Month: December 2011

Declaring Independence

Gleek’s 5th grade teacher carefully established a classroom economy at the beginning of the school year. About three weeks ago, she started to give the kids taxes. At the same time she started having them memorize the first part of the Declaration of Independence. Then she raised the taxes. She separated the students into patriots and loyalists, then she pulled spelling words from the Declaration of Independence. This week she started levying fines and applying unfair rules. Today the kids were required to recite the Declaration of Independence.

This afternoon the teacher sent around an email saying in essence “Help! Your children are wonderful and obedient. I need them to revolt and declare independence before Christmas break. Please talk to them about unfair dominion and public responsibility.”

Gleek had a hard day in class today. She wants very much to remain a loyalist, but can not help seeing that the rules have become impossible to keep. (For example: You must maintain the quality of work, but I will no longer give you supplies and you are not allowed to bring any supplies from home.) My brave girl sneaked a notebook out onto the playground and wrote a note to the principal. Tomorrow Gleek will arrive at school with a backpack full of school supplies to share. This is in direct opposition to the new “bring no supplies from home” rule. Gleek will share these supplies openly and take whatever consequences come. My little girl is learning about conscientious objection. By the end of the day tomorrow I suspect the newly independent classroom will be ready to start their own constitutional convention.

I admire the courage of this teacher to follow through on such an ambitious educational plan. It is working and these kids will never forget.

Dec 18, 2011 Update: The kids had their revolution the very next day and the unfair taxes were repealed. Gleek loves her teacher again and learning will continue after the Christmas break.

I should also note that while I truly admire this teacher and this method of teaching, it must be handled with great skill and advance forethought. It puts a big strain on both the teacher and the students because the emotions involved are real. It can go very badly. In this case it did not.

How things are going and cool stuff you should look at.

I have a blog post about anxiety that I’ve been trying to write for two days. It is still a multiple-draft mess. The only solution is to put it down and move on. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back to it in a few days and pull the things I want to say into some better shape. This past week I’ve been carrying anxiety levels which I’d hoped not to experience again. The good news is that this is directly linked to me tinkering with my thyroid dosage. I’ve learned my lesson and now merely need to hang in there while the re-lowered dosages take effect again. Should be better by this weekend and normalized by next week. Also good news is that I spent enough time over the past several months in a non-anxious state that I’m able to recognize my anxiety this past week as Not Normal. This is a huge improvement over thinking that a racing heartbeat and shaky hands were just part of my life. Even more good news: exercise makes things better. Exercise is something which is in my control. So expect to find me dancing to exercise videos later this afternoon. BUT first I have to ship a lot of things, go shopping for supplies to make school treats, and shop for a few last Christmas gifts. (Am I ready for Christmas? The answer to that is still complicated and still wants a blog entry of it’s very own. I’ll add that to the bottom of the to-do list.)

In the meantime, here are three cool things which I’ve been meaning to tell you about:

Last February I was out to lunch with my friends Jessica Day George and Julie Wright.
Jessica was really excited because she had just received a cover image for her latest book, Tuesdays at the Castle. She pulled the image up on on her phone and we admired it on the tiny screen. “I just want to hug it!” Jess said. Both Julie and I agreed that the cover was huggable. That book came out last month. My pre-ordered copy arrived and I read the whole thing. My oldest daughter read it too. We both agree that the whole book is just as huggable as the cover. I love Princess Celie and hope that you will all go out and buy copies of this book so that she can have more adventures.

Last summer I got to read this story which my sister Nancy wrote. It moved me to tears and resonated very strongly with lots of emotional themes which have come up in my parenting. I suppose it makes sense that Nancy’s story speaks so strongly to me, we grew up in the same house, our kids face similar challenges, and we have similar approaches to tackling those challenges. But if you enjoy reading this blog, you will almost certainly enjoy reading Nancy’s story. It is fairly short, but well worth $3. Additionally, if you buy Movement in the month of December, Nancy will donate her profit to a charity supporting Autism research. If you happen to be a Hugo or Nebula voter, you may want to nominate this story. I’m certainly going to.

Most of my blog readers know that my husband Howard is an amazing and funny guy. So is Howard’s brother Randy. Of late I’ve had the opportunity to be in a writer’s group with Randy and so I got to read a draft of this book before it went live. It was already funny before Randy made it better. Mugging Leprechauns is a tweet-book. It contains bite-sized bits of funny which remind me of those Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy books. Even better, Randy’s book is less than $1. It’s almost like getting funny for free. Of course if you want an advance look at the jokes which will feature in Randy’s next book, you could just follow him on Twitter (@randytayler). That’s what I do and it regularly makes my day have laughter in it.

Hello Holiday To Do Lists

Every day has shipping in it. This will continue through the 20th. This makes me happy because sales are good. Sales mean that we’ll continue to be able to pay our colorist and pay our bills. However the heavy shipping load is wearing. I always feel like I have to ship everything as fast as possible because this package could be someone’s Christmas present.

Today featured me running to the store and picking up 14 spiral cut hams. I then drove through our neighborhood handing them over to the people who volunteered to help cook ham for the church Christmas party tonight. I have three hams to cook and later I’ll need to head over to the church to help set up. I’m also part of the clean up crew. Fortunately this party represents the last non-immediate-family holiday obligation.

I remember vividly the year when I looked at the presents under the Christmas tree and felt depressed because I knew exactly what was in every single one. The entire holiday was my orchestration. I planned it all while simultaneously making sure that my young children felt like they’d picked and planned the gifts they were giving. On that night I realized that I had to let go of some of it, that I couldn’t make the perfect Christmas, and that flawed Christmases are actually a good thing. This year I haven’t a clue what is in half of the packages. Both Link and Gleek planned and purchased presents before we even got out the tree. Patch and Kiki were not far behind. I’ve no clue whether the gifts are balanced for fairness between siblings. I’m not entirely sure if the top wishlist items have been hit because I haven’t been tracking wishlists. It all feels like I’ve abdicated my holiday responsibilities. Simultaneously it feels like I’m giving my children the chance to help create the holiday instead of just being an audience for my command performance. One way or another, all will be well. Mostly I’m trying to focus not on getting ready for Christmas day, but on enjoying the holidays as an ongoing experience. The most important things will get done. The rest don’t matter as much. (Either that or it will all be an utter disaster and we can try for better another year.)

Blog posts I’m not going to write today, but may at a future point write

1. Details of my realization that the week after shipping week is often family member melt-down week. I was the star on Monday. Tuesday featured Gleek and Patch. Today approached normal, but I’m still playing catch-up with accounting, house cleaning, and homework.

2. A great big thank you post to all the people who helped out with our shipping event. They are worthy of praise, warm fuzzies, and treats.

3. The reasons why my shipping system needs to be dismantled and rebuilt. The end result may look almost exactly like what I currently have, but the process will either replace my weird Jerry-rigged system, or will demonstrate to me that I just need to continue making-do. This whole thought makes me tired.

4. An intensely thoughtful post about how a hard school year is not necessarily a bad school year. This post would include the definitions of “bad year” and “hard year.” Short version: a bad year results in coping strategies which need to be dismantled. A hard year leaves one exhausted and drained, but positioned well for things to come.

5. My answer to the question “So, are you ready for Christmas yet?” This question pops up everywhere in casual conversation and, while I have a chit-chat sort of answer, the true answer is long. The true answer involves my whole approach to the Christmas holidays, the shape of our traditions, and why I’m just leaving the boxes of decorations out where the kids can decorate, or not, as they wish.

6. A long blog post responding to a discussion on whether the introduction of children into one’s life is the end of creative output for the next few years. Short version: No. It is just the beginning of a whole new set of decisions to make about priorities and how hours should be spent. Answers to these questions will (and should) vary according to person and circumstances. This post would also cover how beginning parenting is a learning process and multiple learning processes have trouble running in parallel. This could be why those established in creative careers seem better positioned to maintain them despite the arrival of small children.

7. A post describing how I’ve been deliberately seeking out things which are visual rather than wordy. This is followed by thoughts about how many photography images on the internet are photoshopped into a better-than-real perfection. This is not just in advertising or photos of people. The internet is full of better-than-real landscapes, product photos, and animal pictures. Then there are thoughts about what feeding ourselves a steady diet of hyper-perfect dream realities does to our psyches and expectations for our lives. This one must draw on psychological research, the Dove “Real beauty” adds, and several articles I’ve read lately.

8. Thoughts about self-promotion and whether there is any benefit to collecting followers, “likes”, etc. There is a definite benefit to having truly committed fans who are willing to support the creator and the work, but people who follow or “like” in order for a chance at a prize are not committed and will vanish as fast as they arrived. Again, this one will have links to articles and supportive research.

9. A post about the office remodel that I am slowly inching my way toward. This includes thoughts on how physical spaces affect the way I view my work and how form can re-shape function in odd ways that will linger for a long time unless one deliberately shakes out of old habits. It is possible that this will include an anecdotal story about a roasting pan. I would try to make my planning-my-shiny-new-office ramble into something relevant.

10. A look forward into the next year and the shape my professional life needs to take. I would view upcoming events with an estimation of whether or not I’ll be attending. I continue to strive for creative balance, pushing, shaking up old habits of thought, and yet being very careful not to spend much time in anxiety land. This would include thoughts on stress, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, anxiety, and probably a measure of whining.

11. An exploration of how my mind is pretty much always this full of 5-10 different thoughts about which I could blog. I fill notebooks. Though lately I’ve been trying a one-notebook approach which has been an interesting switch from my previous methodology of scribble notebook, blog-post notebook, and official journal. This post would probably also include an update on the progress of my River Song journal, which is still accumulating, but much more slowly.

12. Thoughts on calendars and the various holidays all over the world. I recently made a list which had limited space and I had to choose which holidays to include. I would have liked to include them all. The reasons that people declare annual celebrations are fascinating to me. I also find it fascinating that no matter the tradition or geographical location, August appears to be a holiday dead-zone. I wonder why that is.

13. Working on building relationships with kids individually and thinking of them as people rather than collectively as “my kids.”

14. Those blog posts continuing the series about financial structures for creative people.

15. I’m sure there was something else, but I’ve forgotten it now. If it is important, it will come back to me. I’ve had to learn to trust my brain to circle back around to important things.

Announcements and Updates

Looking for a picture book to give as a gift? Take a look at Hold on to Your Horses. You can get a free pdf of the entire book either by clicking the image or the link. If you want the book on paper. It is available in our store. This book is a story I wrote for Gleek when she was in kindergarten because she needed a story to help her be able to manage her impulsive creativity. I worked with an artist, Angela Call, to bring the story to life. I still love this book and am always glad to see it go out where the story can be loved by others too. It made me happy to see several copies go into packages during our shipping event on Saturday.

Another thing I am excited about is that the LDStorymakers Conference has opened for registration. This is a Utah writer’s conference for those who are interested in writing genre fiction. Both Howard and I have been invited to present at the conference. Howard will be giving his inspiring Talent Vs. Practice presentation and also one on world building. I have a solo presentation on structuring finances to support a creative career. Then I’m team teaching with Crystal Liechty for a two hour master class on book covers. We’re aiming to make the class useful to people who will need to work with publishers and those who want to create covers themselves. I love teaching and so I’ll probably talk more about these presentations as I plan them. Along with classes, the conference offers pitch sessions, work shops, a boot camp, and a couple of banquets. The conference is in May, but there are only 450 memberships available. If you’re interested, sign up now.

All the calendar packages were assembled on Saturday thanks to a marvelous crew of 8 people who donated their time. Unfortunately I neglected to remember that the post office closes early on Saturdays. So all the packages are still here. Mailing them will be the first task of Monday morning. It will take two van loads. Calendars are thin, but not when they’re in the same package as a mug.

Today’s energy crash is proceeding at a nice leisurely pace. I’m doing a whole lot of not much. I keep having a vague feeling that there are things I should be tracking and planning for, but not really remembering what they are. Occasionally I’ll remember something and write it down. On other occasions I’ll discover written notes about what I should do next. Then I do those things. Thus I’m wending my way through the day.

The Day Before Shipping

Caffeine is the means by which I borrow energy from my future self. The me of yesterday borrowed heavily. I passed the debt (and then some) on to tomorrow. Since tomorrow is shipping day, I’ll do it again. The bill comes due on Sunday and Monday.

Howard rescued me twice today despite the fact that he felt exhausted and oppressed himself. He summoned additional volunteer help so that packing mugs and making bundles went three times faster. Then he shoved me and the younger kids out the door to go watch the Muppets. Because of these things I arrived in the evening only low-level frazzled instead of cranky exhausted frazzled.