I had a plan for Thanksgiving Day. I was going to write up some lovely and beautiful words on the subject of gratitude. I wasn’t sure what those words would be. Perhaps I’d talk about the fallen leaves and the abundance of life. Food and family would likely be topics. I wanted it to be a moment for me to pause in a particular moment and be grateful. The pause felt all the more important because we weren’t doing our big Thanksgiving meal on that day. I knew I couldn’t pull off a meal of that complexity with only a single day between a big convention and the holiday. There are elements of the Thanksgiving feast which require pre-planning and multi-day preparation cycles. So I sat on Thanksgiving day feeling a bit empty and brain fogged, with no celebratory food. I didn’t have the energy to feel grateful, any brain power I had available went into unpacking and cleaning up convention mess. I call it “convention mess” but really it was the accumulated mess of months. I’ve been living at a dead run since early July.
Clutter accumulates in such circumstances. The corner of the room gets stacked with things that require decisions. My To Do list becomes overfull of undone tasks. Emotions pile up in the edges of my mind waiting for me to process them. Often I experience Thanksgiving weekend as a beautiful respite from urgency. I want that for this year, but I haven’t laid the groundwork for it. So I spent Thanksgiving day slowly trying to clear away mess in preparation so that perhaps I could have a sliver of peace on Saturday when we planned our large meal.
I did find peace and gratitude in snatches, but also there was the cooking schedule. And the couches, which are important and will let us arrange our living space in much more comfortable ways, arrived at exactly the hour I planned to serve dinner. The plan was to eat and then crash and watch a show. If the packages full of couch had arrived before Saturday, I would have already assembled them. If they’d arrived on Monday we would have made do with existing furniture. Instead we had to assemble couches before sitting because there were boxes everywhere. It turned into a group effort, which is family togetherness of a kind, but not what I’d pictured. The arrival of the couches is emblematic of how my life has gone since July. None of the events and tasks arrive with space around them. Everything is on top of each other while life feels over-full and cluttered. I want to fix that. I need a life that contains more breathing space and less accumulated clutter both physical and mental.
And yet I am grateful for this busy season. All of the things which have filled our hours have been important progress. I am glad for how far we’ve come in the last four months even though I’m tired from running so fast.
Life changed on Friday. It transformed completely for my daughter and son-in-law as their whole lives now revolve around this infant boy who needs so much care. In the five days since he arrived, I’ve been active support crew for the new parents as they adapt. The support crew job is going to calm down a lot in the next week as they’re already finding patterns and getting routines established.
Because life isn’t cooperative, baby’s arrival landed right on top of me needing to shift into high gear for Dragonsteel prep and also colliding with my latest scoping day for my EOE. So I’ve not had much down time or spare bandwidth in the past six days. It crossed my mind how wonderful it would be for me to write something to this baby about the week he was born, I haven’t had two coherent thoughts to rub together, so here is a random collection of thoughts: Baby is really cute and tiny. So much hair! Holding a sleeping baby is as snuggly as I remembered. I wish I could devote my full attention to one thing instead of constantly jumping between. I wonder who this baby will grow into. Who will he be a month from now? A year from now? Ten years? At six day’s old, he’s more proto-person than person it is hard to tell personality yet. But I like him. And his parents are doing really well at adapting.
The story is written in my fingernails. If I turn my thumb just-so in the light, I can see the ridges. That same light reveals the wavy edge as the nail is brittle and flakes have torn off. The ridges smooth out toward the cuticle. Evidence in keratin of the medial changes three months ago, when I stopped taking a medicine I’d been on for years. When I changed the food I ate. I like to believe the lack of brittle ridges is a sign that I’m headed in the right direction for my health. But the more important thing is the reminder to approach my health with patience. I would like to hurry and find solutions, flip the switch and make things better. My fingernails tell me that this is a long slow game. It will be six or eight months before the last ridges are trimmed away. Other systems, other portions of my body need time to heal as well.
I wanted to fix it fast, be done and move on, but I need to listen to my fingernails. They are the historians of my health.
There is a book called The Body Keeps the Score, which I have never read, but the title felt like a blow when I first heard it. Ever since I’ve carried with me the idea that bodies remember trauma even when we’re not consciously aware that we’re carrying it. I’ve cried far more tears over my current medical choices than a mild chronic condition really merits. An outlandish quantity of tears, that has spilled in embarrassingly public ways. An appointment in a wrong location should be an annoyance, not something that makes me sob at the poor admin trying to do her scheduling job. I like to think of myself as an emotionally stable and rational person, but evidence accumulates that in this case, with this medical adventure, I am neither. I am like the Marina District in San Francisco where all the structures were built well, but the ground they stood on was fill rather than bedrock. When the earthquake came in 1989, everything collapsed because of ground amplification.
I did not realize I had faults in my ground. Fissures left by my experiences of surgery and radiation therapy twenty-five years ago. Medical trauma that I thought I was done with, but which is being stirred up now. This is one of the sources of emotional amplification. I can show up for a scoping, chat with the nurses, be cooperative and personable with the person stabbing my arm for an IV. For them it is all routine, they had similar patients before me, and the rest of their day will be exactly this. I pretend it is routine for me as well. “Oh yes, this is my third scoping. I know how it goes.” A veneer of cooperative normality. I even try to pretend to myself. Almost successfully. Except if any information is unexpected, I am upside down, flailing for balance, emotional. Knocked flat by an unexpected amplification from a trauma by body remembers and wants to protect me from. Trauma I didn’t even realize I had.
I began to see it on the day Howard and I watched a show where a medical person had to do an emergency intubation and camera down a patient’s throat. I jumped out of my seat and left the room, unable to watch without feeling that it was me. My throat with tubes and cameras. When I was out of the room, waiting for the scene to be over, I puzzled at the odd, instantness of the reaction. It was not rational. It was a trauma response and I couldn’t unknow that I’d just reacted to trauma I was carrying.
Trauma is not written in my fingernails. There are no ridges where I can track the moment I began healing. I wonder if it would be easier if trauma healing could have a progress bar or graphs. Instead what I had was the day after I cried at the poor desk clerk. The day I realized all my emotions were overwrought, and that my emotional state was actively interfering with my ability to collaborate with my doctors about a chronic medical condition. That was the day I recognized I had to stop trying to hurry. I had to find ways to create stability and prevent emotional amplification.
It began with a meditation. Possibly the first real, deep meditation of my life. It was only eight minutes by the clock, but felt much shorter. I breathed and then formed clear thoughts and intentions about my grief and how I wanted to interact with my doctors going forward. (Less crying. A lot less crying.) I visualized a rock in the waves, a rock in deep water. The ocean is vast, it can absorb anything. So I pictured my own calmness as vast as the ocean, as firm as the rock within it. I went deep into the muffled calm of being underwater.
And then I prayed. I gave thanks for this body that is trying its best to protect me. All my troubles are protective systems gone out of bounds (this is the core irony of autoimmune illnesses). I thanked my throat for it’s service. I handed over my long-term fate to God and asked God to carry it for me. If I put the future in God’s hands, I don’t have to live in an endless branching contingency tree with plans for all the twigs at the end of numerous branches, connected to possible trunks. My mind is too small to carry so much. The strain of carrying it adds to the tears. While I was at it, I handed over my daughter’s pregnancy health and the coming baby. I handed over financial concerns as well. Both of which were amplifying factors.
Prayer pulled me out of the deep. I rose up brown rather than blue. Light instead of compressed. And then the time was gone.
I’ve no illusion I am all healed, trauma is not so easily resolved, but the next day I did not cry at my doctor’s appointment. Then I was able to catch up with a friend and tell the story of my throat without crying. So something has shifted. If there were fingernails for trauma, would that be the beginning of ridges smoothing out?
I have to be patient. I have to let things grow. Eventually I will be able to see. This is a long slow corrective process, body, mind, soul. Recognizing the slowness is the beginning.
My oldest child is 38 weeks pregnant. When I tell people this, I get the question that friends and family have been asking for the past eight months, “So how do you feel about being a Grandmother?” I rarely have a ready answer for this question. On one level the answer is irrelevant. This birth will happen no matter how I feel about it. I am confident in my ability to love a child once he is here. (Yes, a boy). But before I can take on the task of forming a Grandmother relationship, I need to tackle the ongoing mothering task of helping my daughter with her pregnancy. I’m support crew for labor and delivery as well. Then there will be helping a pair of new parents during the first weeks of baby. These mothering tasks are more imminent than the grandmothering ones. The mothering tasks will not stop. I will continue to be a mother to my daughter even as I begin forming a grandmothering relationship to her son.
I remember a time when my mother listened to me managing a pre-teen crisis for one of my kids. After everything was settled my mother said to me,
“I’m so glad all of that is your job. I just get to enjoy them.”
Later that same day I listened to my mother make a series of calls to doctors and pharmacists to manage medical care for my Grandma and I felt the exact same thought. I just got to enjoy my Grandma without having to manage her.
So the grandparent and grandchild relationship is about enjoyment, finding joy in each other. I like that thought. I’ve thought about it as I’ve moved through the world these past few months. I’ve paid more attention to the children I pass in grocery stores and in neighborhoods. I see the stages of development and know that those are coming for this baby. The baby who isn’t here yet, but will be. I will get to read to a child snuggled on my lap. And I will get to help manage tantrums over broken crackers. I will blow bubbles and take a child to parks. I will baby sit. I’ll probably spend some hours walking and jouncing a colicky baby. Sometimes I will gleefully hand the baby back to his parents when his diaper is stinky. Other times I will collect the stinky baby from an overwhelmed parent and say “let me do that for you.”
I’ve pictured all of this, held the possibilities in my head. The reality of it will be different I’m sure. And reality will show up sometime in the next two weeks. Baby will have a face I can see and a name I can call him.
Some of my friends when they ask me how I feel about being a grandmother are looking for the small talk answer. They want me to say “excited” so that the conversation can move on. Others are leaving a deliberate space. They know, possibly because they’ve also crossed the grandmother threshold, that feelings can be complex and deep. That it is possible to be excited, ambivalent, and wary all at once. There is an oddness to picking up the title of grandmother at a mere 50 years old. I had my kids young, so I am young for grandmotherhood. I rather like that. I can begin this role with some energy and let it wear on me until it is as comfortable as my skin.
My house is a mess. It isn’t just the normal accumulation of clutter which happens to us every time we need to move things around to make space for a project. Furniture gets shifted. Piles are stacked in corners because we don’t quite know where the things belong in the shifted space, but at least over there they’re out of the way. Temporary piles linger for months or even years. They gather dust. Dust turns to gunk. Until every place I look feels like an indictment of our housekeeping.
I can trace the map to explain how we arrived at this place. The decisions and compromises we made because of how fast we needed to move and what we were able to carry. My house is a mess because I was busy with an endless stream of tasks that were higher priority, more urgent, more anxious. We’ve been living reactively for years now. Beginning with the summer of 2019 which felt five years long because of plumbing disasters and needing to reconstruct half of the house. Then the pandemic and the multi-year scramble to adapt to the shifted world, Howard’s disabilities, and inflation with rising interest rates. Everything in our world seemed tighter quarters. No space to really see anything.
Gunk accumulates in those conditions. Clutter accumulates. And we don’t even see it because we’re focused on important and urgent priorities. Yet over time we begin to feel frustrated and dissatisfied with all our rooms. Then comes the morning that I finally see the shower, the sink, the floor and think “wow, that’s disgusting. How do we live like this?”
I sat with that thought for weeks. It percolated in my head waking the voices of self-criticism that live there.
This summer added a new burden to contend with, one I won’t get to put down for the rest of my life. Going forward I will always have diet restrictions and/or medications to manage my EOE. I responded to this with my usual crisis management instincts: dive in, cope, grieve efficiently, plan thoroughly, perform all the experiments, do all the research, move everything as quickly as possible into a stable state. Three months of that approach ended with me sobbing in the doctor’s waiting room because a cluster of clerical errors delayed a treatment and an appointment. Annoyance is an appropriate response to these sorts of errors, not sobbing. My approach had to shift if I was to be able to collaborate effectively with my doctors about ongoing care. I needed to shift myself out of crisis-sprint mode and into something that could be sustained day after day for the rest of my life.
Making that shift while in the middle of running a Kickstarter, which is 100% energetic sprint, has been tricky. I is like I imagine carding wool to be. Pulling and separating strands that were entangled, slowly creating order out of knots. I have to run at the Kickstarter as hard and fast as I can, because every penny we bring in during this 31 day run buys me breathing room for everything else. So each day includes Kickstarter pushing. Then I have to step away from the Kickstarter and find a way to move that isn’t running. There are deadlines and writing goals that I set for myself which I’m blowing off right now. I’m not going to get SLSC mostly edited by the end of October. My newsletter is late. I owe two posts to my Patrons. All of those require focus push energy and that pulls me in the wrong direction. I have to spend all of my non-Kickstarter moments in a slower space. I need to pause and recognize that fast and efficient isn’t always better. Sometimes it is just exhausting.
If managing my EOE needs a slow and steady pace, perhaps the answer to my other messes is the same. It is kind of all the same mess really. My house is the physical manifestation of how I’ve been thinking and organizing. The piles and detritus are the results of my decisions. Perhaps untangling one will make sense of the others. So this week instead of pushing at writing, I am picking one thing in my house to de-gunk each day. It’s fine if I do more while I’m working. As I’m cleaning I notice ten or twenty more things which also need de-gunked, but I do not make a list to keep track of them. I do not assign them to myself. Lists and tracking are a focused-energy burden. They engage “get things done” sprint energy. Instead I pick one thing for the next day, trusting that I will notice the other things again. In fact, as some areas become cleaner, I will notice the messy spots more. A little bit of daily de-gunking will go a long way toward improving my habitat and perhaps will help me approach my health in the same way.
I’m on day 3 of the de-gunking initiative. Small spots in my house are better. I’m feeling good about it so far. Two more days of Kickstarter push and then I can do all the math to figure out how much breathing room we have.
I love this book. Of all the Schlock Mercenary books that we’ve created, this one is my favorite. It is a self contained story which means you can pick this one up even if you’ve never read the comic before. It has emotional growth, found family, explosions, trauma healing, important apologies, and adventure. I’ve been re-reading it as part of my editorial work to prepare this book for print and I still love it.
The results of this Kickstarter funding defines what is possible at Chez Tayler for the next six to eight months. Right now we’ve fully funded this project so the book will be made, but there are stretch goals soon to be announced and if we reach them we’ll have breathing room for other projects to grow and flourish as well. I’d love to be able to focus on writing and then crowdfunding for Structuring Life to Support Creativity. So I hope you’ll take a look at this project and consider backing it.
Summaries are always difficult. Particularly when attempting to summarize a week’s worth of overlapping experiences in travel sight seeing, conference participation, disability management outside of regular coping strategies, long-time friendships renewed, new friendships sparked, wildlife sightings, and the extravagance of a cruise ship coupled with many thoughts about the ecological and sociological morality of it all. I mean I suppose that sentence was a summary with many commas, but it catches no depth and living it was deep.
I wish I had pictures of the whales. They were unseeable except with binoculars and tiny even through magnification, but I saw them leap from the water and splash. Giant humpback whales spouting in circles, slapping their tails, and flinging themselves airborne. For fifteen minutes I watched as our ship sailed further away and they became too small to be seen. I know they were not playing, they were hunting or communicating, yet I imagine the whales get a thrill from being airborne. I hope the splash brings them joy. I felt kinship with them as a creature who sometimes does things because they make me happy rather than because they contribute to my survival.
I’m so glad I got to see the whales while cruising past Alaska.
The whales came after the alpaca sweaters purchased in Juneau made from wool in Peru. The sweaters are much more expensive than clothing I usually purchase or wear. I’m sure some of the cost is tourist tax, but most of it is simply the cost of quality and craft. They came on the morning after a very hard day where all the world felt too much. Disability felt heavy and like it stole all the joy from the trip. Howard had so much pain he could barely see past it and there were no comfortable chairs. I’d been worn down by hundreds of evaluative decisions about every food I ate to make sure it aligned with my newly acquired dietary restrictions. But the next day Howard felt better, and we caught Pokemon on the dock, and I bought sweaters, and a street vendor had delicious Cambodian meats. So I traveled far north to Alaska to have South American and South East Asian joy delivered to me.
Everything was better after the sweaters. I had energy to turn outward again. I got to talk more with my fellow writer / travelers. I got to teach three times. I got to put on my sparkly dress. There was even a glorious meal at Izumi where the waiter was pre-notified about my diet restrictions and did a beautiful job of guiding my choices without making me feel like I was missing out on anything. He even conjured a layered berry mousse and sponge cake that was somehow delicious while being both wheat and dairy free. After so many “sorry we can’t make that dairy free” after scanning the buffet and seeing so many delicous-looking options that I clearly couldn’t have, after actually being brought the wrong meal and having it whisked away again, after the head waiter assured me that he would personally deliver all my meals in the future which was a lovely gesture but also meant my meals were slower to arrive. Food was complicated in dozens of tiny ways at every meal. And then there was the miraculous cake, which I did not think to photograph, but I can still see in my mind’s eye, lavender and yellow-white with berries atop.
It was on my flight home that I scanned through all the pictures on my phone. I’m so glad I took as many as I did. There were highlight moments even on the hardest day and they were all right there, allowing me to rescue the beautiful memories from the tangles of emotion. If you’ve brought any emotion with you, a trip is sure to stir it all up and bring it to the surface. I arrived to this trip with an abundance of emotional baggage that I didn’t know how to leave at home.
It is easy to think that a trip such as this one should be such an unmitigated joy, but the reality is that travel always comes with downs as well as ups. So it is left to me to decide what the story of my trip will be. I could create an instagram version of joyful photos, or I could allow the emotional mire of the hardest day to dominate my memory. I pick the whole thing. The bright moments in contrast with the other ones. The impromptu tide pooling that happened because my longed-for birding excursion got cancelled. The Pokemon caught in short walks off the ship because Howard couldn’t venture farther and Pokemon caught from the ship itself despite the frustrating Wifi. Laughing together over the first apology steak offered by staff for food mistakes…and about the second even fancier apology steak followed by a note on my account that got me extra attention for the rest of the trip. Laughing about how awkward I felt about the extra attention. Possibly the most valuable thing is an awareness of how thoroughly my friends will show up for me when they see I’m having a hard day. There was so much kindness.
It was a beautiful trip. I’m so glad I got to have it. All of it.
I have three hours until I am supposed to be somewhere. This is quite a long span of time, particularly when so many of the tasks on my list will take thirty minutes or less. Yet somehow I find myself moving into Wait Mode. Or as Dr. Seuss called it “The Waiting Place.” I’m reluctant to get started because I can see that I’ll have to stop soon. And that “stop” looms so large that it focuses my attention away from the fact that by the time I reach it, I would have already stopped the activity I’m trying to get myself to start.
Sometimes I can make a game of it. “Let’s see how much I can get done before I have to stop.” Setting a timer helps because then the task of watching for the stop belongs to the timer and my brain can let it go to focus on other things. Often I turn The Waiting Place into a time where I do all those micro tasks which have been piling up undone. It is a great time to transport laundry, or collapse empty boxes, or file a few papers. Little 1-5 minute tasks that clearly will be done before the stop. If I line up enough of those I can fill the entire time until I need to leave.
Other times the Waiting Place is also the Anxiety Place and the best option is to not try to be productive at all, but to instead distract myself with movie or game, or both. Lean in to the wait instead of trying to make use of it. Today I’m doing a mix of all of the above, plus I’m blogging about it as well.
This musing brought to you by my 1pm medical appointment and the writing group submission I should get done before I go.
Gen Con Recovery and pivot to Crowdfunding: I still have some convention thoughts that I’d like to blog about, but as is quite usual, life marches onward. We came home, got unpacked, turned into jellyfish for a few days and then immediately turned our attention to prepping to launch the next Schlock crowdfunding. Scheduling says we either need to launch it by August 29 or we need to wait until after we get back from the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat. For anxiety reasons I’d like it to be sooner, but we won’t launch until we have everything properly lined up and that might not happen until the later date.
Medical: One of the things slowing us down right now (and making me more anxious about money) is ongoing medical treatments for my EOE which has become problematic again. This time I have a doctor who believes in follow ups and ongoing care. My last doctor scoped me once told me to take acid blockers forever and then never spoke to me again. To be fair, the whole world had a pandemic right after that and then he retired, so I suppose it is reasonable. Yet there are a number of consequences to that lack of follow up which I’m now having to deal with both emotionally and physically. I’ve had my throat scoped twice in the past month or so. I’m in for 2-4 more before we reach a maintenance regimen of diet and medication. Unfortunately the only way to know if the maintenance plan is working is to put a camera down my throat and check. Hence the repeated scoping. I am not excited about any of it, but I’m building a good working relationship with my new doctor.
Patreon: I recorded two of my three Gen Con presentations and plan to get them put up on my Patreon. I may have to just put them into place unedited if I can’t find enough brain to learn video editing. I’ve done some brainstorming on the short story that was the Pick a Post selection for August, but it is possible I’ll be a bit late on getting it actually completed and posted. Medical stuff and emotions about medical stuff have been distracting.
Writing / SLSC: Work on Structuring Life to Support Creativity Resource Book was completely stalled while I went to Gen Con. Then it was stalled for my procedure this week. I need to get back to it. That will be the project that will be the focus of most of my writing time while on the Writing Excuses Retreat in early September.
WXR Prep: This year my role for the retreat is Family Liaison and Instructor, so I have a lot less organizational work to do. I need to pack clothes and I need to prep presentations. But mostly I’m just looking forward to getting on a ship with fellow writers and alternately writing and staring out at the ocean which might have glaciers in it since the ship is sailing past Alaska. It will also be making stops, but I don’t really plan to get off the ship for excursions. I might walk off to say I’ve set foot in Alaska though.
House / Gardening: Pretty much all of my house and gardening projects have been on hold since mid July. That will probably continue until after we return from WXR. By then I’ll need to harvest and preserve grapes. Also it is looking like we’re going to get pears this year, so I’ll be canning pear butter as well.
Pokemon Go: We picked up Pokemon Go while we were in Indianapolis. There were multiple pokestops and a gym within twenty feet of our hotel room. It is much harder for Howard to play here where all the stops and gyms are further spread out. We’re having to carefully meter his energy and make sure that playing the game doesn’t over tax him and cause a crash. I’m enjoying playing the game again. I’m slowly earning candy to power up my Teddiursa into an Ursaluna. It is going to take quite a while. Having the encouragement to go for walks is good for me.
That’s the quick updates for now. Hopefully I’ll find time for more thoughtful posts later.
It is difficult to capture the complexity of my Gen Con experience in a single blog post. I wrote about some of the emotional arcs of it in my latest newsletter. I microblogged the road trip and collected that here in my prior post. Yet there is still something I’ve been trying to catch in words for weeks now. It is an amazement at how people will put so much love and stress and effort into creating an experience which requires the cooperation of others to also participate. Gen Con staff puts in so much work that would amount to nothing if the vendors did not show up to build their stores. The vendors put in so much work that would amount to nothing if the attendees didn’t show up to walk the floor and shop for wares. Each individual attendee also had their own logistics, planning, expenses, and challenges to come. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the people who run programming, the people who run games. The people who construct a giant balloon sculpture each year who must have spent months planning, calculating, purchasing, and staffing to make that happen.
And then on Sunday afternoon they sell charity tickets to a popping party. All that effort turns into shared laughter, a pile of balloon shreds, and money for a good cause.
Gen Con is a community creation. It has to be. But then, so are our actual towns, our country, our writing groups, our families. All of these things depend on people showing up to cooperate or disagree, to negotiate over rules, to seek their own advantage, and to be stunningly altruistic in helping others. Humanity is beautiful and a Brigadoon-like event such as Gen Con helps me see that in such a joyful way.
We walk into the convention center to find an expanse of concrete.
We find our individual space and then spend two days turning this:
Into a miniature store that becomes our home for 4 days.
That small 10×20 space contains so much laughter and exhaustion. From here we talk with attendees. We shuffle our merchandise each morning, picking a sales focus for the day. We have a runner who brings us food. We have Jim, Howard, and Stacy as “the talent” who are the people that attendees come to see. We have sales staff who run the register and keep things stocked on the shelves. Like the rest of Gen Con, the roles aren’t rigid, we all pitch in where help is needed. We shuffle around for the hour when Tracy Hickman joined us in the booth. We re-shuffle to make adjustments to Howard’s drawing chair. By the end of the show we have a long list of things that went well and things we’d like to change for next year. This year’s big winners were that spinner at the corner of the booth which let people find the Schlock books they wanted and the closet space in the back where we could put all our stuff and occasionally go hide for a few minutes of down time. The big change is that we want to figure out how to build around Howard’s drawing chair so that he and Jim can sit next to each other instead of having Howard off to the back.
But we still got to have some joyful moments where Jim and Howard riffed off each other and laughed.
I particularly liked the moment where Jim pointed out that Howard’s reclined position meant he could eat food like a sea otter, with things just supported on his tummy. Howard leaned into the joke and Jim took video (which I haven’t yet gotten from Jim) But I did catch a photo of Howard pretending a pair of McDonald’s cheeseburgers were a rock and an oyster.
The chair, while at times awkward in the booth, really made a huge difference in Howard’s ability to manage the show. He would get into the chair and get energy back after the walk through the convention hall. We managed to set up a camera and monitor so that people could watch him draw. I love the moments when Howard’s drawings give people joy.
I don’t have any photos of the time I spent away from the booth at the Gen Con Writer’s Symposium. So that’s a note for next year: take more selfies with my writer friends when I get to see them. I got to re-connect with people I’ve known for a long time. I got to meet some new people. As usual, it was a little difficult to be split between booth and writer’s conference. I wanted to always be at the booth to help with Howard, sales, and lift the burden there. I also wanted to always be at the symposium, having more conversations with fellow writers both in the green room and in the hallways. I feel like I really stuck the landing on my Networking Despite Social Anxiety and Building Community Around Your Work presentations. The Marketing as Storytelling presentation needs some work still. Both of my panels were full of smart people with excellent things to say.
I do have a few photos of the hotel where we stayed, because it was a transformed train station. On the second floor there were actual train cars that have been turned into hotel rooms. We were glad to have a much more spacious room on the main floor, but it was fun to walk past the trains on our way to the convention center sky bridge.
I failed to photograph the trains. Sadness. That is also I thing that always happens after conventions, getting home and realizing the portions of the event that I failed to capture. This hotel was a big win for us. It was the closest possible hotel to our booth. That was very helpful for not using up Howard’s limited energy on walking. He still arrived at the booth exhausted more often than not. But then reclining in the chair restored energy. A large portion of our stress and planning both before the show and during it, was trying to make sure that we didn’t over-tax Howard and cause him to crash. We also wanted to prevent a post-event crash that would keep him from working for weeks on end like last year. (Since I’m writing this more than a week after the show, I can tell you we succeeded! Yay!)
We also feel fairly good about our infection / safety protocols. We had several CO2 monitors and any time the numbers got over 1400ppm (Outside air is 400ppm, good indoor air ranges 400-800.) we would mask up. If numbers got over about 1800 we went elsewhere. Our booth had multiple air filters running and creating an air wall. In the dealer’s hall, even when completely packed, the numbers stayed below 1400. We masked through crowded hallways, and we came home uninfected as demonstrated by negative tests. I did hear some reports of infections, but this year I did not hear of many secondary infections. Last year the infection cloud continued to grow for more than a week post event (for all the events I tracked). This year the reports tend to be isolated to one or two people, most of whom can’t track exactly where their point of infection was. There were more masked people at Gen Con than I’ve seen anywhere else in the past year. Paying attention to all of this during the show was another layer of stress. But this is the world we live in, and Howard’s long covid has taught us caution, yet we still went to Gen Con. I should write a separate post about the safety vs. benefit math that goes into the decision to attend in person events. For our business and brains, Gen Con is a creative pillar, a huge supportive structure in the year and with the collapse of some social media, in person events gain a much larger importance. It is very much a Scylla and Charybdis situation. Pick your peril, try to navigate a safe path between.
At the end of the first day, it feels like the show will last forever. By mid-show we’re exhausted and sometimes counting the hours until it is done. Then suddenly it IS done. The lights go dim and it is time for us to take apart the store we built. The dealer hall that took two days to carefully construct is torn down and vanishes in mere hours. We’re back to bare concrete with pallets, packing cases, and the constant beep and roar of forklifts.
Sunday evening is full of farewells. We had the full crew dinner on Wednesday night with our extended Gen Con Family, current booth crew plus the people who crewed for us for ten years. I was so glad to see friends I hadn’t hugged since before the pandemic. Sunday evening was a smaller crew dinner, just the exhausted few who were staying at the hotel with us and all departing in the morning.
After the show, there were two very long days of driving. We did a lot less chattering during the drive home. And we did a lot more stopping because the four of us (Howard, me, our daughter, and son-in-law who booth crewed for us this year) all picked up Pokemon Go again. We scattered pokemon at gyms all down I-80.
After the driving there was the unpacking, and the remembering what normal life feels like, and the collapsing in a heap. Today, a full week after the final day of the show, I am beginning to feel more normal. Just in time to dive head first into launching a Kickstarter next week.
Gen Con was lovely. I’m still sorting thoughts, making notes, doing accounting, and planning ahead because we’ll do all of this again next year.