Month: May 2013

At the End of a Full Week of Shipping Coins

This is what my family room has looked like four out of the last five days.

The first of those days was assembling sets, the rest were more or less like this picture, putting orders into boxes. We won’t ship again until Tuesday. Part of me feels bad about the delay, except shipping on the weekend gets problematic because of reduced postal service and the fact that all the postage has dates on it. The shipping project won’t be stalled completely. We’re waiting on some necessary supplies. Also there are some orders which are going to require special boxing because of the quantities of coins involved. I can’t fit 42 monkey coins in to a small priority mail box and expect the box to stay intact. So I’m going to have to pile up all the coins and then ponder how best to box and ship them. I also have to manage customer emails. With the complexity of this project and the fatigue in my brain, errors are inevitable. Fortunately Schlock fans are very nice about letting me know about them and I get to fix them.

The process for shipping these coins has settled into familiarity. I think we’ve finally figured out how to work with relative efficiency. Though many times it still feels like a mess with loose coins, packing lists, and postage spilling all over the table. One person pulls a packing list and grabs all the coins for the order. The next person pins all the loose coins down so they don’t get lost as the order is processed. The third person re-checks all of the coins against the invoice. Every order is checked by two different people. We fix errors and send the order down the line to the packing station. Everything is packed into an envelope or into an envelope and a box. The postage label is matched to the packing list, the package is sealed, postaged, and put out for the mailman. It is a multi-step, complicated process, but it is the best way we can think of to reduce errors and to contain these coins until they arrive safely in the hands of their owners.

Monday we’ll print postage. Tuesday we’ll package the last orders. After that I’ll be able to look around and try to find some sort of normality for this summer at the Tayler house. I’m looking forward to that part. There will be post shipping clean up. I’ll be helping with customer support issues for the next couple of months I’m sure. I’ll need to count the remaining inventory so that it can be entered into our accounting programs. At some point the extra inventory will be made available in the store and there will be more orders to handle, but I have to wait on that until I’ve finished everything currently waiting for me to manage it. The backlog of things I haven’t done because I shipped coins instead is depressing. So I’ll not think about it tonight. Instead I will sleep.

Shipping Update Friday May 31

Work hours today: 46
Packages shipped: between 400 and 500, we did mixed lists so an accurate count is more tricky without physically counting packages. (not worth the time.)

Running totals
Work hours:221
Packages shipped: Approx 1700 – 1800

The following backer levels are in the mail:
Low numbered (9-99) Tagon’s Toughs coins
Tagon’s Toughs challenge coin
Two Tagon’s Toughs Challenge coins
Officer’s Club
NCO Club, except for some odds and ends

Enlisted Mess mostly done.
All orders containing more than 8 coins. (We’re done boxing. Yay!)

I will probably work another couple of hours tonight. There are some special handling orders to manage and other administrative and prep work to do. The final postage will be printed on Monday. Next work day is Tuesday and it is probably the last day.

Commencing Our Journey into Uncharted Territory

Did I even shout? In a two hour ceremony, five seconds were allotted to my child, her name read with her face on the big screen before she walked across the carpet and shook hands with the school administrators who gave her a diploma. My job was to shout across the wide space, let Kiki know that her crew was pulling for her. I can’t remember if I yelled. Things happened so fast. I have some blurry pictures as evidence. Kiki waved to us during the processional marches. Those did not go so quickly. There was time to shout, wave, and photograph her big smile. The whole ceremony seemed so long while it was happening, now it feels like an eye blink, which is rather like raising Kiki who is no longer a child anymore.

There are plentiful jokes about making all the mistakes on the first child. I’ve never felt that way about parenting Kiki. Yes I definitely gathered experience as I went. My parenting evolved and my capabilities grew, but rare was the occasion when I felt like I had to back track and resolve to do things differently the next time around. Most parenting tasks repeat often enough that we can get them right even with the first child. Yet this month it feels like I’m constantly taking note; ways to handle an 18th birthday better, the shifts necessary in being a parent to an adult, the emotional arcs of preparing to depart high school. I’ve felt like I was getting wrong about every other day. I had a map for figuring out how to become a parent, this is new and map-less territory.

“Do I have to go to school?” Patch said while curled up on the couch and hugging his blankets. It was the morning of the last day of school, hours before the graduation ceremony. Patch was stressed from the moment he woke up, over the smallest of things. He fidgeted, fretted, and clutched his security objects, so I sat him down on the couch and drew the physical manifestations of his anxiety to his attention. Then we tried to figure out where all the anxious energy was coming from. When I asked if he was sad about leaving his teacher, his hands began to still. Then we realized, two months ago Patch was very upset and sad about the changes that are coming in his life. This was the day when those changes became real. The last school year with all of the kids at home is complete. Kiki will leave for college, and Patch does not want her to go. I am not the only one without a map for what comes next. Patch watched her walk in her shining green cap and gown. We made sure he had a chance to hug her. I don’t know if it helped much, but it was a small gift we could give.

I hugged Gleek’s teacher in a nearly empty classroom. The walls were bare, desks stacked in a corner, ready for thorough cleaning. The school year was complete, a year which nearly went very wrong but somehow struggled back on course. “I’ll be thinking of Gleek.” the teacher said in answer to my heartfelt thanks. I assured her that Patch would still be attending the school for another two years, I would stop by to let her know how Gleek adapts to junior high. The note that I wrote this teacher is not enough. I don’t know what would be enough, a parade through the streets perhaps. Except I suspect she would not want a parade and true gratitude is best expressed in ways that make the recipient both happy and comfortable. It was a hard few months, and I still feel like I could have handled so much of it better. I can’t even use this year’s experiences as a plan for what comes next because the territory will be quite different. I shall be glad for the pause that summer provides. I need a pause before heading out into the territory only marked with a small sign saying “Here there be dragons.”

“Thank you so much for all your help this year.” Patch’s teacher told me. My eyes watered and I was taken aback. I could tell she truly meant it, but knew that I had never given her my best. I gave her what I had available, the classroom help that Patch needed, but I know I am usually capable of far more than she ever saw. I cried for that a little, for all the small, supportive, consistent parenting things that I simply could not manage this year. There were too many crises and urgent tasks. The best I could do was a cobbled together effort with big gaps in it. Yet she thanked me and her thanks gave me a small hope that perhaps it was enough. I would vow to do better next year, but I don’t want to make promises that I’ll berate myself for being unable to keep later. Fall is uncharted territory. I’ll see what I’m capable of when I get there.

Link lay on the couch in our house that had finally returned to quiet. It was after the graduation, after the joyful chaos of playing with cousins, after the end of school party with some friends. “I had a really fun day and I’ll never have it again.” Link said to me. So I sat next to him and listened to the pieces of his really fun day. He too is facing a transition in the coming year, transferring from the junior high over to the high school. This is easy to forget because it was not marked with a big parents-invited ceremony. His is a quiet transition, but still emotionally relevant. Is he nervous, I wonder but do not ask. Not today. This day I wanted to just listen to his reactions to the graduation ceremony. In three short years he’ll be the one in the cap and gown. When we arrive at that event we’ll have traversed the paths which I can’t see now. Life will be quite different and I can’t picture it, but with my eyes half shut I can almost picture this son of mine being a triumphant graduate. That is a destination worth the trek. I can picture it because Kiki went there first, because the mistakes and triumphs of this year have put lanterns on the pathway to make things easier for her siblings. We understand better how this works.

We took pictures of Kiki in her cap and gown. She smiled even though she is tired and suffering from a head cold. I wish I’d captured the look on Kiki’s face when Howard pulled out his new Samurai Monkey fez and wore it next to her. That way they both had funny hats with tassels. Howard did not bring the fez to the ceremony, but he did bring his phone. From it, he tweeted:

Today you have arrived, graduates. Tomorrow we will break it to you that you’ve arrived at the starting gate.

And we have. This was the day when things changed. Most of those changes are temporarily paused, but they’ve begun. We’re on the front edge of our journey into whatever comes next.

Shipping Update Wednesday

Work hours today: 48
Packages shipped: Approx 600

Work hours:175
Packages shipped: Approx 1300

The following backer levels are in the mail:
Low numbered (9-99) Tagon’s Toughs coins
Tagon’s Toughs challenge coin
Two Tagon’s Toughs Challenge coins
Officer’s Club

US NCO club are done. International NCO left to do.

We did great today, but at the end of the day there is still a lot more work to do. Next work day is on Friday.

Shipping Update

Work hours 40
Packages shipped: Approx 100

Work hours:31
Packages shipped: Approx 500

Total so far:
Work hours:127
Packages shipped: Approx 750

The following backer levels are in the mail:
Low numbered (9-99) Tagon’s Toughs coins
Tagon’s Toughs challenge coin
Two Tagon’s Toughs Challenge coins

About 2/3 of the Officers club is packaged.
Some simple NCO club orders (7 coins only) are packaged.

Progress feels slow.

Today We Achieved Routine

Right after lunch we finished the last of the coin set assembly and began to ship orders. It took us awhile to figure out how the assembly processes needed to go, but once we did the finished packages began to accumulate. It was only after we declared done for the day that I realized we’ve finally finished set up and are now beginning to process orders. From here out things will be more routine with fewer surprises. This is good news. I can feel the difference.

The other thing that made today worlds better: Howard came home early from Phoenix Comic Con. We’d originally planned to have him travel today, but instead changed is flight to yesterday. This meant he could spend today recovering. Buffer work will resume tomorrow along with the continuing shipping work.

It feels strange that I’m sending kids to bed because they have school in the morning, but they do. Three more days of school for them, but none of those days are routine. Tomorrow my senior gets out at 10:30 in the morning, my elementary kids have a dance festival, and my junior high kid has yearbook day. Wednesday and Thursday are similarly odd. Then they’re done. I would probably have a lot more emotional energy to spend on all of these transitions if the coin shipping wasn’t smack on top of it all.

This is what assembling sets looked like on the second day:

The first day of assembly everything was a bit more chaotic. I didn’t get a picture of what package assembly looked like because we were too busy figuring out how it needed to work. Hopefully I’ll have enough focus tomorrow to take pictures.

These Are Pieces of My Coin Shipping Experience

I hold the coins in my hand. They have a solid weight and clink when the motion of my hand pushes them into each other. They are beautiful. Three months ago they were only an idea in Howard’s head, then they were an idea that other people bought into. Now my garage is full of them, imagination made real.


I lay awake in the dark, feeling the weight of all the coins in the garage. Each one represents a promise. I owe it to the owners of those coins to do a good job with shipping. But there was a problem. Test packages did not protect the coins the way I’d pictured. Thankfully nothing was damaged, but I must do better. So I think of the supplies on hand, I ponder what can be purchased quickly, I calculate the extra cost in work hours. Then I look at the clock, knowing that all of it will feel more possible in the morning if only I could sleep long enough to get there.


I look around the room at people laughing and working. They have come because I said help would be appreciated. Some of them emailed me to volunteer even before I asked. It feels strange that so many people would be glad to spend hours just to help us. I am so very grateful. This job would crush me without them. It is not only the work in their hands, they bring gifts of story and laughter. We talk as we work and the time moves, if not fast, then pleasantly.


“What is this coin thing you’re doing?” asks my neighbor. Once again I explain, what challenge coins are, why they are cool for Schlock Mercenary, how many people bought. As usual the look of puzzlement fades only a little, but this time I reach in my purse and pull out one of the coins. I watch my neighbor turn it over and feel the weight of it. “These are cool.” she says. Yes they are. I did not understand challenge coins myself until I had the chance to hold one.


“Are you going again?” asks Gleek. This past week has been one of errands and hours of me running off to places or holing up in my office. Hotpockets and Pizza are the foods of the week. I take a moment to hug my girl and I want nothing more than to just curl up on a couch and keep hugging her for a long time. Just the thought of holding still sounds like a piece of heaven. Instead I release and move to the next urgent task on the list.


I look around the garage at the stacks of coins and shipping supplies. Time and again I have a momentary panic because of something unexpected, but it turns out to be fine because I planned well a month ago and left room for error. This is really going to work.


I stand on the steps of my garage and stare at the piles of boxes. So much work to do. So many chances to mess things up. I’m sure that it is not possible and I will fail.


Janci and I sit on couches after the helpers have left. We deconstruct how the day’s work went and how the next work session needs to go. Then we just sit for a few minutes, still talking even though the business is already discussed. Sitting still feels really good.


I am losing track of things. Mostly they are small things, a backpack left in the car that the teenager drove to school, an email that I read but failed to answer, a task that lingers on my list because I keep forgetting. There was one task that I stared at for five minutes because the note made no sense to me even though I knew I’d been the one to write it. I drop things more often. I make small mistakes. I’m assigning checking orders to someone else because my brain is beginning to gloss over details and details are what need to be noticed. I need to sleep more. I need to worry less. It will all be fine, but the quantity of things to do is oppressive. I rather suspect that when I depart for the writer’s retreat I will spend all of my days there just staring at nothing, content to be still for the first time in months.

Work count has not changed. Saturday was spent doing house and kid things. Sunday is not a work day. Work resumes tomorrow morning.

Coin Set Assembly Day #1

Schlock Mercenary book release shippings usually have 1200 to 1500 packages. So when the quantity of coin packages racked up beyond those number, I knew this would be the biggest shipping job yet. We topped out at just under 3000 orders, so I thought the job would take about twice as long. I forgot about the force multipliers. Book release packages average three items. The average for coin packages is eleven items. My job isn’t twice as complex it is some other multiple which takes into account the difference between three and eleven. My brain is too tired to math it. On our test day Janci and I timed ourselves assembling sets. We figured the man hours and decided we’d be able to get all the sets assembled in one day. Instead we had six people working for five hours, we got half of them made. So Monday will be yet another set assembly day.

All of those coins are sitting in my garage. Two file boxes of invoices are sitting in my office. I will feel much more at ease when both start flowing out and into the world where they belong. Next week is going to be long.

Total work hours spent so far on shipping coins: 56
Total packages sent to customers: approx 120
By the end of next week I want to improve those ratios.

Wait, Which Day is This?

Actual thought process this evening:
As soon as I finish packing these orders for pick up, I need to clear the table because tomorrow is Friday and I’ve got volunteers coming at 9:30 to assemble sets. Goodness, it’s 10:30 pm and the kids are still playing computer games, but that is okay because today is Friday and they can sleep late tomorrow.

I’m trying to hold all the events in my head simultaneously. It isn’t quite working, which is why I am constantly checking my calendars and to-do lists to remember where I am in the endless list of things and which things need to come next. Also, I’ve arranged for there to be other people around to double check me. This is good because I make mistakes. Janci shows up to help with shipping and makes it all more organized. She solves problems I haven’t thought of yet. I’m also quite grateful to my past self who was smart enough to know that I would be frazzled and dumb right now. Redundant systems are actually useful when I can’t keep track of which day I’m in.

Thursday. This is Thursday because I dropped Howard and the airport first thing then raced back to the Elementary school for Gleek’s 6th grade graduation. She got to walk in a line and wear a paper hat. The principal shook their hands and the whole leaving Elementary school got a little bit real. Kiki also had a leaving school getting real type of day. She cleaned out her drawer in the art room. It was a little space at the school that has been hers for three years. Next year it will belong to someone else.
In the afternoon there was an orthodontic appointment and Kiki opting out of going to an awards night to go to a play with a friend. Good call on her part. Then I sat down for the first shipping work of the day, managing some special orders and the orders for local pick up. I spent four hours splitting my time between providing food for kids and packing coins.

Tomorrow the assembly work begins. Also: Helping Patch throw together a book report before school. Making sure the mummified chicken goes to school. Delivering art to CONduit in SLC and picking up art from the Covey Center from a show that is complete. And Delivering orders for pick up to Dragon’s Keep. There is probably something else too. I’d better go check my calendar.

Shipping Volunteers

If you are local and would like to help with assembling and shipping challenge coin orders, please email If you’ve already emailed and I responded no need to do it again. If you can only come for part of a day, we’ll take whatever we can get. We’d dearly love to be able to get the majority of the coins shipped by the end of May.

EDIT: All current volunteer slots are full. Thank you! once again I’m blown away by how wonderful and willing to help you all are. There are likely to be additional times to volunteer during the first week of June, this is a huge project.

Volunteers acquired Friday May 24 9:30 am – 1:00ish
Volunteers acquired Tuesday May 28 11:30 am – 4:30pm
Volunteers acquired needed Wednesday May 29 9:30 am – 2:00pm
Volunteers acquired Friday May 31 9:30 am – 2:00pm

I’ll update the volunteers needed numbers as slots are filled. You will earn our gratitude, gifts of merchandise, and food is provided.