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.

Navigating Jealousy

Several times in recent months I’ve had moments where I felt jealous. Usually it happens when a friend is celebrating a big success in an arena (parenting, publishing, etc.) where I’ve been struggling. Then I’m left with a hard pile of emotions to juggle because I have to figure out how to both honor my own feelings and to share in the joy of my friend. It helps when I recognize that jealousy is like anger in that it is a secondary emotion. When I peel away anger or jealousy I discover that what I actually feel is hurt or grief. Usually the source of grief is wholly unrelated to the person I’m feeling jealous of. When I see the grief for what it is, I am better able to hold it separate from my joy for my friend’s triumph. Then I can aim the shared joy toward my friend and process the jealousy/grief in a space where it won’t impact their celebration.

This year is a minefield of potential grief for Howard and me because this is the year when we are feeling the financial and emotional pinch from the projects we were unable to work on in 2020-21 because of Howard’s Long Covid. We did a lot of creative work during that span of time, but it was mostly focused on life-adjustment rather than saleable creative output. This year we’re in production mode. We’re producing work which will hopefully mean that the during second half of 2022 and all of 2023 we’re releasing things and moving forward with additional new things. Being in a more stable place ourselves will help my immediate reaction to the success of my friends be solely joyful rather than tempered by private grief.

Until then, I remind myself that jealousy is a natural response to circumstances beyond my control and I’m accountable for what I do with the feelings that show up in my head, not for the fact that they’re there.

Catching Some Consolation

Twitter is yelling today. So is the News. Everyone has opinions on how I should be spending my attention / energy / money to help with various crises. The crises are real. People are hurting and afraid, which makes them highly reactive and less able to feel empathy for approaches which are different than theirs. These crises have been brewing for years, a fact which has some yelling “I’ve been trying to warn you, why didn’t you listen?” But the past few days have had tipping points where everything went from “brewing” to “boiling over”. Now everything is hissing, smoking, making a mess, and we have literal fires to put out. And yet for someone like me who isn’t standing in the kitchen, who is out of reach to control the pot, the ways I can help are limited. My work is mostly unchanged. I still have to do laundry today even though missiles are flying over cities. I still need to write my representatives, precisely because other states have passed bad laws. I need to spend time writing, even though it feels like words are inadequate. I must tend to people near to me, because the mundane ways that we lift each other up don’t go away just because the crises boiled over. Today I’ve just added a new task called “Do not let the shouting and anxiety consume me.” When I was picking a title for this post I started with the word “comfort” but I don’t think I should be comfortable with world events today. However I do think I can be consoled. Consolation acknowledges the grief and allows it to continue to exist even while moving forward to do what is necessary.

I gathered the following two quotes from twitter. They helped me find some consolation today. Perhaps they’ll also help you.

With the world locked into a spiral of destruction, what point is there in making art? How can a song or a story or a picture make a difference? But every act of creation is also an act of defiance. And something as small as a butterfly’s wing can sometimes summon the hurricane. –Joanne Harris From @joannechocolat on Twitter.

It can be overwhelming to witness/experience/take in all the injustices of the moment; the good news is that *they’re all connected.* So if your little corner of work involves pulling at one of the threads, you’re helping to unravel the whole damn cloth. Let’s keep working our corners. Solidarity. –Ursula Wolfe-Rocca From @LadyOfSardines on Twitter

Butterfly Wings in Interesting Times

Does every generation feel what I feel when watching history unfold all around them? Lately I feel caught up in an unstoppable flood of events, like videos I’ve seen of mudslides which scrape entire houses into the sea. The word “unprecedented” has been tossed around frequently in the past two years since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to the point where I think longingly of the boredom of predictability. Through the pandemic and the global climate shift and unresolved economic shifts I’ve gained a sense of the vastness of historical events. Events are so big and I have so little control over them that it is tempting to just try to hunker down and survive.

Yet one thing I learned in the wake of the Black Lives Matter / George Floyd protests of 2020 is that I am responsible for the power and privilege that I have. My lever to change the world may be tiny, but I am accountable for my use or non-use of that lever.

I can’t make it so that the Russian invasion of Ukraine didn’t launch yesterday. I can’t repeal the order from Governor Abbott of Texas where he classified transgender healthcare for minors as illegal abuse and commanded Child Protective Services to prosecute parents for it. I can’t change the big climate-change-driven storms across my entire country. But there are things I can be doing. The effect of them is small in the immediate realm, but I take courage from the idea that the flap of a butterfly’s wing in one place can affect the weather six months later on the opposite side of the planet.

So I’m flapping my wings today. I’m posting information and action items about anti-transgender legislation in my state. I’m monitoring those posts to make sure that whatever conversations spring up around them are managed and shepherded by me instead of left to become toxic. The existence of these posts volunteers me for emotional labor to educate people who may have not thought much about these issues before. I’ve allocated mental resources to manage this for the next few days. Other things in my life may take a small hit.

Other tiny wing flaps that are in progress: Ongoing attention to anti-racist efforts. Today I’m focusing on anti-trans legislation, but I also have my eye on local book-banning and government over reach into teacher’s jobs. I’m thinking about installing a Little Free Library in my front yard that I would stock with diverse literature for both kids and adults. I’m also occasionally nudging city politics because we need more middle and low income housing. Currently every city in my county believes that the apartment complexes should go into neighboring cities instead of their city. And I’m slowly changing the landscaping around my house toward being desert friendly instead of water hungry because water is going to be increasingly scarce in the next decade. Then there is all the community building work to help shape my church communities, and to help the individuals in my writer communities thrive.

None of my actions can move the needle in the short term, but I’ve come to be a firm believer in the slow and steady turtle who eventually wins the race. I can’t focus on all of these things every day, but I can cycle through them as I have time or attention to spare. Small actions accumulate. And with every small action to exercise the power I have, I do a tiny bit to make the world better.

World events are giant, but I can do better than “nothing” in response.

Becoming Infrastructure

It is not a new experience for me to encounter a gap and then to bridge it with my own efforts. I’ve been doing this sort of work for decades. I’ve done it for my young children, creating learning activities and enrichment when the school wasn’t quite meeting their needs. I’ve done it for our business when I solved fulfillment challenges by hand sorting file boxes of invoices to match them to postage in the era before all the click-and-go shipping software was available. I’ve done it at church where I run the Sunday streams for people who need to stay at home. I’ve done it for conferences and events. I’ve done it for friends and family. In fact it is hard for me to stop myself from bridging a gap once I know it is there and can see how my skills can make crossing possible.

It is one thing to throw myself across a gap which only needs to be crossed once or for a limited time. It is an entirely different experience to become a bridge which gets constant traffic and needs regular effort or maintenance. I’ve done both. In fact the job of parent is to turn oneself into infrastructure to support the growth and development of immature human beings. This is why it takes a village to raise a child, because being infrastructure is exhausting work and we have to lean on each other to accomplish it. I’m now at the far end of parenting where most of my parental duty is to stand off to the side out of their way, but still available as a resource. I’m still infrastructure for my non-driving children, but even that era is coming to an end as we’re close to getting a couple of driver’s licenses. I’m also infrastructure for my household as I handle a large portion of the resource management and grocery shopping.

One of the things that I have learned from being the support structure for others so often is to be cautious about the support roles I volunteer for and to immediately set out to make it so that the support role can be handed off to another person if I need to step out of the job. Yes I’ll take on church streaming, but once I’ve problem solved the stream itself I will set about creating a set of instructions and training several people on how to do the job. If bridging the gap is important enough that I’m willing to turn myself into a bridge, then I want to make sure that I’m not a single point of failure. Instead I want to participate in the construction of a solid bridge that will last long after I’ve stepped away.

Small Updates

Got the letter from the Primary Care doctor. It is a strong letter that does exactly what we need. Submitted it to the surgeon who will submit it to the insurance. And now we do more waiting.

Car that was in the crash ended up being totaled, so my daughter and son-in-law get to go vehicle shopping in this terrible used car market. Whee.

Son who was struggling has had a good week so far. So that’s a relief.

Son who promised to be as boring as possible was, in fact, very boring. He had a quiet, pleasant weekend with no crises in it.

I’ve managed to re-set and yesterday was a pretty good work day. Today hasn’t been, but it is within the normal range of “didn’t get enough done” instead of me being complete mush.

So that is where all the things are. Now I need to go find some work focus.