Month: April 2015

Counting

We’ve gotten to the time of year where I’m counting down days. Less than one day until I fetch Kiki from college. Two days until we have a family excursion in preparation for Pioneer Trek. Five days until my son is supposed to have a big history fair project ready for presentations. Eighteen days until the Kickstarter closes and we switch into creation mode. Nineteen days until the new carpet is installed. Four weeks until school is over for the year and we switch into summer mode, which will also include school, because Link needs to make up credits. There are other things to count toward, but these are the ones that I keep counting even when I try not to. I don’t really want to count these things. I want to be content in the days as they come to me, but getting closer to these landmarks feels like progress.

The good news is that I’m beginning to be able to put my house back in order. The room shifting is mostly accomplished. Now I just need to sort through the displaced items and find them new homes. Or get rid of them. I like getting rid of things. It means I won’t have to clean them up or store them ever again. Having Kiki at home will help with this.

In the meantime I’ll just keep putting on foot in front of the other. If I keep doing that, then eventually I’ll end up somewhere else. I could do with a “somewhere else” that has more routine and fewer mental health issues to manage. Last week I counted the hours I spent on mental health stuff. Fifteen hours. That’s a part time job that I’d love to be able to ditch because everyone was doing better. The good news is that we’ve finished jumping through hoops and having application meetings. Going forward we’ll just be having the appointments which are actually supposed to help instead of the ones which determine what sorts of help we qualify for. I have lots of thoughts on all of this, but I’ve had trouble sorting them into anything coherent. Hopefully that will come back as I put more things in order around here.

Memories of a Room

The end goal for the construction we endured a week ago was to create a room large enough for my two boys to share. They’ve been sharing a room for twelve years, ever since Patch was born, and it worked reasonably well when they had a bunk bed. But a few years ago they felt done with bunk beds. The result was a room that had an aisle for walking, two beds and two dressers. There really wasn’t any space for playing or hanging out. It was where they slept and where they stored their stuff. And they kept getting bigger until we had the largest person in our house and the rapidly growing one crammed together in the smallest bedroom. So I wiggled the finances around and we finished the basement room which used to be my shipping room. When we learned that the carpet would not arrive until mid-May, the boys decided to move into the new room and live with a concrete floor for a few weeks. We moved the essentials and boxed the rest in order to minimize the amount of stuff we’ll have to move back out for carpet install. By noon the furniture was in and the boys were already enjoying their new space.

A strange thing happened as the upstairs room began to empty out, I traveled back in time. The last time I saw the room so empty was when it held a crib and a mattress on the floor for my two little boys. I stood among the boxes and read the history writ on the walls. There were the circles Link drew on the wall and ceiling when he had the top bunk and planned out orbits for his glow-in-the-dark solar system. Next to them was the shadow of a Blues Clues wall sticker, beloved for years and then removed when it became embarrassing. The spot where Link decided to keep score in a game by writing it on the wall. A hundred pin holes because the boy’s default mechanism for hanging things was to steal push pins from my corkboard. My flow of memory was only enhanced by the fact that we dug into the very back corners of their closet. It was an archeological dig back to Link’s much younger years. I had him sort things he wanted to keep into boxes and the rest we discarded or gave away.

I kept it together until Link left his jar of eraser buddies for me to get rid of. I held it up and said “what about these.” He shook his head and said “nah.” I held the little jar in my hand. It had been so important to him eight years ago. I wrote a blog post about the games he played with them during homework time. That was half his lifetime ago and he has become someone else. I sat in the room after Link had gone downstairs. I looked around the room where my little boy used to live. I held one of his treasures in my hands and a wave of sadness rolled over me. I grieve sometimes for the children that are gone. They transformed and became new people. I like who they are. I certainly don’t want them to stop. But sometimes, like today, I cry for a while. And I keep the eraser buddies, even though I know that is a little bit silly.

The new room is so much better for the boys. They have space to be teenagers together. They’ve made plans to acquire a small couch and a monitor so that they can play video games with friends in their room. Link walked with me through IKEA and I could see him thinking about an adult living space. He’s getting excited about chairs they way he used to get excited about toys. Time marches onward. We change and we change our spaces to match our new selves. Next week Kiki will come home and move into the room that was vacated by the boys. She will hang things on the walls and turn that room into something it has never been before. In the near future, probably after Kiki has vacated to return to college, the room will get a new coat of paint and a new carpet. The room my little boy grew up in will transform, just as he did.

My Week in Progress

I’m having the kind of week where I spend all of my hours on important things, but all the work is broken into small portions of time by all of the other work. And none of it is finished, so I know that next week and the week after will be the same way. I feel like I’m failing at all of it, even though I have logical evidence that I am not.

So here are the things that make up my week:

Parenting:
My 17 year old had an emotionally rough week, (depression stinks) which means I had extra time spent trying to help him, extra consultations with professionals, ongoing appointments to set up support structures which are supposed to help, but thus far have only created extra burden in testing and appointments.

My 12 year old has a history fair project. It is big. I have to make sure he does all the research and then we will have to do all the preparation and construction. This big project is not his only homework. I know some of it is being missed because he is not good at tracking and I am distracted.

The Kickstarter:
We’re really excited that it has hit several stretch goals. Hopefully it will hit many more. For the duration of its run Howard and I are answering questions, corresponding with backers, and preparing new things for people to see. We’re also reaching out and trying to spread the word. All of this spills over into all of the brain space that we need to be using for other things, because the other things do not stop.

Design work:
Right now much of this is in support of the Kickstarter. But it is separate work from what it takes to actually manage the Kickstarter itself. The fast turn around necessary to have things to show to backers is hard on my brain.

Shipping and customer support:
I can’t allow the urgency of the Kickstarter make me neglect the good people who need help or who have ordered things through our store. They’re they people who keep the lights on around here. I have to set aside time for them.

Accounting:
There are bills to pay and reports to file. If I don’t keep on top of the numbers then my anxiety goes up and we make mistakes in our planning. The outcome of the Kickstarter is a giant question mark in my accounting plans for the rest of the year. I’m trying to ignore the question mark and just pay the bills.

Remodeling:
We haven’t had any construction this week, but we still have piles of things sitting in working and living spaces. This negatively impacts my ability to think clearly and makes me house grouchy. Word is that the carpet won’t be ready to install until mid-May. I can’t wait that long to clear away the piles, so Saturday is going to be a shifting things day.

Staying sane:
I’ve been operating under strain for quite some time. In the past few weeks I’ve been taking deliberate steps to strengthen myself. This involves getting together with friends who are in the same emotional place, attending a support group, reading scriptures, reading in general, and taking time off. This is all important. It is the only way I can continue to carry all the things. But it takes time in an already time-stressed week.

Add to all that the regular things such as laundry, random phone calls from people who only want a minute of my time, and the fact that my kids have decided that digging holes is the new cool thing, which means I have dirt everywhere. (They track it in, then their sweeping is inadequate.) I want to do all the things well. Instead I’m managing to do the most important ones adequately. I’m fairly certain that somewhere up ahead is a week that is less busy. I’ll enjoy that when I get there. For right now, I need to get back to work.

April Photo a Day Part 3

This is the third week of my photo a day project.

Sign
Sign
(We had some remodeling done. I recommend these people if you’re local. They were pleasant, worked quickly, and did good work.)

Texture
Texture

Underneath
Underneath

Wrinkled
Wrinkled
(Yes that is my eye. I need to get some new author photos taken so that people can see the wrinkles I’ve earned.)

Blue
Blue

Tiny
Tiny

Tiny 2
Tiny also
(I did two photos for tiny because I liked both of these. What you see are lady bug larvae in the process of metamorphosis. For some reason this particular curb is the popular place for ladybugs this year.)

Fun
Fun
(That’s Gleek on her way to church. I didn’t notice until she was far ahead of me that she’d brought her parasol. It made me smile. She is such her own person and decides for herself what is cool and not.)

Working for Pay

It was a lecture I’d given before. It felt like I was always giving it to no effect, but any time my kids began pouting because they didn’t have money to buy what they wanted, the lecture just falls right out of my mouth. I can’t help it, because it is infuriating that I spend weeks trying and trying to get my kids to do work. I offer them money. I offer them more money than the job is actually worth because I really want someone else to do it, because I can’t to all of the things by myself. I practically beg “Please take this money and make this dumb task go away.” They always decide not to. They don’t want anything right that minute, so they would rather play. Or maybe they do want something, but they don’t want THAT job. Or they want one job that will give them all of they money they need instead of seeing that multiple small jobs can add up to a lot of money. So they decide not to work. And then a few weeks or months later they come and be sad at me because life is not fair and they never get anything they want. Then they get the lecture about the value of work and why small jobs are worthwhile with a side order of the importance of planning ahead.

So Gleek was sad about not having a mermaid tail. She’d spent her birthday money on other things and been happy at the time, but today the lack of funds to buy a tail was tearful. And the lecture fell out of my mouth and landed on her. It made her sad/mad. But then something happened which has not happened before. She slammed out of the house and mowed the front lawn. Lawn mowing is one of the standard paid work jobs that I’m having to beg kids to do. As she mowed, she did math in her head. She asked questions about whether she could also take over mowing sections of the back yard. I told her about other work that I’d be delighted to have her do.

Only time will tell if she actually sticks to her plan of earning money week after week. I really hope she does. I could use the willing help. I would also be relieved if I could see my kids recognizing that they have to work for the things they want.

Addendum: I should note that my college age daughter, Kiki, does understand that work is necessary. It is the three live-at-home kids who have yet to grasp the concept.

Scattered Attention and Updates

When I wrote about how noisy it was in my head and in my house I thought the noise would subside more quickly than it has. The internet noise shifted tone, but did not cease. Which doesn’t surprise me. The internet is always noisy and outraged about some thing. It just bothered me more this time around because the arguments punched some of my personal anxiety buttons. The construction work we were having done to finish a room for my boys is complete. We now have a room that will be ready for occupation as soon as carpet is installed. The quieting of these things has been significantly offset by the fact that we launched our Kickstarter. Then it funded in less than 24 hours. Now I’m hoping very much that we reach the $150,000 stretch goal so that we can afford to create and print the in-world book 70 Maxims for Maximally Effective Mercenaries. I’m also buried under huge piles of email and the more people who back the project the more email rolls in. My email response time has gone way down and I feel bad about that because the backers deserve better.

On the parenting front, we appear to have reached a stable place. I’m no longer having to respond to emotional crisis multiple times per week. I feel a bit cautious saying that, we haven’t been stable long enough for me to feel secure. I’m also aware that this stable place is not a place we want to stay. There is a big difference between “not in crisis” and “living a full and growth-filled life.” Even with the increased quiet my time and attention are being impacted with extra meetings, managing homeschooling, and figuring out how to switch everything over to a summertime mode. Meanwhile my other son’s teacher seems determined to squeeze in all the assignments she didn’t get done earlier. The onslaught of homework is significant, particularly for my son who has been feeling overwhelmed. Also my teenage daughter has had some standard issue teen drama to work through. (Can I say how light and fluffy that felt to me in comparison to what I’ve helped kids through in the last two years? I kind of want to hug her emotional drama and shout “It’s so fluffy!” like that little girl in Despicable Me.) My college daughter comes home in two weeks and I’m really hoping the carpet is installed in time for me to move the boys out of the room where she’ll be staying.

One of the exciting things this week was that Howard and I decided that I need to be at GenCon this year. We’re running and RPG Kickstarter and then I’m helping make the book. There are things about a community that can only be understood by participating in that community. So off to GenCon I go. Hopefully sometime between now and then I’ll find a way to re-open the writer portions of my brain which have been shut down since some emotional stuff slammed me the first week of March. If nothing else, I’ll get to hang out with all the writer people at GenCon and I’ll get to see our booth crew whom I’ve only had the chance to meet once. I’m really looking forward to it.

April Photo a Day Part 2

Here are my photos from this week:
Colorful
05colorful

Peaceful
06peaceful

On My shelf
07onmyshelf
(Yes that is a pokeball. All sorts of stuff accumulates on my bedside table. This is actually more organized than usual. I sorted the piles a few weeks ago, which is why the pens are neatly together rather than strewn among stacked notebooks and papers.)

Action Shot
08actionshot

Modern
09modern

A Favorite Snack
10afavoritesnack

Friend
11friend
(There were more friends who came to help with the shooting of the kickstarter video, but this was the artsiest shot.)

Natural
12natural

Meal Habits

“Yeah. We don’t really have dinner at my house.” Gleek said into the phone. I’d been aware that she was talking to a friend, but hadn’t really been listening to her conversation. But that phrase jumped out at me and latched onto all my parenting guilt.
“I mean, mom makes food and calls us to eat it, but half the time, by time I get there the food is cold.” as Gleek said this, she turned and saw that I was listening. “It’s my own fault,” she rushed to say. “My mom calls me like 3-4 times. She’s a good mom.”

I thought about her words as Gleek continued to converse with her friend. I thought about the family meals we do have. Yes they’re more rare than the other kind, but they exist. I also thought of the other ways in which Howard and I deliberately draw our family together, creating bonding experiences. Yet I feel guilty about the lack of regular mealtimes. I worry about the fact that so much of what we eat is quick-fix food instead of planned and cooked from raw ingredients. This is one of the casualties of Howard and I both being stretched thin to cover all the jobs we have to do. And I’m not just talking about the jobs relating to our income. We’ve had a heavier load of mental health management in the past few months. That takes a toll.

I don’t foresee a grand improvement in our eating habits in the next three weeks. Howard and I are buried in pre-Kickstarter tasks. Then we’ll be buried in Kickstarter management. But next week the construction will be done on the previously unfinished basement room which will now be a bedroom. In three weeks Kiki will come home and I’ll have my live in business assistant again. Only a week or two beyond that and the school year will begin winding up. Some of the things that have been eating my energy will go on hiatus. Better meal planning can fit into the created space. I know it can because it has done so before and it will again.

Some months we eat too much frozen pizza. Other months we plan and cook meals in advance. In both cases we’re balancing needs against available time, energy, and finances. No matter I feel about our eating habits, I can be glad that I have a daughter who is socially aware enough to see that I’m listening and to give me a verbal vote of confidence.

Preparing for Planet Mercenary

PM-KickstarterPre-Announce.FINAL.web

As the picture says, next Tuesday we’ll be launching our Kickstarter funding drive for Planet Mercenary The RPG. We’ve been excited about this project for quite a while. The thing about running a Kickstarter is that you do all the work to prepare for it, so you can do all the work to run it, so that you can do all the work to create the product, so you can do all the work to deliver on your promises. The whole thing is made out of work and worry. Yet we love this idea. We love the game mechanic that Alan Bahr has created. We love the art that we’ve already got. We’re really excited to see the rest of the art when we have the money to fund it. We’re excited by the stretch goals we’ve got planned. I am really looking forward to holding a book in my hands and knowing that I helped to make it happen.

Today my part of making it happen meant I had to go clean up space in our warehouse/office so that Howard and a crew can film the Kickstarter video. So I spent several hours collapsing boxes and putting things away. I found the piles left over from running a booth at LTUE in February. And some of the stacks of boxes were still sitting around from the massive shipping in November and December. Cleaning was definitely overdue.

Warehouse before

The good news is that most of what was jumbled around is recyclable cardboard. Even better, there is a transfer station down the road which is glad to see all the cardboard we can bring. The warehouse hasn’t looked this good in a long time.

Warehouse after

Tomorrow morning Howard and I will go dress up the front office so that tomorrow afternoon friends can help us film. I’m quite glad we have experienced friends to help, because last time for a Kickstarter video we had me, a camera, Howard in the front room, and no editing. We’ll do better this time.