Like the new blog theme?

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 17, 2008 in Uncategorized

After our Internet hosting issues this week, I lost my old blog theme and had to find a new one.  I found this one called “Messy Desk” – how appropriate!  In fact, it looks remarkably similar to my desk here at home…


Experiencing technical difficulties…

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 16, 2008 in Uncategorized

Please stand by.

I remember that from watching TV as a kid.

We’re having some issues with our hosting provider and blogs…it should be cleared up soon.


One More (Larger) Political Word

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Nov 8, 2008 in Uncategorized

As I’ve mentioned before, this is not a political blog.  And the past few weeks we’ve all been suffering from political burnout (well…at least I have). 

But I was so proud of our country on Tuesday.  Not just because Barack Obama won the election (although I’m SO EXCITED about that!!!!).  But because record numbers of voters turned out to vote – some for the first time.  Even after the political burnout, I still stayed up WAY too late on Tuesday night to see the results and watch the speeches (which I thought were both phenomenal!).

I know the country has differing opinions and I know it’s tough when your candidate doesn’t win (the candidate I voted for didn’t win in the last TWO elections – believe me, I’ve been there!), but it was great to see people coming together peacefully – sometimes waiting in line for hours – to make their voices heard and to vote for what they truly thought was best for our country.

But I have to admit, it’s nice to be in the majority this year for a change. :)

And while even I don’t agree with every single one of his policies, I think that President-elect Obama will be a unifying leader, helping to bring us all back together.  I find him and his story inspiring – and his reception around the world is providing hope to many.

I also love that his is a technically-savvy man – if you haven’t already seen it, check out his administration’s new website at www.change.gov

I cannot imagine what it will be like to walk into the role of president next year – between the wars, the economy and the host of other messes we’ve created… and I know President Obama won’t be able to change things overnight.  But there’s still a sense of real optimism in the air.  And we certainly could all use a little of that.


Your Stories

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 30, 2008 in Uncategorized

This afternoon, I sent out an email to the five winners of copies of The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold – congratulations to our winners!

I received many emails with your childhood stories – some that made me laugh and others that made me cry.  I’d like to share some of them here with you:

Hi Kathy, I can’t think of anything except my Mom would always tell us to go play in the street when we were really bad and driving her nuts. I know she didn’t mean it but others might have thought that wasn’t very motherly.

I was raised by my schizophrenic mother and grandmother.  My mother (god bless her) was also color blind.  Her hobby was sewing.  She made me a cheerleading uniform one year from fabric that she got on sale at the fabric store and then proceeded to paint my shoes. It was awful. I was blue, green, pink and purple.  I was one messed up looking cheerleader.  I was embarrassed to death, but if I could have her back for one moment I would wear whatever she made me.

I haven’t thought of any great stories from my childhood, my mind is a blank I have no memory of my childhood.  That could be good or bad.

My father always made me eat everything on my plate, I mean everything. One night, after I finished some sliced tomatoes,  he told me that I couldn’t leave the table until I had eaten the tomato seeds, no big deal you think….well, you try to pick them up off of a plate with a spoon, fork, or any other utensil. It’s next to impossible. And of course he wouldn’t listen to me trying to explain this. I had to sit there for a very long time until he finally figured out that I couldn’t even pick them up. And that is a mild example of the control he tried to exert over my mother, brother and I.

I don’t like to talk about my mom, but….one time we were eating dinner and she was so upset, she took one swipe of the table with her arm and totally cleared the table.  I swore I would be a patient mother after that…joke was on me.  Now I know some of what she must have been going through that day to get her that upset.  We learn not to judge unless we have walked in those shoes.

I was considered a ‘mistake’ when I was born right while my mom and dad were in the middle of a divorce.  My parents never let me forget that I wasn’t wanted.  I never even had a birthday party.  Then my father had an affair on my mom resulting in a half-brother from the other woman.  He left that child for my mother to raise and she was even less loving to that child if that’s possible.  I ended up pretty much raising him even though I was just a kid myself when he was born.

Yep…I’m one of those that had a perfect mother…and she’s still the perfect mother and grandmother. I am so blessed…but a funny story about her…when one of us smarted off, I can’t even remember what it was about…she looked around for something to give somebody a little spank on the hiney and all she could think to grab was her flip flop…so she hopped around trying to get it off and we all laughed so hard nobody got in trouble! Hilarious and still brings a smile to my face!

When I was 3 I ran ahead of my mother and sister (age 8 ) to get to the church first.  When my sister offered to go get me my mother told here that I was “old enough to pay attention.”  Unfortunately, someone took me away.  The good news is that who ever took me let me go and I found a woman who found a policeman and eventually my parents came to get me.  This was in the late ’40s in Greenwich Village (NY).  Since then I’ve never been very good at leaving my home base.  I’ll travel and visit people but I prefer to be at home.  My mother never gave a clear explanation as to what actually happened and I have no memory other than finding a kind woman who found a policeman.

My childhood was “normal” – whatever that is!

My mother had a ‘nervous breakdown’ (what exactly is a nervous breakdown and when do *I* get to have one?) when I was very young so I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and uncle.  They were sexually abusive to me and the results affected me my entire life.  A few years ago, she tried to cry on my shoulder about how she had been abused by her father when she was a child – the same man that she left me with when I was 4 years old. I never could really forgive my mother for putting me into that situation knowing what would happen to me.

I think the craziest thing about my Mother was she was always moving us or talking about it. By the time I’d gone from 1st grade to 12th I had been to 20 schools. My high school years (4) were all at the same school. But my elementary school years were a nightmare with 4 and 5 different schools every year.

Well…here goes. You ask about a mixed up childhood, so here is my brief story. All my life even from my earliest memories, for some strange reason my mother favored my brother in all that he did. I was always second best and it was so very obvious, that when I was married the first time, my husband even commented on it. My Mother is untreated bipolar and also has a large area of hypochondriac. If you say you have a sore throat she is in the doctors the next week. She is jealous and is so afraid of anyone getting attention. Later in life I found out that I actually belonged to the man that I called dad’s brother, yes I am my uncle’s child. I have watched my mother steal and cheat people all my life. Things she does really drives me nuts. Please do not post my name with this.. it is way too embarrassing and my children do not know.  When I confronted my mother about my parentage she simply replied, everyone makes mistakes and you were just one I had to live with for appearance sakes.

I don’t think my “moment” is on par with Helen’s, but around 1975 or so, at a family dinner, my mother made the comment, as though she was updating us on late-breaking news, “And now they are saying that maybe there was a conspiracy to shoot JFK.”  I was so stunned by the depth of her lack of awareness, that I really couldn’t say anything, but I never thought of my mother in quite the same way again.

Thank you all for sharing your memories with us.


What Are They Thinking?

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 29, 2008 in Uncategorized

I’d like to take a minute to post a quick little quiz about children’s sporting events – and the parents that attend them.

Let’s just say you had a problem with the way a coach is using the players on the team (playing time, positions played, etc).  Would you:

a) Send the coach an email

b) Speak to the coach at practice

c) Take the coach aside before and/or after the game to discuss your concerns


d) Scream obscenities expressing your opinion of the coaches abilities across the field in the middle of the game in front of all the other parents (including those from the visiting team) and all of the children

Apparently, certain parents think the correct answer is d).

Because that’s the perfect way to show a great example of sportsmanship for our children.

If these parents have so much to offer in the way of coaching expertise, then I would suggest that they join the other coaches and give up their free time with their families to run around the field night after night, rain or shine, trying to teach soccer skills while at the same time controlling a large group of children, some of whom think it’s funny to throw rocks at each other, call each other names, threaten each other with bodily harm and generally act in a way that does not promote learning the game of soccer or any other game, for that matter.

I’ll personally make sure they receive the sign-up sheet for next year’s coaching positions…


I’m Hosting a Giveaway!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 9, 2008 in Books I'm Reading, Local Community, Uncategorized

Yes, that’s right – FREE STUFF!!!

A while back I posted about a book that I read while on vacation, The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold, which has just been released in paperback.

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You can read my review here – it was a great read to which anyone who has had a less-than-ideal childhood can certainly relate (although we don’t all kill our crazy mothers, thank goodness!).

Well…I have been contacted by the publisher and have FREE COPIES of the book to give away – how great is that?!?!

So…if you are interested in a copy, email me at kathy@thetorrences.com to enter the giveaway.

Feel free to include a description of a moment in your own childhood that proved your own mother/father/sister/brother/aunt/grandmother was just a little bit ‘crazy’, as Helen describes her own mother.  Or if your own childhood was perfect (I’m sure there are some of you out there!), give me an example of someone else’s childhood moment.

I’ll post some of your responses here (anonymously, of course – and only if I have your permission) and will choose five winners at random on September 30th.

All winners must reside in the US or Canada – and no PO Boxes, please.

Good luck!


One More Teeny-Tiny Political Word

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Sep 2, 2008 in Local Community, Uncategorized

Again – this is not a political blog…

But I just can’t help but say something about the republican nominee for vice-president…

I think it’s fantastic that we are at a point in history where a woman can be nominated for vice-president without hesitation.  I also have a certain fondness in my heart for Alaska since I’m working so closely with those from that fine state.

That being said…

I can’t help but wonder about the republican strategy in the nomination of Gov. Sarah Palin for two main reasons.

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard about her nomination is that she is currently involved in a scandal in her own home state.  While I was in Anchorage, the story was plastered all over the papers and the local news. I have to question the judgement of choosing a candidate that is involved in such a high-profile case right now…

The next thing that came to mind is that Sarah has not even been governor of Alaska for 2 years.  And before that, her only political experience was that on the city council and as a mayor of a tiny town (Wasilla) that is half the size of my own home town.  I hardly think that the mayor of Pitman would have the experience necessary to run the entire country (no offense to Mayor Batten).

I have great respect for Gov. Palin – and as a woman and a mom I admire her achievements.

However, with the republicans citing Barack Obama’s lack of experience, this just seems like an interesting choice…


A Short Word on Politics

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Aug 29, 2008 in Family Stuff, Uncategorized

I am not normally a political activist – I mean, I do listen to the news (mainly on NPR – I’m such a geek!), research the candidates and have voted in every election since I was old enough.

And this is not a political blog – I’m sure that there are others who can debate the issues with much more knowledge and passion than I.

However, I have been watching the Democratic National Convention all week with great interest.  I have been so impressed with the speeches given by Hillary and President Clinton and have come to greatly admire Joe Biden and his strength and commitment to his family.

And after listening to Barack Obama’s speech last night, I feel more strongly than ever that he should be our next president.

There – I said it!  That’s my political opinion – for whatever it’s worth.

Mike and I sat in silence for a moment after the speech was over and I had actual tears in my eyes, I was so moved.  We looked at each other and said, “How can he NOT win this election?!?!?!”

But we realize that there are those who don’t agree.

We saw one of those American citizens on the way home the other day. I was horrified when I saw an actual bumper sticker on the car in front of us that read, “Nuke their ass, steal their gas!”.

God help us if those who feel that way remain in power for another four years…

Let me add that I realize that is not the sentiment of most McCain supporters – he’s certainly an honorable man that has served his country well.  I have great respect for him – and that respect was echoed during the speeches given during the DNC this week (including Barack’s).

But there are still those who feel that “Nuke their ass, steal their gas!” sentiment so strongly that they would not only say it, but would wear it proudly on their car bumper for all the world to see.

I know American citizens are better than that…


Home At Last!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Aug 17, 2008 in Today's Photo, Uncategorized

Remind me NEVER to take a red-eye back from Alaska again!  The problem is that almost every flight back from Anchorage turns into a red-eye at some point because of the long distance and time difference. 

I have come to the realization that I am just not capable of sleeping on an airplane.  I was lucky enough to get upgraded to first class for my long leg from Anchorage to Chicago, but I still couldn’t sleep no matter what I tried.  It might have been the man snoring loudly next to me…or the fact that I was in the first row right behind the kitchen where the light stayed on all night and the flight attendants were buzzing around the entire flight…or the severe turbulence that we were in for what seemed like about an hour somewhere over Canada.  By the way, United Airlines has a cool new feature for control freaks like me – you can plug in your headphones and listen to communications between the plane and the air traffic controllers.  I listened in during the turbulence and got to hear all the details.

I certainly did appreciate the first class service – free drinks, a lovely fruit and cheese plate, a hot towel, a warm blanket…I just wish it also included a big fluffy pillow and most importantly, a bed where I could lay flat.

I really wish that I had also been upgraded to first class for the second leg…I ended up sitting in a row with an extremely odiferous older gentleman in the window seat.  Not only did he possess a certain odor about him, but he kept repeatedly and loudly burping (without apology) an even more offensive scent.  After we reached our cruising altitude, I nudged the poor girl in the center seat and said, “You wanna make a run for it – there are some empty seats behind us?!?!” – and so we did.  But even 5 or 6 rows back, you couldn’t escape the smell – at least the burping noises were obscured by the sound of the engines.

After we landed in Philadelphia, I was so excited to see one of my bags on the luggage carousel that I actually cheered and jumped up and down (that would have really embarrassed Andrew if he were with me).  Unfortunately, my excitement was shortlived when after all of the other bags were sent out, my black bag was not among them… :(

I filed another missing bag report with the airline (I’m an old pro at it after this trip) and the man working the counter told me that O’Hare is notorious for losing bags and that he had filed 3 missing bag reports the previous day for people flying from ANC to PHL.  And as of this morning, they have still not located my suitcase.

So let this be a lesson – DO NOT fly United Airlines through Chicago…unless you plan on carrying on with you everything you need.

I was so out of sorts yesterday between my lack of sleep and the time difference – I got home at about 10am and forced myself to stay up until about 8pm – then I crashed HARD. I’m still not close to feeling back to normal this morning even after all that sleep.  I tend to get a little bit of motion sickness for the next day or so even after I landed (and all that turbulence didn’t help my case any).

But I did manage to unload my camera – I really didn’t take many photos because I spent most of my time either working or shopping for clothes to replace those in my lost luggage (I guess I can’t do that for THIS missing bag since I’m home now, can I?).  But here’s a shot of the mountain view from the back door of Ray’s house (the man who hosted the dinner):


And a picture of all of us on his back deck:


Poor Ray is trying to poke his head into the picture through my bushy hair at the upper right of the photo!  You’ll also notice a pair of hands at the left of the photo.  That is our project manager from Washington DC, Barbara – she said that she was uncomfortable having her photo on the web, so at her request, I cropped her out of the picture.  But from left to right, that’s Jeff (from the Tech Center), Norman (also from DC), Larry (Tech Center), Ed. T (from Anchorage), David (from Fairbanks), me, part of our host Ray’s face and Mark (from DC).

Here’s another less flattering photo of the group taken inside (Barbara was conveniently on the side again, so she’s cropped again):


That our host Ray on the upper right – thanks for a great time, Ray!  And also a huge thanks to Ray’s lovely wife Barbara – she did a wonderful job!


Beautiful Alaska!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Aug 15, 2008 in Uncategorized

I finally had a chance to drive around the area last night – one of our FAA counterparts kindly offered to host a little get-together at his home.  He had a beautiful home with a GORGEOUS view of the mountains!  I can’t image waking up to that every morning!  He lives in a community called Eagle River – a large subdivision north of Anchorage with lots of attractive homes.  I liked that all of the homes were different – not the same style – and each was on a hill with that same wonderful moutain view.   There are also paved walking paths all through the community – in fact, those paths are everywhere along the sides of the roads.  Bike-riding in the summer (and I imagine cross country skiiing in the winter) are really big up here.

Everything here is so pretty right now – I didn’t expect things to be so green and lush.  I always thought the moutains were more rocky, but they are covered with green trees in the summer time.  I think the summers here would more than make up for the lousy winters!  There are beautiful wildflowers growing everywhere and everyone’s gardens are filled with the most lovely delphiniums and other colorful flowers.  Apparently, things grow extremely well here because of the long hours of daylight (it hasn’t been getting dark until about 10:30pm every day) and mild temperatures.  Veggies grow bigger, lawns are greener and flowers are everywhere!

They said that this has been the coolest summer on record – the warmest temperature since we’ve been here was about 70 degrees.  The end of the week has been cool and rainy, but we had some pretty days when we got here (when I was running around downtown trying to buy things to wear).

But just to remind you of where you really are, they’ve been having a lot of bear problems in the local neighborhoods.  Bears have been attacking bikers and have been seen in people’s yards and even on their patios and decks.  They also like to go through trash – there are actually laws about how to store your trash to avoid attracting bears!  And I’m not talking about little Pooh bears – these are LARGE black bears and even grizzlys!

Still, I’d like to come back for a vacation and do some touring of the area some time, but for now, I’m ready to come home.  My flight home leaves at about 8:30 tonight and goes through Chicago – I hope my bags make it this time!

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