Sandra Tayler

What I Owe on Juneteenth

I am a white person with long ancestral lines in the deep south. Though I haven’t done the genealogical work to confirm it, I’m 100% certain that I have ancestors who owned slaves here in the United States. I’m thinking about that on Juneteenth and pondering what I might owe. I do believe I owe something even though my ancestors were mostly poor or middle class and had no wealth to pass to me.

I don’t owe anything backward. I can’t make up for the past, particularly not events which happened before I was born. Instead I owe forward. I owe to the people of color who live in the world around me today and all the ones my life may touch in the future. I am responsible to use the privilege that I have, some of which comes to me by racist policies and systems, to make the world more fair.

Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom. It is a moment to reflect on how systems keep on rolling along unless people come along and spread the news “oh by the way, you’re free.” It is a moment for me to recommit to taking anti-racist actions in my life to change the world for the better. That is what I owe.

Working with My Kids

Shipping season is a familiar experience for all of us here at Chez Tayler. When the kids were little the experienced it as an influx of chicken nuggets and fast food. Now they’re my work crew so they experience it as work days …after which I buy them fast food. I don’t know how much longer I’ll have only my adult children on the payroll. A few of them are poised to launch into college classes and other jobs in ways that will make them unavailable to me. But for this time, it is only Taylers at the warehouse. I felt a little nostalgic about that possibility as I drove them over, as if this might be the end of an era. Which it might very well be. I don’t know what is coming. I don’t know that they’ll be available next time I hit shipping season. Which leads me to want to savor this experience a bit. (While also shipping packages out efficiently.)

I’ve spent some time thinking about past shipping seasons and the variations I’ve had for my crew of workers. The times when one or more of them was not in a good mental health place to work. The times when they didn’t know how to be good workers and they melted down mid-work in ways that made more work for me. I contrast those memories with what happened on Monday when, yes, two of my three workers hit mental break points (one depressive, one sensory over-stimulated) which caused them to need to stop working earlier than planned. But they were able to articulate the need, and they were able to manage it so that the impact to actual work completion was minimized to one less body in the assembly line rather than full disruption for crisis management. My kids have come a very long way and we all have better emotional coping skills than we used to.

I like working on shared projects with my kids. I like seeing them take ownership of their work station and optimize for not only their efficiency, but also to help the stations on either side of them also be efficient. Whatever comes next, it is nice to have this particular shipping season. We’ll ship things out again on Friday.

Thoughts on My Current Relationship with Blogging

I was thinking this morning about why I’ve been posting less here on One Cobble, looking at my discernible behavior and trying to think on the reasons behind it. Some of it is definitely a lack of contemplative time. My life has filled up with tasks, commitments, and community connections. All of those things keep my brain very engaged with less time for thoughts to percolate. Yet I think the larger impact is the emphasis I’ve placed on community building in the past year. More of my thoughts are emerging in conversations and less in solitary writing. This makes me a little anxious because part of my brain believes that if I don’t pin words, thoughts, experiences down into writing they become lost. It isn’t true of course. Every conversation I have shapes who I am and who I am becoming whether I consciously remember the conversation or not. I don’t need to be a hoarder of my own experiences, making sure that every moment is pinned down and available for later access. Especially since the larger a hoard grows the less able I am to find anything in it. Unless I make some sort of an indexing system and I become a librarian of the hoard of my experiences. All of which sounds like a lot of work facing inward and backward.

Well that was a digression that almost feels like a story prompt. *Makes a note and returns to the blog post at hand*

I’m really loving the community building work. I love the instant feedback of it and the reciprocal nature of it. I strongly believe that building connections with other people is one of the best impulses humanity has. It is how we all thrive together. Yes it can also be how we injure each other or even destroy each other (I’ve ready the AITA reddit) but I only see people extricate themselves from toxic situations when they have some other connective thread to follow. The community I’m actively helping form right now is the one on our Discord server (which you can join here: https://discord.gg/XtTfJwcP The link will expire in 7 days, but if you come along later and would like an invite, use my contact page to ping me and I’ll get you a new link.) The Discord community is still finding its footing, but it has been a joy to interact with.

Another community that I’m actively building is the Writing Excuses Workshop and Retreat which sets sail on a cruise ship in September. There is a special magic in having a group of writers be literally all in the same boat. I have Covid worries about both of the big in-person events I’ll be doing later this year, but I also REALLY miss the community that I haven’t been able to see in person for years. I love being part of the structural work necessary to make this event happen. This year I’m the front line customer support person and I’ve really enjoyed digging in, finding answers, and solving problems.

In my efforts to write this post I’ve had multiple long conversations on Discord, a business meeting with Howard to discuss the priorities for today, three email exchanges, a scheduling conversation with one of my kids, and two googling distractions. …I think I might have figured out another reason I haven’t written as many blog posts. My life is rich and full of important / joyful things. I’ll take this existence over those emotional-processing-heavy first months of the pandemic. Even if it means fewer blog posts.

But I do want to do better about writing more blog posts.

A Tweet Thread I Haven’t Posted Yet

This morning a friend linked The Onion website. They had filled their front page with iterations of the article they post every time there is a mass shooting. Twitter link wasn’t giving the visual of the page so I stitched together an image for twitter.

Seeing the same article over and over with different locations really hit me. It hit a lot of people. My tweet of that image has 10k retweets and counting.

Around 2000 retweets I muted the conversation, because the conversation isn’t about me or about the image I put up. People aren’t talking to me. They’re doing the same thing I did, borrowing a visual to help them express their pain.

Because this hurts. When I encounter public pain, I find myself thinking back to a post I wrote just after the 2016 US election and then re-posted in 2020 when we were all aghast at the George Floyd video. https://www.onecobble.com/2020/06/01/pain-in-its-first-moment-reprint-from-2016/

Maybe that’s why The Onion’s display of repeated articles speaks to me. I too have words that I wrote and return to because the incident of pain changes, but in my effort to understand the new hurt, I land in the same emotional place.

One of the criticisms I saw before I muted the thread was that The Onion’s posting was just as performative and useless as empty statements of “thoughts and prayers.” I disagree.

There is power in repetition, in returning to the same words over and over writing them on our minds and our hearts. We return to this same article and are TIRED of returning to the same article. So we ask ourselves, what can I do to not have to be faced with this article again?

For me the answer is to do as Shep advised, adopt a cause: https://twitter.com/NeolithicSheep/status/1529416308219060224

Shepherd@NeolithicSheepPick one fight that calls to you. Trust that other competent people have got the others. Boost their voices, send $5 when you can, but otherwise let go of any belief that you are necessary to every fight.

And follow that up with this second piece of smart advice: you can’t fight all of the fights: https://twitter.com/NeolithicSheep/status/1529417194614013952

Shepherd@NeolithicSheepWe need you in *A* fight. But it is not humanly possible for you to be in every fight. So, yknow, pick your battle and throw yourself into it with a whole and joyful heart.

For today, I’m letting people in that first Onion thread have their moment of pain undisturbed. Many of us are not our best selves today. It is hard to be our best selves in the first moment of pain.

And I am taking time to remind myself of the causes I’ve picked so I can funnel my “must do something” energy into places where I have the best lever.

A Matching Joy

Look who stopped by today!

A scrub jay sitting on a deck railing with a peanut in his beak.

I was rolling a garbage can to the curb this morning when I heard the familiar scream of a jay. I went to sit on my back patio and within a couple of minutes, Screm flew by and landed on the rain gutter to stare at me. I got him peanuts and he collected them all in minutes. I’m so happy! He’s fine. Screm and Lurk just picked a different nesting site and have probably been hanging out really close to it for the past several weeks. In another week or two they’ll probably be bringing fledglings with them to say hello.

A Small Sadness

A scrub jay sitting on the arm of a patio chair with a peanut in his mouth.

I think the avian flu may have gotten my blue jay friends and I’m sad. They are such beautiful, bossy, inquisitive, and active birds. We’d named them Screm and Lurk. They nested in the pine tree right next to our front porch last year. Usually when we put out peanuts, they show up and claim the nuts within five minutes, I’ve had nuts out untouched for two days. I miss them and I hope they’re okay.

Admin Season

Admin season always sneaks up on me. It is how I describe those periods of time when I’m living by my task list and paying attention to dozens of small administrative tasks all day long. This time I was at least ten days into admin season before I realized that I was in the middle of admin season. Probably because I’m still juggling the last tailing ends of things to deliver for XDM2e while also starting the ramp up for Shafter’s Shifters and our Patreon makeover. In fact, maybe I’ll just make a list. Or several.

XDM2e

  • Keep working with our accessibility consultant to get the fully accessible versions of this book complete. (ETD end of June.)
  • Discuss the feasibility of ePub and Mobi formats with an expert. (Meeting Saturday)
  • Update the QFT PDF so that it matches XD20 v2. (Yes I know that sentence is barely comprehensible. I’m changing numbers in a game module to match updates to the game mechanics in the new version.)
  • Layout the character stand up PDF.
  • Keep communicating with Tracy to track the progress of the audiobook version.
  • Keep communicating with the printer to track the completion and arrival of the print version.
  • Re-learn how to put digital books up on sites other than our own store.
  • Clean up my warehouse and make floor space so I can receive pallets of books.
  • This list will spawn an entire new list of shipping and fulfillment tasks once the print books arrive.

Shafter’s Shifters

  • Daily meetings with Howard where I’m a sounding board for plot problems and character thoughts.
  • Post chapters for our Patrons each Monday through the end of May.
  • Gather feedback from beta readers.
  • Be an alpha reader and then editor as the book progresses.
  • More tasks will spawn for this as we reach the point where we’re ready to crowdfund.

Writing Excuses Retreat

  • Check and answer customer support emails daily.
  • Weekly meetings to make sure tasks are on track.
  • Manage meeting scheduling as needed.
  • Help draft some communications to staff and attendees.
  • Participate in setting up and managing the Discord communities.
  • Other tasks as assigned.

Household Admin

  • Grocery shopping and other resource acquisition.
  • Prescription management.
  • Appointments and calendaring.
  • Manage the outsourcing of lawn care.
  • Accounting and bill paying weekly.
  • And I’m supposed to be prepping areas of the house for further kitchen remodeling, but somehow I never get to this part of the list.

Business Admin

  • Weekly accounting and bill paying.
  • Ship store orders to customers at least twice per week.
  • Learn how to format digital files so that we can offer Planet Mercenary and the Mayhem Cards as POD items on DriveThruRPG.
  • Check the PO Box.
  • Check and answer customer support emails.
  • Calendar management to try to picture how the next months will go.
  • Gen Con planning.
  • Inventory tracking and re-ordering. (We’re nearing reprint time on a couple of books.)

Writerly Stuff

  • I have two newsletters to write and send out. (One for Hypernode Media, one for Sandra Tayler.)
  • I’m reading a book to give feedback to a critique partner.
  • Drafting the Structuring Life to Support Creativity Workbook.
  • Revising House in the Hollow.
  • Blogging (Which I’ve obviously not been getting done much lately.)
  • Holding monthly Creative Check-Ins with a small group.
  • Intending to write a short story, but never quite getting past the “vague concepts” stage.
  • Feeling guilty that I’m not putting up more things on Patreon.

Personal & Family Stuff

  • This list is not for public consumption, but it exists and has many items on it.

These lists are not comprehensive. But seeing them all in a row like that makes me think I should grant myself a little bit of grace for the things I want to be doing but never quite manage to get done. I’m optimistic that I can actually clear away some of these things in the next few weeks and create more space in my schedule.

After Care

This is after care week. I’m the primary caregiver for post operative recovery for one of my people. (The same surgery which caused so much stress two months ago, and continued to cause anxiety all the way until sometime during the first post-op day.) Surgery happened as scheduled on Monday. None of the dozens of catastrophes I imagined came to pass. Right now itching is more of a problem than pain. Mostly my post-op tasks are making sure we stick to the medicine schedule and emptying the drains. We’re not supposed to touch the wound dressings or compression vest until our first post-op appointment next week. That is when we’ll really get to evaluate results, but indications are that the patient will be happy with them. I have a lot of unprocessed emotion surrounding the surgery, everything from dire fears to bright hopes. That emotional processing will happen sometime, but not today. I’m pretty mushy today. All of my thinking is slow. Which made me realize that I’m also managing aftercare for myself. I’m finally out of crisis mode. Maybe.

The unscheduled aftercare, which is also taking place this week, is for our elderly cat who became ill the night before the surgery. I had to call for an emergency vet appointment from the surgery waiting room and then shove the appointment information at Howard so he could handle it. Which he did. And the cat was much better with some fluids. So I am managing food/medication schedules for both a post-operative human and a furry patient with pancreatitis and bladder infection. And I’m excusing myself from many of my regular tasks so that I can take naps instead.

Perhaps next week I’ll be able to tease out some coherent thoughts on all of this.

Updates as Time Slips By

Time has been sliding right on by me and I realize that it has been nearly a month since I last wrote a blog post. This was not intentional. I just reached a very admin-heavy portion of my existence and I had to let my writer self go dormant while I managed a host of other things. The things were mostly small, but in aggregate it has been a lot. So here are some updates.

We sent XDM2e off to print on Monday. The core book is done and my big push in relation to the project is to write up Alt-Text for every image in the book so that we can put that Alt-Text into the PDF before release. Writing the text isn’t very brain draining, but there are over 240 images to write text for. I’m hoping to get the PDF and other electronic deliverables handled with a few weeks to spare before books arrive and I have to jump into shipping mode.

My son got his driver’s license! This removes 5 hours per week of carpooling from my schedule. He has also taken on some of the other errands, drop offs, and pick ups as well. I’m hopeful that having these additional hours back will create more space for me to write things.

Tax Return money arrived, which alleviates some of the immediate financial pressure because I now have funds to pay for health insurance premiums through the end of the year. (Premiums are by far our largest monthly bill.) However one of my jobs as a business owner is to always do the “when will money run out?” math and then count backward from that point. Howard and I need to be running another revenue generating project soon. This is the constant juggle of living on a creative income.

I have writing projects I want to get done. Gardening projects that are calling me. And home improvement projects that are long overdue (and underfunded). There simply aren’t as many energetic hours in the day as I would like. Though all too often I find myself with un-energetic hours where I need to rest and recharge rather than do focused work.

Next week some family things will take up large portions of my time. After that, I’ll be able to look around and figure out what comes next. This is the current state of my things.

Pandemiversary 2

I almost missed it, which already makes clear how very different this year is from last year when I watched the pandemiversary coming for weeks and pondered how to properly mark the occasion. This time I was too busy to watch for the arrival of the specific day. Too busy weathering the ongoing massive/pervasive shifts in how the world functions. Too busy wondering whether the rush to declare pandemic over is reasonable or foolhardy. Too busy trying to keep half a dozen projects moving forward simultaneously in the hope that I can begin to replace the income we lost because of all the projects we didn’t do in 2020 and half of 2021. I only remembered to notice the day because I saw a tweet at 11pm. Then I didn’t get this post written until the next day.

Is the pandemic over? Only time and statistical analysis can really say for sure. Opinions vary wildly. My own opinions vary wildly from day to day depending on which direction my anxiety is leaning. One thing I am certain of, I am tired. I would dearly like to finish some of these projects I’m pushing forward. I would like to feel more stable and secure. It would be very lovely if one of the things that moves into the “finished” category is the pandemic. But I don’t actually control that. Alas.

But for future reference, here is a list of ongoing pandemic-caused effects in my life:

  • Soy Sauce Flavored ramen has been unavailable for two months. Store shelves regularly have gaps where the store has been unable to re-stock an item. I vaguely remember that prior to the pandemic, this didn’t happen. There is plenty of food in the stores, but not always the foods that are on my list.
  • Worker shortages abound. We once ordered a pizza that never arrived because the store was so understaffed that they couldn’t keep up. Another time we had to pick up the pizza because there was no delivery driver. Wait times everywhere are longer. Customer service is less available. I’ve learned to be extra patient and to lower my service expectations.
  • Gas prices are higher than they have ever been before in my adult life. Yes, some of this is caused by Putin’s war on the Ukraine and economic sanctions, but much is because production was shut down because of the pandemic and then production couldn’t be brought back up to prior levels because of worker shortages.
  • Food prices are going up too. And the rent on my warehouse. The increase in the property value on our house means that property taxes are going to hit us hard this fall. Every bill, every expense, I wonder not if it is going to go up, but by how much.
  • Everyone I know has spent some time in the past few years re-evaluating their priorities and reconfiguring their lives. This is going to take several more years to shake out.
  • I am both heartened by the way I see many people showing up for each other and being good, while also being saddened and discouraged by the lack of empathy displayed by other people.

Even if the pandemic is “over” in terms of infectious illness filling up hospitals and causing deaths, we still have years of adaptation ahead of us in coming to terms with everything that has permanently changed and everything that is still in the process of shifting.