Month: September 2017

Getting the Hang of Home School

I’m taking a much more focused approach to partial home school this year because this year we have the emotional and time resources to do it. Last year we were all just trying not to drown in mental health crises and work stress. This meant that home school was unfocused and mostly served as extra time to manage regular school. Unfortunately last years unfocused partial home school means that my 16 year old is now behind on credits that she needs to graduate. So this year we need to work double time to make up the credits. Add in the fact that my 14 year old is now in ninth grade which means we can’t let him fall behind on credits either. I have to pay attention this year. I have to keep track and make sure they are on track.

I am fortunate in that I don’t have to create curriculum. It is all there in the online classes. However I do sometimes have to acquire materials. This means I have to look ahead so that I acquire the materials before the day we’ll need them. Other wise we end up losing a day.

I’m starting to get the feel of it all. I went and bought a weekly planner so that I could write down which assignments each kid should be doing for which class. They each have two classes, and often do 2-3 assignments per class per day, so it is more to track than I can just carry around in my head. One of the educational goals for this year is to transition this task of tracking assignments from me to the kids. Another is for the 14 year old to learn how to make himself do hard things. More than that, we’re trying to actively practice skills so that he won’t lock up and become unable to work. Hopefully those cognitive skills will then generalize so that he can manage himself better at school as well.

Right now preparing for and running home school stuff is taking a lot of time and brain space. Hopefully as we progress it will take less.

Not Being at an Event

Salt Lake Comic Con is happening this weekend and I am not there. I could have been there. They were willing to put me on panels. Instead I decided that I needed to focus on our currently running Kickstarter, fulfilling our prior Kickstarter (so close to done), and keeping school efforts stable for my two kids who are partially home schooled. I think this was the right decision as those three things are higher priorities in my life than anything I might have gained by attending the event.

And yet…

I see tweets from people I like who are there. They look like they’re having a great time. They say they’re having a great time. I know that social media is giving me the highlights reel. I’m seeing the shiniest moments and none of the exhausting / discouraging ones. But still a portion of my brain whispers that I’m missing out. I could have been there. This is when I remind myself that in order to be there, I would have to give up being here. If I’d gone I would have arrived at Sunday exhausted, in dire need of introvert time, and with a massive sense of guilt that I’d ignored important priorities for three days.

There are times when attending an event meshes well with my ongoing priorities, other times it simply doesn’t. There will be another year, another event. There will be a time when I am tweeting my highlights and someone else will wonder if they are missing out.

For today, I have some household errands to run and packages to ship.

The Value of Creation

In my morning internet wanders, I found an article with this title:

If you write a book that nobody reads, are you really a writer?

My immediate response (which I tweeted) was “Yes. Next question?” Which may be all that needs to be said, but then I discovered I had further non-tweet-sized thoughts.

I believe that all creation transforms the world even if the only person changed by the creation is the creator. When a small child draws hundreds of drawings, we do not call it a waste. We understand that the act of drawing is helping the child learn skills. Some of the skills are tangible in the management of writing tools. Others exist only inside the mind of the child who is using art to help them conceptualize their world. We do not judge the value of a child’s drawing by how many people view it or purchase it.

Yet somehow as adults we try to evaluate (decide the exact value of) our creative endeavors based on dollars earned or attention earned. We lose track of the understanding that creation is valuable in itself. The child’s drawing isn’t made retroactively worthwhile if that child becomes a professional artist who is paid money for their art. Yes we can have goals for publication, readership, and sales of the things we create, but the meeting (or not meeting) of those goals is separate from the intrinsic value of creating the thing in the first place.

Are you a writer if no one reads what you write? Yes. Absolutely.

Things I’m Not Doing

This is my sad flowerbed in front of my house. It is messy with tall weeds that have gone to seed, flowering plants in sore need of being cut back, and dry patches where the plants didn’t get enough water and have simply died. Between Planet Mercenary fulfillment and the August travel I have done no gardening this year. For a time in early summer a pair of my kids were gardening once per week, but that fell apart in July.

The outside of my house is not the only thing to suffer from neglect. Everywhere I look there are maintenance and cleaning tasks which haven’t been done. This is because I’ve been choosing to do other things with my time. I’ve chosen to fulfill promises to Kickstarter backers. I’ve chosen to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I’ve chosen to use my non-working time on relaxation rather than on housework. Over all I think I’ve made the right time management choices, but whether or not they were correct I’m surrounded by the consequences of them.

I’m hoping to have all of the Planet Mercenary Kickstarter fulfillment complete by the end of September. We’re launching a new Kickstarter next week because work doesn’t stop and money must be earned to pay bills. However we’re being careful to structure this new one so that it won’t completely take over all of my creative time. And we plan to have it completely fulfilled by the end of February, so it is time-limited in a way that Planet Mercenary wasn’t. This means that in October I’m going to have space in my schedule and I can decided what to do with it.

Some of that space is already spoken for. I’m partially homeschooling one of my kids. I was last year as well, but this year I’m giving the process more focused attention. The most important thing this kid can learn is how to make himself do stuff that he doesn’t want to do. So I’m providing the framework inside which he can learn that. Intellectually, he’s totally on board and understands what I’m doing. Actually doing the hard things…is different. So he gets a regularly scheduled slice of my full attention.

A portion of that time will go toward household tasks. I hope. The truth is that I’m likely to find another big creative project to dive into. I’m also likely to drift for a bit because I’m now going on ten solid months of massive project push. My brain is tired.

No matter how I choose to spend my time, It is always good to remember that everything I choose to do is at the expense of some other thing I could also do. This is why I must occasionally step back and make sure that my daily usage of time matches my long-term priorities.

Watching Irma Come

When I read the news of a big disaster, I am always sad for those who are affected. Yet sometimes the scale and distance make the event seem impersonal. I know that there are people in Texas who lost everything in Harvey, but I don’t feel a personal grief because I’ve never been to those places and I don’t have any friends who currently live there. This is why the news seeks out individual stories and photos because those personalize the disaster for people like me who don’t have a prior connection to the disaster area.

Irma is different. I’m crying a bit about Irma before the images and stories even happen. Some of the reasons feel small and silly compared to the size of the coming disaster. (And compared to the disaster already created.) But even if they’re insignificant portions of the reasons to grieve, they are pieces of what I feel as I check in on the news to see whether Irma’s track has changed, where she’s going to hit land, how strong she will be.

Twenty four years ago I landed in Sarasota Florida for my honeymoon. Howard grew up there and his siblings still lived in the family home. (They’ve since moved to Utah.) Howard drove me around the neighborhoods where he used to live and the beach at Siesta Key where he spent so many of his summers. We stayed at his grandmother’s condo. As Howard showed me places, he talked about the threat of a hurricane as a fact of life. Some of the houses were built up on stilts in preparation for that event. I remember him telling me that a hurricane was inevitable at some point and that when it came all the buildings on the keys would be scoured away. People knew this. Builders knew this. They built on the keys anyway because the hurricane could be a hundred years away and in the meantime people wanted to enjoy the beauty of the gulf coast. And I can’t say they were wrong to do so. It was beautiful. I’m glad I got to go there. I hope many people got to see it. What the builders and home buyers can’t accurately say is “we didn’t know this would happen.” Because they knew. Everyone in Florida knew, hurricanes always come eventually.

Irma’s current track shows the eye of the storm rolling right over Sarasota or passing just to the west of it. Irma will likely be a Cat 3 hurricane when that happens.

I remember visiting at the house of one of Howard’s friends. It was a beautiful middle class home that would have fit right into the neighborhoods where I grew up, but the back yard did not end in a fence. It ended in a sea wall. I could walk straight out the back door, across 100 feet of lawn, and then jump off that wall into the ocean only about four feet below. It wasn’t open ocean, but a canal-like area with other neighbors across with way who also had a sea wall. And a dock. These houses all had a dock with a small or medium boat. Ten minutes of slow boating would take any one of these people out to open ocean spaces. It was beautiful for an adult, frighteningly fenceless for parenting a toddler. The house was six feet above the high tide line.

The expected storm surge with Irma will be 10-15 feet. That entire house will be underwater and probably scraped away entirely. These people we know will lose everything they didn’t take with them. I hope they evacuated. They had thirty years of living in this idyllic place, but this was always a possibility. I hope they prepared for it.

My brother evacuated from Tampa. He left on Friday morning when the storm track showed Irma rolling over Miami. We were glad that he was going even though at the time it looked like Tampa would probably be fine. Now Tampa will be hit hard and we’re glad he is elsewhere.

Last September, not quite a year ago, I went on a cruise in the Caribbean. We made port at Nassau, the Bahamas, St. Thomas, and St. Martin. All of these islands felt the force of Irma in the past few days. The places I visited and found beautiful are destroyed. It will be years before they are beautiful again.

For all of my life, the name Irma was just my Grandma’s name. It was a name I’d never heard anywhere else. I knew she didn’t like it much. It hadn’t been a fashionable name since before she was born. The name wasn’t passed on to any of her grandchildren or great grandchildren (though her middle name was). I felt a little sad for the name Irma, so unwanted. So I wrote notes for a picture book featuring a little girl named Irma whose name was old-fashioned and who liked old fashioned things. In the book she would doubt herself but learn about individuality. I hoped that the book might give the name Irma some charm. I knew most people would never have heard the name before. Now everyone has heard the name and has a very specific association for it. My little fictional Irma will probably never get her story.

All of this is in my head muddled up together with images of the storm track and of post-hurricane disaster scenes. And yet I don’t have as much cause to grieve as Howard whose childhood locations are about to be scoured away by wind and water. Nor as much cause as the people who currently live there and may lose everything they have. My grief is small, a piece of my experience of today. There is nothing I can do to alleviate the coming damage. So I check in with the storm track, and then I step away and try to appreciate the day and home that I have. I want to enjoy my sunshine, flowers, family. Because some day disaster may strike here instead of elsewhere, and when it does, I’d like to have stored up years of happy living first.

Also, I should review my emergency preparedness supplies. That is also a good use of the day. Because when disaster strikes Utah, it will likely be in the form of an earthquake and we won’t get to see it coming for us. I’m not sure which is better, watching it come slowly and having to make choices about what to lose or having it hit fast and just having to try to salvage. No matter where we live, there is a disaster which could happen and which preparedness could make more survivable.

Stay as safe as you can Florida. Please.

Two Weeks Gone

The second week of school is complete and we’re beginning to see the patterns which are settling into place. It will take several more weeks before the patterns are fully set, but I like the shape of things so far.

High school girl has been stepping up and managing all her things despite (or perhaps because of) a last minute decision to discontinue one of her medicines. She loves most of her classes and hates none of them, which is a very nice change from last year.

Junior High boy isn’t stepping up, but he’s willingly admitting when he doesn’t engage with class. This gives me the chance to communicate with teachers and build structures that require/encourage him to participate instead of hide in a book all day. The home school portions of his schedule are also under way. He’s going to be work all year long, but that is the story of 14 years old. At least this year we’re working with a smart kid who doesn’t want to do “boring” and “pointless” school work. That is much preferable to massive anxiety disorder that reduces boy to minimal functioning and depression.

College girl is discovering that her semester is lining up in exceedingly convenient ways, so that she will be able to be done on campus by December. Also her life is made much better by the fact that one of her roommates is an apartment-complex-approved cat who functions as an emotional support animal to one of the human roommates. Fortunately the cat is quite happy to spread the emotional support to humans beyond his owner.

Post-high-school-non-college boy is living at home and intends to begin applying for jobs since he isn’t ready for college at this point in his life. In the interim, he’s been working for me as a shipping assistant and working on some projects of his own. He’s begun to take charge of things in his own life and has been adulting around the house more. He’s on his own path for launching into independent adulthood and we’re going to give him the space to grow up more for a couple of years.

Howard is home from his month-long travels and has immediately found an exciting new project about which we can’t currently disclose any details. He’s no less busy than he was in the first half of this year, but is far more relaxed and happy with the things he is doing.

I’m spending the month of September shipping packages and finishing off the last details of the Planet Mercenary Kickstarters. I’m also setting up for the products and releases that we’ll need to handle between now and the end of the year. I’m putting more attention and effort into tracking the kids’ educational stuff. I’m finally able to be the back-up to their teachers and provide necessary structure so that the kids can’t get away with not doing their work. By beginning to mid October my schedule is going to open up. I’m going to have spaces like I haven’t had for a year or more. I’m not sure yet what will flow into those spaces.

It all feels …nice. Normal. Not chaotic. Without a foreboding sense that everything is imminently falling apart. All my people seem to have stabilized, which is a really nice change from the past four years. I haven’t had everyone stable simultaneously since late 2012. It feels like that state is going to continue for a while, but whether it does or not, I still get to have this space where things are calm, so I’m going to make sure I take time to pause and notice that things are good.