Pioneer Trek

Pioneer Trek Completed

After the storm there is a calm. It is calm inside my head today and it feels strange. Only inside this calm can I see how very afraid I’ve been for at least six months. Pioneer Trek was not the only reason I was afraid, but it seemed specifically designed to punch every single fear I had. It took my family outside of our comfort zone and far away from all our usual coping strategies. It made us uncomfortable and miserable. We were obligated to a large group of people and so we had to find ways to keep going even when we felt broken. All of the struggles I’ve had with my kids were exposed to view because there wasn’t any privacy.

And that was just my emotional stuff. There was six hours of driving with an hour where the caravan of nine vehicles was stopped on the side of the road because of a faulty tire. We had another hour stopped because our bishop received word that his mother had died suddenly. It rained while we were setting up camp the first night. Then it rained again halfway through our second day of hiking. Not just rain, but cold, blowing, almost hail. We were soaked and cold. My son Link was riding in a rickshaw because the walking was too much for him. Other people had to pull him every step of the way and I felt the burden of that. By the time we came to the river crossing, no one bothered to change into their water shoes because everyone had been walking in squelching shoes for more than a mile already. Then back at camp we discovered a wet mess. We’d collapsed the tents because we worried about them blowing away in our absence. All of the tents were covered in puddles of water. Many of the tents had leaked through. Lifting the tent sent water inside of others. About half of camp had wet bedding and it was still raining. We’d taken some of the smallest kids (twelve year olds) and put them inside a heated van because hypothermia was a real possibility. We had word that our planned third day of hiking was not going to be allowed because the group who had gone out that day had to be rescued off the trail. The goal was mild hardship, not actual peril. So the leaders met and decided we needed to pack up and go home two days earlier than planned. Wet things were rolled up and stashed chaotically into the trailers. We fed everyone and then drove from six pm until midnight-thirty. The last part of the drive was through an astonishing amount of rain, thunder, and lightning, all of which was headed right toward where we would have been camping.

We spend the third day all gathered at the church building. We put tents back up to let them dry. We lay out sleeping bags and pads. We cleaned out the rented vans and ate some of the left over food. We finished up some of the planned activities and put a closing prayer on the whole thing.

All of that, plus months of advance stress. And I’m very glad for all of it. Here are the things which would not have happened if we hadn’t been miserable:

Link got to see other members of our congregation willingly pulling him along in his rickshaw. In fact there were more people who wanted turns than got them. I didn’t hear anyone complain that he got to ride when they didn’t. On the first day I broke because he had shut down and I was terrified that the experience would break him in a permanent way. By the third day I saw him working side by side with others and talking to them.

Gleek, Patch, and Kiki all checked up on me to make sure I was okay, because they saw how stressed and cold and miserable I was. They saw me cry messily. So did others and they took care of me too.

Gleek walked with me through the cold and rain, her arm around me.

Kiki stepped up and had some hard conversations with Link during the time when he was so emotionally shut down that he was ready to just sit in a van until time to go home. He talked to her about things he’s never said to anyone except me.

Patch forgot his rain poncho back at camp, so during the cold, wet walk he was completely soaked. Yet he kept going. He was one of the hypothermia kids we put into dry clothes and into a heated van as soon as we hit camp.

And those are only the specific instances that I can remember off the top of my head. More than anything else I think that the calm comes from knowing that this hard experience was really important for all the members of our family. I still don’t know why, at least not all of the whys. I do know that hard experiences force growth and we’ve been in sore need of some growth. I feel like this experience has shifted some things in me. It has built connections with our church community. It pushed all of us beyond our limits, so now we get new limits. I am less afraid of things to come, because I can’t imagine that any of it will be harder than the past three days. I feel scoured out and clean with most of the mental chaos washed away.

All that remains is to put away the camping gear, wash away the mud, and to sleep until we’re not physically tired anymore.

Projects in Process

It appears that more than a week has passed since I last posted. I was wondering how that could happen, then I made the following list of my projects in process:

Pioneer Trek
Preparing for this has been an endeavor which has required multiple shopping trips and lots of thinking. We aren’t a camping family, so there was quite a lot of gear that we didn’t already have. Or at least we didn’t have enough of. On top of that, Howard has been working hard to make sure that his work is far enough ahead that he can go internet silent for four days. So have I. This will be our longest trip away from the internet since we started running an internet based business. Also this will be the first trip since we got our cat where both us and our backyard neighbors are absent at the same time. They usually take care of her while we’re gone. So I’ve had to do quite a bit of thinking about who would care for her and what instructions I should give for the care of a cat who is accustomed to going in and out of the house as often as she can convince a human to open the door.

And then there has been a full load of anxiety attached to all of the above. I’ve spent quite a lot of energy telling myself that everything will be fine. The truth is that trek may very well be an entirely miserable experience. Or it could be a fantastic one. I don’t know how this will turn out, I just know that it is an important experience for our family to have. We felt that strongly when we agreed to go. I’ll admit that I’d like to come home and help my kids process and learn from amazing experiences instead of helping them process miserable ones. I have to remind myself that my job isn’t to make sure that my kids only have good experiences. My job is to help them learn and grow from whatever experiences they have. It is really stressful spending so much time and energy preparing for a thing without knowing how much emotional clean up we’ll have to do afterward. We leave at o’dark thirty on Tuesday.

Planet Mercenary
Howard and I have been figuring out how the workflow needs to go. He’s been doing art direction. I’ve been handling contracts. We started the process for manufacturing cards and dice. Alan continues to run playtests and tweak the rule set. I’m putting together the structural skeleton for the book, deciding how many pages will be devoted to each section.

Mental Health Management
I’ve been driving at least three and a half hours each week taking my kids to various appointments, therapy sessions, and classes. This does not include the time that I sit and wait for them while they are in these things. Though I don’t do as much sitting around as I’d expect because I tend to drop one off, drive another one, then pick one up, then pick up the other one. It is hard for me to tell if any of it is producing increased emotional stability and coping skills. I think I won’t know the results of this summer until school starts. I do know that we just revised our plan for Link. His therapist (the second one we’ve tried, and the one I thought might be able to help) is leaving. Instead of handing Link off to a new therapist, we’ve decided to take a break for a bit. We’ll let him process the classes he’s taking. And let him process the experiences he has during Trek. And let him process going to visit his grandparents without his parents also there. In addition to all of that, we’ve been doing some medicine switches. Changing mental health medicine is a slow process which requires observation. I think that things are improving. The kids are negotiating their frustrations in ways that are more productive. And that is not for lack of conflict over video games, food, space, etc. I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not providing more summer outings, but the kids are bonding over shared games, and I have to remember that is worthwhile.


Out past the trek, Howard and I will both be going to GenCon. I’m very excited about this. I’ll get to go and be with other writers. I’ll get to dwell in a professional space and put down much of the parenting things. We run a booth at GenCon, so there are lots of preparatory things we need to do. I did the big shipment of merchandise to our crew there. This past week Howard and I ordered new pins, bags, and badge holders which will be at the show. That required decisions and design time. We’re actually a bit later on ordering those than we wanted to be. Some of them will be shipped direct to us and we’ll haul them to the show in suitcases. Also in my GenCon planning was figuring out child care while we were gone. I finally decided to send the kids to stay with their grandparents. This will mean they get to fly as unaccompanied minors (direct flight, only one hour long). The boys get their trip while I’m at GenCon. The girls get their trip a week earlier. Thus I’ve arranged for the house and cat to be tended at all times. There will be more GenCon scrambling after I get back from trek, I’m sure.

Schlock Mercenary / Regular business
The usual operation of things does not stop. There are orders to fill, email to answer, and accounting to do. We’ve also got the next Schlock book in process. There are more design decisions to make with this book because it is the first of the next set.

Just like regular business does not stop, neither to regular household tasks. People need food, which requires shopping. We have defaulted into eating quite a lot of frozen food or eating out. This is hard on the budget, but does solve the problem of hunger. Though the kids are starting to talk wistfully of foods that are not microwaved. I’m hopeful that post-trek we’ll get back to meal planning and cooking more often. The other house project that is in process is preparing to paint Gleek’s room. She’s the only kid who didn’t shift rooms earlier this year, so she’s the only one who still has dingy white walls. This week Kiki and I have been helping her organize and sort her things. Gleek is old enough now that she’s ready to give away things she’s outgrown or at least store them instead of having them out. After trek we’ll pull things down from the walls, wash walls, and prepare to paint.

Blogging has been sporadic, obviously. Yet I’ve gotten started working on the revision of House in the Hollow. My goal is to have it submittable this fall. Writing is beginning to come back, which is always nice.

So that’s what I’ve been up to and what I’ll be doing in the next few weeks. I’m sure I’ll return from trek with stories to tell. Though if the stories are hard, telling them may wait a while.

Ten Miles is a Long Walk

I was anxious before the hike began. The entire church group planned to walk ten miles in preparation for the Pioneer Trek we’ll be taking in July. The trail was a fairly flat bike path, but ten miles is still a long way to walk for people who aren’t used to walking very much. I worried that one or more of my children would, at some point, sit down on the trail and declare they couldn’t go any further. I worried that there would be blisters and pain. I worried that if one of the kids had to be rescued part way by a vehicle, then that kid would refuse to go on Trek at all. But we needed to know what ten miles of walking would do to us, because if we did need to be rescued, perhaps the trek was inadvisable.

We were all good until mile eight. That was when Howard’s legs began aching in new and interesting ways. It was also when Link slowed down and began to limp. By the end he was hobbling along and wincing, but he continued. He did not stop. He did not give up. And we made it to the end.

The remainder of the day was spent sitting on cushy pieces of furniture and wincing any time we had to move. Yet I can tell that all we suffer from is some sore muscles. We’ll be better fairly quickly. There were a few small blisters, but we can attend to those. We all did ten miles with very little advance training. If we do more walking in the two months between now and the trek, we’ll be fine.

The Walking Begins

In the brightest part of the afternoon, I told my kids to put on their walking shoes. We were headed for a park a mile away. One mile there, one mile back, with probable running around the park in the middle. It was the first walking event of the many that I expect to require this spring. We all need to be walking more, because in July our family will be going on a Pioneer Trek. We’ll spend four days dressed as Mormon pioneers, learning history, walking, and pulling a handcart full of our gear. I expect it to be a fascinating experience. At least it will be if we’re all in good enough physical shape that it isn’t miserable.

Pioneer stories are often told in my church. They feature large in our history as the early Mormons were often not welcomed in previously settled communities. They had to migrate en masse more than once until they went so far out west that they settled in Utah. Outfitting covered wagons and ox teams was very expensive. Over the twenty years that Mormons traveled across the plains to Utah, they found very efficient ways to get people and their belongings across. One of these methods were the handcart companies. These groups pulled two wheeled carts across a 1300 miles. They were devoted people who believed they were called of God to walk to a promised land. Three thousand people came to Utah pulling handcarts. The stories of these people are stories of courage, faith, endurance, sacrifice, tragedy, and pain. Those last items get an unfortunate amount of emphasis in the stories that are told at church. I often tune out when someone begins to tell a pioneer story because I know that the teller will attempt to yank on my heart strings.

We’ll be going on this Pioneer Trek with all the youth in our ward ages 12-18. The event is primarily for the youth, structured to teach them about church history and that they can survive hard things. Howard and I will be there as adult chaperones. We’ll be the Ma and Pa for a group of teenagers. Our kids will all be along for the experience, which is why we were asked to go. This is likely the only chance that clan Tayler will have to take a trip like this together. It will be something we won’t forget. It is already beginning to be. I had a reason to haul my kids out into the early spring air and make them walk to a park with me. Walking together led to talking with each other. It was all good. Next week we’ll walk to a different park.