Month: May 2010

Important Conversations

There are certain categories of conversation which jump to the top of the priority list. Sometimes it is a friend having a meltdown who needs to talk. Sometimes it is a marital disagreement that must be sorted out for hurt feelings to be resolved. Sometimes it is a child asking questions about life, death, religion, sex, friendships, relationships, or belief. These conversations arrive whether I am ready or not. Frequently I am not, but I must find the energy to give the other person the gift of my full attention. I never regret it. These conversations really matter despite the fatigue or distractions which threaten to derail them.

Sometimes adults are able to delay these conversations for a quieter, less tired time. Adults are able to wait. Kids don’t. I share information with my kids all the time. Much of it seems to bounce right off of them. But then comes a moment when the question is theirs. They are really wondering. I have the chance to drop my words into the very center of who they are. So I do. And I hope that my contribution helps give them a strong core around which they can build a belief structure and an identity. I have to take these moments when they come. Which is how I find myself discussing reproductive biology in the grocery store. Or I find myself discussing how we should respond to physically disabled people when one is in earshot. Or I sit upstairs talking to kids about relationships when my house is full of guests.

These conversations are important, but they are exhausting. By the time they wind to a close, I am ready to hide. Then I spend the next few days watching and observing to see if the conversation needs follow-up or if behavioral changes result. Important conversation count for yesterday: 3. Important conversation count for the past three days: 7. Considering this, it should not surprise me that today was less than effective for getting work done. I slept through a lot of it. Hopefully tomorrow I get back to work.

Attempting to depart the land of fret and worry

I have been fretting. Sometimes just for kicks I’ve been switching it up with worrying. The difference is in the size of the consequences associated with the thing in question. Looking at a chip in my windshield and trying to figure out if it will split into a crack is a fret. Trying to picture how I will run my life next Fall is a worry.

Today has been a worry day. My brain has been spinning upon many things, none of which I can resolve today. I have done everything I can, gathered all the information necessary, and decided upon plans of action. All that is left for me to do is wait for further information. I won’t know for sure that this pre-order (opening next Tuesday) will go well until I get there. I can’t know whether I have to fight over class placements until I know what the placement is. I can’t know if everything will work out or if it will all fall apart. I have to wait. And while I wait, I do the mental equivalent of biting my nails. It accomplishes nothing and makes a mess.

The worry was nearly incapacitating this morning. I’m not sure why it was so hard to shake it off. I suspect it was the natural biorythmic lull after the super effective day I had yesterday. Around noon I finally sat myself down and really looked at everything in my head. It was like a checklist
1. What specifically are you worried about. Think it through in detail.
2. What would be the worst possible outcome for this thing?
3.What is the most likely outcome for this thing?
4. Make a plan for the worst possible outcome.
5. Make a plan for the most likely outcome.
6. Can I implement any part of the plan today? Is it necessary today? If not today, put it on the schedule for when it is necessary.
7. Acknowledge the rest is out of my control and let it go.

Sometimes I visualize really letting it go. Other times I visualize putting it away. Both get the thing out of the middle of my brain.

It worked. I still have things that I am nervous about, but I am not actively worried in a way that interferes. I got some work done, which will save me some worry another day.

Mixed feelings while nearing the end of a school year

The fact that I have mixed feelings about the end of the school year is not news. My feelings on the matter are generally mixed. This year is more mixed than most. Kiki will be leaving junior high. Link will be leaving Elementary school and he’ll have to say goodbye to one of the best teachers he has ever had. Gleek really needs to be done with this year. She’s been a bundle of stresses as she valiantly tries to manage a social situation which does not play to her strengths. Patch will be sad to leave his first grade teacher. He’s had a really great year.

I’m worried for the summer. We have events scheduled almost every week, but keeping a daily schedule is going to be a challenge. I’m really looking forward to letting the kids stay up a little later and sleep a little later. That will be nice for awhile.

I’m worried for next fall. Both Kiki and Link will be settling in to new schools. The elementary school’s staff has had a major reshuffling and we’ve lost a lot of really good teachers. The good news is that I’ll have class placements on the last day of school which means I don’t have to spend the entire summer in suspense about what my two youngest have ahead of them.

The summer is busy, but the Fall is not. I am keeping it that way. I expect this Fall to fill up with parenting. Again.

Lilac scented calm before a busy week

The windows are open and the smell of lilac is being drawn in by a fan. The fragrance speaks happiness to the back of my brain. I want to stay right here. I want to hold on to Sunday evening. I want more time to just breathe the scent of lilac before I have another hundred things to do on a short deadline. I am so glad that I try not to work on Sundays. Sometimes it is hard, because I love my work. But I rarely realize how over tired I am until I have a chance to sit down. Then I don’t want to get up again. I want a quiet space to just drift for awhile.

Then I want to get back to my things. I really do like all of my things. I want to do all of the things that I have scheduled for next week. They’re all interesting. I just wish they were not all happening on top of each other. Instead of savoring, I am dispatching as quickly as I can.

Lined up for tomorrow:
At least 10 important emails which require consideration
Researching and setting up for new merchandise in the store so that we can open pre-orders next week.
Reviewing edits on Quest for the Tavern
Preliminary layout on Quest for the Tavern
Link’s Science Fair Project on Magnets
Family Home Evening

Things I learned while prepping for an Art Show

Preparing eight panels for an art show is at least 40 hours of work. Attempting to cram it into two days means it will spill into a third day and there will be fast food for at least three meals.

During the process I alternate between loving what I am putting together and worrying about whether it is good enough. In the end I am so tired I no longer care either way.

Double sided tape is my new best friend. I especially like type which comes in an industrial sized spool suitable for large projects. I also like artist’s tape. Binder’s tape, which would have been useful, is apparently a specialty item and not available locally.

I need to think twice when I utter the words “I can fix it,” because this is how I find myself hand coloring tape with a sharpie marker to bind the edges of posters whose floppiness I attempted to solve by attaching them to foam core board, only I accidentally cut the boards too small and if I don’t bind the edges there will be tearing. I colored the tape because it was white, and black looked better. Yes I considered electrical tape, but it has the wrong texture and adhesive qualities. Next time I’ll eat the cost of the floppy posters and just pay Alphagraphics to print on something hard.

I am really glad Howard built that 4×6 gaming table. It is exactly the size of the art panels and was very helpful in getting things arranged.

When faced with a room where Mom has filled the table and all other available flat surfaces including several chairs and a couple of large cardboard boxes, the logical thing for a small child to do is build a fort. Forts are especially cool when you can use pieces of cardboard and foam core board that Mom is not using at exactly this moment.

Kids are drawn to big projects and will beg to help. This is particularly true if they think they might get paid for helping. Which they usually do when they help with business work. The help of kids makes the process of preparing items for the print shop go much more quickly.

I don’t know that we will ever have the chance to put together an art show this large again. But if we do, I am now prepared. I’ve got copies of all the panel layouts and lists of what I did.

It is useful to be a collector of shipping supplies. Several times I had exactly the sorts of poster board, plastic bags, pieces of cardboard, colored paper, and large envelopes that I needed.

No matter how complete I think my list is, I will come home and discover I need something else from the store.

We should be stocking small format color prints in the Schlock Mercenary store. They look good and I bet lots of people would love to have them.

It will be interesting to see how much of the art comes back to us. I tried to price things so that they would sell. I certainly hope some of the print shop stuff will. We have things there for as low as $2.

Preparing for an art show

Kids are better. Yay antibiotics.

In other news, I spent all day mounting and matting artwork. It is all headed for the Balticon art show. Lots of it is for sale and so hopefully that won’t be coming back to us. The stuff which talks about our process with illustrative examples will be coming back. That is a good thing. I will carefully store it all so that we can re-use it for other convention appearances. The mounting required two trips to the store for supplies. Tomorrow I’ll go in quest of binders tape to secure the edges of the poster-sized book covers.

The next step is to lay all of the art out so that I can construct useful/attractive panels from it. I’ll have to create the informational text and print it out at the right sizes. I’ll have to document each panel as I go, because it is all going in a box to be shipped. On the other end someone will have to decipher my documentation and hang everything.

This whole process has actually been kind of fun. I got to play with tape. The finished pieces make a satisfying pile. Even better, I can stop worrying about it. One huge thing I can check off the list.

Another sick day

The sore throats are not strep, or so the doctor says. However there were enough swollen tonsils, fevers, and assorted other symptoms that she decided antibiotics were merited. So now we have prescriptions.

We’ve also got epic levels of cranky. Early bedtimes are in order. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Sick Day

I knew the day was not going to go according to plan when we had 5 out of 6 people awake at 4am. All of the kids stayed home from school sick. Patch probably did not need to stay home, but everyone else did. Link, who was the one not awake at 4am, slept until almost 1pm. Gleek had a bad sore throat and spiked a fever by late afternoon. Kiki went to school for a class she couldn’t afford to miss, but felt tired and overwhelmed.

Tomorrow: Doctor’s office visit.

Steaks, boxes, and layouts

We had steak for dinner tonight and I blame the Mythbusters. We’ve been watching episodes and last Friday we saw one in which the Mythbuster crew attempted to determine if explosives were an effective method of tenderizing a steak. This fixed in the minds of my kids the idea that steak is awesome. Patch in particular requested to eat it. So today Howard indulged everyone’s curiosity and cooked some amazing tenderloin. Verdict: The kids like steak and our grocery budget is doomed.

In unrelated news, I cleaned out my shipping/storage room today. By the time I was done I had a stack of almost 20 boxes which had been laying around empty and taking up space. This happens when I pull the last books from a box and toss the empty box out of the way so I can open the next box. In theory I then grab the empty box and flatten it. But more often than not, the empty boxes get shoved from one spot to another as I’m trying to get at the stuff I really need. But all is orderly now. I have made lovely empty spaces in which I can clearly see exactly how much inventory I have. Answer: Not enough. I’ve got to make a run to the storage unit tomorrow because we need to build some more box sets. There will be shrink wrapping.

Tomorrow will also bring a trip to pick up the prints I had made for the Balticon art show. Later this week I’ll be matting things and then taping up a section of my floor to plan how to lay out the art panels.

Speaking of lay out, if you’ve ever wondered what all this “layout work” that I talk about actually looks like, you can go take a look at the flickr set I put together. As I made changes to RMS, I took snapshots of how the changes affected particular page spreads. You can look through the set slowly and read the descriptions. I almost find it more interesting to flip through quickly and watch things shift around fast. The set is here.

Finding Joy on Mother’s Day

There has to be a formula for the perfect gift. In this formula the level of delight would be equal to the level of expectations in the recipient, added to extent of advance planning, divided by whether the recipient had any clue that something was being planned. Or something like that. Unfortunately I’m not enough of a math geek to come up with a workable formula. I’ll bet the XKCD guy could though.

The point I’m getting at here is that Howard totally managed it this year. I was all set to dodge Mother’s Day. I was going to pretend it out of existence (except for making sure I did something for my own mother.) I even stated my desire to skip it to a friend a week ago. This desire stems from the fact that so much of Mother’s Day revolves around guilt. From kids hissing at each other not to do that because it’s Mother’s Day, to Howard feeling bad because he didn’t do enough, to me feeling bad listening to glowing descriptions of things that other mothers accomplish and I don’t manage to do. Some years Mother’s Day is all about guilt, stress, and unfulfilled expectations. So I wanted to skip it.

But then the little projects began trickling in. Patch made a card and a pot at school. He even sat down with me and explained why he chose all the colors he did because he thought I would like them. Gleek made a card filled with coupons. (These were hilarious. They are supposed to be coupons for things like a free chore, or a smile, or a hug. All of Gleek’s said things like “good for one mother/daughter date” “Good for one trip to buy gelato, we can bring other people.” She isn’t angling for treats, not really. She’s trying to give the gifts she would like to receive while being oblivious that she is creating opportunities for me to buy things for her.) Patch also bought me a card. Or rather we were at the store together and he saw a card. “I want to give you that for Mother’s Day.” So I bought it for him, handed it to him, and a couple days later he gave it to me because he didn’t want to wait anymore. Kiki brought home a bookend she made in her ceramics class. It is a garden wall with flowers that she obviously started making months ago to have it complete now. Link has been abundant in handing out hugs.

All of that came to me in this last week, prior to the actual holiday. It was enough. I was glad and felt plenty appreciated. I was feeling much more mellow about the official day. But I came downstairs and there were flowers blooming on the kitchen counter. Howard bought them a week ago, kept them at Dragon’s Keep, and smuggled them into the house last night. I was happy. It was plenty. But then Howard had Gleek and Patch deliver the earrings and necklace that I had admired at Penguicon and not purchased for myself. Howard has a hard time hiding that kind of thing from me. I’m usually pretty observant. But this time I had no suspicion at all.

The jewelry is beautiful and I’m going to love having it for years. But far more important is the solid evidence that Howard has been thinking about me and planning to surprise me for more than a week. He carefully thought through what I would like and tried to provide it. They all did. It has been a truly wonderful Mother’s Day for me.