Making It Work: You Can Still Lose

My house is being foreclosed on. This comes as no surprise.  I have been fighting to keep my home since I got divorced in 2008.  One of my first battles led me to run a fire sale on custom corsets.  I raised almost $1,500 for my mortgage.  For nine years it has been a struggle.  There have been bad conventions and years of expensive car repairs.  I’ve dealt with financial sabotage on the part of my ex-husband.  And I’ve made mistakes, like with the way I tried to restart my publishing company back in 2012.

On top of that all, I’ve also been dealing with depression and anxiety.  At times I know people have wondered why I worked so hard to keep hold of this house.  What I tell them is that it’s not just the house.  If I lose my home I can’t afford to stay in the area.  And if I move I will have a custody battle on my hands.

This final notice of foreclosure, though, has brought with it an acceptance that this is just how things are going to be.  I’m not going to be in this house much longer.  Which puts me in a holding pattern.  Foreclosures can take years to be resolved.  I could be moving in six months or six years.  That kind of uncertainty makes planning for the future tricky.  I have the chance to vend at C2E2, but can I commit to an event in April when I might be states away?  Should I look at events in the area I plan to move to when I don’t know my move date?  I already anticipate losing money in 2018 because of this.

It’s harder with the house.  Is there a point in planning next year’s garden?  And just what should we fix around the place?  I feel like I can’t even properly mourn the home I will lose because everything is so uncertain now.  Making peace with what is going on is difficult when I don’t know what the future holds.

It’s funny, this happening now.  I haven’t posted a financial update in a while due to being so busy, but that doesn’t mean the news is bad.  This year is on course to being my best one yet.  Every month but one has been in the black and I’ve made my sales goals at the majority of my events.  Even better, I’ve seen an uptick in commissions and Etsy sales.

Professionally, I’m feeling very good about my work.  I have a book contract.  I’m even getting jobs doing e-book layout and design (my latest project was for author Richard C. White on his book Harbinger of Darkness).  It’s work that I really enjoy.

In my personal life things are wonderful.  I’ve got two lovely, smart and creative kids.  Stephan is the best husband and partner I could ever hope for.  I am slowly learning about living with cats.  My depression and anxiety are pretty much under control.  I even have a bit of a social life.

All of this is in stasis, too, now.  I can’t plan longer than a month out.  I can’t commit to long term plans, or make connections in the area I’ll be moving to.  I have to just accept that this is the way things are right now.  I have to be prepared for change, but not spend all my time waiting for it.

It’s a balancing act to be sure.  I try to keep grounded in the present as much as possible.  I tackle my October to do list, clearing the old growth from the yard, paying the bills, checking to see what linens need replacing before winter arrives.  I go into the workshop and concentrate on the handful of commissions I have to finish up.  And I tell myself a dozen times a day that things are going to be okay, it’s a transition and it sucks, but I will survive it.

I am sure that one day, in the future, I will look up from the present and see that I did, indeed, survive.

Puppy Love

This is the look of a dog who has come home!
This is the look of a dog who has come home!

In October 2001, my ex-husband and I brought home Trixie.  She came to us from the West Suburban Humane Society.  A lab terrier mix, the Society put her age at five months when she was found roaming stray.  She’d been in their care for three months, due I am sure to the fact that she had an atrophied front paw that left her limping.  What she may have lacked in four good feet she made up with character.

This dog has been with me for nearly fifteen years.  In fact her birthday is today.  I can’t imagine my life without her.  She has kept me company, made me laugh, comforted me when I was sad, herded me to bed when she thought I was staying up too late.  When we would take her to the dog park, she would find the biggest, baddest dog there and play fight them until she was either defeated or victorious.

Trixie and Enya
Trixie took to having a sister pretty easily.

When we brought Enya, another kind of rescue dog*, she welcomed the big goof to the family.  When Charlotte was born, she kept a cautious, but curious distanced, never knowing what to make of the squalling, squirming thing we had brought home.

During my separation and divorce, Trixie stuck by me.  She slept with me on the futon in my office.  There was never a doubt that she would stay with me.   And when Stephan and I started getting serious, I made sure that he understood the dogs came with the package.

The years show with Trixie now.  She has a hard time getting around much of the time.  White has taken over much of her muzzle and chest, and her fur is patchy and red-rimed in places.  But she eats and cuddles and loves her family just as much as she always has.  She keeps my feet warm at night.  She nudges me when she wants attention and won’t take no for an answer.  She follows us around the house, from room to room, despite the obvious discomfort it causes her at times, just to be near us.  She is my dog.  There are no others like her.  And she is mine.

 


*Her previous owner was a neighbor of ours who couldn’t keep her any longer.

Convention Report: Midwinter Gaming Convention

Last week we headed up to Milwaukee for the Midwinter Gaming Convention.  We had a booth there, and had plans to get some gaming in.  This is Midwinter’s fifteenth year, and our third, and it has grown larger and better every year we’ve been.  This was the first year both Stephan and I had wares to peddle, and the first year I had so many booth helpers.  It all added up to a lot of fun.

What made the biggest difference, I think, is that I had two booth helpers throughout the convention.  Our friends Denis and Chrissy came along, and with them on hand, we had four adults to cover the booth the entire weekend.  That meant Stephan wasn’t stuck on Ben patrol the entire time.  It meant we both got to go to lunch together one day.  It meant I got to spend time with my son outside of the vendor’s hall for the first time ever.  I can’t thank the two of them enough for their help the entire weekend.

SCA costuming at Midwinter.
SCA costuming at Midwinter.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed gaming cons.  Midwinter’s focus is on LARP, but it has programming dedicated to board and video games, as well as a strong reenactment presence thanks to the SCA.  So while there is a costuming contingent, it isn’t a costume heavy convention.  And the convention has a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere.  I found myself joking and laughing, things I hadn’t done in a long time.  I managed to deal with the little anxiety that cropped up throughout the weekend, which means that medication and therapy is working for my mental health issues.

The Milwaukee Hilton is a beautiful hotel, with lots of ornate staircases and decor, as well as hallways and seating areas for hangouts.  I spent most of my time in the vendor hall, which was placed in a baroque fantasy of a ballroom with chandeliers and gold molding on the ceiling.  The hotel staff was super friendly and helpful, a big plus when you are attending a convention where there can be tension between fans and non-fans.

That same weekend there was a girl’s volleyball conference in the hotel.  This led to lots of interactions with non-gaming people.  I witnessed an abundance of stares and whispered comments, but I was never the target of them.  In fact I had several women approach me to ask about what was going on.  I think the pink hair establishes me as part of the “weird people” but that my size and gender makes me non-threatening enough to be approachable.  This isn’t the first time I’ve played ambassador for the geek community.  Back in 2002 at ConJose in San Jose, I fielded questions from people on the street who saw me wearing a badge, but not a costume (no pink hair back in those days).   And the fan side of things gave as good as they got on the passive aggressive front.  I overheard one LARPer bragging about having invented “Trolling: the LARP” where he and his friends paraded past groups of volleyball players and parents in their costumes and played their characters to an exaggerated degree.

Creeper
This was Ben’s favorite costume, by far. “Next year I want to be a creeper, too. And then we can creep together!”

I only ran into one instance of bad customer behavior: a woman incredulously demanding to know if “that ruffle thing” truly was $75.  When I confirmed that, yes, I do charge $75 for my bustles, she huffed off.  I know that prior to her asking she had snapped a shot of the bustle (the flash is a dead giveaway) and suspect she’ll show the picture to a sewing friend and ask if said friend will make one for her.  I wish her good luck with that.

I did overhear another customer ask the vendor next to me if they would get a discount on a $20 item if they carried it around the convention and told people where they would get it from.  There seems to be this belief among a certain set of attendees that vendors are starving for marketing and will give away their wares for word of mouth advertising.  I have never once met a vendor who has done such.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there is one or two who have, I just have never encountered them.

The only other annoyance was the number of times people congregated in front of my booth and blocked access to it.  That is easily dealt with.  I whip out my phone and ask the people if they could move because I want to get a shot of my set up.  Nine times out of ten the people realize they were blocking the way and move on apologetically.  The tenth time, the people move, but with resentment at having been asked to move.  Either way, it’s not skin off my nose, I got them to clear the way.

The final attendance count was just shy of 1100 members.  Not a bad showing.  I made just over 50 cents per attendee (which is about what I plan on making at any convention).  It was less than I had hoped, but I didn’t have any big items with me this time around.  There’s time before the next convention to get plenty of coats made up for off the rack purchases.

roach and the orc
I found an orc!

According to those we talked to, Midwinter has seen an average of 10 percent growth in attendance each year.  It’s clear that they do a lot of work not only in planning great programming, but also in advertising their presence.  They do a lot of social media work, have a strong Facebook page, and got the convention covered by local TV press.  It is a lot of work, but it is paying off for them.

I mention this because over the course of the weekend I was approached by two different conventions about vending.  Both are brand new, both are asking for $200 for booth space.  One mentioned on its website that they expect anywhere between 350 to 2,400 attendees at their first con.  Think about that for a moment.  Presuming that they reach their minimum number, and that I make 50 cents per attendee, I will lose money attending that convention.  The other is one  could see slightly better numbers, but it is still the first year, still untested, and still not worth paying that much for a space.  When conventions charge that much for a space, with such low numbers, it is clear they are looking to cover their costs on the backs of their vendors rather than through ticket sales.

We’ll be back to Midwinter next year for sure.

 

Reynold’s Mess

Be forewarned: this recipe is not for the feint of heart.  It is full of stuff that is horrible for you: fat, beef, cheese, fat, salt, food processed until it no longer resembles food.  It will stick to your ribs, your diaphragm, your colon and your conscience.  All of that aside, it is my most favorite meal in the world and I make it a couple times a year and it is so very good.

With that warning out of the way, I present Reynold’s Mess, named after my father who made it for the family when I was a growing roach.

Reynold’s Mess

Ingredients

1 box of macaroni & cheese

1 brick of cream cheese

1 lb ground beef

1 can cream of mushroom soup

garlic salt

Instructions

  1. Prepare the macaroni and cheese according to the directions on the package.
  2. While the water is boiling, brown the ground beef.  Drain.
  3. After you have prepared the macaroni and cheese, add the cream of mushroom soup.
  4. Cut the cream cheese into chunks and add it to the macaroni/mushroom soup mix.
  5. Add the ground beef to the mix.
  6. Keep stirring and heat over medium heat until all the ingredients are combined.  Add milk as needed for the consistency you desire.
  7. Season with garlic salt to taste.  I use 1/2 t.  Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information

Hahaha … just kidding.  There’s no way I want to know just how bad this meal is for me.

Thanksgiving/Thanksgaming 2014

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Most of my fondness comes from my childhood.  I remember every year heading over to my grandparents’ place, where the rest of our extended family had gathered.  Cousins ran around while my grandma, mother and aunts got the dinner ready.  Everyone brought some dish or dessert (mostly desserts).  Around two o’clock the food would be laid out, buffet style, over kitchen counters and the isle and then took seats at one of the many tables set up throughout the house.  Yes, there was an adults’ table, and several kids’ tables.  After was more running around for the kids, football for the adults and hours devoted to seconds and thirds.  Come the evening, after board games and pinochle, the leftovers would be parceled out.  We’d all head home, stuffed and happy.

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