"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."
-from A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens (1859)
The above passage, penned by Dickens when he was forty-seven years old, has been bandied about often enough to make me somewhat hesitant to use it here, but the sentiment so expresses what the last twelve months have been like for me that I find I am unable to bring myself to change it.
The sharp-eyed may have noticed that Tim and I have neglected the site a good bit over the past few years. This has been due not to a waning interest in keeping it up, but rather to already-busy lives further uprooted by the catastrophic illness of our father, John, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in March of 2003—at least, I think that's when it happened; I'm afraid it all became somewhat of a blur over time. This is to be expected, I imagine, as the years that followed included more trips back East than I can remember combined with frantic periods of attempting to make up missed hours at work (and, in my case, school), plenty of long-distance phone calls in between visits, providing and commanding shoulders to cry on, bouts of depression and flashes of hope…all the nasties that accompany that most wretched disease, cancer.
We lost Dad just over a year ago, and I think Tim and I were both too emotionally burned out to give much thought to the web site. And despite the fact that time has begun to soften the painful associations of recent years, allowing memories of happier times with Dad to slowly seep back into our minds, I notice that neither of us has been able to write about him. I for one have tried—I had hoped to put a vignette in the Essay section in time to mark the first anniversary of Dad's death, but was unable to produce anything that met my own satisfaction: while losing a father is a common tragedy, I am unwilling to write about it in a common way since it is uncommon to me—after all, I only had the one. Perhaps one day I will be able to write about Dad in a way that will do him more honor than I feel able to achieve at this time; for now, I will content myself with remembering the good times.
And there have been plenty of good times over the past year—whether we want it to or not life does go on, and while it saddened me that Dad could not be there to see me receive my Master of Science in Writing degree from Portland State University, receive it I did in August—an accomplishment made all the sweeter by the fact that my mother and Tim both flew in to Portland to attend the ceremony. I was delighted to have the opportunity to show Mom and Tim some of my beloved Pacific Northwest, and hopefully I'll get some of the pictures from their visit up in the near future. Tim's turn to play host to Mom, Steve and myself is coming up next month, when the three of us will join him and Louise for a good old-fashioned Southwestern Christmas—stay tuned!
Now, on to the Tim and Jenn FAQ for those things that haven't changed:
WHO ARE TIM AND JENN?
Tim and I were spawned in a large, Irish-Catholic family in Northeastern Pennsylvania. There are fourteen years and four siblings between us, which gives credence to the medical theory that the condition known as "weirdness" strikes one out of three siblings. Tim and I are both very weird—even our parents say so. The other four are merely nuts. (If you think you might be weird, or if you are a parent and concerned that your child is afflicted with weirdness, see the checklist of symptoms.)
One thing about weirdness: it certainly bonds people together. Tim is one of my best friends; this in spite of the fact that he's a Boomer and I'm a Gen-Xer, he's male and I'm female, he likes deserts and I like trees. There are other differences; Tim went to a posh Catholic Preparatory School that was filled with Jesuits who taught him to argue without losing, and I went to a public school and wasn't taught much of anything. I graduated from Penn State with a degree in English; Tim went to the University of Scranton and had quite a number of majors. And in consequence, after having taken substantially more than the usual number of credit hours, failed to fill all of the requirements for any single major—*heavy sigh*. (Note: after all those years of Catholic school, Tim is an agnostic. An agnostic being defined as an atheist who wants the holidays. I went public all the way through and still believe in God; anyone want to try to figure that one out??? Actually our pastor, Father O'Neill, had warned our father not to send me to "that Jesuit school", because I would lose my faith if I went there. I think his comment was just a case of intramural church rivalry. Really.)
But there are the similarities, as well. If you've taken a look around the site you've noticed two right off the bat—a love of reading, movies, music, and art, and a strong tendency to get way too analytical over all of the above. There are also other, less obvious similarities: we're both hopeless homebodies, preferring the comforts of hearth and home over a wild night out. We have fierce tempers when riled. We both have an um unusual sense of humor, but we don't get personal with it and neither of us enjoys the kind of humor that gets its jollies by embarrassing others.
We're also each of us happily married to incredible spouses of great patience and understanding, lucky for us—they need it!
WHAT DO THEY GET UP TO?
In our spare time (what there is of it), we both like hiking/camping, reading, and role-playing. I play racquetball several times a week; Tim's fondness for skiing has been supplanted by newest obsession, "aikido," a form of Japanese martial art more along the lines of wrestling, I think, than the usual chop-socky stuff. Tim tells me the word means roughly "the way of harmony with the universe" but he calls it "peace through benevolent mayhem". This is fitting since he's already dislocated a rib while practicing this Way of Peace. Boys. Maybe if I beg him hard enough, he'll put a page up about it.
I enjoy horseback riding when I can manage it (expensive sport!), painting ceramics and doing crochet, and Tim is a chess buff. He also paints miniatures and is a pretty good amateur carpenter. He should be; our grandfather made his living at that profession from the time he was 13, and Tim has gotten some of his genes, I think (good genes to have from a good man). And of course, both of us are aspiring writers, as evidenced by this web site - when not working or at my Thursday night ceramics class I can be found pecking away at a novel (a sort of psychological thriller/mystery of sorts), and Tim the Brilliant won an award for his wonderful short story, "Walking Rain," which was published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume XIX, under the pen name of Ian R. Keane (check out this photo of Tim at his very first book signing—he's on the far right, with the award in front of him). Not too shabby for folks who already spend much of their waking hours at the keyboard as it is!
I guess I should put down that, for some reason, some people seem to think we're computer geeks. We can't imagine why that would be.
We also both happen to be childfree.
WHERE ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY DO?
After knocking around a good bit, Tim has found that there is no place on earth he'd rather call home than the American Southwest, and he currently lives with his wife, Louise, in New Mexico. Tim is referred to sometimes as the "hippie Southwestern son"; our nieces and nephews used to refer to him as "Uncle-Tim-who-lives-in-the-desert." (You could tell they had a mental image of Tim, complete with Quai Chang Caine slouch hat, huddled in a three-sided hovel behind a sand dune playing a flute, with a cactus in his front yard—which at one time may have not been all that far from the truth, except maybe for the flute!) However, I have been to Tim's home and I can vouch that he has a nice little house on a quiet street on the outskirts of Santa Fe, complete with garage, two cars, and a fenced-in (hacienda style) backyard. It's true that his house, like all houses in Santa Fe, is stuccoed to look as though it was formed out of adobe, his ceiling is adorned with "vigas" (which basically means you can see the rafters), and his kitchen has some pretty cool ceramic tile in it. It's also true that, like most New Mexicans (at least, the ones who don't leave their sprinklers on twenty-four hours a day), he has no lawn to speak of (but a pretty extensive garden that he and his wife both putter around in). But they do have heat and running water and Nike sneakers, which they use to keep ahead of the coyotes when they dash to the outhouse and back each night.
Tim and Louise also take some fantastic vacations, backpacking through the scenic Southwest (one time I was lucky enough to be able to join them). To learn more about those, see Sir Robin Faces the Sinister Swallows of Sherwood.
Tim is employed at CERL, Inc., an environmental consulting company. He's technically labeled as a...er...well, whatever it is, he does asbestos, er, I mean as best he can! In reality he's a jack-of-all trades whose duties range from maintaining the company web page to technical writing to making on-site inspections that require him to crawl around under buildings with Black Widow spiders for company. (Confused yet?) Plus, he's very talented, and I have no doubt that CERL would de-gravitize and soar off the planet were he ever to quit.
Since graduation, I've done my own share of knocking around a good bit; if people were allowed to keep their driver's licenses from every state in which they've held one, I'd have five in my wallet! Apart from Pennsylvania, I've lived in Tampa, Florida, Huntsville, Alabama, and New York City (Manhattan and Queens). In November of 1999 I made my biggest jump yet—my husband Steve's job transferred us to Portland, Oregon (we drove out here from Virginia, and you can find a travelogue of our trip made from the pictures we took and journal entries I wrote along the route in the Sir Robin Faces the Sinister Swallows of Sherwood section of our site). Portland is a great city, and we are very much enjoying the Northwest—it has proven to be a hub for the activities we most enjoy.
A surprising number of folks wonder just what a person with a degree in English can do. My reply: what can't we do? For someone who was told her chosen major would afford her few opportunities, I've wound up with a fairly diverse and interesting resume—I've worked as a copywriter in the retail industry, a technical writer in the computer industry, an editor and proofreader in both the print and electronic publishing industries, and have sold articles on a freelance basis ranging from special features, reviews, business articles, and straight reporting. In 2005 I began working as an Internet Content Editor at Norm Thompson Outfitters. This has been a great thing for me all-around—besides the fact that they let me work part-time most of the year (which allowed me to put more time into completing my Master of Science in Writing at Portland State University, and now allows me to spend more time on my own writing), the office is only a fifteen-minute drive from my house. NTO was very generous in letting me take time off when Dad was sick, and I am privileged to be working with a great creative team.
THE TIM & JENN SUPPORT NETWORK—IN APPRECIATION
This web site is dedicated to our two favorite people in the world—Tim's wife Louise and my wonderful husband Steve. Louise is a smart person with a green thumb, extensive background in anthropology and archaeology, a real flair for making toddies, a kitty-communer, crochet artist, and possesses a bizarre sense of humor that rivals my brother's. She's also really good at keeping Tim on his toes (which he needs). Oh, and if you need any high-quality Native American paraphernalia, she's the one to see.
We may be married, but in spite of what Ambrose Bierce might say, I still hold that Steve is the best person I know, very brave and with loads of talent. In spite of time in at West Point he remains a military buff (he says this is because he never had GI Joes to play with as a kid), is a rabid Rush fan (the band, not the fat idiot), once outraged an English professor by writing an additional act to King Lear, and is a great writer—much better than he knows. Thus far, our marriage has proven to be one heck of a wild ride, but there's no one else on earth with whom I'd rather take this particular trip. J My sister, obviously, is still in serious newlywed mode. Forgive her. It should wear off eventually, although I can't really say from experience when that might be.
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN...
Wow have you really gotten this far? I must say, I am impressed I'm not sure I would have made it were I in your shoes! But since you have, I'll take this opportunity to extend my thanks: thanks for reading, thanks to those of you who keep coming back. Thanks to those of you who have contacted us with your wonderful comments (we should have a guest book up here one of these days). Thanks to our family and friends for their support and humor. My personal thanks to my big brother for doing all the graphics himself (in Paintbrush, no less), for nagging at me to keep me on the ball in holding up my end of this here show, for keeping things current and for his editorial skills. The best part about maintaining Sir Robin's home on the Web is that we get to do it together, which is very cool. My brother lives too far away, or maybe I do (awww!). Keep watching for our new additions; we hope you enjoy yourself with what's already here—even if you don't, we still had fun. Hasta! Adios!
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