Month: August 2021

New Normal, Old Normal

A year ago any discussion about the future included speculation about what the “new normal” would look like. Those discussions have changed shape around the question “Is this it? Is what we’re living the new normal?” The answer to that question is yes because normal has always been a mirage, a fantasy, an illusion that life is in any way predictable. We try to make it predictable for our own comfort, because constantly paying attention to and emotionally managing a shifting world is exhausting. If we can find a routine for schooling or work or chores, then at least that small portion of our lives can just happen without us having to think to much about it. I now carry a mask with me and put in on in public places without thinking about it. I give people more distance. I spread out social contacts so that I can tell if I caught something before I have the chance to spread it unawares. I’m accustomed to random shortages, for some reason there are no pickles for three weeks, then they are back. I’m shifting my own book printing stateside so that none of my products have to traverse the snarled mess of global container shipping. All of these things do require a small modicum of attention, but I’ve become accustomed to giving that attention. It is normal for me to adapt on the fly to regular shifts in product availability, Covid numbers, and local mandates. All sorts of little things are less predictable than they used to be, but that lack of predictability has become predictable, and therefore normal.

My son was not diagnosed with autism until he was 18 years old. We went through all the emotions, regrets, relief, and fears which attend upon such a late adjustment in comprehension of what was affecting my son’s interactions with the world. I was baffled by how a kid could have full psychological/behavioral assessments seven times as he was growing up and not one of the supposed experts recognized the autism. He was screened for autism on multiple occasions and the result was “probably not.” The flaw was that those screening tests depended on me, the parent, stating the severity of behaviors and how disrupting the behaviors were to our life. The thing was, we’d already adapted to those behaviors, they were normal and manageable for us. That came across in the screening test. They were absolutely indicative of my son having autism AND they were entirely normal for us so that we thought nothing of them. Our household normal looked very different from the normal in other households. This continues to be true as my three fledgling adults are just beginning to flap their wings while depending on the security of the nest for survival.

I think about normal as learn and collect information for the accessibility appendix in XDM2e. I exchanged messages with a Game Master who has been blind since birth and was wondering how to deploy maps that they can’t see in their games to help their sighted players. In this person’s world being sighted is the oddity and blindness is completely normal. The same holds true for wheelchair users and deaf people. They know exactly how to navigate the world using their capabilities. Their normal is different from mine, but it is still normal. Just as my parenting normal has been very different from other parents I know. And my current normal is different from the normal of the pre-pandemic times. In fact the ability to create normal might be a survival trait for humans. In order to not be overwhelmed, we start classifying things as “normal” so that we can not be exhausted paying attention to them all the time.

I wish I had a grand conclusion to make of these meandering thoughts, but all I have to offer is that normality, whether new or old, is a strange and illusory thing.

Musing on the Past Week

The week began smoky as storm systems and air flow carried smoke from fires in California and Oregon into my valley to sit. Some days it was inadvisable to spend much time outside and the asthma sufferers in my house had to use their inhalers more often. I tried to capture a photo of the way the smoke turned the moon red. I only sort-of succeeded.

Grainy photo of red half moon in a dark sky with some trees silhouetted below it.

When the rains blew in, we were so glad to have relief from the smoke, and we were happy to have brief monsoon bursts where water poured down in sheets. Not typical desert weather. My pandemic patio turned into a wading pool for a couple of hours.

Three red plastic chairs standing in an inch of water on a paver-stone patio. Raindrops are making rings in the water.

The rain also showed me that I need to get up on a ladder and unclog my rain gutters since they still seem to be full of water days later (and reflecting sunlight onto the side of my house) instead of funneling that water to the down spouts.

The week also included a trip to the vet for my old lady kitty to talk about what to feed her to keep her kidneys in good working order, followed by changing the feeding patterns for all three cats to accommodate old lady kitty’s needs. I softened the stress of feeding changes by also acquiring some interesting new toys which the younger cats both love.

My Saturday was consumed by the acquisition of a large china cabinet that is eventually destined for my front room.

Large dark wood china cabinet with two glass doors, two glass sides, a mirrored back, and glass shelves. Five foot wide, six foot tall, 2 foot deep.

It is big. Several times during the process of extricating it from my neighbor’s downstairs and trundling it down the street to my house I pondered the wisdom of my impulse acquisition. But I’ve wanted a way to display some of my grandmother’s antique glass while still protecting it from the cats and my neighbor was only asking $100, so I grabbed the opportunity. It will have to sit in the garage until after some of the work that needs to be done on the kitchen is complete. And possibly I’ll discover that this is not the right furniture for the space, in which case I’ll have acquired a task instead of a solution, but wise or not, that’s how I spent my Saturday.

It is now Sunday afternoon, which means I’m in the middle of twenty four hours when I try to step away from work to rest from my labors. I’m better at this than I used to be when so much of my work behavior was anxiety driven. My weekends are still frequently busy, but they tend to be differently busy. I switch gears into house or family instead of business and internet. Thus I am writing a post about my week instead of clicking over to XDM2e files. The files can wait until tomorrow.

The Shores of Saturday

I have landed on the shores of Saturday like a beached jellyfish. At least I think it is Saturday. Time has gone wobbly and slippery for me. Perhaps in a while the tide will return and I’ll be able to move again, but for this morning I’ve had little energy for anything except laying in a limp puddle.

The XDM2e Kickstarter funded. I’m so glad it funded. Next week I will be excited for and pour energy into talking to the world about the stretch goals we have planned. Extra things we get to do if the project over funds. Funding means we can afford to do the project. Over funding means we can afford to pay for the time we’ve poured into making this project happen and for bills and living expenses in the coming months. We are really well positioned to meet those stretchy goals. Four more weeks of excitement and promotional push lay ahead of me. Which is why it is so important to spend the rest of this weekend doing very little at all.

One of the joys from last week was that a friend came to stay with us for two days. We got to have a fellow writer in the house, like having our own little mini convention/retreat. We shared food and visited and then retreated to our computers where she worked on a script and I frantically drafted information to explain international shipping costs to a potential backer who was quite certain that my price point meant I was running a scam to overcharge on shipping and thus get rich on ill-gained proceeds. Or I wrote tweets to draw eyeballs to the project. Or I coordinated things behind the scenes to arrange for meetings or make decisions or give copy to copy editors.

At one point Howard sent friend and me on a scenic drive up the Alpine Loop road. I hadn’t realized how much I needed the silence of aspen forest until I was standing there in the company of trees.

And then on the return drive we had the delight of discovering that someone had deposited a recliner chair at a scenic overlook. When life presents you with a roadside recliner with a view, one simply has to take a minute to sit in the chair.

Just beyond the sagebrush was a drop into a canyon where we could look down on a campsite below. And of course we could also look out over the mountains.

Just looking at these pictures helps me feel less like a beached jellyfish and more like something that can pick myself up and move under my own power again. Perhaps I need to schedule another trip to the mountains for next week. A chance for me to see new things and remember that the world is larger than my house. Also to step away from the constant urgency of funding a Kickstarter project.

Mountain vistas are good.

Kickstarter Launch Tomorrow

Tomorrow morning we launch the Kickstarter for X-treme Dungeon Mastery Second Edition. All day I’ve been carrying a feeling about it. I really want this Kickstarter to fund well so that we can finish pouring our energy and creativity into this book. I’ve had so much fun doing the work and I want to get to finish it. I also want to be able to pay our bills. A well funded Kickstarter enables both.

We’ve prepared everything. Now we just have to wait until morning. And then I have to spend energy pushing the launch. Then I have to wait and see. Until morning, I’ll be quietly jittering over here in my chair.