Dysfunction Junction 2012

A real family's holiday newsletter

2011 Sucked -
I got cancer
and my dog died

There was nowhere else to go but up in 2012, and it's been a pretty good year.  I have had several requests to put together another Dysfunction Junction letter as I haven't been inspired the last few years.  What better way than to create it here, without the newsletter formatting problems I always run into with Word (OK, and it's free).

Partial Family Photo

This was taken at John & Terry's house in Scottsdale, AZ on Thanksgiving.  My brother John took the picture and isn't in it and there's a couple of dogs missing plus John's friend Jimmy.  You will notice that I am now fully gray (I'm sitting next to Mom).  I keep repeating, "Gray is the new blonde, gray is the new blonde" - yeah, right.

The video below is on the bus tour at Out of Africa located in Campe Verde, AZ.  Nephew Brendan, niece Paige and I fed the giraffe with a carrot in our mouths.

Happy!  SADD... Happy!  SADD...

This is how I feel when in Arizona vs. Illinois in winter.  I need a full spectrum light, but that won't get rid of the cold weather, sleet, snow and dirty slush.  We spent the longest time yet at our Scottsdale townhouse this past November and we plan to go back soon to finish all the laundry we had to leave.  Good excuse to go back although a maid would be cheaper.

What I Learned After Being Sick

  • my family rallied
  • my friends were steadfast and by my side
  • birthdays are nothing to fear
  • I still don't like going to the doctor
  • gray is the new blonde - yeah, right

Rockin' Realtor Jimmy

Jimmy is splitting his time between his music and his Realtor duties.  He got his Broker's license in 2011 and is handling some of his own deals.  He is playing more music than ever and most friends, family and acquaintances know about his temporary stint with Herman's Hermits with Peter Noone the beginning of this year.  I used to dream about Peter - never thought I'd meet him.  He looks good and still has a great voice and is hilarious.

This was at Busch Gardens. Elle and I met Jimmy out there at the end of his tour and we got to meet Peter.  I was pretty far away when I took the shot below.  Jimmy's on the far left.  We didn't want to wait in line for front row seats so we were stuck with the wheelchairs and Hoverounds.  Elle said some old man touched her.   

I never saw so many gray haired bouffants at a concert before.  Our generation is getting old.  Elle wasn't too impressed at first as the Herman's Hermits band is the same as a dinosaur to her - OLD!  But when we got off the plane we saw a scrolling marquee that announced the band and she said, "Oh, I didn't know they were that famous!"  But seeing the show twice was two times too many for her.  Busch Gardens was fun, though.

Jimmy is doing solo gigs and also doing duets, trios and more with different musicians and bands.  He is still playing with The New Invaders.  He also has a stint at Joliet Junior College working their new sound room with Dave Nuccio.

Mom - or Bea to You

We got Mom to Arizona although her plans to get home fell through and she didn't know what was happening. She was planning on a road trip with her friend but her friend got sick, so no old lady Thelma & Louise and last minute plans were in order.  Both brothers John & Jimmy drove and there was no room for Mom in either car with all the dogs, kids and luggage.  So Mom was sweating it out until a flight was found (for the day after Thanksgiving), and she and her dog Pudding made it home.

I swear we almost lost Mom at Out of Africa in Camp Verde. As she laid her head on her arms on one of the picnic tables and was breathing heavily, all I could imagine was that she was thinking to herself, "I can't believe I'm going to die at a zoo next to hyenas - I would have preferred Macy's after a long shopping spree, but before I paid the bill."

She made it and just had surgery to remove a sun goddess growth on her nose, so below is a "bea-fore and after" pic (gross alert)!  We're still waiting for the after-she's-healed photo.  Mom is 88 and still has all her marbles.


Renee also got her Broker's license this year.  Unlike me, she can get around without GPS but she is still learning how to open some of the different lockboxes.  I just hope she's nicer to my clients than she is to us.  If Jimmy and I are busy, you'll get Renee to let you in.

Chad & Jeanette

They're doing great and are still married - 10 years!  Chad just got a promotion at Metra and Jeanette got a great new job at one of her past employers.  Now that we live only 7 minutes away, we hardly see them anymore.

The photo below is Jeanette walking into her surprise 40th birthday party at Fox's in Orland Park, planned by Chad (to the right).

And Then There's Matt

Matt didn't like my newsletters, at least not what I wrote about him.  So I have to be nice.  Matt is still a roadie with The New Invaders and is our photographer for our real estate listings.  We've got the Orr- Herter-Milan family team!


Elle is 10 and is at a new school for 5th grade.  She is in an advanced class and recently came home with her report card.  Before she'd let me see it she requested twenty bucks.  I told her I needed to see it first and with her hesitation I knew she didn't get her normal straight A's.  I said you only get 20 bucks for all A's and she replied, "If I wasn't in an advanced class I would have gotten all A's."  I said, "OK, I'll give you $5.00 for every A."  She said, "Well then you owe me 30 bucks."  I didn't realize she had 7 different classes (she got a B+ in social studies).  I should have handed over the twenty at the beginning, I feel used...

The photo below is cousin Paige to the left, cousin Jenna in the middle and Elle to the right in a cage in front of the brothel at Goldfield Ghost Town in AZ.  The next photo is the girls playing cards in the saloon.  Brothel and saloon - we're expanding their horizons.

This is what that lifestyle will get 'ya...


Brett is 9 and is doing great in 4th grade.  I believe his last report card did have all A's.  I really don't have a good recent picture of him.  He's on the right in the photo below.  But hey, I found him in the photo above at Jeanette's party.


Brendon just turned 5 and is in kindergarten at Everest Academy, the same school Brett attends.  He is a bundle of Chad and funny and sweet.  If I make a sarcastic or negative remark about something (who - me?!), he'll say "that's not nice" and gives me a sad, puppy dog look that makes me think "I'm a bad grandma."

At least he doesn't have a mask on like the above picture but he looks pissed and is much cuter than this.

The Replacement Pet

We lost our most wonderful dog Gizmo last year.  You can read all about The Life of Gizmo by clicking the link.  He is now in our back yard.  He left a void in our hearts that we needed to fill, so we were scouring pet shelters.


Our first choice was a dog called Batman at TLC Shelter in Homer Glen, a little black dog that looked like a bat.  When they let him out for us to meet he jumped up and down like he was on springs.  OK, so he's a little lively...  I still wanted him (what was I thinking) and mentioned to the worker that I'd need to bring my dog Bubba in to meet him.  He replied, "Oh, he attacked the last dog someone brought in."  That was it - we had to sadly say good-bye to Batman.

The Dog Someone Returned

We saw a lot of dogs online but Monkey, aka Dolce, was at the closest shelter (P.A.W.S. in Tinley Park).  We really wanted a female this time so she was our next choice.  We packed the entire family in the car (that's the rules) and went to the shelter, only to be told that Monkey wasn't there that day.  She would not stay in a cage, (she would jump up & down and make monkey noises, hence the name change) and one of the volunteers took her home every night and the lady was sick that day.

We trudged home empty-handed waiting for the next day.  We all packed into the car again (including Bubba) and went to the shelter.  Photos can be deceiving.  She was a miniature pinscher (minpin) and chihuahua mix.  When we walked in, there she was on the lady's lap behind the front desk in a pink sweater.  She looked like a chihuahua on stilts.  It wasn't love at first sight.  

We put Bubba behind the desk with her and he didn't attack, but pretty much ignored her.  I heard that wasn't good but the staff said, "That's great!"  Guess it was time to get rid of Monkey.  Since I wasn't in love (but felt guilty) I asked the family if they wanted her.  They all replied with a resounding YES!  

I always wanted a lap dog but I thought about that saying be careful what you wish for. The first few days I felt like a kangaroo and she was my joey.  She was definitely a Velcro dog.  I was feeling smothered and still hadn't bonded.  But the happy ending is she won me over and everyone loves her - she is quite a character.

She had been given to the shelter along with a brother, sister and her mother.  They had all been adopted, but the people that adopted Monkey returned her.  They said they had allergies, but I think it was because Monkey had allergies and we're still trying to figure it out (hundreds of dollars later - our next experiment is a skin allergy test).  Monkey just turned two December 5th (we got her last November so have had her a little more than a year.

Below is Monkey's first photo at home.

Dr. Bubba

Bubba is a new man.  He and Gizmo usually got along but never really played with each other.  Bubba is 14 and he's in love with his new young bitch and he's now got a spring in his step.  He actually plays with her and I swear he's gotten younger!

Bubba loves his little Monkey and knows when her allergies are bothering her.  When she's extra itchy he gives her healing licks to help her relax and stop scratching.  The photo below is where Monkey is finished with her therapy and is saying "Enough already!"


Below is a photo of a face that appeared from Monkey's mistake.  Did I mention she's not quite house trained yet?  At first it was a smiley face that morphed into a monkey face but by the time I got the shot it looked like this:

Our 2012 Trips

Our first Arizona trip this year took us about 10 minutes away from our place to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West desert compound.  This was on my bucket list and was very interesting.

Here's more from Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL, with an old photo of me, my bros & my friend Gayle (in the middle) back in the '60's (check out my natural brown hair).  Things have really changed.  When we went years ago they gave each one of us kids beer - no one was offering it to Elle.  Elle & I are with Peter Noone middle row left.  Busch Gardens has a dog that lives with a cheetah!

We hadn't been to see Mom and my brothers and their families in California in a couple of years, so we made another trip to Gilroy, The Garlic Capital of the World.  I couldn't find a photo of sis-in-law Terry or nephew Brendan.  It was Elle's birthday so as a b-day gift she got her ears pierced from Jimmy, Dana, Brendan & Jenna - the ear piercing pic is on the left side of the middle row.

Another locale on my bucket list was New Orleans.  I wouldn't consider returning but I missed doing a cemetary tour, so I have to go back.  This was for our niece's wedding and we stayed in the French Quarter, which was old, dirty and smelled moldy.  We found out after the fact that we were lucky we weren't mugged (or worse) on a couple of our walking trips - stupid tourists!

And finally, our 2nd Arizona trip.  We had our friends Laura & Michael Strudemann-LeBaron (the Strudebarons) & Diane & Joe Roth-Walano (the Rolanos) for the first long weekend and then the family came.  John & Terry had their kids at their place along with Mom and we had brother Jimmy, Dana, Brendan, Jenna & Elle with us, along with many dogs.

The collage below is when the friends were in town, although I'm missing the Strudebarons and you can only see Diane in the bathroom of the Tortilla Flats bar.  Joe & Diane are hiking in the middle photo - very far away.  

Below is when the family arrived.  The weird blue ceiling at the lower left is a room in one of our favorite restaurants, Los Olivos in Scottsdale.

We hope you have safe and happy holidays and here's to an even better 2013!

Comment Stream