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One Cobble at a Time

Recent Cobbles

Sandra Tayler's Journal

responsible woman

A cobble by itself is just a small stone, but when many of them lay together they create a path . My life is made up of many discrete parts. I have to find ways to fit them all into place so that I can continue to journey where I desire to go. This journal records some of the cobbles that create my path.

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May 30th, 2016

Summer Begins

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It is the first day of our summer schedule. I haven’t felt the impact of it as strongly as I have some years in the past. Link and Kiki were already home all day, so we’re just adding Gleek and Patch. The kids aren’t noisy or messy in the ways that they used to be, so that isn’t an issue. But I am going to have to re calibrate my brain which thinks that all the kids at home means Saturday Mode.

This year’s variation on the summer rules has each of the kids assigned one house chore per day and one hour of either making or learning. After they’ve done these things (and after noon) I won’t police how much time they spend on screens. The good news is that they all have projects that they want to accomplish. I’m excited to see what they make and learn.

Now if only I can kick my brain into gear.

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

May 27th, 2016

Graduation

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I can tell from the photos on Facebook that high school graduation happened last night. My son’s peers, the kids he grew up with, smile at me from under square shaped hats while wearing shiny gowns. I’ve wondered how I would feel when this happened. I wondered if it would hurt. Dropping out was a success for my son. Passing the GED was a success. It was the way we needed to take control of his path, and reduce the pressure that was crushing all of us. The decision was right, but it was also a permanent marker of the differences of my son. When we kept him with his grouped peers, those differences were less visible. Or maybe I was more able to fool myself.

Looking at the graduation photos doesn’t hurt in the ways I thought it might. There is some hurt, but it is mixed in with a half dozen other emotions. I’m happy for my friends and their children, for my son’s friends. They are rejoicing and they should be. I wonder if they recognize that the diploma really is an achievement. I know that when I graduated from high school it felt like a participation certificate. Somehow I hadn’t internalized the fact that there are more ways to not get a diploma than there are to get one. I see this far more clearly after I helped my child choose not to get a high school diploma. I still feel guilt about that, a creeping fear that if I’d been better at parenting then my son could have stayed grouped with his friends. So that hurts when I look at the graduation photos.

All the emotions are stronger because earlier this week I was quite forcibly reminded that my son’s path to self-sufficient adulthood is going to be non-standard. While my friends are launching their children, or letting go while the kids fly free, I’m staring down at least three more years of long slow learning. Much of that learning will be in the shape of “Okay try it your way.” When everything in me screams that the way won’t work. Of course, having a high school diploma wouldn’t have changed how the next three years are going to go. All it would have done would be to add massive pressure and delay some of the necessary learning. It was the right choice. I just wish I could stop arguing with myself about it in my head.

Over time I win the arguments, achieve an internal peace on the matter. Until I see the graduation photos. I’m glad people post the photos. It is right that they celebrate their milestones. I’m glad that all the photos have flocks of comments “Wow, she’s so grown up!” “Congratulations!” “I can’t believe he’ll be headed for college.” The comments are evidence of the networks of people who collaborated over the years in helping this child become an adult. Facebook allows that network to participate. I am part of that network. I click Like and perhaps add a comment of my own. Then I move my mouse and click “hide this post.” No need for me to face my emotions over and over as new comments keep floating the image back to the top of my news feed.

In a few days or a week I’ll have found quiet in my head again. I’ll be able to feel (as well as know) that everyone has their own path and that all journeys are valid. We’ve had triumph already and more triumphs are coming, even if they don’t look much like triumph from the outside.

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

May 25th, 2016

The Center Can Not Hold

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Twice now, when I’m in the midst of a hard day, I’ve described the things I carry to someone else. In both cases the response was “Wow, you really are the one holding your family together.” I hear the words and I want to protest, because while it is true, it also isn’t.

I do a lot for my kids and for Howard. This is particularly true on “bad brain days” which is what we’ve taken to calling a day where everything hurts even though it didn’t yesterday. We could also call them depressed days, or anxious days, or crying days, or OCD days, or any number of epithets with the word “day” appended to them. On the bad days I’m there. I stand nearby, helping to redirect, running interference, helping get through the day in the hope that the next day will be better. It usually is.

The thing is, if I was not there, they would survive these people of mine. They are stronger than they believe they are. It would be harder, deeper, darker, but that would only make them stronger and more determined. Sometimes I wonder if I do them a disservice by being there. Perhaps I am preventing them from developing skills and strength that they need. Perhaps I am wearing myself out by being in the middle when the truth is that we would all be better off if I would step out of that space.

Stepping out is hard when I am scared. I’m scared a lot. And I can’t always tell if the fears have merit or if they are my own anxieties lying to me.

Sometimes I feel like if I step away, it will all fall into disaster. Then we hit a day when I am the one with the bad brain. Then my family comes to my rescue. They all have, both individually and as a group. I’ve watched them help each other in the same way. We all rescue each other. We hold together because all of us are holding tight against the winds and waves. It would definitely make a mess if I were pulled out, but they would sort that mess and continue onward. I’m glad of this. Dependence on me is not the end goal here. Not for any of them.

I am not the center. I am a nexus in a net. We all are.

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

May 23rd, 2016

Peonies

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Peonies

My peonies are giant and beautiful this year. Just wanted to share.

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

May 18th, 2016

Good Work Day

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I’ve had a couple of really fantastic work days in a row. I want dozens more just like them. Unfortunately I have to make space in my day tomorrow for an urgent dentist appointment. The tooth is only hurting mildly right now, but the way in which it is hurting and the swollen lymph nodes suggest that it might suddenly begin hurting a lot. I have to get it taken care of. So, alas, I will not have an uninterrupted work day tomorrow.

But today I did preliminary layouts on several sections of Planet Mercenary. I also did the next layout iteration for the 70 maxims book. Tomorrow I need to go pen shopping and I need to find handwriting matches for Karl Tagon, Kaff Tagon, and Murtaugh. We already found the right handwriting for Schlock. Howard is almost done drafting the words. It’ll all need to go through copy edits and then the handwriting bits will have to be done. But we’re on track to send it out for print in June. Tomorrow I’ll finish up the second half of the layout iterations. And I need to get started on the cover as well.

On Friday I’m hauling Kiki and Link over to the warehouse. It needs a significant cleaning and organization effort. I’ve got to make space for the incoming Force Multiplication books. I’ve also got to clear space for the dice, cards, and tokens from the Planet Mercenary Kickstarter. Those will likely be arriving within a week of the Force Multiplication books. We’ve reached the part in shipping where I eye space and fret that I won’t have enough. If I have to, I’ll rent a storage unit and re-locate stacks of slipcases. Or maybe I’ll run a sale on slipcases and book sets to clear space for incoming inventory. Because I’ll ship out some of the Force Multiplication right away, but much of it will just be stacked in the warehouse. And we’ll need space for 70 Maxims books, and then for Planet Mercenary books. After which we’ll ship out many things and I will have space again.

It is nice to have a day where the challenges feel interesting and doable. Much preferred to the days when everything feels overwhelming and doomed.

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

May 15th, 2016

Unplanned Upgrades and OCD

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I was standing in the kitchen when I became aware that someone was talking upstairs. At first I thought that my college daughter and my teenage daughter were having a conversation, but then the sound turned angry. Parental ears are very attuned to picking up when the children sound distressed or angry. I went upstairs to see what was going on and the words became clear
“What?! No! Why did you do that!”
My teenage daughter was yelling at her tablet computer in full tearful meltdown. She was barely coherent and ready to shout at me. Her hands were shaking. It took me three minutes to get her calm enough to tell me what was going on. It turns out that Microsoft tricked her into upgrading to Windows 10. It was not something she wanted to do. She just mis-clicked a single button and then was unable to cancel the upgrade. The only option she was offered was to reschedule. Not knowing what else to do, she let the upgrade proceed.

My daughter has OCD. She has a doctor who prescribes medicine and a therapist who helps her with cognitive techniques to manage her issues. Among her coping strategies, she uses her tablet as a tool for emotional regulation. It contains music designed to be soothing and to help her with meditation. She uses the device for distraction when the intensity of her anxiety gets too high. Any time other people touch her device she gets stressed because she depends on it daily and the thought of not having it sends her into a panic attack. She has those too, full-on curl-into-a-ball panic attacks.

The upgrade had changed the functionality of everything she wanted the machine to do. She was in a panic because she couldn’t find her music that she relies on, couldn’t find Internet Explorer or her favorites list, all her app buttons had been shuffled and re-organized. Instead of having everything categorized and on separate screens, everything was all on the main desktop, which felt terribly unorganized to her. She was terrified that her coping tool was permanently broken. She was furious that Microsoft would do this to her without giving her a way to opt out. The thing that was supposed to assist her with anxiety was causing massive anxiety.

I sat next to her and tried to talk with her, but she was unable to be rational. This is one of the core manifestations of my daughter’s OCD. When the obsessions and compulsions are triggered, her brain is less able to be logical about anything. This upgrade was an invasion of her ability to control her environment, the worst thing I could do would be to take the device away, fix it, and give it back. She had to be angry and figure it out for herself. All that Howard (he heard and came too) and I could do was sit nearby and give suggestions for how to reconfigure. Our suggestions were met with an angry shout of “I know that!” or “I’ve already tried that!” Half the time she would then follow our suggestions and bring her device closer to functioning the way that she is familiar with.

Ninety minutes of active distress got the device into a configuration where she felt it was usable. By that time she and I had missed the first part of church. She was not in a state suitable for public, so we turned on a show that she loves and let her be distracted for awhile. Then she lay down and slept for two hours, completely worn out from the emotional upheaval.

I was worn out too. This is the third time this week that her OCD has been triggered in a way that took multiple hours to help her get herself right side up again. It breaks my heart a bit to see how hard she works for emotional equilibrium that other kids just have without effort. She is amazing and strong every single day. She has to be. I know that life isn’t fair, but this week I saw the unfairness more clearly than usual. It made me sad and tired. Here’s hoping that the coming week is less eventful than the week just passed.

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

May 8th, 2016

Mother’s Day Wishes

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These are my Mother’s Day wishes for everyone out there in the world who needs them.

May you have less guilt today than usual. Less guilt about the job you feel you ought to be doing. Less guilt about feeling like you should have done more for the mother in your life (or the one who is no longer in your life). Less guilt about the planning you intended to do, but didn’t because other priorities took your attention. Less guilt about how you should do a better job teaching your children to honor their mother. Less of the accompanying guilt that you are selfish because you are the beneficiary of the reminders you give to your kids that they ought to be nice to their mother. That’s a recursive guilt, I hope you don’t have it in your life today or any other day.

May you have less stress. Particularly less stress that is associated with taking care of others. Even more particularly, may you not feel under pressure to have a wonderful day because if you don’t then everyone around you will feel like they failed and then you’ll all spiral into the recursive guilt which is unpleasant for everyone. I hope you can dismiss this stress, and any other pressure to present yourself as other than you are.

May you have fewer strings that tangle your choices. Most particularly strings that are attached to gifts. May all your gifts be stringless. May you be able to move through your obligations today without encountering any tangles. May you have a day where the needs of one person do not conflict with the needs of another, and where you are not called upon to be the arbiter of who is unhappy.

May you have a quiet moment of beauty. It can be a moment you created deliberately, or one you wander into. It may be as long as a soak in a hot tub, or as short as noticing a flower outside your window. I just hope you have a lovely thing in your day.

I hope all of these things for anyone who needs them, mothers, non-mothers, children, parents, grandparents, care-takers, and care receivers. And one last wish: May you extricate today from the weight of expectation and make it into the day you need it to be.

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

April 29th, 2016

We’ve been living in this house for eighteen years. It existed for seven years before we moved in. This means that the kitchen is twenty-five years old, and it is showing its age. A lot. The age shows in little things like the silverware drawer that was held together with duct tape for several years before we finally used wood staples and glue, or the three other drawers which have lost their fronts. Then there is that one cabinet which doesn’t close right because young children used to swing on it and bent the hinges out of shape. Also there are some layout things which cause minor annoyance on a regular basis. So we’re contemplating giving the whole thing an overhaul.

But we have a problem, several actually. Our house is also our office. Both Howard and I work here. We work in careers that require focus without interruption. Re-modelling is made up of loud noises, frequent questions, small decisions, and power outages. Another problem is that having our kitchen disrupted is going to seriously impact schedules and poke various anxiety and mental health buttons. We have an abundance of mental health buttons. Some of us shut down if regular patterns are disrupted. Others melt down a bit if the kitchen is messy, I can only imagine the meltdowns when the kitchen is dismantled. I still remember how disorganized and stressed I was when we took apart my office for a re-model, and that one only lasted about a week. Kitchen re-modelling is notorious for lasting a long time.

The good news is that I have a seven month lead time. I have no intention of letting construction begin until November or December at the earliest. We have too many events and deadlines between now and then. We have promises to keep. November – January is the slow time for work. That means it is the best time to have work potentially disrupted. I have time to plan. I intend to use it to front load some of the decision making and purchasing. I would much rather live with tile sitting in my garage for a month than have my kitchen messed up for an extra week because we’re waiting for tile to arrive. I’m certain there are many things I can do to smooth and prepare the way, but I need to know what they are. This is where all of you come in, or at least those of you who have been party to a kitchen re-model. I have some questions so I can learn how this process works.

1. How significant was your re-model? Are we talking new counters and appliances or knocking out walls?
2. What was the most stressful part?
3. What caused the most delays?
4. If you had it to do over again what about the process would you change?

I’d also like to understand kitchen re-models from the contractors side, so if you are one or know one…

1. What causes the most delays for contractors?
2. How can I make my contractor’s job easier?
3. What are common ways that clients make problems for contractors?

This is the information gathering stage of the project. We’re turning over options, learning how this works, deciding on the scope of what we intend to do. On the far side of this is our house being much nicer than it is now. I just want to get from here to there as smoothly as possible.

(And yes, I’m aware that this whole exercise in information gathering is a manifestation of anxiety over spending money and having the kitchen torn apart. The buttons are already getting pressed.)

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

April 27th, 2016

Upcoming Writing Events

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This coming October I’ll be traveling to Canada to teach at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I am very excited about this. I’ve never had a chance to attend SIWC before, but I’ve heard that it is one of the best writer’s conferences around. it focuses on classes taught by individual instructors, and lots on interpersonal time with both instructors and other attendees. This is definitely one to consider if you’re looking to improve your writing craft and connect with other writers.

In September the Writing Excuses team will be holding its fourth retreat, and second cruise workshop. I loved being a part of this event last year. We formed a small group of about 150 inside the larger cruise trip. This meant fun conversations every evening at dinner, classes to attend, and excursions on port days. The price is no more expensive than a workshop plus a hotel bill. Only you get to travel to other countries and all the food is included in the price. The Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat is worth your time and money.

August has GenCon and I’ll be attending this year. GenCon hosts a fantastic writer’s symposium featuring many panel discussions on topics of interest to writers who want to improve craft or learn business. If you don’t want to pay conference-level fees, then the GenCon Writer’s workshop is an excellent choice. It comes with a bonus four-day gaming convention with all the tabletop games you could ever want to play. I’ll be on panels and attending panels in between helping out with the Hypernode Media booth where Howard and Zub will be drawing and talking with people.

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

April 22nd, 2016

Garden Walk

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My neighbor invited me to run away from responsibility for a few hours and join her for a wander through lovely gardens. I know better than to say no to that.
Archway

So we wandered paths and found hidden nooks where we could sit and visit.
The Bench

The garden is having a tulip festival, so there were many other people at the gardens with us, but that didn’t change the beauty of the flowers. And I managed to keep them out of most of my photographs, thus giving the illusion of a solo walk through beauty.
Stream side

Following the stream led us to the Monet pond. The waterlilies aren’t blooming yet, but the koi were abundant and beautiful.
Koi

Many of the flowers were familiar to me, even if I didn’t know the particular variety. There were tulips everywhere, of course.
Tulips skyward

Other flowers I’d never seen before, like this plant which was as large as my head, and seems to be related to a cabbage.
Cabbage flower

I think that the tulips I loved best were these ones, which were like sunlight in flower form, particularly when planted en masse.
Tulips bright cropped

As we were wending our way to the exit we were delighted to discover a flight of umbrellas hanging from the trees.
Umbrellas 1

If you’d told me before I saw them that a grouping of umbrellas could make me think thoughts of taking joyful flight, I would have had a hard time picturing it.
Umbrellas 2

I came home with a heart filled with happiness, a camera filled with pictures, and my head filled with hours of visiting with my friend. Sometimes running away is a beautiful thing.
Tulip 1

Comments are open on the original post at onecobble.com.

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