Preparing for Tomorrow

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My wife and I are planning to travel out of town tomorrow for an SCA event. It’s a symposium of classes centered around one aspect of the SCA, and it’s one that I’ve been interested in since my earliest days in the Society.

The trick is, since my mental illnesses have gotten worse, I’ve lost all interest in doing anything active in the SCA. It’s not that the desire isn’t there, it’s that the confidence that I used to have in my abilities has completely gone away, and I’m essentially starting from scratch. And I’ve been terrified of starting from scratch.

This weekend marks the first time since I’ve gotten worse that I’ve expressed any interest in trying to get back into the things that I once loved to do, and my wife is thrilled that I’m taking these first steps. To me, it’s not that big a deal. I don’t anticipate putting what I plan on learning tomorrow to immediate use, so it’s not like I’m actually getting back into anything just yet. I’m just preparing for the day when I’m ready.

Two of the classes that I plan on taking deal with the use of a database to gather and check information, and that means that a laptop is suggested for the class. My main laptop’s battery and keyboard are shot, which means that if I take it, I’m going to have to plug in and carry my wireless keyboard with me. My laptop is pretty cumbersome to carry with all the accessories that I’d need to take with me, so I’m planning on using the 2-in-1 that we had initially purchased to be a broadcast laptop. (It’s an ASUS Taichi. The screen is only 11 inches across on it, which rendered the broadcast software so tiny as to be unreadable, so we had to drop back and punt for broadcasting purposes. It means there’s a spare laptop for us to use just in case.) It should be serviceable for the purposes of the class.

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated Windows 10 on it, however, and I’m in the process of going through what is apparently all the updates. The software that controls my Bluetooth mouse needed updating, Microsoft Office needed updating, and there are several Windows updates that are trying to install as I write this, plus the battery needs a good charge. I plan on taking the power cord for the Taichi, and plugging in if I have the opportunity, but the battery should last long enough to get me through the class if necessary.

The Windows updates are trying my patience. They’re going very slowly, and I’m used to the faster processor on my main laptop. But I have all day to get them done, plus the battery is still charging, so I have nothing but time.

I’m nervous about tomorrow, though. That will likely dissipate once I get to site, but for now, it’s pretty high.

 

Unresolved

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As I mentioned a few days ago, I have an irrational fear of dying. It’s not the being dead part that scares me; it’s the fear of the sickness and pain and suffering that’s associated with death that gets me. I talked about how the book I’m currently reading, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Sixth Edition by Edmund J. Bourne PhD, has a section that covers the fear of death, and how I was looking forward to getting to that section to hopefully find some guidance in how to get over my fear.

Today is the day that I got to that section, and it is … lacking.

It explains that some of the most common types of thanatophobia (the official term for a fear of death) are a fear of nonexistence; a fear of the unknown; a fear of negative afterlife based on religious beliefs, such as hell or purgatory; my situation, the fear of the negative aspects of the process of dying; fear of the death of a loved one; fear of what will happen to loved ones after you die; and an outright fear of dead things.

The book goes into some detail about the fear of nonexistence. It talks briefly about the fears of death that center around religious beliefs. It has a couple of paragraphs on how some people respond favorably to literature on near-death experiences. It mentions a couple of therapeutic options for people whose fear of death began with a traumatic experience of watching a loved one die.

And this is what it says about dealing with the pain and suffering of the process of dying.

“The fear of pain and suffering associated with death may arise from a traumatic experience of witnessing a loved one go through a protracted process of dying. Often the death of a loved one may lead to an increased fear of one’s own death as well as a fear of sights and objects associated with death.”

That’s it. That’s all the book offers.

First off, I’ve had this fear for as long as I can remember. My mom’s dad passed before I was born. My dad’s dad passed very suddenly in a town three hours away. We lost dad’s mom after a protracted illness, but because of my age I wasn’t allowed in to see her throughout most of it, and Mom and Dad didn’t go into much detail about what she was going through. My first memory of a protracted illness in a loved one was my mom’s mom, who died when I was 25 after a years-long deterioration into dementia. A stroke finally took her in November 1994 after spending over a year living at a nursing facility that I never visited. My first hands-on experience with death was with my father, a year later. He suffered a heart attack and then a second one took him a week after that. I had that week with him in the hospital and woke up the morning of his death knowing that it would very well be his last day on earth. But my fear of death dates back long before my father and my grandmother. It wasn’t anything to do with a loved one dying.

Secondly, There’s absolutely no real help here at all. Just two sentences speculating about the origin of the fear, and another sentence later in the section that says that hypnotherapy or eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing could be helpful in instances where the fear of death originates with the death of a loved one.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating what turned out to be nothing useful.

I’m a little frustrated about this. I was really hoping to find something that would address the dreams that I have about dying, the ones where I wake up in a cold sweat. I was looking forward to getting some tips on how to combat the immediate sense of panic that I feel anytime the thought of my death crosses my mind. And instead I’ve got nothing concrete that I can use to alleviate that fear.

Well, no matter. It’s something that I can bring up with my therapist and we can work on it together.

Not Every Day is Notable

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Today’s been an exercise in going through the motions. Nothing notable about today. I napped, I played games, I watched movies, I listened to music. No leaps forward in therapy, no epiphanies.

And you know, that’s okay.

Not everything needs to be noteworthy. Sometimes a day is just a day.

It means there’s not much to write about, but hey. At least I made it through another day intact.

Orientation Is a Go

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So I got confirmation this morning that I was cleared to set up my orientation with Austin Community College, although I still have two vaccinations to do between now and the start of the second semester.

I called the adviser, and have an appointment for next Tuesday afternoon to go meet with her and get the lowdown on how to enroll and what books I’ll need. Then I can get that information in the hands of TWC and we can figure out how the books will be acquired.

Today’s been fairly low-key, outside of the flurry of school-related activity. I’ve been working on the summer event in Star Trek Online for a good portion of the day and having fun with that.

On the whole, I’d have to say I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made recently. Hope I can keep up the forward momentum, but it goes without saying that the wrong thing at the wrong time can drastically affect that. I’ve got the tools to minimize anything like that happening, but to be honest, I haven’t felt down in weeks. I’ve not necessarily been up all that time either, but it’s been even keel or better over the past few months. I’m happy with that.

Bending the Rules

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Perhaps not bending them as much as redefining them.

I’ve been very careful through the last few months to write each calendar day in my blog, so there’s not a day that I’ve skipped along the way. Well, I skipped the 12th altogether.

Except that I haven’t been to bed yet, and it’s quarter to one in the morning.

So I’m going to redefine that rule that writing counts so long as it’s done between waking up and going to bed. I recall bending this rule before, so I think doing so tonight won’t be a problem.

Having said that, today’s been a somewhat productive day. I’m trying to determine if I’m far enough in the application process at school to schedule an individual orientation. I sent an email over with two questions, and got a short reply answering one of them. I sent a follow up question back and have yet to hear back on that. I’ll follow that up tomorrow with a phone call, I think. The sooner I can get this process underway the sooner I’ll be able to discuss all the tuition expenses with my TWC liaison.

We watched episode seven of American Gods tonight. I think tonight’s my favorite episode so far. Can’t wait for the season finale next week.

Potatoes!

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So I’ve been doing something a little weird today.

The New York Times website has a page that shows you how to make Pommes Anne, a delicious looking potato recipe from France. I’ve been obsessing over that page today.

If you’re interested, the page can be found here. It’s behind a subscription wall, but it’s a free signup. They don’t email me anything and they don’t ask for money. If you’re willing to sign up for a login, you can see the page yourself.

If you’re unable or unwilling to sign up to see for yourself, here’s the basic gist of how to make the dish. It’s labor intensive, using simple ingredients, but the end result looks delicious.

Start by preheating your oven and placing a rimmed baking sheet on the rack so it will heat up with the oven. Cut Russet potatoes into roughly evenly sized and shaped cylinders, then use a mandoline to slice each potato into thin slices. (If you like, you can add slices of garlic to the dish, but the traditional recipe doesn’t include the garlic. Slice the garlic cloves with the mandoline just as you did the potatoes.) Blot the potatoes dry.

Put a cast iron skillet on the stove and turn it to medium. Add clarified butter and begin placing the potato slices in concentric, overlapping circles to fill the bottom of the skillet. Add salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle more clarified butter over the potatoes. Add a second layer of potatoes (adding the garlic slices evenly spaced across the top of the layer, if you chose to add garlic), salt, pepper, and clarified butter. Continue adding layers like this until the skillet is full – potatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, clarified butter. This will eventually form a dome. Occasionally shake the skillet to prevent the potatoes from sticking to it.

Butter the bottom of a pan and use it to press down firmly on the potatoes. Cover with foil, then cover the foil with a lid. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven, remove the lid and the foil, and press down firmly on the potatoes again with the pan. Return the skillet to the oven, uncovered, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the sides are dark brown when lifted away from the skillet.

Remove the skillet from the oven and press down firmly on the potatoes with the pan, then use the pan to hold the potatoes in place while you drain any excess butter off the dish. Use a thin offset spatula to carefully run around the sides and bottom of the skillet to release anything that’s stuck on, then turn out onto a serving dish. Slice into wedges and serve.┬áThe end result will be crisp on the outside with a mashed potato-like interior.

I haven’t actually tried this recipe, but it sound absolutely fantastic. We’re short the cast iron skillet, the mandoline, and the thin offset spatula, but as soon as we can pick these items up – and can figure out where we’ll store them in our tiny kitchen – I want to try this dish.

There are secrets to this dish to make it turn out perfect, and the webpage goes into detail about those. There’s even a video that shows you the process, and that video is magic.

Most cooking videos available on the internet tend to rush you through the whole process of cooking, using time-lapse photography to compress the whole thing down to an easily digested TL;DR-like nugget of a minute or so. The video for Pommes Anna is somewhat longer, but the process is unhurried, and the shots are shown in real time. Doing this shows the complexity of preparing the dish and also gives the video a respectful feeling to it – you can tell that preparing this dish is a labor of love, not a quick meal on the go. It’s amazing to watch and the finished dish has a lovely presentation. The video is as much a work of art as the dish itself.

I don’t know why I’ve been obsessing over this recipe today. It’s done nothing but make me hungry for something I can’t eat for some time. But it’s gotten me looking forward to the day that we have everything we need to make it.

 

Donuts Make Things Better

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This morning we woke up rather early (for a Saturday) and decided that donuts would be an appropriate breakfast for a diabetic, so we drove to Round Rock Donuts (home of the best glazed donut I’ve ever had) and got a dozen donuts, a dozen donut holes (for the ride home) and two klobasniky, one with sausage and one with sausage and cheese. (A klobasnek is like a pig in a blanket: a meat, usually sausage, sometimes with cheese, wrapped in dough and baked. They’re very popular here in Texas, where there’s a large Czech population. Klobasniky are very frequently called kolaches, which is actually very similar to a danish, dough topped with fruit. Both are extremely tasty.) My wife and I split the donut holes between us, ate our respective klobasniky, and went to her office to sign her time card for the week. The rest of the day was spent either goofing off on Facebook and the Internet in general, napping, or preparing our playlist for the evening’s special show (one of the guilds in a game that we play requested our presence for an anniversary event tonight). It’s been a pretty low-key day.