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Working for Pay

It was a lecture I’d given before. It felt like I was always giving it to no effect, but any time my kids began pouting because they didn’t have money to buy what they wanted, the lecture just falls right out of my mouth. I can’t help it, because it is infuriating that I spend weeks trying and trying to get my kids to do work. I offer them money. I offer them more money than the job is actually worth because I really want someone else to do it, because I can’t to all of the things by myself. I practically beg “Please take this money and make this dumb task go away.” They always decide not to. They don’t want anything right that minute, so they would rather play. Or maybe they do want something, but they don’t want THAT job. Or they want one job that will give them all of they money they need instead of seeing that multiple small jobs can add up to a lot of money. So they decide not to work. And then a few weeks or months later they come and be sad at me because life is not fair and they never get anything they want. Then they get the lecture about the value of work and why small jobs are worthwhile with a side order of the importance of planning ahead.

So Gleek was sad about not having a mermaid tail. She’d spent her birthday money on other things and been happy at the time, but today the lack of funds to buy a tail was tearful. And the lecture fell out of my mouth and landed on her. It made her sad/mad. But then something happened which has not happened before. She slammed out of the house and mowed the front lawn. Lawn mowing is one of the standard paid work jobs that I’m having to beg kids to do. As she mowed, she did math in her head. She asked questions about whether she could also take over mowing sections of the back yard. I told her about other work that I’d be delighted to have her do.

Only time will tell if she actually sticks to her plan of earning money week after week. I really hope she does. I could use the willing help. I would also be relieved if I could see my kids recognizing that they have to work for the things they want.

Addendum: I should note that my college age daughter, Kiki, does understand that work is necessary. It is the three live-at-home kids who have yet to grasp the concept.

Scattered Attention and Updates

When I wrote about how noisy it was in my head and in my house I thought the noise would subside more quickly than it has. The internet noise shifted tone, but did not cease. Which doesn’t surprise me. The internet is always noisy and outraged about some thing. It just bothered me more this time around because the arguments punched some of my personal anxiety buttons. The construction work we were having done to finish a room for my boys is complete. We now have a room that will be ready for occupation as soon as carpet is installed. The quieting of these things has been significantly offset by the fact that we launched our Kickstarter. Then it funded in less than 24 hours. Now I’m hoping very much that we reach the $150,000 stretch goal so that we can afford to create and print the in-world book 70 Maxims for Maximally Effective Mercenaries. I’m also buried under huge piles of email and the more people who back the project the more email rolls in. My email response time has gone way down and I feel bad about that because the backers deserve better.

On the parenting front, we appear to have reached a stable place. I’m no longer having to respond to emotional crisis multiple times per week. I feel a bit cautious saying that, we haven’t been stable long enough for me to feel secure. I’m also aware that this stable place is not a place we want to stay. There is a big difference between “not in crisis” and “living a full and growth-filled life.” Even with the increased quiet my time and attention are being impacted with extra meetings, managing homeschooling, and figuring out how to switch everything over to a summertime mode. Meanwhile my other son’s teacher seems determined to squeeze in all the assignments she didn’t get done earlier. The onslaught of homework is significant, particularly for my son who has been feeling overwhelmed. Also my teenage daughter has had some standard issue teen drama to work through. (Can I say how light and fluffy that felt to me in comparison to what I’ve helped kids through in the last two years? I kind of want to hug her emotional drama and shout “It’s so fluffy!” like that little girl in Despicable Me.) My college daughter comes home in two weeks and I’m really hoping the carpet is installed in time for me to move the boys out of the room where she’ll be staying.

One of the exciting things this week was that Howard and I decided that I need to be at GenCon this year. We’re running and RPG Kickstarter and then I’m helping make the book. There are things about a community that can only be understood by participating in that community. So off to GenCon I go. Hopefully sometime between now and then I’ll find a way to re-open the writer portions of my brain which have been shut down since some emotional stuff slammed me the first week of March. If nothing else, I’ll get to hang out with all the writer people at GenCon and I’ll get to see our booth crew whom I’ve only had the chance to meet once. I’m really looking forward to it.

April Photo a Day Part 2

Here are my photos from this week:
Colorful
05colorful

Peaceful
06peaceful

On My shelf
07onmyshelf
(Yes that is a pokeball. All sorts of stuff accumulates on my bedside table. This is actually more organized than usual. I sorted the piles a few weeks ago, which is why the pens are neatly together rather than strewn among stacked notebooks and papers.)

Action Shot
08actionshot

Modern
09modern

A Favorite Snack
10afavoritesnack

Friend
11friend
(There were more friends who came to help with the shooting of the kickstarter video, but this was the artsiest shot.)

Natural
12natural

Meal Habits

“Yeah. We don’t really have dinner at my house.” Gleek said into the phone. I’d been aware that she was talking to a friend, but hadn’t really been listening to her conversation. But that phrase jumped out at me and latched onto all my parenting guilt.
“I mean, mom makes food and calls us to eat it, but half the time, by time I get there the food is cold.” as Gleek said this, she turned and saw that I was listening. “It’s my own fault,” she rushed to say. “My mom calls me like 3-4 times. She’s a good mom.”

I thought about her words as Gleek continued to converse with her friend. I thought about the family meals we do have. Yes they’re more rare than the other kind, but they exist. I also thought of the other ways in which Howard and I deliberately draw our family together, creating bonding experiences. Yet I feel guilty about the lack of regular mealtimes. I worry about the fact that so much of what we eat is quick-fix food instead of planned and cooked from raw ingredients. This is one of the casualties of Howard and I both being stretched thin to cover all the jobs we have to do. And I’m not just talking about the jobs relating to our income. We’ve had a heavier load of mental health management in the past few months. That takes a toll.

I don’t foresee a grand improvement in our eating habits in the next three weeks. Howard and I are buried in pre-Kickstarter tasks. Then we’ll be buried in Kickstarter management. But next week the construction will be done on the previously unfinished basement room which will now be a bedroom. In three weeks Kiki will come home and I’ll have my live in business assistant again. Only a week or two beyond that and the school year will begin winding up. Some of the things that have been eating my energy will go on hiatus. Better meal planning can fit into the created space. I know it can because it has done so before and it will again.

Some months we eat too much frozen pizza. Other months we plan and cook meals in advance. In both cases we’re balancing needs against available time, energy, and finances. No matter I feel about our eating habits, I can be glad that I have a daughter who is socially aware enough to see that I’m listening and to give me a verbal vote of confidence.

Preparing for Planet Mercenary

PM-KickstarterPre-Announce.FINAL.web

As the picture says, next Tuesday we’ll be launching our Kickstarter funding drive for Planet Mercenary The RPG. We’ve been excited about this project for quite a while. The thing about running a Kickstarter is that you do all the work to prepare for it, so you can do all the work to run it, so that you can do all the work to create the product, so you can do all the work to deliver on your promises. The whole thing is made out of work and worry. Yet we love this idea. We love the game mechanic that Alan Bahr has created. We love the art that we’ve already got. We’re really excited to see the rest of the art when we have the money to fund it. We’re excited by the stretch goals we’ve got planned. I am really looking forward to holding a book in my hands and knowing that I helped to make it happen.

Today my part of making it happen meant I had to go clean up space in our warehouse/office so that Howard and a crew can film the Kickstarter video. So I spent several hours collapsing boxes and putting things away. I found the piles left over from running a booth at LTUE in February. And some of the stacks of boxes were still sitting around from the massive shipping in November and December. Cleaning was definitely overdue.

Warehouse before

The good news is that most of what was jumbled around is recyclable cardboard. Even better, there is a transfer station down the road which is glad to see all the cardboard we can bring. The warehouse hasn’t looked this good in a long time.

Warehouse after

Tomorrow morning Howard and I will go dress up the front office so that tomorrow afternoon friends can help us film. I’m quite glad we have experienced friends to help, because last time for a Kickstarter video we had me, a camera, Howard in the front room, and no editing. We’ll do better this time.

Noisy

It has been noisy in my head, noisy in my house, and noisy on the internet. I have been trying to focus despite all the noise, but sometimes that is difficult. We’re in the final week before launching the Kickstarter for Planet Mercenary: The Role Playing Game, which is an RPG set in the Schlockiverse. I’ve been deep in graphic design and concept development. I’m very excited about the project and hope to have some cool things to show you very soon. My kids are home for spring break and we’ve been doing some house reorganization as a result. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that the various types of noise combined to punch some anxiety buttons. It is nothing I can’t handle, but it does mean I’m spending energy handling anxiety when I want to be spending all of my energy working on Planet Mercenary.

In my more thoughtful moments, I’ve been pondering the ways that one person’s emotional needs can come into conflict with those of another. I see it all the time with my kids. This one needs very much to tell every single bit of her story. That one has accumulated resentment because he listens all the time and is never listened to. Just this morning I was posting to a friend about the unlimited self-centered myopia of teens. I know that at some point in their twenties they’ll finally figure out that 95% of other people’s choices have nothing to do with them. I expect that they’ll come and tell me about their grand realization. Then I’ll say “Wow. you’re right. Glad you see it.” Though what I’ll want to say is “Gah! I’ve been trying to hammer that into your head since you were twelve.” Of course, teens aren’t the only ones who do this. Adults are guilty too. I catch myself at it all the time.

As I’ve been out and about on the noisy internet, I see another human tendency in action. People tend to project their own internal critical voices onto other people. I know I do this, because I’ve been stung by it on multiple occasions. I read a comment and feel judged, but if I come back later, in a different frame of mind, I can see that there are alternate readings of those words which don’t mean what I read into them. I’ve also seen it in my kids. I come into the room calling their name and they snap angrily “Yeah. I know you want me to come do the dishes.” In fact, I’d entered to ask if they wanted a treat from the store. With my kids, I have to recognize that when I get a response that is out of proportion to what I said, then there is something else going on inside my kid’s head. I know that is true when I’m the one snapping at them. I’m almost always grouchy about something entirely different.

We all live in our own worlds inside our own heads and sometimes those worlds collide in very unpleasant ways. Right now my internal world is a noisy place, but I’m reasonably certain that if I just keep muddling through things will quiet down again.

Photo a Day in April

Those who follow my twitter feed may have noticed me posting more pictures in the past few days. This is because on the first day of April I happened across a list for a one month photo-a-day challenge. When I saw the list, something inside me said “let’s do that.” So I began.
Sunshine
Sunshine

The list I came across was this one. The thing I’m finding valuable is that it requires me to focus on something visual that is interesting or beautiful. The list helps me look for things I otherwise might not notice. It also gives my brain things to think about that are lovely instead of it constantly circling through worries, stresses, and the seemingly constant internet conflicts that always reach out to grab me and try to pull me in. I’ve modified the challenge a bit. I’m not going through the list in order. Sometimes I’ll post photos that were taken on a different day, but only photos that I’ve taken since beginning the challenge. I’m going to try to post one picture per day to my twitter feed. I may post a weekly round up here. The picture above was the first one I posted. Here are the others for the four days since I started.

In My House
In my house

Water
Water

Extreme Close Up
Close up

Thinking About Focus

One of the reasons I love having this blog is when I end up delving into my own archives and something that I said previously serves as a reminder that I need right now. It can occasionally be discouraging in an “I learned this two years ago, why didn’t I remember it?” way. But I guess I’m human, just like everyone else. Sometimes I learn important lessons and then forget them. Today I’m going to ponder in this pair of posts from last year:

Focusing
Changing Your Focus

Focusing gives a useful metaphor for seeing the good things in life. Changing Your Focus provides a list of concrete tools that can be useful in making that happen. As I look over the list, I can see that I’ve been using some of them unconsciously. Which is nice, because it means I haven’t forgotten everything I learned. (Just some of it.) Over the last few weeks I’ve done a lot of pattern breaking. I’ve pruned some things out of our family schedule and added other things back in. I’ve adjusted my expectations for small daily things and I’m trying to let go of my expectations for some larger life events. And I’m learning new ways to exercise patience as I wait for things to grow in their own time and in their own way.

It has been a busy few months and a slightly different focus helps me see that as a good thing.

Pruning Day

March is the month when I’m supposed to prune my fruit trees and grape vines. I did pretty well with the grape vines in the past few years, but the trees have been left to their own devices. I was about to run out of March, and the weather was nice, so this was the day for me to battle the trees. It really does feel like battle. My arms are always scratched up by the end of it. But it is a battle I win, because I’m the one with the chainsaw.

I now have several large piles of branches laying on my grass. Sometime next week I’ll take the saw and render the pieces smaller so that they’re easier to dispose of. Fortunately my church congregation is sponsoring a neighborhood clean up day where everyone bands together to haul away yard waste. I have plenty for hauling.

In the afternoon I walked with the kids to a park. We’re discovering that walking a mile just doesn’t feel that far anymore. This probably means we’re ready for longer walks in the weeks to come. I’m not going to really push the walking until we get closer to summer. At least not for the kids. It would be good for me to be out and walking every day.

I also spent some time just sitting on my porch enjoying the sunshine. It was 75 degrees today, which is really warm for March. I hope this doesn’t indicate a scorching summer to come. My flowers are loving the weather too. It was a lovely day. It felt really good to get outside and do things.

photo

My Child Through the Eyes of Others

Eleven years ago, when my son Link was in kindergarten, he was in a class so large it required a teacher’s aide. His name was Mr. A. For us Mr. A was a godsend, because he had a special place in his heart for my son who was mostly non-verbal and often lost in his own imagination. Years later we’d diagnose the inattentive type ADHD and Auditory Processing Disorders that made Link so different from his classmates. At the time I was just glad to know that there was someone at school who thought Link was wonderful, who took time to tell me little stories about things that Link did. His teacher was worried about Link, but Mr. A saw Link as amazing and interesting. We were glad when Mr. A became the PE teacher and then was Link’s fifth grade teacher. Fifth grade was a good year. Not all of the elementary years were good.

There were a string of teachers in elementary school. One for each school year. They variously saw my child as stubborn, lazy, genius-level smart, frustrating, and a dozen other things. Sometimes I liked seeing what they saw. Other times I wished they could see what I saw. As the baby-cuteness vanished and teen gawkiness arrived, Link turned more inward. He was less willing to be vulnerable in public. This is true of most teens, but in Link’s case it meant that the vast majority of adults in his life saw him as an enigma. Often they liked him, mostly he fit in and learned exactly like all the other kids, but then he would hit some road block that was huge to him and invisible to everyone else. Then he would shut down, draw inward. The teachers didn’t know how to reach in and he didn’t feel safe enough to reach out. “How can I help Link?” they would ask. I didn’t have good answers to give, because he was a different person for them than for me. He was different at school than he was at home. I made a bridge of myself to make sure that he had a way across the educational gaps.

In junior high we had Mr. H. He was the resource teacher who held Link’s IEP file. He watched out for Link and liked him. Link liked Mr. H too. Sometimes Mr. H got to glimpse who Link was when he felt relaxed and happy. Mr. H wanted very much to help Link, so sometimes he helped too much. He took away opportunities to struggle and learn. We were grateful, because there was far too much struggling, but I also knew that Mr. H saw Link as a person who struggled and needed help.

High school hit hard. Link struggled. There was no Mr. H to see the struggles building and to whisk some of them away before things got too much. There was no Mr. A to remind Link that he’s amazing. I searched for an on-campus mentor, someone that Link could turn to when things felt hard. But all the people moved so fast, they were so busy with so many students. Taking any of their time felt like an imposition. Link felt it too.

Two weeks ago I sat across the desk from a woman at Vocational Rehabilitation. She told me that it is her job to take teens with disabilities and help transition them into independent adulthood. Two days ago Link and I sat in her office while she talked to him about his application. I watched this woman watching my son. She sees him as a bright prospect. She sees a person whose challenges exist, but are fairly easy to surmount. She sees a worthwhile person who has a lot to give to the world. She is prepared to mentor him as he becomes who he wants to be. I want to just hang out in her office and soak up the way she sees him and I want him to soak it up too.

Finding someone who sees Link this way is such a relief. I need to remember to tell other mothers the good things I see in their children.