Day: December 5, 2012

Thoughts that have Accumulated While Shipping Packages

I can tell it is shipping season by looking at my hands. They are dry from handling all the paper. The fingertips are sore from holding the edges of cardboard in place while I fold boxes. I have scratches and scrapes on the backs of my fingers from sliding product into boxes. I often have a cut or two from accidentally scraping some part of my hands against the cutting surface of the tape dispenser. Also my right wrist develops an ache.

I re-watched Brave on Monday night. It is a beautiful film that consistently manages to lance open unexpected emotional sores. Apparently I have unresolved emotional conflicts relating to freedom vs. restraint and Mother Daughter relationship struggles. I love Merida. I want to be Merida. Yet I am the mother. This makes me sad. It also makes me aware of how much depends upon what a reader/viewer brings with them to the story. No one else I know has such strong emotional reactions to this film in the places that I have them. I suspect I need to periodically return to the film to keep digging out what causes me to be upset. Also because it is a beautiful and fun film.

Two kids, two pocket knives, and several bars of soap results in soap carvings and soap dust coating one half of the kitchen. In theory soap dust is easy to clean up, but in truth it has to be carefully managed or one just ends up with soap scum on every available surface. Also, the kids are discovering that inadequately cleaned soap dust does not taste good. If soap carving is still a thing come spring, it will be evicted from the house.

My meal planning needs an overhaul. Frozen pizza should not be a staple.

When googling around to find answers for computer problems, it is best to picture yourself treading through swampy, snake-infested waters. Check multiple sources and think three times before downloading any “solutions.” Knowing this is half of what made me so panicked and exhausted when contemplating fixing my computer. The landscape out there changes fast and I don’t speak the native language.

The shipping of unsketched calendars is all done. Only sketched calendars to go. This is good since I’m starting to get emails from folks worried about Christmas presents. I don’t want to add to their stress.

Tomorrow I need to get my act together, conquer the laundry, and pay more attention to the kids and their homework. They’re pretty good at getting the daily stuff done, but I’m certain some longer-term projects are falling through the cracks.

Computer Issue Resolved

Monday, in the middle of frantic shipping, my computer declared that I had no space left on the hard drive. This did not make the day better.

Tuesday, I cleared off enough files to give me space to work. I also kept a log of space usage and watched the space I’d cleared gradually get eaten up. I focused on getting work done, but noticed that internet connectivity had no effect, so my computer was not infected with malware. A friend suggested that I had some stray program creating a log file. He pointed me at a program called WinDirStat (Short for Windows Directory Statistics).

Wednesday, I continued to baby my computer, then finally installed WinDirStat. Within minutes it showed me that Kaspersky was using up over 700 gigs of space. All of that space was text log files. One file alone was 59GB. I deleted them and now I have 748GB of free space on my computer. I could design 250 books in that space. I then opened up Kaspersky to see why on earth it was making massive log files. The only thing I could find was in the settings, under System Watcher, there was a little check box for “save activity log.” I unchecked that box.

Tomorrow, I’ll be keeping an eye out to make sure that Kaspersky doesn’t start filling up space again. I’ll also call their customer support line to see if they have any idea why it happened and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Calcifer also has Kaspersky and does not have this problem at all. On the other hand, if it does happen again I know how to fix it, which is very empowering. I no longer have to be afraid that my computer will randomly stop working. I like not being afraid.

In tangential news, the little mini laptop, which I thought had the same problem, has a different problem entirely. It is not losing memory. It just doesn’t have enough. Windows 7 requires 14GB and the hard drive is only 16GB big. Upgrading that machine to Windows 7 was a mistake. Ah hindsight. WinDirStat is an excellent program and helped me solve both issues.

Building a Family Culture for a Happy Holiday Season

It is December 5th and we only have two wrapped Christmas gifts under our tree. They were deposited there by my sister who visited last weekend. Usually the tree starts to accumulate presents within a day or two of when it goes up. This year the tree has been lovely for more than a week and we can still see both the tree skirt and the stuffed nativity set. I kind of like letting the tree be a center piece without the distraction of packages. I like even more that none of the kids have commented on this. None of them are hovering hopefully to see if there are presents for them as has been the case in years past. In fact our house has a significant lack of the things-I-want vibe. Howard and I have had a couple of discussions about what to get the kids, but there aren’t any items we must get or be faced with disappointment. Some of this is because our kids are older, but I think some of it is the family culture we have gradually built around Christmas. I thought it might be useful to list out the things we consciously do to focus on the non-commercial aspects of the holiday season. I ended up with twelve list items which seams seasonally appropriate.

1. We keep it small. All of our Christmas decorations fit into four medium size boxes and one big Christmas tree bag. It is enough to make our front room lovely, but not for a dazzling show. If we want to spread the holiday through the house we light a scented candle and play music.

2. We don’t do Santa. This was really hard when the kids were little and everywhere we turned people expected them to believe in Santa. I was always afraid that my kids would talk Santa with other kids and then angry parents would confront me. However, without a belief in Santa, my kids never believed that their wildest dreams would just appear on Christmas morning. They understood that even Christmas has practical limitations because the providers of Christmas were a very human Mom and Dad. Christmas morning surprises supplied by parents were still magical.

3. We avoid exposing ourselves to advertising, particularly television commercials, as much as possible. Advertising creates a false reality which aims to make people believe their lives will be better if they buy something. This is rarely true.

4. If at all possible we avoid shopping in a hurry. Going to stores and looking for gifts can be an enjoyable part of the holiday season, but it is when we’re stressed and in a hurry that we blow our budget or buy items we regret later. We usually try to enter stores with a clear idea of what we’re looking for and why we need it.

5. When gift giving commences we sort the presents by who is giving them not by who gets to open them. We take turns and each gift is handed over by the giver. This practice really helped our young kids focus on the giving aspect of the season.

6. We remember that disappointment happens and it is not the end of the world. Christmas does not have to be perfect. The gifts do not have to bring ecstatic joy to be good gifts. In fact, we try to avoid frenzies of excitement because they are always followed by a let down. Half of our Christmas efforts involve slowing things, calming things, and pacing the season.

7. Many of our traditions and decorations are about lights in darkness. We light our tree, light our house, and burn an advent candle each evening. (Except when we forget and light it extra long the next day.) On Christmas eve we light all the candles of a nativity pyramid. Light in darkness makes us all more happy and peaceful.

8. We don’t travel during the holidays. These days staying home is critical because I’m in the midst of holiday shipping, but even before that we stayed at home. Connecting with extended relatives is lovely and important, and we do get together with the ones nearby, but any trip which requires a suitcase can find a different time of year. That way we can focus on the visit instead of holiday logistics.

9. Optional events are optional. This season is full of concerts, special events, displays, and limited time offers. No one person can take advantage of them all. We sample as the mood strikes and try to not feel obligated to do too much.

10. Traditions which add more stress than joy get culled from our holiday practices. The best traditions are the ones that happen of their own accord because someone loves them enough to spend the effort. We have a tree because we all care about it enough to haul the thing up from the basement and assemble it. This year we have outdoor lights after a long outdoor light hiatus, because this year I wanted them enough to put them up.

11. We know that holiday culture grows and changes. When the kids were younger, I had to spend a lot more effort creating the holiday, planning the gift choices, planning family traditions. We’ve reached a stage where we all create the holiday for each other in small ways. Ten years from now things will be different again.

12. We weave our religious beliefs into the holiday celebrations and preparations, but not every single thing has to be about Christ. We try to make themes of Christ the ever present background music of the holiday rather then always requiring it to be front and center. That way when we do bring it to the front, we’re able to focus and attend.

I’m aware of the irony that I try very hard to de-commercialize and simplify our family traditions, while simultaneously running a retail business for which we offer holiday sales and incentives. I can only hope that our books and merchandise are things which add joy to holidays rather than stress. Because I really do wish for everyone to have a December that is tailored to their ideas of what the holidays should be. That is the key really, finding what brings happiness and paring away the rest.