positive affirmation signs, stickers, labels, and plaques. I truly feel that surrounding myself with these uplifting thoughts subconsciously helps me, as well as the rest of my family. You can't spend 5 minutes in our living room without knowing we are (1) a happy family, (2) readers, (3) extremely messy, (4) not terribly concerned about dusting and vacuuming, and (5) incorporating a home office into the main room of the house. 

Today . . . I am struggling. Things are good--we are adapting to work schedules. We have our annual trip to the desert next week. I FINALLY have my new glasses that I've waited to order for nine months. And wow, what I was missing . . . .

But there's a new member of the family. His name is Pippin. He is blue, and had four wheels, brakes, and a seat. No, not a bike . . . it's a walker. My back and legs have gotten so painful, that I take Pippin with me on some trips because I'm afraid I will fall otherwise. I take way too many painkillers. I don't understand why. I've lost 50 lbs, been on this diet for a year, my blood sugar and blood pressure are wonderful . . .but something is wrong somewhere. I went to a doctor for it four years ago when it wasn't nearly this awful. She ordered an MRI. It said slight disc issues . . . and that was it. Her advice? (She didn't do any exam or even look to see where I had pointed) . . lose some weight. Yeah, that has helped me so much so far. (And yes, I hope to pursue further testing, but waiting for all that new insurance stuff we HAD to sign up for to come through first.)

Sigh. So I have Pippin, named by my kids who knew I found it demoralizing, and wanted it to be fun. I'm already being teased about it and, because these people love me so much, reminded that I can still kick butt even if I have a walker in front of me. 

And work . . wow, work. It is coming in so fast, I am flying through each day working as fast as humanly possible. Some projects have proven much harder and more intense than I had prepared for, and then everything else on the list suffers as I attempt to move deadlines around and cope with extra demands. 

So, I am running . . . to keep up, while stumbling to stay upright. 
Focus on the signs on the wall, Tami. Keep smiling. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Toll of Adaptation

I've already written about how the adaptation process is taking a toll on me, but it isn't restricted to me. I am seeing the effects of it ripple through the family.
Joseph is struggling. The job is probably too much for him at age 62. His back and neck hurt all the time, and he is always, always so tired. He doesn't complain much--stoic guy--but I can see it. It makes me so sad.
Coryn hates his  new job and is dealing with the self-esteem blows that can come with having to learn a lot fast and not feeling smart enough, and having co-workers that aren't remotely helpful.
Caspian is intimidated about his upcoming  job training and angsting over remembering it all.
Nicole is putting in 40 plus hours a week and missing time at home so much.
I am spending more and more time home alone, something I certainly don't enjoy.
I am wondering if this is really what any of us should be doing . . . and trying to make logical, reasonable decisions that aren't based on fleeting moments of indecision, fatigue, and confusion. I am torn between wanting everything to go back to how it was and wondering if, in the end, these hard life lessons really are for the best for everyone involved.
Mostly I am tired and sad these days. Too sad. Too many tears. Too much time wishing I could take a nap. Too much toll paying and wondering when--or if--the rewards will follow.
Can I stop being a grown up now? I'd love to take a break.
I'm out of change. No more tolls, ok?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Replacement Parts

I should have gone for the full warranty. I want the one that replaces ANY part that fails, breaks, or just doesn't function properly.

No, not for the car or the computer. For ME! Body parts replacements, covered by the warranty for my lifetime. Why isn't that offered? (Of course, none of us could afford it if it was, right? )

Yesterday I woke with foot pain. Not gout. Other foot. No injury. No trip, fall, stumble, nuthin. WHY DOES IT HURT? It hurt on and off all day, causing me to limp pretty good. By bedtime, it was better. Then it woke me all night, every time I turned over. Today I am hopping. WHHHHHHHHHY!?!?!?!  (be sure to insert appropriate levels of whininess here.) [Side note . . . the computer does not recognize that word. Ha. Doesn't know me well enough at all.] I have NO CLUE what it is besides really painful and extremely annoying. I will put ice on it and see if it helps. Then I'll try heat if it doesn't. I'm already elevating and wearing warm slippers. Other than that, I will try swearing and limping and see if that helps.

On another note, this morning we took Nicole to work (as the sun was coming up) and then Joseph went to work. It is the first day I have sent him off to work in over 13 years, so YES, it feels realllllly strange. It will be quiet here! Caspian was up until 3 a.m., so will probably sleep until noon. I bet I get a TON accomplished with no one to ask me questions, say they're hungry, need help finding something, have a problem to figure out . . in other words, I can focus. (This is me trying to convince myself I won't be lonely.)

So I am off to work, limp, and wonder why in the world I didn't find one of those damn warranties so I could replace my left foot this afternoon.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Life is all about adaptation, right? Rolling with the changes. Accepting new directions. Going with the flow. And I'm trying, really, I. Am. Trying.

First of all, in yet another one of the many ongoing snafus of freelance writing, I have been paid less than half of our average income this month. That average income, of course, was just barely making it, so half? Half isn't even close. Thank goodness for a generous daughter willing to share her paychecks. Thank goodness for sons who give whatever they can. But really . . . why, oh why, oh why can't I be paid when I am supposed to be????

Second, jobs--and the search for them--are all over the place. Nicole has gone from part time to full time. Joseph has the first job he has had since we moved here in 2001. He is working 2-3 days a week at the local nursing home. Having him gone like that feels very, very strange.

The boys are applying to jobs left and right. Coryn has two job interviews next week so far. Caspian is, as I write this, riding his bike in downtown handing out resumes wherever he can. How we are going to get everyone to work with one car is still a puzzlement, but we will figure things out between cars, bikes, and mass transit.

I am rolling with it, while trying to keep up with deadlines that are speeding up fast--work IS coming in more and more these days, and I am grateful, but sometimes keeping focused is not so easy.

Adapt. Easier than it sounds.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Yawn! New Orr Schedules

For the 31 years Joseph and I have been married, we have struggled with establishing any real bedtime routines. First we were young. Then we had babies. Then we had toddlers. Then we had teenagers and I worked at home and he was retired and I was a night owl and he was a morning person and then we got older and our sleep patterns got wackier. He fell asleep, practically sitting up, but woke early, unable to go back to sleep. I fell asleep much slower, waking multiple times a night due to hot flashes. Sheeeesh. No wonder I can't really remember NOT being tired. :)

Now that is all shifting. After months of Nicole's work schedule going in all directions, she is regularly scheduled for 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. four days a week. This means rising at 4:45 in order to get her to work on time. Today Caspian began working full time also, and guess what? He starts at 6 also. We can't, as hard as we have tried, be in two places at one time, so three mornings a week, Caspian has to bike to work (his employer is located right next to a bike trail, fortunately).

So now, four of us are up by 5 a.m. and out the door by 5:30. (Before this? Up between 8-9 for Joseph and I, and the kids . . . well . . . you know . . . lots later.) We see the sun come up. We hear the birds start to sing. (I am grateful this is all happening as summer rolls back around, instead of plunging back into winter darkness.) After years of being a night owl, and not even thinking about crawling into bed before midnight, life is about to change. No more late nights,  I fear. I know I will get more done, and feel productive, and make my husband happy (he always wanted to rise early--puns welcome here), but it's tough for me. I like late night. I feel at peace then. I stop working. If it's daylight, I feel compelled  to be at the computer working on an assignment, and I will see a LOT more daylight hours. Ah well, life is all about change, right? It is what keeps us young, right? Don't mind me while I keep repeating this for the coming months. In between yawns, of course.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I Guess It's My Turn

I've watched my husband go through it.
I've watched my mother go through it.
I've watched various friends go through it.
I've done all I could to help, or at least just let each person know I was there.
I guess now, it's my turn.
I am . . quite honestly . .  depressed. I am struggling to get out of bed in the morning and maintain a decent attitude. I am frequently swept over by feelings of fear, sadness, hopelessness, and lethargy. Anyone who knows me knows this is NOT me. I thrive on stupid puns, raunchy jokes, inside references, and repeated laughter. This is just so NOT me, and I don't like it.
I'm eating healthy, and trying to get more rest. I am surrounded by wonderful, loving, supportive people who would, literally, do anything for me. My work is picking up, summer is coming, and all will be well. But I can't seem to see these things as clearly as I can see money problems, life changes, obstacles that feel, right now, insurmountable.
Watching someone you care about go through depression is awful.
Being that person is worse--I know that now.
I guess the key is . .  don't stop in the middle of it. Do what everyone else does and GET THROUGH IT.

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Appear to have a broken . . . thermostat.

If I was a car, it would be a fairly simple fix. I appear to have broken thermostat and it's making my life somewhat difficult.

Two years ago, when I went through menopause, I had night sweats. They were unpleasant, for sure, but I made it through them, almost willing to put up with them for the bliss of never having another period.

Now, in the last few months, I am having hot flashes again--not just at night, but during the day. Even worse, they alternate with intense freezing spells. I am so cold, it's like I can't get warm. Today, I had four blankets, a husband, a dog, and two hot packs and I was still so cold, I didn't want to move. No, no fever. No anemia. Just so damn cold. Then, in less than a full second, I can be swept over by another hot flash. Grrrrrrrrr.

This does not for a good night's sleep make, believe me. On a good night, it happens to me twice. On a bad one, five or six.

So, if you're out and about and you happen along a new human thermostat, could you pick one up for me? I'd be really grateful.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


This is such a typical type of exchange between Joseph and I, I had to include it.

Life has been really difficult lately--a great deal of stress from multiple sources. I was talking quietly to Joseph and this is how the conversation went . . .

Me: Life sure has been stressful lately, hasn't it?
Him: There have definitely been some pebbles on the road.
Me: Then I wish I had thought to put some shoes on, because this is painful.
Him: Grin.
Me: Just promise you will keep walking down the road with me, holding my hand, and I'll keep going.
Him: Just your hand?
Me: (rolling my eyes) Okay, on my butt.
Him: Much better. Won't notice the pebbles that way.

Can you tell why we've been married for more than 31 years? Typical.

Friday, April 4, 2014

One Action at a Time

Tonight I was reminded of how I personally attempt to make the world a better place.
I don't march in parades, or volunteer in political causes, or write letters to the editor, although I applaud those who do and respect their passion.
I simply try very hard to role model my values and morals (secular though they may be) to my children, and in doing so, teach them at the core that they have the power to make a difference.
Tonight, we were in one of our favorite thrift stores. We know a number of the employees, one of which always greets us with a big smile, calling us "The Happy Family". Tonight when we said hello, it was abundantly clear that something was amiss. She had a "social" smile on. We stopped and asked her if she really was okay, and the tears began to flow. She wasn't. She was undergoing serious medical testing and so far the results were discouraging.
I offered--and gave--a hug. I asked her if she had a support system in place to help her ,and she said that so far, she hasn't shared the information with her mother or her husband. That is such a terrible burden to carry alone. I gave her my name and phone number and told her that if she needed someone to meet for coffee, call and vent to, or hold her hand at the doctor's office to call me. Will she? I don't know, but how could I not offer?
On the way home, I was talking about this, because Caspian was there to see what happened. I told him, this is how I hope to change the world, with kindness. And if you see it, you will do it too. And if you do, your children will and your children's children. And if enough of us do that, if we model kindness and compassion, if we reach out to those who are in need, it will ripple outwards.
We can't cure the world. There will always be illness, violence, cruelty, and anger. But, I hope, that by raising children who have seen the opposite modeled. my great-great-great granchildren will live in a happier, more peaceful world.
One action at a time.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Nothing important here.
Train wreck.
Just keep going, nuthin' to see here, folks.
Tami. Is.In. A. Mood.
How kind of you to ask. Just what I had hoped you'd say.

1. Had a social gathering yesterday and had this idea in my head what it would be like. What would happen. How it would go. Well . . . let's just say, it didn't go anything like that. At all. It was a stretch for me to organize this, so I most likely set myself up for disappointment.
2. Had a very intense phone interview this morning for what could be a mighty fine, high level writing job. Wanted to sound my best . . . not sure if I did . . . will find out next week if I made it to the "next level of the interview process." Eeek.
3. Had an hour long work review call with a team of colleagues--great people really. Nice, polite, good sense of humor. But, it's still hard when they are pulling apart your words and telling you to redo them, even if they say it very, very nicely.
4. Have to get taxes together for Saturday. I hate taxes more than I hate people who spit. That should tell you how much I hate taxes.
5. I have been given three hours to complete an assignment, i.e. I can BILL for three hours, but that's it, so if it takes longer, so be it. I got the assignment LAST NIGHT. When is it due? TOMORROW.
6. I'm not sleeping well--awakened at least 4 times a night with hot flashes, followed by freezing. I'm like spring weather, always in temperature flux.
7. In a period of 24 hours, I have had to write about erosion and weathering, computer tech courses, poetry, literature, and educational reform. My head hurts from trying to keep it all in there, switching topics and grade levels at the blink of an eye.
8. Meeting someone again today to help with their book . . . I don't mind helping others create their novels, I don't, but when I'm stressed and tired and feel pulled in 16 directions, it is harder to be altruistic and share my time. Does that make me sound like a bitch? I don't mean to. I care about these people and really, if I can help them write their books, I'm glad. But sometimes giving up my time and expertise and suggestions and guidance isn't easy. I don't feel generous. I wanna be selfish. I wanna sit on the couch and read, and take a nap, and watch dumb stuff on TV. Why doesn't anyone PAY me to do those things, she says with a whine. :)

So there you go. Nothing major. Kids good. Really good. Husband good. Weather improving. Health pretty good--diabetes and blood pressure completely under control. Really . . . no room to complain, yet . . . I seem to have found some.

Venting. It's good for the soul.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Freelancer

In the past, I have likened a day in my writing life as a pinball in a machine played by a meth-driven Type A Personality. (Over the top a bit? Nah!) Today has been like that, only add some steroids and desperation into the player's personality, and it will be more accurate.

Walk with me, if you will, through my day . . .
I was offered a job with a new company. To first get approved by this company, I had to spend two plus hours writing high level, complex sample items. (Apparently a resume highlighting 350 plus books and 25 years in the educational assessment field just isn't enough proof of skill and experience.) I did them, submitted them, and lo and behold, they accepted me. Prepared to send me a contract. Oh . . .by the way, guess how much they pay per question? .87. Miss that decimal point perhaps? That is EIGHTY SEVEN CENTS per question. My usual rate for this type of question? $10 to $20 each. Yes, that is DOLLARS. So, although I admit math is not my strongest suit, 87 cents seemed just a little LOW. Ha. So no thanks on that one. Would have been nice to know the rates BEFORE the samples, but do companies work that way? Nope.

Next, I was asked to write a few extra chapters for a book about Nascar. Decent rate, quick turn around time, good company. Yes to that one.

Next, I was asked if I could be profiled on a publisher's page as Author of the Month. Public praise? Heck yes. Submitted a couple of pics, a bio, and some links. Easy peasy.

Next, I was offered a couple of college courses to write on either composition or communication. Happy either way. Like the topics, like the work, like the boss. Good to go.


Next, I was told work I did in February was still in the "review" stage, so payment had not been processed and wouldn't likely arrive until . . May. Sigh.

Next, I will be researching material about science for a 4th grade lesson on earth systems. I know nothing now, but will soon. That will be followed up by reading about Mesopotamia for a first grade, yes, first grade, book on the culture.

Oh yes, I have to stop and write six grade 7 items for a company, due in the morning. Then, over to grade 8 items for someone else, due Wednesday.

This is all today. On Friday, I was offered several other jobs, for which I have to apply, submit, wait, and then determine if the rate, turnaround time, and details are decent.

Wonder why I stammer when people say, So, what do you write, Tami?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Family Effort

Sorry I've been gone. Lots of excuses, but why list them? Just go with busy life!

Yesterday something happened that inspired me enough to take a minute. Nicole has been single for quite a while and she has reached an age where she feels it. She is lonely--and she wants to be in love. She wants to be looking into the future with someone. So far, that someone has been more than elusive. She has been on eHarmony and Okay Cupid, and has gone on some dates with nice guys, and boring guys, and odd guys. None of them even close to the right guy.

The other day we were sitting in our favorite coffee shop and there was a very attractive young man sitting there with his laptop. She smiled. He smiled back. I knew there was no way some guy was going to strike up a conversation with a pretty girl sitting with her parents, so Joseph and I left and went elsewhere to open the opportunity. Lo and behold, after a little maneuvering and manipulating on Nicole's sneaky part, a conversation ensued. They exchanged contact info and she left smiling.

Fast forward to the next day. Nicole is off work and feeling sad that it is Valentine's Day and she is single. Her brother Coryn arranged his day to spend the afternoon with her, getting frozen yogurt, taking pictures, and having fun. He's a peach. (Nicole has a "date" with her other brother on Monday to do the same. These boys love their sister.)In the middle of the fun, the new guy texts Nicole. They chat a bit and he ends up asking her out that night to meet up with he and his friends at a restaurant. She calls me excited but in a panic. She is out with Coryn! She doesn't want to end their time together (he is on the other line calling me to tell me to make her go!), and she isn't dressed for a date, and how would she get there and back since we had the car . . . . . This is what happened from there.

  • Coryn and the rest of us convinced her to not let this opportunity pass her by. 
  • Joseph and I ended our somewhat romantic Valentine's dinner alone and met the kids downtown. Nicole and I rush shopped for a dress for her to wear. Found one. 
  • Uh oh. What about shoes? She was still wearing her work shoes since she had come from work. I gave her mine since we wear the same size. This meant I couldn't get out anywhere once we dropped her because I can't wear her work shoes. Ouch. 
  • We drove across town and dropped her in front of the restaurant. Then we went to a store a few minutes away to wait for her signal of GO, I'm having fun and will Max home or COME and get me, this isn't going well.
In 15 minutes, the phone rang. Come and get me. Why? 
Hmmm . . . let's see . . . the guy broke up with his long term girlfriend THREE DAYS ago and "still isn't over it, and may never be." He has NO job and NO place to live and stressed four times he has NO MONEY. He said he wasn't eating because he forgot to bring his anti anxiety meds. He virtually never spoke to Nicole. Didn't stand up when she came in, didn't even wave when she left. 

NOT much potential there, wouldn't you agree? 
And, knowing she was bummed, we took her to a couple of fun places on the way home and made her laugh a lot. 

And when she went to bed that night smiling, I thought two things. First, I was so sorry that another guy turned out to be a mistake, especially considering how much time and effort was put into the date on her part. Second, I was amazingly aware of how loving and tight this family is. No one gave a moment's thought to doing whatever we could to get Nicole to her date and away from it! Her brother, Joseph and I all dropped what we had planned to support her. We did with love and joy and even though it didn't work out, the bottom line was she IS loved. And the right guy is out there and she is one step and one doofus closer to finding him. In the meantime, she is surrounded by people who will not hesitate to help her find that smile at the end of the day. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

You're So Lucky

I remember people saying to my mother, "You're so lucky your house is so clean."
She would roll her eyes and look at me, and we would chuckle. Luck had NOTHING to do with it. My mom worked on her house like some people work on careers, a college degree, a car--in other words, with dedication, passion, determination, and not a little obsession. Our house was always ready for being featured in a spread in a magazine. Honestly, I think my parents went a tad overboard on the whole cleaning issue, BUT the house did look GOOD.

Today, I've been told the same thing.
You're so LUCKY your kids like you so much.
You're so LUCKY your writing career has done so well.
You're so LUCKY you've had such a long and happy marriage.

Okay, I'll give a tiny percentage to just luck, but for the most part, all of these things were achieved through effort, not luck. Nicole, Caspian, and Coryn are good friends and are close to me because of how I have parented them. My writing career has developed and evolved because I WORKED--I wrote for free, met impossible deadlines, networked, pushed, put in 14 hour days, and earned a solid reputation. My marriage? Long talks, lots of touching, laughter, and love, yes--but not luck.

Don't get me wrong--I feel immensely grateful for all of these things. But I also earned them. I didn't get blessed with them out of the blue. They weren't some gift I was given without even having to ask. I am lucky--lucky that I am a determined, passionate, dedicated--and yes, even a little obsessed--woman.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Life . . . Always a Rollercoaster Ride!

Have you ever really thought about how much life is like a roller coaster ride at the fair? I mean . . . it always costs more than you expect it to. Lines are inevitable. You have to stand next to fascinating people, good looking people, less than enjoyable people, and those who forgot how to shower. You sit down and can't help but think you may have put on a few pounds. The music is whatever band you don't like and it's too loud. Still, you're excited. Adventure awaits. You're brave and ready to take whatever is thrown at you.

You start slow and then everything speeds up. There are unexpected drops. Exhilarating rushes. Scary turns. Peaceful pauses. Eventually, there is pride and gratitude for survival.

See? Just like life.

So my ride lately has consisted of . . . the ups and downs of Nicole's dating life. DOWN . . this one was disappointing . . UP . . the next one was handsome and charming . . and hasn't called back yet, so back down we plummet. UP . . . J's eye appointment proved his eyes are fine, just aging like the rest of our bodies . . . DOWN . . . it's winter, his beard is long and damn, I hate it but don't know what to do about it. It's his face . . . . and he accepts everything about me without complaint. . . . UP . . Coryn is home . . . DOWN . . . Caspian is leaving.  . . . UP . . my numbers are all great . . . DOWN . . . work is only trickling in and if it doesn't change, the coming months could be beyond challenging.

As in the ride and life, I laugh, I cry, I scream, and I hang on tight to the people closest to me and sharing the ride. I keep riding, because, in the end, if I had to start over, I'd get right back in line.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014? Really? Wow.

I admit it. The years are starting to run together. 2014 just seems impossible and futuristic. I wasn't used to it being 2013 yet. I think I really stopped being used to the year in 2010.

Life in the Orr house is in the usual state of flux. The holidays were wonderful! Having Coryn home was gift alone. His sharp wit and warm hugs were missed and the house seems so much more complete now that he is here. Gifts--thoughtful, loving gifts--were exchanged. Good food was consumed. Couch potato-ism ensued as we watched movies together in the living room.

New Year's was nice--quiet. Nicole had to work until 10 pm so we were out late getting her. Coryn had gone out of town to an overnight party. Caspian was home with us. We made a late dinner so we could eat with Nicole after she got home. We ate, watched the ball drop, and then went outside to see Portland's usual fireworks. It was incredibly foggy (as it has consistently been this winter) and the fireworks couldn't really be seen. However, you could hear them and then the fog would light up in flashes of red, green, purple--it was actually quite fantastic. We kissed and hugged, and I texted a quick I love you to the boy at a party.

As life returns to "normal", I am looking at my writing schedule and hoping it picks up, although WOW, have I loved the extra time off. I have a list of 14 phone calls I need to make this morning to follow up on various things. We are getting ready for Caspian to leave us now--he leaves in less than a week for his time in New Orleans. He is joining a construction team renovating an apartment complex. As far as I know, all of them are unschoolers, so it should be quite the team. We aren't sure how long he will be gone--it might be a matter of a month--or six. I already miss him.

Nicole continues in her elusive hunt for the right life partner. She told me last night that she blamed Joseph and I for being so picky. "I want what you have," she said, "and that means the bar is set awfully high." I remind her that what Joseph and I have after 31 years is NOT what we had when we first married, but she's right--I was a lucky one and I want her to be just as fortunate.

I'm feeling pretty good--health issues are plaguing others in the family. Coryn is covered in . . . rash? bites? allergic reaction? We don't know. We've tried treating it at home with typical methods but today was my cut off. If it's not substantially better when he gets up this morning, it's off t the doctor. Joseph has a floater and has been having flashes of light in his eye--which can be from age (I had the same thing a 1 1/2 years ago) or could be the first symptoms of a detaching retina, so off to the eye doctor it is. But my BP and sugars are staying down and the weight is s l o w l y dropping--I lost 44 lbs from June to the end of the year. I miss walking and hope to get back to it as soon as possible.

That's the update, guys. Hope all is well in your house, that your holidays were wonderful, and that 2014 (really? wow!) has started out with great hope, potential, and possibility.