Holiday Shipping, Business, and Family

Yesterday was the US postal service’s busiest shipping day of the year. We here at Chez Tayler have been doing our part to add to the load. I’ve been shipping out 5-15 packages per day for the last week or so. This is not a surprise to us. In fact we’ve kind of been counting on it this year to help us make the ends meet until we can release the next Schlock book. In another week I’ll be able to do the math and see how much gap is left. I’ll also do the math to see how Christmas spending added to the gap.

I enjoy the Holiday shipping. It has a cheerful urgency to it. I love looking at the invoices and seeing when the billing address is different from the shipping address. Then I know what I’m sending is a gift. It is a gift to us as well. Every package we send is a gift to us from the Schlock readers out there who enjoy the comic enough to spend money. I sometimes wish I could thank them all. I put a Thank You post card into each order, but it hardly seems like enough.

Things do not always go smoothly. People email me with questions. This year I’ve had multiple inquiries about merchandise for which we’ve run out of stock. That makes me sad because I know the other person is disappointed. I am much happier when the problem is one I can solve by sending out a replacement or filling a special request. I know that the time will come when we are too busy to manage special requests, but that day has not yet arrived. The more I interact with customers, the more impressed I am with Schlock readers. They are courteous, patient, and understanding of our human errors. I even had one guy who replied with startlement that I was the one to answer his email personally. This amused me because I realized he did not know how small our operation really is.

Today I had to assemble more boxed sets to fill out the orders. Six year old Patch sat with me as I slid books into boxes. He’d wanted to help slide books into sleeves, but sometimes the books require coaxing to slide into place. Instead I handed him the note cards which are included in each set. As I finished each box, he would slide card into place. Then he lined the sets up very carefully. Eight year old Gleek was the one who helped with the shrink wrapping. She likes to run the heat gun which makes the plastic fit tightly over the sets. Then we cleared all of it off the kitchen table so that dinner and homework could take place.

As I restocked the shipping table in the unfinished storage room, I pondered once again the cottage industry we are running. In some ways what we have is the re-invention of the family farm. We have busy seasons and slow seasons. My kids measure their lives by these business seasons as much as they do by the seasonal weather outside. They remember the times that Mom and Dad are distracted and pushing to send a book off to print. They like book shipping because it provides work they get paid to do. Shipping season is also celebrated for the treat foods we eat because Mom and Dad are too busy to cook. Convention season is frequently hectic and often involves over night stays with friends and relatives. In our lives, business and family are all tied up together. I like it that way even if it is chaotic at times.

I sometimes wonder how my kids will look back on our family life. Will they consider it as an ideal to live up to, or will they take from it things that they do not want to replicate? I hope they’ll do both. For now we have orders to ship.