Month: August 2011

Beginning of School Status Report

This school year is like a new pair of shoes which I can tell are going to be excellent, but are still pinching and causing blisters because I haven’t yet finished the break-in period. I’ve internalized all the check-points: drop-offs, pick-ups, breakfast, dinner, homework hours. I haven’t missed any yet, but I’m still counting carefully to make sure that I don’t. The rhythm doesn’t flow yet. Did I just change from one simile into a different metaphor in the space of two sentences? Why yes I did. I’m to tired to fix it. Sorry.

One of my regular tasks this week, one which will become less onerous as we adapt, is regular checks into how Patch and Gleek are adapting to their new school. I ask leading questions about recess, kids in class, and happenings. When a name comes up, I try to remember it so that I can ask about that person again. All of this is prodding for trouble spots, pockets of suppressed emotion. So far I haven’t found any. Patch admits to missing his old school, but the specifics are mundane and he relates them in a very calm voice. He doesn’t yet seem to have any particular friends in his class, but we’re barely in the second week.

Gleek has many emotions, mostly expressed as anger. She’ll walk up to the car with scowling eyebrows and I casually ask questions until I can ferret out the reason. Thus far all her real worries have been based in fear that she won’t be able to keep up with the homework load. It is a reasonable fear, but one we have lots of power to address. Fortunately for Gleek, I have learn something from Kiki’s adventures in an academic program. During Kiki’s soujourn I was trying to figure out whether fifth grade was when I should start letting my kids keep track of their own homework. I knew homework management was a skill they would need. Hindsight says that 7th grade is much better for this. Locally 7th grade is very light on homework, making it ideal for kids to learn to manage their own work. It is such a relief for me to just organize everything instead of having to hover without touching. Gleek does all her work, but I tell her which work and when. I make sure that the work ends up in the back pack. This is perfect, because it gives me a sense of control and relieves Gleek’s stress because she has clear parameters for her responsibilities. It is also a sharp contrast with my older two kids, whose homework I rarely pay any attention to.

Link decided to opt out of a scout merit badge pow wow. I am glad. Just now I don’t want to do anything which will upset the balance we are trying to create. I’m trying to establish normal, not tackle new things. I still haven’t caught up on all the laundry from before our trip. There are still suitcases in our front room. A glance out my window shows me gardening tasks yet to be done. And then there are dozens of small organizing and cleaning projects around the house. Also I’ve got to figure out how to fit Family Home Evening, and kid chores back into the schedule. There is time for them, the necessary emotional energy has been lacking.

Over all, things are good. I can see that we’re headed toward calmer days.


On the first or second day of WorldCon an gentleman stopped by our booth to talk to Sal and Caryn. He was wearing a silver chain mail shirt. I’m not just talking about the color silver. The shirt was made of actual silver, which he had purchased in blocks, spun by hand, wound into links and the fashioned into a mail shirt. The man was Loren Damewood, and he is a master of knotwork and chain mail. I’m also told that he is marvelously patient teacher who will sit with children by the hour and teach them crafting. As he spoke with us Loren was weaving with cotton cord and a needle. When he was done he reached for my hand and slipped what he’d made onto my wrist.

He assured me that it was just a piece of string and that I owed him nothing for it. I know for a fact that it is more than string. I’ve certainly never been able to make string dance so prettily. Having the bracelet made me happy. I wore it several times during the convention. On Sunday morning I put it on very deliberately because I knew it had happiness in it and I was in need of happy things. I thought it made me happy because it was a representation of amazing skill turned to kindness, but it was more than that. Only when I arrived home did I realize what else caused me to have such an immediate positive reaction.

These are the hammock swings I purchased earlier this summer. Since I bought them I have discovered that they are the perfect place for me to let go of my stresses. I’ll sit in one, put my feet in the other, close my eyes and drift. Sometimes I drift off to sleep. Other times I just feel the sun on my skin, the breeze in my hair, and listen to birds rustling nearby. My hammock swings are a place of peace. Several times during WorldCon I longed for them. The bracelet Loren gave me is made of exactly the same cotton cord which holds up my swings. These are the chords I often wrap my fingers around while resting. Loren gave me a tangible reminder of something from which I draw strength. He gave me a talisman.

It is not my first talisman.

I bought this pendant last winter and wore it daily for most of January and February. With it I carried brightness and flowers with me even though the world outside was gray and cold. When I was tired I could touch the smooth surface and remember the bright blue skies of spring. I did not call the pendant a talisman when I bought it, but it is. I purchased it very deliberately to remind me of things that I needed to keep in my mind.

Realizing that I have talismans helps me understand one of Gleek’s quirk’s better. She accumulates small things. The most visible manifestation of this is necklaces. She started with one, but it expanded to two, three, four until she had a tangle of chains and strings around her neck. I could see the untidiness of this particular fashion choice, but it came nowhere near the list of things worth arguing about. Also I think I sensed that she needed them. I knew that some had specific meanings for her, particularly the bag of worry dolls.

Here are Gleek’s talismans. The stripped bag is full of tiny Guatemalan worry dolls. She got them from her grandmother. At least one of the necklaces is a mood ring. The leather pouch contains the instructions for it. I think if you untangle all those other chains, you find that there are four or five necklaces. They’re all sturdy, which is necessary considering that Gleek doesn’t slow down for jewelry. She has worn them constantly for several years. When she took the pouch and worry dolls off at her cousin’s house to jump on a trampoline, then accidentally left them behind, it was a catastrophe of epic proportions. She fretted and made multiple phone calls until the necklaces were found and promises to mail them were extracted. Gleek needed her talismans.

I photographed them today while she was at school. She took them off several days ago (again because of a trampoline) and has not missed them. This is the best possible sign that the new school and new life patterns are exactly what Gleek needs.

Hugo Bright and Dark

I have a story to tell about the night of the Hugo Awards. It is not the story I wanted to tell. In fact it fell so far off of my pre-planned story possibility tree that it has taken me more than a week to sort out the beginning from the end. Going in to the Hugos I knew Howard was unlikely to win and that the demons of self-doubt would begin their assault upon him the moment the announcement was made. I figured the one variable in the situation that I could manage was myself. Whatever else happened, I would be with Howard, holding his hand, supporting him. So I made myself a beautiful dress, bought new shoes, put up my hair, and marched nervously into the evening. Then I fell right into a trap I had made for myself.

I spent the four days prior to the award evening being outwardly social. I enjoyed it very much, but it drained my reserves. I spent the four nights prior shorting myself on sleep. I stayed up late visiting with amazing people. Then stayed up even later as my brain spun trying to process it all. I put away all of the home and mother thoughts, which often provide me with a sense of perspective on life events as they pass. I did not take breaks during the days. I intended to, but without realizing it, I shifted my breaks out of existence so that the people on my team would have them. Then there was the dress itself, my beautiful dress. I loved making it. I felt beautiful wearing it. It was snug around my ribcage, but not uncomfortable. It swished around my legs. I’d deliberately chosen the colors to stand out and attract attention. It was so different from the formal wear I’d worn to the Montreal Hugo Awards, when I was dismissed from attention by two women who proceeded to exclude me from the conversation while they dissected the styles and clothing around them. I was going to stand up and own the dress I’d made, hoping it had the effect I desired. Before I even arrived at the convention I spent weeks in stressed preparation. The moment I left the convention I had to scramble to get kids into school. The entire time at the convention, I was outside my usual context and away from my usual means of decompression. There were no plants or grass anywhere I went. I could not have picked a more toxic mess of stresses (both good and bad) had I taken time to plan it out.

So the story I wanted was me in my lovely dress, holding Howard’s hand no matter what happened. Instead I found myself half way through the Hugo ceremony, just after the announcement that Girl Genius had won again, oppressed by the heat of the room and unable to sit still. I leaned over to Howard and he told me to go find some place cooler. I stepped out into a quiet hallway where it became all-too-apparent that heat was not the real issue. I had outrun my strength and over tapped my reserves. I spent the rest of the ceremony pacing in a dark corner, hoping to be seen by no one, unable to leave because I wanted to hear the results, unable to re-enter the hall because I did not feel fit to be seen. Have I mentioned the crying? I did that too. I didn’t want anyone to see, for fear they would think that I was crying over losing the award. I wasn’t. My tears were guilt because I had abandoned my post by Howard’s side. Standing in a corner, with my face to the wall, wearing a dress like sunlight, was the moment when I most felt the spiritual radio shadow of the casino hotels. I prayed frantically for peace, but my emotional state banished the peace I sought.

Howard found me when the ceremony was over, or I found him. He hugged me tight and told me it was all okay. Afterward, he said that my tears were oddly useful, because it have him a sharp and clear perspective about what really mattered to him. The demons of self doubt found him armored against them. It was not how I wanted to be helpful, but at least I can hold to the fact that I did not drag Howard down. We left the quiet corridor together and walked out with brave faces. When we met up with some friends, Howard sent me back to our hotel with them. He got me to go by looking me in the eyes and assuring me that he would be better off for the rest of the evening if I left. He was right. All I could do beside him was to throw him off balance. So I truncated all the planned branches of story tree which had me wearing my dress far into the night. I returned to my room, hung up the dress, and slept.

At this point I imagine some of my friends, who were at the event, friends who read this blog, and probably my parents as well are all feeling some distress themselves. They didn’t know, they wish they could have helped, am I okay now? This is part of why I did not want to tell the story. Somehow in my head there is this illusion that an award ceremony like the Hugos should be a lovely event full of happy winners and gracious losers. To be so honored is marvelous, and I wish to always speak gratefully about it because it is the collective good will of the fans which carried us there. Yet the emotional mix of all that hope, anticipation, and disappointment of so many people fills the air. I pick up on it, and apparently it can overwhelm me. This makes me sad, because I have so few opportunities in my life to dress up in a place full of fascinating people who love so many of the same things that I love. I want my stories of the Hugo Awards to be straightforward, unambiguous. I want them to be filled with honor, gratitude, joy, beauty, and support. Dark corners and tears don’t have much to do with that. But the effort to bury the dark corner also took with it some of the bright moments of the evening. In fact it also dragged into obscurity many of the bright moments of the entire event. In order to rescue them, I had to tell this story.

We had dinner right before the pre-Hugo reception. Sal arranged it for us. Howard and I showed up wearing our evening wear. Caryn showed up with a bundle of silk roses that someone had given to her. The tones of the roses matched my clothing perfectly, so she pulled several out and wound them into my hair. I still have them. I suppose I should have given them back, but seeing them makes me remember that moment when the evening was still bright. Howard and I walked from dinner to the shuttle. When we stepped outside, the breeze caught at my skirt and the drapes from my shoulders blowing them behind me. I caught a glimpse of the effect in the building windows as a I walked past. I wish I had that photo. Instead we have serious faced ones of us standing very statically. I wish there were photographic record of the smiles during that evening. I smiled often. I was delighted to see all my friends, each in their evening wear of choice. I loved seeing how the clothes expressed the person wearing them. I wish I’d had more time to sit back and people watch.

During the ceremony I got to watch Chris Garcia win the Hugo for best Fanzine. I will treasure that moment always. I know Chris as only a passing acquaintance, but he was so incredibly happy that it radiated across the whole audience. I cried tears of joy with him, though previously the outcome of that particular category hadn’t much mattered to me. Late the ceremony, I listened to Robert Silverberg’s brilliant deadpan speech as he deliberately taunted his friend Connie Willis who was up for an award. My friend Mary Robinette Kowal won in the short story category, which makes me very happy. I loved that everyone from Writing Excuses was there. Travis Walton, our colorist, came. I wish he’d been able to take home a rocket, because his beautiful colors make Schlock look good. I’m very glad that I finally got to see Phil and Kaja accept a Hugo. In Montreal they weren’t there. I wasn’t there in Australia. They were wonderful and charming as always. Many, many people complimented my dress and my hair.

All these bright things were contained in that evening, but they were obscured from memory because I wanted to be able to tell a different story about my experiences that evening. I’ve also spent time pondering how this story, which is so divergent from what I intended, affects story trees into my future. I already know that I need to wear my dress again, probably several times. I need to disconnect the dress from the dark spots in the evening. I need to run my conventions differently, and with less surrounding stress. I need to bring things with me that ground me and provide perspective. Most of all I need to review the bright memories, savor the lovely things. Then the dark spots fade in importance and I can go forward.

Hugo Award photos

Richard Man was the photographer at the Hugo award ceremony. He has posted all of his photos online where you can see them. I highly recommend wandering through. I believe most of these photos were taken prior to the ceremony, but he also has a page full of ceremony photos. Finally I am able to post a picture of Howard and I dressed up for the Hugo awards.

Mr. Mann has placed a statement on his page regarding acceptable uses of his photos. You really should go take a look at his site. He has photos of the masquerade costumes as well.

Yes, Howard and I look exceedingly serious in all of the photos. We didn’t do that intentionally, nor did the photographer. We hustled into the party late, were told to get photos taken, but they were preparing to begin photographing nominees by category. We had less than a minute in front of the photographers camera, and only a glance at the digital images before we had to dash off to listen to announcements. It is also possible that we were a little stressed about the award ceremony to come. Next time we’ll remember to smile.

Inspiration, radio signal, shadow, and Worldcon

Inspiration and spiritual guidance are like a radio signal. I can fine-tune myself so that I can hear them more clearly. I can adjust my location to get a louder signal. Many of the lessons at church are instructions on how to tune in to those signals and interpret them. I’ve grown to rely on spiritual guidance and connection. It is like a soft radio playing in the background of my day. Then when I experience moments of doubt, I can send a query “Am I on course?” and get a quick response “Yes. Keep going.” Some days I am making hourly or minutely queries. The communication keeps me grounded and I can find peace despite the chaos. I’ve had people express amazement at the quantity of stuff I manage on a daily basis. This is the reason I can. I am never alone and I regularly tap into resources of strength outside myself.

The casinos at Reno are in a spiritual radio shadow. I did not realize it when I first arrived. I only knew that I did not like them. I thought it was the noise, the lights, or the air of quiet desperation which rolled off of some of the gamblers. The absence of a noise is hard to notice, particularly if it is a quiet noise, even more particularly if I am distracted by dozens of new noises. So I did not notice at first. The convention was full of bright, wonderful, good things. Unfortunately I failed to give myself adequate breaks from these wonderful new things. I took care to make sure all of my people took breaks, but I neglected to take any myself. Usually when I do that, I get a message on the guidance circuit. “Slow down Sandra. Take a break.” But I was in radio shadow, a barrier between me and the signal. So I ran myself past my strength, then when I was beyond my capabilities I tried to tap into my spiritual resources. They were not there. I was left to my own strength and I was not strong enough. Fortunately I had surrounded myself with good people and they took care of me. Mostly what they did was make me go to bed. Sleep is restorative of many things.

Upon opening my email box the next morning, I found an email from a friend who does not usually email me. It said all the comforting responses that I’d been reaching for the night before. Signal was bounced off of my friend so that I could receive it while still in shadow. It helped me get through the last day of convention until I could get into my car and drive to a place where I had signal again. The experience was unpleasant in the middle, but is enlightening in retrospect. If I had been aware of the radio shadow, I could have taken steps to boost my reception. Most of those steps would also have provided me with the rest breaks in my days which would have helped prevent me from getting over-stressed in the first place. These are important things for me to know as I attend conventions in the future. Also, I’ll think twice before attending a five day event in a casino hotel again.

Today I went back to church for the first time since coming home from the convention. If a casino is in shadow, then church is like standing on a hill top in clear view of the transmitter. Light and strength poured into me. It washed over my memories of the convention, clearing away the remaining fatigue and worry so that the treasures from the event shine clear and clean. Going to WorldCon was the right thing for us to do, even though it put us in radio shadow for a time, even though it stressed us all, even though we had to drive all night to get the kids back home in time for school. I have a wealth of treasures from the convention which I could not otherwise have gained. The prize is worth the price, but this does not prevent me from planning ahead so that perhaps next time I can arrange to pay less.

Flying free

I pulled the van into the driveway and the children gathered their backpacks to climb out. It was Friday afternoon of the first week of the new school year.
“No homework. Go play.” I said. With those words I set them free and they flew. There are so few long evenings left for them to roam the lawns on adventures. I let them continue to play until full dark had fallen. The following morning we all slept late. It was a good reminder that the new schedule still allows for us to have unfocused time.

Fun Friday

The school week began on Tuesday. Homework began on Tuesday afternoon. Gleek and Patch are in an accelerated learning program. It picks up immediately and moves at a brisk pace, expecting the kids to keep up. This, combined with the new school starting a full hour later than the schools of my older two kids, has dictated some adjustments to our family schedule. Gleek and Patch have two homework times each day. The first arrives just after breakfast when they are expected to study spelling/math facts/recitations. The second arrives after dinner when they have to complete daily assignments. If they don’t study in the morning, then they have to do it right after school instead of getting to run off and play. This is a far-cry different from the relaxed schedule I ran for them last year. Then my focus was on helping Kiki weather the emotional storm which was entering high school and surviving Algebra 2. This year Kiki’s academic schedule is very relaxed and it is time for the younger ones to stretch a bit.

So far the kids seem to be taking the shift in stride. Patch and Gleek have had complaints, but I don’t sense any true tension in them. They are engaged and happy in a way that they weren’t at their old school. I, on the other hand, am slogging through. I am the builder of the routine and holding life in this unfamiliar shape makes me tired. The endless small confrontations necessary to require homework and chores, exhaust me. It will get better. I know that it will. The things which are difficult now will become habit. I can already see how good the new structure is going to be for everyone in the family. It is just hard this week.

Good systems have rewards built in to them. So I decided that if my kids arrive at Friday morning with all their study work done, they get to have Friday morning off. I call it Fun Friday. If they want to play a game, I’ll make myself available to play with them. If they want to watch a show, play a computer game, or read a book; those will all be allowed. The only caveat is that they need to be ready to stop when the time comes to go to school. I think it is likely that there will be some weeks when Fun Friday feels harder to justify. There will be times with looming projects when logic dictates that the Friday morning hour be spent working. I’m going to do my best to make sure that Fun Friday is sacrosanct so long as they earn it by doing their regular work all week. I do such a poor job of carving out relaxation spaces for myself, I hope I can model something better for my kids. The truth is, I need fun Friday as much as they do. They are upstairs reading quietly and I do not have to stand guard while reading off the same spelling list that I’ve been dictating all week. Instead I am able to spool my thoughts out through my fingers, hopefully unwinding some tension in the process. So far this week, Friday is my favorite.

The Line Between Normality and Abnormality is Wide and Murky

I have been pondering how to measure psychological normality. This may be a simple process to those who address such questions professionally, but I rather doubt it. The human mind is a complex thing and I suspect that there is not so much a line between normality and pathology as there is a large murky area which may be one or the other. When my daughter needs to take a small object to school so that she feels secure, this is normal. When she fills three quarters of her backpack with small objects and is insistent that she needs all of them, there is a larger emotional issue which needs to be addressed. For a long time I’ve had a functional definition for a disorder. Something becomes a disorder when it interferes with the things the person wants to accomplish. It is a good and solid definition, except for the fact that the human mind is wired to adapt and it will gradually change its perception of normality. Then I’m left wondering how we all came to consider as normal my daughter hauling seven pounds of erasers, small toys, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and trinkets to school. Once we identified the issue as a problem and found the root causes, my daughter was much happier and life was better. These days she skips off to school, her backpack empty of everything except school work.

Our own lives are always normal to us, except where they compare with recent history. My life feels normal to me, which is why I am bemused when someone tells me that reading my blog helps them feel like their life is more manageable, because they have less to handle than I do. I am then left to ponder, have I inched my way out into some abnormality without recognizing I have done so? If I have, why did I do it? Does it need fixed? Is my life structure a problem? On nights when I lay awake with my mind spinning and my heart racing I think that perhaps yes it is. On days when I get everything done and the sun is shining I think that perhaps it is not.

Standing in the middle of my life, it is hard to see past all my things to tell if the whole thing is running out of kilter or straight on course. An outside perspective is necessary. I rely heavily on prayer and inspiration for my outside perspectives. I get daily, sometimes hourly, feedback about whether to stay the course or shift things. I also depend upon several perceptive friends. I talk until my voice is hoarse and they see things which are invisible to me. I am extremely fortunate. Perceptive friends keep turning up in my life just when I most need them. They function in many of the ways that a good psychologist or therapist can function. Sometimes I get to be the perceptive friend for someone else. I always feel honored when this is the case. The truth is that we all need rescue sometime, often when we can’t even tell that we’re drowning.

Scenes from the beginning of school

“Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.” I was checking handwritten names against the list provided by Gleek’s teacher. The first spelling list of the year required all the students to learn to spell each other’s names correctly. “Oh. This Alysa has a y, not an i.”
“I put a y!” Gleek said.
I turned the paper so she could see it. “On the page it has an i.”
“How did that happen?” Gleek’s whole body filled with tension and she clenched her fists. “I wrote a y! I wrote a y!”
“I’m sorry.” I said then elected to move on to the next name rather than fighting over that one. Several other mistakes were found until on the final name Gleek snatched the paper from my hand and crumpled it into a ball.
“Gleek, do you want to write all of the names three times or just the ones you missed?”
Gleek clenched the wadded paper tighter and glared at me.
“You need to practice these names.”
“I want to take the test again!” I could see in her face the fury at her mistakes the driving need she had to get this right.
“It’s okay to make mistakes, Gleek. They just show us where we need to practice. You don’t have to be perfect.”
Gleek threw the crumpled ball into the trash and collapsed her head onto her arms on the table. Her rigidity dissolved into noisy tears.
New school, new teacher, new peers, new expectations, adjusting to a new biorythmic schedule, and a case of swimmers ear; Gleek was entitled to her break down. I picked her up. I barely can these days, she is getting so big. We snuggled for a bit, put drops in her ears, and I had her tell me about her day. The spelling list could wait.


“Do you have any homework?” I asked.
“Nope.” Link answered cheerfully. He was holding his brand new 3DS. He’d been saving up his money all summer long, carefully calculating how long it would take. The combination of an unexpected windfall and a price drop meant it was delivered yesterday. Throughout the afternoon I would discover Link hovering near me with his 3DS in hand. He needed help connecting it to WiFi. He wanted it linked to our Netflix account. He had the money to buy a game, but needed a credit card to purchase points. Each request was reasonable, and each gave me pause. My son is venturing out into a world where he can choose his own entertainment and carry it with him. Each connection empowers him to make choices. It is always fearful for parents to contemplate the choices that their children might make. I watched Link’s bright face and could feel the cheerful innocence roll off him in waves. So I gave him rules and handed his device back.
“This is the best day ever!” Link announced as he put his headphones back into his ears.


“I don’t know what to write!” Patch moaned. He was faced with the task of writing three sentences describing his hopes for the new year. The problem being that he had no concrete hopes for the year to come. In general this is good, because when Patch plans he plans very specifically and then is quite upset if the world deviates from what he planned. In his new school he is still learning how things work. He has not gotten far enough along in the process to plan for much.
“You mentioned earlier that you wished for printed homework sheets instead of binder paper. You could write that.”
Patch shakes his head, all too aware that expressing such a hope for a teacher to read is tantamount to a summoning spell. He did like the look of Gleek’s homework more than his own, but quickly shifted into wishing for less homework in general.
In the end he wrote three sentences. “I hope for lots of reading time. I hope for lots of computer time. I hope to make new friends.” It was a good balance for him. These are expressions of wish, not plans. He is not obligated by them and therefore they apply no stress to him. This is good, because adapting to homework after dinner instead of play is a sufficient overturn to upset any kid.


Kiki brought home a boy after the first day of school. He is a familiar boy who was greeted with delight by all the rest of my children. On the second day of school, we intended for her to have a quieter afternoon. Instead we spent 45 minutes standing in line to get her Learner’s Driving Permit renewed. She now has six more months before acquiring a license will also require a written test.
“I think getting a job would be good for me.” She announced cheerfully as we drove toward the DMV. “It would be good experience and might help me get into college.”
The school counselors spoke of college today, and of ACT testing. Kiki was wrapping her head around the requirements and possibilities.
“I agree that a job would be a good experience. I think you need to be more settled into this school year before we’re ready to consider taking on anything else. Last year was pretty hard.”
“I know.” Kiki said with a toss of her hair. “But this year my classes are set up better. I get to push harder in art and I like art.”
“Well, then you need to finish off both your electronic high school class and your driver’s license before taking on anything new.”
Kiki sighed and rolled her eyes, but I could tell it was pro forma. She is as ready for a calmer year as I am for her to have one.


I am tired. The day was trauma free, but it was long and I’m still far from caught up on all the work things which fell behind during WorldCon. However the progress is good and tomorrow looks like it will have less child errands in it.

After WorldCon, The First Day of School

For what feels like the first time in three months I am alone in my house. I can feel the silence wrapping around me like a comfortable blanket. Even more I can feel the absence of imminent requests. As a mother and as a business manager I live my life on call. Then today I ushered my kids out the door and knew that (barring emergencies) they would not need me again for six hours. Howard slept and then headed out to a movie. He does not need anything from me today either. My computer is full of neediness. There are social media sites to catch up on, blogs to read, and emails to answer. Yet I am aware that this is mostly an artificial need. I choose to skip catching up on facebook and assume that I’ll be otherwise informed about things that are critically relevant to me. I barely skim twitter and google+. I haven’t yet touched my blog reader. The things in there are longer and require more focused energy.

The silence in my house reminds me that when school let out I was in the middle of finding a better balance between doing things for others and giving myself space to grow. I put that on hold and need to return to it. So I’m doing the same thing I did all week at WorldCon when I had more things clamoring for my attention than I could manage. I made a hand gesture to the observant and trustworthy sources of clamor. It was a single finger upraised, meaning “I see you. I’ll get to you. Let me finish this first.” The thoughts on life balance subside and settle in to wait patiently. I have accounting to do. In this case the accounting is not just money and inventory. I must account for the uses of my energy and Howard’s. These calculations are not easily weighed against each other, except by feel. How does a week full of sleepless nights rank against getting to see Steve Jackson and Monica Stephens every day? How does feeling ill on the night of the Hugos measure up to having David Brin stop by our booth to tell Howard he enjoys reading Schlock? And then there was the time that Larry Niven happened by and Howard was able to speak with him and gift him a book. The list of people I met for the first time is long. The list of stunningly beautiful, touching, dramatic moments is also long. I have to remember these things when I am so completely unable to be useful for business tasks today. The balance on WorldCon is overwhelmingly positive. I need to make records of this so that when I’m mired in pre-WorldCon stress next year I can check the balance sheet.

My children were delivered into my hands on Sunday, both tired and happy. We all made the trek home, traveling over night and into the morning. Then yesterday I walked with my youngest two through the halls of their new school. They bounced to their classrooms and spoke with their teachers. I did not bounce and any time I sat down I had to fight off sleep. Yet I was still able to feel that the place was good. I think that my children will do well there. I could see some of the small tensions in them relax. When they come home we will begin with establishing solid homework and bed times. I have hopes that after all my preparations for this fall to be difficult, it will not be. I might be more stressed about the whole thing if I had energy to spare. Instead I need to muster the brain cells to answer email.