Playing Dragon Age

Ours is a video game family. The kids play games regularly and Howard goes through periods of regular play spaced by hiatuses. I used to play. I loved the Zelda games on the N64. But that was back when I had two small kids who loved to watch Mommy play because they did not have the skills to beat the games themselves. Me playing a game was a family bonding activity. It was only a few years later that the kids were taking the controller from my hands. My game play became competition rather than entertainment. I also became very busy. With my time at a premium I found it hard to allow myself to invest energy into a game.

Then came Dragon Age. Howard got it for Christmas. At first I watched Howard play. Then the older kids picked it up and began to play. I became fascinated by the story mechanics in the game. The things said in dialogue changed the story for the rest of the game and I found myself wondering what the story would have been like if the player chose differently. My curiosity grew until I picked up a controller and started my own game. I was quickly hooked. This game engages the same part of my brain which I use to write fiction. I get to help craft stories around characters, but I don’t have to worry about plot holes because the game designers have thought it all through for me.

Eventually the game will run out of plot lines for me to follow. This is a good thing, because the game is eating chunks of time. Video games are expensive. The equipment is expensive. The time is expensive. My creative brain space is expensive. But playing the game showed me something about myself. I don’t often engage in activities where the only point is my own enjoyment. I frequently do things I enjoy, but they are always attached to a larger purpose. I don’t have many hobbies. Dragon Age as a hobby is nice because I can see that it is self-limiting. I’ll spend time on it for awhile and then I will stop. I just need to make sure that I do my important things first. This will make my interesting hobby last much longer.

The naming of seals and other responsibilities

I am currently participating in the very serious business of naming a stuffed seal. It has to be a good name, but it can’t end in the long e sound because most of his other stuffed animals have names that end that way. (Yoshi, stripey, etc.)

This activity is very much in keeping with how the rest of today has been. I told my tired kids that they would have to muddle through school, mentioning responsibility and such. Then I went home and went back to bed. I am such a hypocrite. I did not even take a timer with me to wake me up so I could get some work done.

Almost four hours later I woke to the sound of the telephone, but was too lazy to answer it. I eventually rolled out of bed and came downstairs to discover that Howard had cleaned up the kitchen and brought me flowers from Sam’s club. There was a note. I just about cried. Then I opened the fridge to discover that he’d also bought me guacamole. There was a second note.

I never did get around to doing any of the work things I’d scheduled for myself. I answered no email, shipped no packages, did no page layout. Instead I watched David Tennant’s final performance as The Doctor. (Tennant was excellent, but the script was lacking. There were a couple of good character moments though.)

I did locate enough responsibility to retrieve the kids from school and to require Link to do his homework. I even microwaved some chicken nuggets for dinner. Although that was late.

Now we’re doing bedtime and my son is writing in his journal. He wants to write a story about this stuffed seal, but the old name (sealie) won’t do because of that pesky long e sound at the end. Ah. He tells me he’s got it. The seal is named Faster. Bedtime may progress.

Perhaps tomorrow I can locate my misplaced motivation and sense of responsibility.

A Running Start on the New Year

I made a list of the things I want to get done this month. It was enough stuff for two months. I looked at the list and felt a deep desire to get some of it done quickly, to knock it out in the first week of the month so that the rest of the month is more relaxed. The desire is familiar. Each week I bury Monday under a list of things that I want to have out of the way for the rest of the week. I looked at my list again and realized that I’ve kind of done the same thing for the year. January is full of things that I want out of the way. I want this year to be a calmer one. I want there to be space for quiet contemplation and family trips.

This front loading of my schedule is partially driven by fear. I don’t know what is going to come along and rearrange the calendar. Last year it was the XDM project. The year before that it was a health issue. Earlier than those were financial reverses, learning new skills, and conventions which could not be missed. Our schedule has not been predictable for a long time. I combat the fear by tracking upcoming events farther out in the future. I’m endlessly grateful when other people give me lengthy advance notice about events for which we’ll need to plan. I also try to get as much done as fast as I can because it theoretically makes more space.

Only it doesn’t really. Small businesses and families both provide an endless stream of time filling tasks. It is not possible for me to get it all done. I will never be done. I run myself ragged trying to create spaces and often as not the spaces are filled up before I get there. If I want this year to be calmer and more peaceful, I have to start now. Now is part of this year too. I need to begin as I intend to continue. I need to carve out spaces of time to feel peaceful and joyful. If I can do that in each individual day, then this year will be what I want it to be.

I still have my list. I still intend to get most of it done by the end of the month. But I will not treat this month like a mad dash toward completion. It will be a quick paced run with time to look up and around at the scenery.

Gifts of the Storm

I’ve been feeling lots of decade resonance lately. Things that happened 10 years ago are coming back in unexpected ways. We’ve been watching kid movies that were the 10-years-ago favorites. Howard met a man at the gym who was in the cardiac care unit at the same time he was ten years ago. I just finished an essay that discusses my radiation therapy in 1999 and the effects in my life since. Six months from now will be the 10 year anniversary of Schlock Mercenary. None of us intended to get all retrospective about our lives ten years ago. It happened anyway.

Do you see? asks the universe.
So I look at where we were then and I look at where we are now. Then I answer.
Yes I do.

I offer what I see as hope to anyone out there for whom 2009 was an awful year: 1999 was really hard for us. Some of what came after was also hard. Some of it has been amazingly good. But the amazingly good stuff was made possible by the hard stuff. So hang in there. Ride out your storm. Then see what you can make out of the gifts the storm brings to you.


My brain is a noisy place. When I say that, I’m using the sound engineer definition of noise. (Or at least I’m trying to. Apologies to sound engineers out there (including my husband) if I get it wrong.) To a sound egineer, ‘noise’ means that there are things interfering with the ability to hear the sound you wish to record. For a sound engineer this can mean static introduced by faulty cables or connections. It can mean other sound sources in the room. It can even mean echos from the walls of the room. Eliminating noise is a major part of the sound engineer’s job.

So my brain was noisy, and I couldn’t sort out much of anything from the mess. Some of the noise was work which needed done. Some of it was attempting to create a schedule on a school holiday. Some of it was feeling mildly depressed. Some of it was physical noise from having all the kids home all day. Today was a friends-come-to-our-house day rather than a kids-run-off-to-friend’s-houses day. Some of it was being cooped up in the house all day.

The piece I really wanted to get a handle on was the mild depression. It was the static in the line. I kept thinking that if I could just find the causes, then I could swap out the line before it spills into any more days. Winter darkness, being cooped up in the house, and not having any quiet time are all contributors I suspect. Unfortunately rather than doing the logical thing and getting out of the house, I curled up on the couch with a book and felt frustrated when I was interrupted. Tomorrow will begin with a trip to the gym. Perhaps that will help me sort out the noises and help me hear the happy themes which surround me.