Month: November 2014

An Incomplete Listing of My Projects in Process

Schlock Mercenary:

Prep for shipping (This includes sorting invoices, counting sketches, ordering boxes, etc.)
Warehouse reorganization (There is stuff that needs to be shifted around to make space for the incoming delivery of pallets.)
Schlock RPG preliminary layout
Challenge Coin PDF
Regular shipping
Schedule next XPC meeting

Household and parenting:

Diagnosis cycle for two kids. (This includes additional doctors’ appointments, emotional processing, etc.)
Helping two kids catch up on back work from absences
Not ignore the other two kids.
Rake leaves (make kids rake leaves.)
Basic home maintenance (Dishes, laundry, chores)
Shell two boxes of walnuts currently sitting on my back porch.

Writing / Creative:

Write about 6000 more words until I hit The End.
Begin the first cycle of revision.
Start drafting the next book.
Cover re-design for the Cobble Stones books.
Test Kindle’s new picture book platform, possibly put HH and SWH on there.
Do some picture book promotion for the coming holiday gift season.
Work on the 2014 family photo book.

Back Burner:

Finishing painting the front room and remodel that annoying coat closet.
Pay someone to re-roof the house.
Trim all the trees. (In March)
Finish writing the two picture books I have in mind.
More essay books.
Do something pretty with the dirt patch which is where our deck used to be.

Finding Happiness While Being Busy

Someone posted a link to an article about busyness as a disease. The content of the post was familiar. I’ve read it a dozen times before in various iterations. It lamented our over-scheduled lives, the fact that we don’t disengage from technology, that kids don’t have time to be bored. Many times I’ve read articles like this one and I’ve agreed. I spent years in an ongoing struggle to slow down my life. I thought that surely if life had a less hectic pace, I would have more happiness.

Then I had an epiphany, how happy I am has very little to do with the quantity of things on my to do list. I have been happy while working full-tilt with no time to stop. I have been miserable when I had long and leisurely days. Busy becomes miserable when I prioritize urgent over important. Busy is miserable if I’m busy at the wrong things or if I have to be busy according to someone else’s priorities instead of mine. That last part is the part that trips me up most often. I share my life with four children and a husband who all put things on my schedule. Then there are relatives, friends, church, school, etc. All of them would like to schedule me. Misery is not the goal, but sometimes it is the result if I do not keep in touch with my own priorities.

For years my kids did not have any after school lessons or activities. They came home and they played. Mostly they played video games. (There’s another set of articles telling me all about how that isn’t a good idea either.) This year two of my kids picked up one activity each. I watched how these outside activities added to their lives and brought them joy. They became more than they had been. Recently my son has become quite easily stressed. As I was casting about for solutions to his stress, I briefly considered dropping his outside activity (cello lessons) to give him more free time. I’ve rejected that, because I can see that free time doesn’t make him less stressed. In fact, sometimes he gets stressed because choosing to play this video game means he’ll have less time for that one. He’s not stressed because he’s busy. The stress is coming from somewhere else. (Hormones probably. Puberty is hard.) The key is that we don’t want to allow stress to steal something he enjoys. We don’t want to let stress make him smaller.

The life I have chosen is always going to be a busy one. I’ll always have multiple projects running in parallel. I’ll always have to use lists to track the things I need to get done. When I’ve got myself properly focused, I like being busy. Not everyone would be happy with a life like mine. Which is fine, everyone has to build their own life and fill it with their own priorities as much as they are able. (Most of us don’t get to be the sole masters of the lives we have.) For me, these past few weeks have been made of schedule disruption as I’ve responded to kid meltdowns and school absences. I have to find ways to reach for happiness no matter what else is going on in my days. That is hard on the days when I feel both stretched thin and emotionally bruised. Yet if I reach for happiness in the hard times, I’ll likely grab it when things lighten up. And I can do it while still being busy. I’m not going to let stress or anxiety make me live smaller.


Optical illusions are fascinating. I remember staring at the picture of the young lady and then suddenly something switched inside my head and I could see the old witchy lady. Then it would switch back again. The same thing happened with word searches. I’d stare and stare at a box of random letters until, bam. There was the word I’d been looking for and I wondered how I could have missed it before. What I remember most is that moment of recognition, when nothing changes in what I’m looking at, but suddenly I see it differently.

I had such a moment this week. I wish it had been a happier one. I listened to my son and realized that he was saying the same sorts of things that Howard does when he’s depressed. It is not a surprise that my son is depressed. Not really. I knew this was there, just like I knew the old lady was there when I saw the young one. But it is different in the moment that I actually see it.

I’ve already met with school administrators once this week. I’ll do it again tomorrow. That meeting will likely spawn further meetings with individual teachers. Today had a doctor’s appointment. Next month there will be a more thorough evaluation. Prescriptions have been adjusted. I know this dance. I can take the steps almost flawlessly. I even feel the requisite parental self-doubt right on cue. I’ve had far to much practice helping loved ones face down mental monsters.

It was not my first choice for how to spend this week, but things can’t begin to be solved until they are seen. I’m not sorry that I finally saw it. I also have a sense that this is a necessary, if unpleasant, step in this particular child’s growing-up process. He is beginning to see it and he needs to be able to recognize this, call it out, and manage it through the rest of his life.

Other People’s Choices

Years ago I judged my neighbor for decisions I saw her making about her teenagers. It was a very light judgment that I only held in the back of my mind. She never knew about it. It never affected our friendship. I even supported her and aided her. Yet I thought to myself, “I won’t do that.”

This week I find myself making some very similar parenting decisions to the ones I saw her make. I finally understand the troubles which drove her to those decisions. All those years ago, I couldn’t see the troubles, just the decisions that resulted from them. Today I am surrounded by stresses and I have a child who is nearing an adulthood that he’s not yet ready for. Every day I make decisions and I am conscious of how those choices may look to people who aren’t mired in my context. Somewhere out there, someone is judging me. I’m not angry with them for not understanding.(As long as they don’t try to impose their imperfect comprehension on my actions.) I actually hope that they never understand this because having a depressed teenager is not something I wish on anyone.

My neighbor moved away years ago, only a year or two after my judgement of her. I have her number, but to call and apologize would be pointless. What I must do instead is train my thoughts to think more kindly when someone else makes a decision that I don’t understand. They’re probably driven to it by problems that I can’t see.

Sorting My Recipes

I have a recipe box. I got it when Howard and I were first married and I carefully collected recipes to fill it. Collecting and trying out recipes was part of how I learned to manage my own kitchen and was helpful for Howard and I to define our shared identity as a couple. We liked this one, we didn’t like that one, this one needs adjusting, we’ll never try that again. When we moved to our first house, the recipe box came with us. In our current house it first took up residence on the counter next to our library of cookbooks. Over the years it moved to a corner of the counter and then to on top of the fridge. We still cook, but I reach for the books more than I do the box. Half the time I’m reaching for one of a dozen pieces of loose paper, recipes that I’ve printed off the internet and stuck in the row of cookbooks because I make them again and again. The size of this stack of loose paper has begun to be ridiculous. Today I realized that loose paper is the reason that recipe boxes were invented. It is a place to collect the recipes.

So I pulled out my little box and I sorted through it. I got rid of all the recipes that I grabbed because I might make them one day. I kept all the things for which I have fond memories. I definitely kept the ones that we continue to make. It was like a walk down memory lane touching all the cards of odd things I collected over the years. There were card given me by people I don’t remember. I vaguely remember that giving me recipes was part of my bridal shower. Some of them came from there. Others were clipped from a cooking magazine that was given to us as a wedding present. But there is no sense in cluttering my life with little pieces of paper because they provoke a vague nostalgia. I cleared it out and made space for things to come.

Now I need to find a program that will let me transcribe recipes so that I can print them on cards, but which will also let me easily duplicate them for other people. My children are going to be heading out into the world to cook for themselves and I’m certain that some of them will be asking for copies of some of the recipes I’ve used. It would be nice to just be able to print those out instead of copying by hand. Except, I did keep one recipe that I’ve never made, because it was in Great Uncle Blake’s shaky handwriting. So perhaps there is value in handwritten cards.

Mostly I like knowing that I have space for things that are useful to me instead of it being occupied by things that are lingering without purpose.