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.