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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.


December 21st, 2014

Saving Christmas

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There are a bajillion Christmas books and movies out there where fill-in-the-blank protagonist saves Christmas. Usually “save Christmas” means “enable Santa Claus to deliver presents on time.” I’ve seen some wonderful iterations of this story and some terrible ones. This afternoon I was faced with yet another version and I had a moment of clarity. I figured out why How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of my very favorite Christmas stories. It is the only one I’ve ever seen that says Christmas is strong instead of weak. It says that Christmas can’t be destroyed, that it exists separate from presents and the trappings of traditional celebrations. That’s a message I can really believe. It is also a reminder that I need.

I often get tangled up in my own version of saving Christmas. There is this long list of things that I feel like I must do correctly or else the holiday will be ruined. I spend so much energy doing things that are the metaphorical equivalent of saving Santa. I need to remember that there are better Christmas stories to dwell inside. Give me a Herdman-style Christmas where somehow the chaos of everyone colliding with each other turns into something beautiful after all. Or the Christmas where everyone sings whether or not there are presents.

I guess this year I really need the stories where things turn out okay whether or not the protagonist makes all the right choices. Which, when I think about it, is right in tune with the first Christmas story. That’s the one where a baby is born and he becomes the means by which all of our mistakes can be redeemed. That’s the point, we don’t save Him. He saves us. I don’t have to make Christmas or save it. I need to open up so that it can take up residence inside me.

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December 17th, 2014

Wrapping Presents

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I wrapped some presents this morning. It is the first Christmas focused thing I’ve done since we hauled the tree out of storage two weeks ago. I suppose I could also count some of the online shopping I’ve done as I acquired the things I knew we’d want as gifts. But ordering things off of the internet doesn’t feel Christmas-y. It just feels like life. I do it exactly the same all year long. Wrapping is different. It is outside the usual round of my tasks. It is an opportunity for me to focus on the particular gift and the particular person for the few minutes it takes to fold and tape paper around the package. I do not always accept the opportunity. Sometimes I approach wrapping with a “get it done” attitude. Yet even when I’m in a hurry, I still have to do one fold at a time, one present at a time. That fact annoys me when I’m rushed. The same fact is the source of enjoyment when I am not.

I still have some wrapping to do. Our tree is uncharacteristically bare underneath. None of us have had much brain for thinking ahead to Christmas. We’ve all been mired in the day-to-day tasks of school, concerts, shipping, homework, doctor’s appointments, and other events. It doesn’t help when events keep getting cancelled, moved, or rescheduled. School will be out on Friday. That is when my kids will suddenly feel very urgent about Christmas shopping. I find it is best if I have mine managed before their urgency hits. I think I’m mostly prepared. I was relieved to discover this, since I haven’t had much focused attention available. It is nice to know that the fragments of attention I’ve been able to give have assembled themselves into a nearly complete preparation.

I hope that in the week that I have before the holiday I am able to spend more time focused on the moments I’ve been given and less time frantically arranging to make sure all the things get done.

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December 12th, 2014

December Flowers

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In late October I hurried to plant some flowers before the cold weather hit. I expected them to winter over and then be lovely in the spring. Instead we had a brief period of cold and then we’ve had lovely mild weather. My pansies decided it was warm enough to bloom. So I have flowers blooming in my garden in December.
I’m certain winter weather will come and bury these plants in snow, but for today I have flowers.

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December 11th, 2014

I made the appointment three months ago. I made it after a hard day where I realized that I needed guidance on how to help my teenage son shift into adulthood while managing his own particular mix of capabilities and disabilities. I needed a doctor to talk with him about the medicines he takes, so that my son is prepared to make rational decisions about those medicines rather than making reactionary decisions.

A month passed and things did not get easier. We ended up meeting with a general practitioner to adjust meds. I met with the school to adjust his schedule. I learned about programs that become available with a signed diagnosis letter. I was glad to be able to say “We already have an appointment scheduled.” We were struggling and muddling toward solutions, but I knew that an appointment was scheduled with a doctor I trust. I was willing to wait so I could see this particular doctor.

It was all lined up. The appointment was today. I could get the school form signed. I could get prescription refills. Howard went on the run to get the college kid from school. I arranged for my neighbor to pick up the elementary carpool. I’d cleared and defended the day. I didn’t know all the results that the appointment would bring. Maybe a new diagnosis. Maybe a process to switch medications. Maybe just affirmation that we were already doing all the things that were necessary. But at least I knew that I would no longer be waiting for an appointment. We would then be on the patient list rather than the New Patient list, which meant follow up phone calls and appointments would be handled far more expeditiously.

This morning I got a phone call. They had to reschedule. Next available appointment is January 5, twenty-five days from today. I get another month of muddling through and waiting for an appointment. I’m not mad at the doctor. He didn’t want to have stomach flu today. I’m certain he would much rather have spent his day meeting with me. Yet the cancellation of the appointment hit me hard. Today has been hard. Sometimes I don’t realize how much emotion I have riding on an event until the event is cancelled or changed.

I think this is one of the hardest aspects of mental illness. After making my way over the hurdle of admitting I needed professional help for my child, I had to wait. Then I had to talk about the appointment to school staff. Then I had to go explain to a general practitioner why I needed an interim prescription until I could see the psychiatrist. With the appointment moved, I had to have all of those conversations over again. I had to call the GP and say “Would you please write this letter that the school needs?” because my son can not afford to wait until January for the services. I had to ask the GP for a prescription extension so that we won’t run out before we have the chance to meet with the psychiatrist. Across the middle of this, our insurance will be switching over to a new plan on January 1st. This will probably be to our benefit, but it still requires me to adjust for the new company.

I have enough force of will and comprehension of what needs to be done that I can wade through all of that. I want to cry for the families who have no idea how to navigate to get mental health care and who don’t know what questions to ask at the schools to get help. It has been confusing and exhausting. Instead of exiting today with a new health partner and a new course, I am facing another month of stopgap measures. I don’t like stopgap measures.

So we do the only thing we can do, which is to keep facing each day and do the best we can. The good news is that something in the medicine switches, therapy, and schedule switches has been helping. Life is better for him now than it was two weeks ago. We’ll just keep on doing the things that seem to be working until we can have the diagnostic appointment that we need.

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December 8th, 2014

Bits and Pieces

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The vast majority of the packages are sent. I’ve got maybe fifty left. They’re all orders which contain non-book merchandise. They’re also all US. The international orders went out last week. This is the longest I’ve ever spent in heavy shipping mode. I’ve been managing packages for this book release since the week before Thanksgiving. This is my third week of shipping all the things. I’ll be very glad to be done.

Link was happy today. I’m so glad to see him happy. I hope that the combination of therapy and school schedule changes mean that things are finally better for him. I’m going to take it one day at a time.

I can feel the difference in my thyroid dosage. I’m not yet able to see it in my life. But that is the case with a subtle shift. The effect is barely noticeable at first. The cumulative effect is significant. More time is needed.

The warehouse is something of a wreck right now. It is littered with stray tape and piles of boxes that no one has taken time to collapse. My crew from today asked if we should do some clean up before we left. Unfortunately I’d run out of time. I had to take my son to his therapy appointment. This has been the case for much of this shipping. We put packages together as fast as we can until the time is gone. I’ll have a warehouse clean up day next week. That is when I’ll finally get to evaluate the state of the warehouse and figure out what to do with all the extra pallets I’ve got laying around. It is really nice that the shipping mess is over at the warehouse instead of taking up space in my house.

I bought the kids fast food for dinner tonight. We brought it home and they sat around the table teasing each other and comparing french fries. I watched them and thought about articles I’ve read that praised the value of family dinner. It was talking about home cooked meals. There was another article which cited evidence that sometimes the stress of providing home-cooked meals can negate the value of them. My fast food solution followed the spirit of both articles. It is the coming together that matters more than the origin of the food. We’re trying to eat together more. On other nights that will mean home cooked. For tonight we laughed over french fries.

Kiki comes home on Thursday and we get to have her until January. This time Howard will be the one to drive and go get her. I’m glad she’s coming home and glad I don’t have to make the drive this week.

The weather has been warm and the pansies I planted in October are still blooming. I love that I have growing flowers in December. I’ve also got two African violets in bloom. These are small happy things. Hopefully I’ll soon have time to light some candles and watch the wax drip. It may be silly, but I find it beautiful and it makes me happy.

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December 7th, 2014

Longing for a Pause

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I want to curl up in Sunday afternoon and stay here for a while. In this space I am excused from thinking about work. More importantly I am also excused from monitoring all the schedules of everyone in the house to make sure that everything is on track. There has been a lot to track lately and some of it kept spinning further and further out of control. The book shipping and sketching careened across our holiday season at exactly the moment when emotional needs of kids demanded that we expend more energy for family time. Yet as of yesterday the sketching is done. Tomorrow the shipping will be complete. And as of last Friday we declared quits with the chemistry class that had Link so far buried under work that he would never be able to dig his way out. Instead he’ll be taking a home-study type geology class. In one weekend all the urgencies have lifted. It is a little hard for me to believe, which is why I find myself wanting to linger in Sunday afternoon. Monday will return me to all my roles of responsibility and those roles have felt heavy lately.

At church the teacher asked the class what were our favorite things about the holiday season. People listed things like music, lights, family, celebrations, etc. I knew what my answer would be, but I’m not sure my answer is readily applicable to others. What I love is the span of time which begins just before Christmas and lasts through New Years’ Day. During that time there isn’t much shipping work, the internet slows down, we don’t have to wake early for school, there is no homework to manage, and we get fewer emails. For a little more than a week there is a space that is a lot like Sunday afternoons when I’m excused from most of my regular tasks. I love the peace of that week. All the trimmings, food, and presents are part of what I love, but it is the pause I want.

I usually get a pause during Thanksgiving. This year I did not. Often life serves up a pause in October as the kids settle in to school but before school gets serious. This year there wasn’t one. I could list a lot of reasons, but the pure fact is that sometimes things pile on top of each other. Sometimes that is the only way to accomplish really important things. As hard as some of the stresses this past fall have been, I don’t wish them undone. We needed to learn the things we’ve learned. We needed to have all the appointments and meetings to figure out what was going on and what to do next. We needed the books and slipcases in time for Christmas. We needed Link’s eagle project. We needed to recognize that my thyroid dosage was low. I do hope that this next week can be the point after which things are less piled up together. That would be lovely.

For now, I’ll take my Sunday evening pause next to the Christmas tree.

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December 2nd, 2014

Signs of Being Busy

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It appears that the last time I was clear headed enough to sort through my email was before Thanksgiving. So many unanswered messages in there. I’ve been spending every waking minute either on family things or shipping work. The other day I tweeted:

I could do all the things if the things would just hold still for a while.

The shipping is stable and simple, there’s just a lot of it. It is the family stuff which is all comprised of moving targets.

The last of the international packages will go out tomorrow.

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December 1st, 2014

Today’s Victories

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All of my kids went to school on time. Bonus points for them being happy as they departed.

3 out of 4 kids ate breakfast.

We set Howard up to continue sketching in books.

Kiki and I teamed up to send out over 100 international packages. We made them and dropped them at the post office without incident.

All of my kids stayed at school for the entire school day and I got no phone calls from schools during those hours.

Gleek sat down with me to talk about a school assignment that is causing her major stress. It was a conversation she did not want to have, yet she stayed with me and talked with me, instead of picking a fight with me and stomping off. We now have a plan.

We put up the Christmas tree and it has lights on it. Ornaments can come later.

It was a good day, but one with very little time to rest. Up next: going to bed so that tomorrow can be another good day.

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November 27th, 2014

Shipment Delivery: Complete

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It was all lined up. Delivery of books and slipcases on Monday. I had a crew to help. Tuesday I’d help Howard sign book covers and then fetch Kiki home for Thanksgiving in the afternoon. Wednesday would be shipping prep and Thanksgiving prep. I’d done my necessary advance preparation. I’d done some preliminary sorting of invoices. Our cat “helped.”

I also ordered shipping supplies so I could begin mailing as soon as my delivery arrived.

It went sideways on Monday morning at 9am, when the trucking company called to tell me that their lift gate truck was broken. They were hoping to borrow one for the afternoon. This sent me scrambling to reschedule my volunteers. The company wasn’t able to borrow a truck, so Monday was spent waiting for a truck that did not come. This meant Tuesday was delivery day and fetch Kiki from college day. I was told the truck would be there around 11:30. I pulled up to the warehouse a comfortable 45 minutes early, just as the truck also pulled up. So I had to ping my helpers saying “Truck is here!” Fortunately some of them were able to jump and come right away. The truck had 22 pallets, double stacked.

As the stacks came off the truck, we organized and put things where they went. Books in one place, slipcases sorted according to type. Fortunately the slipcases are very light. This meant that four people could easily lift and entire pallet.

Stacking was important because there wasn’t enough floor space for everything side by side. I’m very grateful to my helpers who willingly stacked slipcases three pallets high.

They also hefted a load of books over to my house where Howard could sign and sketch them. Once the truck was unloaded it headed out to go and fetch the remaining twelve pallets. We were told it would be back in about 90 minutes. I was glad. It meant we could be done unloading by about 2, which would give me comfortable driving hours to go fetch Kiki. (Three hours there, three hours back. She doesn’t have a car and the bus schedule is really inconvenient.) So my crew waited with me for 90 minutes, which is when we got a call letting us know the truck would be another hour. So we went out to lunch, came back and waited some more. The truck finally arrived at 3:30. We were done unloading in about 30 minutes. I finally had all of my shipment.


I went home to take care of some family things. Because family things do not always wait conveniently for business things. Link had had a rough day. I took him with me for the six hour trek to Cedar City and back. We stopped at the warehouse so that Kiki could see the things she will be helping me ship.

We have a lot of work ahead of us in the next few days. I still haven’t had a chance to form a new schedule. We need to get shipments to customers as quickly as we can. But first, Thanksgiving.

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November 22nd, 2014

The Stories of Today

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Today’s story could be about shipping. That was certainly my first focus for the day. Howard rallied the kids to help me prep the house. Some neighbor kids came and put calendars in packages. I ran errands, bought a ladder and other shipping supplies. The shipping schedule in the next two weeks is complex and wraps around the Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully it does so in ways that will not impinge on the family celebrations.

I could also write a story about how I really wanted to get out of the house, so I packed up the kids at a moment’s notice and took them to see a movie. Being out was good for all of us.

Today also had the sadness of an important event for Patch which was missed, not because we were busy, but because we were distracted. I sat with him and shared in his sadness, because there wasn’t anything I could do to fix it. I couldn’t even suggest a substitute, because there really isn’t one.

Then there are the dozens of smaller stories. How the kids reacted when we told them the plan Howard and I have for some of our Christmas celebrations. The funny thing the cat did which made me laugh. The potted flowers I bought so that I’ll have flowers in the next couple of months.

One day. So many stories. And a brain too tired to tell any of them properly.

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