Month: September 2021

New Spaces

I have friends who are traveling this week. So many of them chose the same week to escape their regular lives and go to other places. As near as I can tell they did not consult together in advance, and this week is not a holiday. I wonder what confluence brought them all to decide on this week for their trips. Perhaps this is when it finally felt safe, after the summer vacation surge, before the weather turned cold. I like seeing their photos and recognizing how each of them is navigating the interactions of their wanderlust and the ongoing pandemic. Not surprising that seeing their various photos and locations has me wishing for a trip of my own. I would like to go somewhere, be in a new place, see new sights. Instead I reserve the funds I would use on travel for other purposes. One kid needs a medical therapy which isn’t covered by insurance, another has a surgery sometime in the early part of next year, a third is talking about giving college a try next fall. And then there is the kitchen remodel. So I will continue to enjoy the photos of my friends and try to schedule some day trips where the only cost is gas money and some time. Though time can be expensive for a self-employed person with deadlines.

I can’t afford to travel to new places, not without giving up things which matter to me more, but I can make my existing places be new. At least a little bit. One thing we’ve done was removing a thirty year old walnut tree from its spot beside the patio. The tree was afflicted with thousand cankers disease and has been slowly dying for the past several years.

Back of a house with a small wooden deck and a patio. Tree in the foreground with 3/4 of its branches dead.

It is a little hard to see, but most of the green at the top of the frame are branches from a neighboring honey locust tree. The walnut tree’s branches were mostly dead. This spring it sprouted new branches directly from its trunk in a burst of survival panic. By August, most of those leaves had started yellowing and falling.

Before giving the okay for my neighbor to cut it down, I put my hand against the cool bark of the trunk and apologized to the tree that we couldn’t save it. I planted this tree myself twenty years ago and it was a glorious shade tree for most of those years. Our patio looks different now. I’m still getting used to the newly open vista and I will miss the enclosed feeling that the tree gave to the patio even though it was mostly bare trunks and bare branches. We’re talking about how to re-frame the space. Perhaps we’ll put in raised beds for herbs, tomatoes, and strawberries now that we have a spot with full sun from noon onward.

And we did end up with a serendipitous patio end table. We’ve ordered some end sealant to help it dry out without splitting, so over time we should get to have a heavy-duty ornament for our patio. The other logs may also be turned into various projects. Walnut is good wood, and we’d like to be able to remember the tree with something.

Another space I’ve begun renewing is my downstairs office. After my meandering post of the other day, I started making small changes, cleaning up piles, removing accumulated empty boxes. This is the spot with the dresser I plan to remove where I intend to install my faux window.

Couch divides the middle of a jumbled office space with a reading nook to one side and a working desk on the other.

Perhaps if I post a photo of the “before” state of my office that will help me stay motivated to change things enough to create a satisfying “after” photo. It is a valid hypothesis. We’ll see if it works.

Honestly, my life is full of good things. I have a nice house. I have a green space around my house that lets me feel the breeze, sit with trees, and look at mountains. Even if it is a long time before I can afford to travel anywhere, I will not be lacking.

My Office Home

I have an office, a room in my house that I can arrange however I wish. Sometimes I tend the arrangement of my office space, making plans, moving things around, trying to balance the necessary things with the beautiful things and with the items which have drifted into my space because they don’t have anywhere else to belong yet. My office ends up being an eddy in the household. A place where random things come to rest. These things accumulate until the space is so cluttered as to be almost unusable. I sometimes tell myself that this is why I don’t use my office much. It is too cluttered.

I have a secondary office in the front room. It is a chair sitting next to a TV table piled with my laptop, my phone charging station, stacks of books I intend to read, notebooks I grab for writing thoughts down, and loose papers where I wrote notes when I couldn’t get to a notebook fast enough. This space is unlovely, but contained. I sit in it every day, seamlessly moving from household administration to creative work. All the other people in the household walk into this space and talk to me. They don’t intend to interrupt my work, but the space is public. It is where they come to eat and be social. On the third time I’m interrupted mid-written-sentence, I wonder why I don’t retreat to my office, to a space that is more private where they’ll think before intruding. But it feels dark down there in the basement, despite the cheerful yellow paint on the walls. Despite the art I selected and arranged. Despite the leaf trim I hand painted which adorns the top edge of the room. Lack of windows and natural light is another reason I give for not using my office.

I have a plan about my windowless office. I heard of a means to make a faux window. I bought the supplies from the light board to the curtains. All the pieces are sitting there among the other clutter. Waiting for me to move the dresser, so I can remove and re-space the shelves, which will let me reorganize the books, which will let me install the faux window, and create a cozy space that I will surely start using. I can put the cozy faux-fireplace space heater right under the window. That would be the same heater I bought to make the space feel cozy so that I would start using the space more. I keep trying to lure myself down there. It keeps not quite succeeding.

My desktop computer resides in my office. I sit at it to print postage, to do the weekly accounting, to work on layout and graphic design. I sit there several hours per week, sometimes as many as twenty or thirty hours per week depending on the shape and urgency of projects. I sit at the desk covered with stacks of paper intended to remind me of coming tasks, next to my arrangement of small artworks on the wall. Most of the art is small prints or originals purchased directly from artists at conventions. They make me happy when I remember to look at them instead of focusing on the work in front of me.

In the other corner is the rocking chair which used to live in my baby’s room. All four babies in turn were rocked in that chair, and then it was shuffled from corner to corner of the house after children no longer needed to be rocked. I supposed it makes sense that it ended up in my office when I wasn’t willing to let the chair go, even though all the babies had become adults. I sit in that chair every week for two hours while I attend an online writer’s date. My writer friends see this little corner with its library of books and the wooden carved mask which we bought on our trip to South Africa in 1999, another object that ended up in my office because it carried to much emotional freight for us to let it go, but for which we couldn’t find any other place in the house for it to belong.

So I guess I do use my office. I use it for specific tasks and to store specific things. Yet it feels like I don’t. It feels like I sit in the front room, in the sunshine, and in different clutter than my office clutter, trying to write where people will walk through and talk to me. And when they do, I wonder to myself why I don’t go sit in my office. I wonder, but I don’t get up and move.

I have a tertiary office. It is my bedroom, one corner of which I’ve turned into a Zoom space. I painted that corner of the room a different color from the rest and put up decorative shelves where they can be seen on camera. Carefully placed beautiful objects adorn the space. That little corner makes me happy to see when I look at it from my bed. It isn’t comfortable for working (hence sitting downstairs for my weekly writer dates), but it is perfect for attending Zoom meetings and virtual parties. I love my Zoom corner.

Sometimes I sit on my bed to write. I prop up all the pillows and open the blinds so that I can see out into my back garden with its trees. From that spot I can stare out the window, or look at my Zoom corner. It is a quiet space where people won’t interrupt me as easily. My use of this tertiary space lends credence to the theory that the problem with my office might actually be the lack of windows. I crave natural light, particularly in the winter months.

I imagine a hypothetical office someday. Perhaps when I can claim a bedroom back from one of my children after they leave home. I imagine an office which combines all the best parts of my current offices. With a designated shelf for books I intend to read, a desk specifically for letter writing and crafting, comfortable lounging spaces for writing, natural light streaming in the window, and art I selected for myself.

If I had this hypothetical office, would I use it all the time? Or is it something else that draws me to do so much work while sitting exactly where everyone can easily interrupt me? Perhaps I have a habit of always being available because I spent so many years being the on-call parent when my kids were small. Perhaps it is in response to the fact that Howard and I have a collaborative process made up of a dozen small creative meetings throughout the day where we round up the thoughts from the just-finished task and open up the thoughts for what comes next. Perhaps it is knowing that I have to catch my people in the moments when they are in between if I want to talk to them at all. So I lurk in the place they pass through.

I don’t actually have answers, I don’t need answers, but I find the behavioral observation of myself interesting. I have three office spaces, but all of them are some level of shared. I could retreat more often than I do, but I tend not to. I could claim spaces and set boundaries around them more firmly, but I don’t. Mostly it works. I’m able to create and think and administer. So my process may be scattered and strange, but It isn’t actually a problem. I guess I’ll keep flowing with it until the need for something else emerges.

Post-Kickstarter Seeking Normal

The Kickstarter closed at a number where we get some money to pay for living expenses the next few months (rather than a number where we scramble for living expenses while paying for new inventory.) I aggressively rested for most of the weekend, watching lots of Netflix, taking naps, and eating more ice cream than was good for me. Now it is Monday morning and I feel like I’m trying to wake up. It is that hazy part where I know I have things planned for the week, but I can quite remember what they are or why they’re important. I look at my lists and think “Oh right. That was my plan.” Then I close the list and within ten minutes I’ve forgotten what the plan was. This is a sign that my executive function is still tired and that I should take tasks slowly and one at a time.

My process for today: Look at list. Pick one thing from list. Start doing the thing. Hopefully finish the thing. Maybe get distracted by some other thing. Eventually find myself uncertain what I should be working on. Check list again. Repeat.

I’ll get some stuff done, but I won’t be particularly efficient about it. Which is fine. If I repeat this mode of functioning for a few days and be kind to myself, eventually I’ll find myself in a day where my brain starts holding the lists again. Executive function will have come back online. That’s when I’ll be excited to tackle new projects, read new books, have new thoughts. Until then I’m bumbling my way through.

Final Days for XDM2e Kickstarter

As of this writing there are only three days left on the X-treme Dungeon Mastery Second Edition Kickstarter.

Tracy and Curtis Hickman’s XDM X-treme Dungeon Mastery Illustrated by Howard Tayler

This final run of days on a Kickstarter is always exciting and exhausting. On Friday at 10am Mountain Time I will know exactly how much budget we have to work with and I’ll know exactly what we’ve promised to deliver. Then we can settle into working on all of that. I will be able to reassign the energy I’ve been spending on promotional work to other tasks.

But for today, I’m still in promotional mode, so I’m making sure that my blog readers know about this project in its final days. I love what we’re creating. I’m excited that we reached the stretch goal for the audiobook. I’m hopeful we’ll reach the goal where Howard livestreams the creation of the illustrations for the book. I’d also love for us to be able to add spot gloss to the cover, though that is a real stretch. $20 gets you a PDF of the book, a PDF of the Quest for the Tavern adventure module, some desktop backgrounds, the option to also buy the audiobook, and possibly the PDF for the Attack on Santa’s Workshop adventure module. Or you can get yourself a hardback book and all those other things as well.