I stumbled out of the bedroom, the toddler finally asleep and Jian snoring lightly as well. I made my way downstairs carefully, avoiding the steps that tended to creak in the older house. On the first floor, I took a deep breath and looked around.

The kitchen was half-clean, with dishes soaking from dinner. The rice cooker needed to be washed, too. The front room had slowly been taken over by blocks and trains and plush animals. Jian had taken care of most of the shrine room but I had a few things to do in there.

And all of that was before I even got into my workshop, which was still a mess of a whole different caliber.

I was exhausted and I wanted nothing more than to hide in my workshop from all of it.

“Okay,” I reminded myself. “One thing. Start with one thing.” I went into the shrine room and lit incense and a candle in front of Mara’s altar. It seemed almost hypocritical to make an offering to a household god when the house was such a mess, but if I was just picking one thing

I took a deep breath. I could do one more thing, sure. I gathered up the different-sized rings and dropped them onto their pole. As I grabbed the rings, other stacking toys came to hand, and I tossed them in the direction of the rest of their pieces. The stacking bowls got matched. The stacking boxes didn’t quite. But the floor was clearer than it had been to begin with.

Still tired, I looked back at Mara’s little figure. I did feel a little less overwhelmed now. Maybe I could handle one more thing.

In the kitchen, I pulled on rubber gloves to protect my circuitry and washed off the soaking plates. Some of them cleaned up easily and went onto the drying mat. Some of them didn’t, and I thought about scrubbing them, but my glove was starting to leak and my knee hurt from standing, so I left them to soak again.

I nodded to Mara as I passed the shrine room again on the way to my workshop. She seemed satisfied. I wanted to do more but I let myself feel a little satisfaction too. At least I’d done something, and now I could sit and work and not be as distracted by what I had not done.

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