Month: June 2010

Stopping in the garage on a summer evening

Today I was not quite as busy, nor quite as effective as yesterday. This is to be expected. High efficiency days are usually followed by a crash. I did not crash, but I am oh-so-tired. Tonight I need to get to bed before 3 am.

QFT is almost complete. This is good. It took over all of my work hours today. Tomorrow I need to re-focus on convention prep. Thursday has family stuff. Friday is RMS shipping day prep. I have it all lined up neatly. I’m sure it will be rearranged as soon as I get moving. Three more weeks and the vast majority of the work will be complete.

I keep thinking about the Robert Frost poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” I’ve heard it argued that the poem is about suicide, but I don’t think so. I think it is just about being really, really tired and longing for rest.

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

I’ve felt exactly that lately. I am exhausted, but the desire to fulfill my commitments keeps me going even when I want to stop. I don’t have woods nearby, but every time I step into my garage I want to stay there. It is quiet and full of the smell of new books. It is filled with evidence of tasks completed. Right now my house is full of things to do.

I’m not worried over the long term. I can see the end of this crazy busy time. Calmer days lay on the other side. But the thought of all the things yet to do makes me want to cry. The only way out is through. So I’ll go to bed, and get up in the morning, and get back to work.

Things I have done today

Packed my oldest son off for a week at Scout Camp. This included last minute scrambling to find lost uniform bits and pancakes with smiley faces.

Breakfast and scripture reading. (Managed to not spill on the scriptures, which is a good thing.)

Howard and I had a quick discussion about some business propositions and what the responses should be to various requests made via email.

Answered a whole pile of email. How big is a pile? Well right now I only have 9 messages with stars next to them because they need my attention asap. First thing this morning there were three times that number, plus a dozen emails I hadn’t even read yet. And a dozen more in the “answer when convenient” category. I can vaguely remember when getting an email was an event instead of commonplace.

Did a quick scan of Livejournal, facebook, twitter, CNN, and my blog reading list.

Processed merchandise orders. Filed the ones which have to wait for shipping day (orders containing RMS). Packaged the ones that go into the mail today.

Arranged tickets for Howard to attend Worldcon in Australia during the first week of September.

Emailed Worldcon/Hugo folks to let them know that Howard will be there. Hopefully it will not be too late for him to get on some programming.

Fed pancakes to my other kids.

Quick meeting in the kitchen with Howard where we divide up the tasks for the day. Howard will be drawing pictures for QFT. My list is long, but the meeting helped me prioritize the critical stuff to the top.

Purchased Dealer room space at Worldcon in Australia. Also contacted the international freight broker to begin figuring out how I am going to ship merchandise to sell in Australia legally. We’ll also have to figure out how to file the necessary sales tax on things we sell. Also we need to predict how much we will sell so that Howard does not run out, but also does not have to haul stuff home. Eep. I’m going to ignore this task for the rest of today. It is full of daunting.

Contacted some business partners to discuss contractual issues.

Picked up four large banners from Alphagraphics. These will hang behind our table at GenCon. Howard looked them over and approved them (in yet another quick meeting), which was a huge relief to me. I handled contracting the images from Jim Zubkavich over at Udon and did all the approving. They are beautiful. We are happy.

Paid for the next three months on our two storage units. I may have to visit them again later today.

Bought basketry kits from the Scout office. My two youngest were jealous of the project that Link was working on in advance of Scout Camp. Now they get to make baskets too.

Did this week’s accounting work. It was pretty light, just receipts to enter and a single bill to pay. Next week the accounting will include quarterly reports on royalties and quarterly tax reports. Whee.

Wrote more emails.

Lunch (while listening to a teenage girl tell me why her life is overwhelming.)

Sorted t-shirts into three piles. One for shipping day at Dragon’s Keep. One for shipping to GenCon. One to stay here and fill orders as they come in. Created an inventory sheet for the shirts I am shipping to GenCon. I erred slightly on the more-than-I-think-will-actually-sell side. I hope my educated guesses about sales are better than the ones I did for Balticon. We could have sold twice as much there if we’d only sent it.

Ran out of steam. Wrote a blog entry and clicked stuff on the internet. It is now 2 pm. Next I intend to catch up on Doctor Who so that Kiki and Howard can talk about the finale without ruining it for me. After that I hope to get back to work putting together the freight shipment for GenCon. It needs to ship in the next couple of days. And of course I still have laundry, dishes, children, and QFT layout.

Edited to add:

Doctor Who was interrupted by basketry. The kids required more help than I expected. As in, I had to sit with them until the baskets were done 90 minutes later.

I went back to Doctor Who for a bit, but stopped to do dishes, cook dinner, and eat.

The evening was consumed by QFT instead of GenCon. And I mean completely consumed. I just finished the work and it is now 2 AM. QFT is looking better all the time, but it is still not done. Tomorrow Howard and I will sit down for a meeting to discuss the remaining white spaces.

Thoughts on Superman

When we were on vacation, we caught part of Superman Returns on television. The kids were intrigued by the Superman mythos and caught by the good-guy heroism. They wanted me to Netflix the movie. Instead of letting them start with the somewhat creepy stalkerish Superman of that film, I decided to start them with the Christopher Reeve Superman. They made it through the long, slow origin story. And once Clark Kent showed up at the Daily Planet, they were hooked. They laughed at the good lines. They cheered for the rescues. It made my heart glad that they so thoroughly enjoyed this movie which I watched on video tape so often that I could recite the lines.

It was also interesting for me personally to re-watch the film. It was bittersweet to see Christopher Reeve so young, fit, and handsome. I can remember him so clearly with gray hair and wrinkles, permanently confined to a wheelchair. Not only does Reeve look young, but his portrayal of Superman feels very young. There is a charming naivety about everything Superman does. His love for Lois Lane has a boy’s-first-crush feel to it. His belief in Truth, Justice, and the American Way is strong and pure, the way that young people can be before they’ve dealt with the complexities of pain. I can understand the draw of that in a Superhero. I was also fascinated to see the “Demi-god falls in love with ordinary girl” motif which is played out in everything from Greek myth to Twilight. At least in Superman the demi-god is actually noble with no dangerous streak.

*Spoiler alert*

It was fascinating to me how the kids reacted to Lois Lane’s death at the end of the film. They saw Superman fly off and expected him to fly straight after Lex Luthor to exact revenge. When I first saw the film, I was aghast and simply wanted it not to have happened that way. I was a product of my era, my kids are a product of theirs. These days we are all more comfortable with heroes who engage in morally ambiguous behavior in defense of those they love.

(Aside: It really would be fascinating to see a Superman story where his naivety was damaged. Not that Superman then exacts revenge, but that he has to find a way to decide to be noble and good despite his pain and grief. That would be a mature Superman. The story has probably been told in comic form. And then it was probably ruined when DC reset the universe again so that Superman could start fresh.)

The movie responded to Lois’ death the way that the childhood me wanted it to. The film is a product of the same era that I was. The kids were completely confused about why Superman was making loops around the earth.
Kiki: “Why is he doing that?”
Me: “Um… well, he’s making the earth spin backward…because then…” I paused, knowing how ridiculous the next bit sounds. “…time goes backward and Lois isn’t dead anymore.”
They all looked at me for a long moment, stunned by the flimsiness of the plot device. But then we all blinked and let it go, so that we could watch the end of the film. The device may be ridiculous, but the desire to change a day or a decision is something they could all sympathize with. And Reeves’ slightly shy relief at seeing Lois alive after he had seen her dead is very believable.

Watching the movie made me realize how morally ambiguous so many of today’s fictional heroes tend to be. Superman shines bright because he is never tempted by a wrong choice. It would be interesting to see more such characters, ones who have been through worlds of pain, but still choose good anyway. Perhaps this is why I’m currently re-reading the Mistborn trilogy. It is full of such characters.

Kiki still wants to see Superman Returns. I am willing to indulge them in the special effects eye-candy now that they’ve had a better introduction to how the character Superman should really be played. Christopher Reeve will always be Superman to me.

House and garage emptier

The garage is now emptier than it was yesterday. Two tons of books were transferred to the storage unit via my van and half a dozen boy scouts who did their good deed for the day. We also brought back 17 boxes of a different book so that I can put together a freight shipment to GenCon. Hopefully by the middle of next week we’ll have cleared out the garage enough that Howard can park in it again.

By tomorrow my house will be emptier too. The parakeet has already gone home, and soon my brother’s family will decamp. Then we’ll be back to just our family in the house. Over the next few weeks the population here will continue to fluctuate as kids run off to various camps and visits. Things will not truly settle down again until after GenCon.

I don’t want to skip any of the cool things that are coming, but I miss quiet routine.

Visiting Nieces

I knew when I agreed to watch my two nieces that there would be some inconvenience involved. I know that my brother’s family has been inconvenienced when I leave my kids with them. This is part of what families are for, to bear personal inconvenience to help each other out.

So Kiki entertained the toddler for an entire morning while we shifted, signed, and stamped 1200 books. Everyone was tired at the end. I’ve spent days airing out toddler entertainment skills that I’ve not used in years. In some ways having a visiting toddler is more difficult than living with one. Life in this house is not scheduled properly to meet toddler needs. If she came here long term, we’d have some serious shifting to do. But her mom returns today. I just need to keep muddling through until time to give her back.

All my kids have loved having the nieces here. Niece one blends right into my family without a hitch. There have been many back yard adventures. This evening there was even a swim adventure. Niece2 has gotten to participate in much of the fun. The older kids have been really good about including her and watching her. But she really is a quiet little person and she prefers to hang out wherever I am. She wouldn’t have a thing to do with me until her mom left, now she’s pegged me as the mom figure and will hardly let me out of her sight. Which is actually a pretty good survival strategy when you can’t provide food for yourself.

I’m glad they came. I just wish it had been in a week when I could have just hung out and played more. Instead I’ve been holding Niece2 on my lap while doing my work and handing her safe office supplies to examine in lieu of the keyboard. The fact that this tactic works at all demonstrates how much more obedient Niece2 is that my kids ever were. No doubt part of the obedience is because she still feels unsure with me, but she’s also a less head-strong person. It has been a good visit.

Muddle-through day

At the moment I am hiding in my office. In a minute I’ll go upstairs, round up five children (three of mine, two borrowed) and take them for a promised jaunt to the pool. Swimming is not what I want today. I want to sit someplace quiet to watch a movie until bedtime. Oh well.

Some days are just muzzy, muddle-through kind of days. I’m pretty sure I got stuff done. I think some of it was important. Hopefully I can acquire a good night’s sleep tonight and have a more focused tomorrow.

Thoughts of Chrissy and Ice Cream Sandwiches

My high school friend Chrissy had orange hair. I suppose some people could have called it “red” or “strawberry blonde”, but what it really was, was orange. I thought it was gorgeous and wished my hair were that exact color. It was like sunlight distilled into long, sleek strands. I lost touch with Chrissy a few years after we graduated. That happened a lot in the days before facebook and email. But I still have ice cream dishes she gave me for my wedding and the card she sent me when Kiki was born.

I’m thinking about Chrissy today because of the ice cream sandwiches. I had a hankering for some, and Howard bought them at the store. In a quiet moment, I curled up on a couch away from the kids and peeled the wrapper off the chocolate and vanilla goodness. The problem with ice cream sandwiches is that one is never enough, but usually they are a rationed commodity. Whenever they appear at family events or group picnics there is only one per person, to make sure everyone has one.

Chrissy and I lamented this rationing, and so one afternoon we hopped on our bikes and pedaled down to the little market on the corner. With our own money, we each bought a box of six ice cream sandwiches. If we took them home, sharing with siblings would be required. So we tipped our bikes over in the grass and lay in the sunshine while we proceeded to eat our way through both boxes. We laughed as we ate, knowing it was a bit silly to be triumphant over such a small thing, but somehow it represented freedom. We’d made the plan, earned the money, and made happen a goal that mattered to no one but us. When the treats were gone, we biked back to a world of homework and rationed ice cream. We intended to repeat the adventure, but now I can’t remember if we ever did.

These days I have enough money that I could fill my freezer with ice cream sandwiches. I could create a world for my children where ice cream is not rationed. They would love it, but it would not be good for them. Children who have everything they want are robbed of the opportunity to triumph. If I’d had all the ice cream sandwiches I wanted, I would not have the bright memory of an afternoon with my friend, nor that first taste of adult freedom.

For today, I’m going to go have another ice cream sandwich and send happy thoughts to Chrissy, wherever she may be.


This is a week of things coming into my house. Later today I will be acquiring Niece1 and Niece2 who will both be staying until Thursday. Niece1 is the same age as Patch and will blend right in with my kids. Niece2 will be reminding me what it is like to be a toddler-mommy. I’m looking forward to it, even though I know it is going to complicate many other things.

From a different source we will be acquiring a parakeet and two rats. The rats will not actually be staying in my house, but my kids will be making frequent trips to the neighbor’s house to visit and care for them. Hopefully the parakeet will be happy, with our crowd.

Tomorrow will bring a big truck with four pallets of books. These will fill our garage for the next couple of weeks.

I have also acquired several stacks of shipping supplies and mailing tubs. To counter-act the influx of chaos, I cleaned my office. Unfortunately the process reminded me that I do not have enough shelves for my books, and that I’d really like to re-decorate the entire room. I have neither time nor money for these projects. I shall have to be content with being able to find the carpet.

Ward Activities Chairperson

The member of the bishopric (congregational leaders) came to my house wearing a suit. I’d already changed out of my church clothes for the day, but I welcomed him into our front room, which I’d hurried to pick up in the five minutes since he’d called to ask if he could stop by. Even as I’d scurried to pick up, part of my brain had cried “Incoming!” Every Mormon knows that when a member of the bishopric stops by in this way, they are doing so to issue a calling. In Mormon vernacular a “calling” is an assignment or job performed for the church. Most members will have at least one such assignment at all times. I enjoy the assignments I am given. They always enrich my life, even if they also make it more complicated. So I already knew I intended to agree, but I had no idea what I would be agreeing to do. Some assignments are much larger than others.

Fortunately the small-talk went quickly. “We want you to be the Ward Activities Chairperson.” He said seriously.
I smiled and said “Okay.”

The Ward Activities Chairperson is responsible for all the social activities which involve the entire congregation. It means being in charge of the Halloween carnival, the Christmas party, the annual swim party, and any other holiday or potluck which includes everyone. I will have a committee to help, but I am the one who is responsible to pull things through and make sure the events work. Before the bishopric member even left, my brain was spinning plans about how to do this new job. It was delighted to have an exciting new organizational challenge. I planned and scribbled notes for about thirty minutes.

Then I sat down and cried for a little bit. I have all the tools and skills necessary to do this calling well. I like organizing. I’m not afraid to talk to people and ask them to undertake assignments. I know how to network and find people with the necessary skills. I’ve run large events before. But I was hoping to reduce the number of large events I am responsible for, to simplify my life.

The cry did not last long. I moved quickly into the learning phase, discovering the requirements and boundaries of the job. Today I began to build the network I’m going to need, because the social activities are not just parties, they have a larger purpose. They must increase connections and build community within the congregation. It is my job to provide the medium through which connections are made and friendships formed. Sometimes this means I will need to pull people out of their comfort zones and ask them to work together. Other times I need to make events as comfortable as possible so that people are not afraid to attend. It is an interesting, exciting, and daunting challenge.

My governing principle needs to be matching the right person to the right assignment. What is onerous to one person will be fun to another. If I can spread the assignments out in manageable chunks and give people jobs they enjoy, then the events will come together. Even better, more people will attend because they are emotionally invested in the event. At least that is the theory. I’ve got three weeks until the Ward Swim Party. During those same three weeks I’ll be preparing for book shipping, a family reunion, a book shipping event, and a writer’s retreat. I’ll apply my theories to later events, for this one I’ll just scramble to make it work.

The difference between impossible and possible

Last Tuesday my list of chores for the next 30 days looked impossible. One week in particular is over-full with major events. I’ll have a three day family reunion in another state shoehorned in between shipping prep and the shipping day. This will be followed by a week of swimming lessons, a writer’s retreat, and an important-to-the-kids church party. Surrounding that crazy week, I have to ship loads of merchandise to GenCon, make sure I have all the paperwork done for selling in another state, and possibly also do the same sorts of chores for selling in another country. I will have to learn things just in time to get them done. I sat at my kitchen table and wanted to cry about the impossible-ness of it all. Increasing my sadness was the knowledge that I’m actually excited by all the things I have to do. They’re all interesting challenges, but I don’t feel like I can do them justice because they’re all piled on top of each other. It feels like I just need to get them done rather that taking time to get them right.

That thought pattern came back to bite me on Thursday night. A project I hurried to get done was returned for corrections. More than that, it required expansion. My impossible list got a little more impossible. And I despaired. But I was on vacation and so I deliberately let it go. I knew I had to give the family time my full attention, because if I get that wrong I don’t get a do over.

This morning I was back at work, and what seemed impossible last week, now feels like something I can manage. Pieces came together, I cleared out my email box, tasks got done. I love it when I get things done and I know that they won’t come back to me. I still have a million things to do. But I’ll just keep going and somehow I think I’ll get it all done.