#603 – Hello 2018! and Taking a Stand Against Racism

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So it took me half the month to get here, but let me catch you up on things.

The trip to Florida went well. I got to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time, we had some time in the hotel room on our own so we didn’t have to be “on” all the time (the reason sucked – there was apparently a bout of food poisoning that went through the family and we were asked to stay away for a day), and on the last full day we were there we went to LEGOLAND Florida.

We started out the day going through the park with my brother- and sister-in-law and their two kids. I wanted to be there for that, because I wanted to get photos of my nephew and niece enjoying the day. We also kept an eye on the kids while the adults went on adult rides. My nephew had a complete meltdown every time Mom walked away, but it was worth it to see how ecstatic he was when she came back around.

We split off to spend most of our time at Miniland USA, where they had tons of cityscapes from around Florida and the United States, as well as a section devoted to the Star Wars saga. Altogether, I took almost four gigabytes’ worth of photos and videos and probably spent close to two hours just taking in the builds.

We headed back to the hotel and met up with a friend of ours that we hadn’t seen in a couple years and her wife, who we hadn’t yet met. We had a wonderful dinner together before heading back to the hotel for the night to pack.

I cannot overstate how big this is for me. A year ago, it was all I could do to leave the house for doctors’ appointments, and now I’m happily going through a major theme park with no anxiety, no stress (except for the nephew, but even that was tolerable) and no incidents.

We came back home and started prepping for school and the move at the end of the month. All my books and supplies are bought, and everything’s done for the move with the exception of actually, you know … packing. That’s taking a while and we keep putting it off, and we’re running out of time, so things are getting a little tense around the house right now.

And that’ brings us, more or less, to today.

A little bit of background for the highlight of the day. I’m on a few Discord servers (Discord is a text and voice client geared for gamers. Our radio station was my introduction to Discord.) and one of them has had issues with a member not playing well with others. Constant one-upmanship, lie after lie (he couldn’t keep them straight and he would often contradict himself), subtle trolling, moving the goalposts in arguments – he was the personification of everything you don’t want to deal with in a social situation. The thing is, he would always stop just short of being a disciplinary issue. Many people complained about him, but there was nothing they could really do, despite wanting to.

Until tonight.

Earlier today, the guy posted a link to a game called Comedy Night. It’s a game where the player performs comedy over voice, and a live audience reacts to the routine. It’s a great concept in theory, but in practice it is apparently a haven for racial insults and hardcore trolling. That’s not my thing, so I mentioned that it would be interesting if not for the racial problems. And the guy tried to defend people’s right to be racist.

Now, understand that I abhor conflict. Nothing gives me impostor syndrome faster than getting into an argument. I always think that the other person can run rings around my argument and punch holes all through it.

But I just could not let this guy say the things he was saying. So I put my foot down. And things escalated.

Eventually the guy all but openly defended racism, and that’s when the moderators got involved.

After reviewing our conversation, they banned the guy. Every trace of his presence disappeared from the server.

There’s more! The guy immediately created a new account and was immediately banned for trying to circumvent the ban. And he did it again. And again. And again.

The best part is the names he was coming up with. His original handle was The Phenomenal One. He first came back as Simply Glorious. The next name was Chosen One. The guy was rather full of himself.

If he comes back, they’ll know. He’s got a definite pattern to his naming and his conversation, and he was prolific, talking mostly at people rather than to them.

The most important thing is that I stood up for what was right and prevailed. And it feels amazing. To be fair, I still get the willies thinking about the conflict. But it was worth it.

I fortunately haven’t had much occasion to speak up against racism – the circle of people I associate are very inclusive and it’s just not something that ever comes up. But it’s nice to know that I’m capable of being a more active and effective ally when the need presents itself.

#602 – Goodbye 2017!

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This will be my last post this year. I am packing for a flight to Orlando to spend some time with my wife’s family for a few days. We leave very, very early in the morning so tonight’s post is going to be short, but important.

One of my first posts of 2017 was on January 21, where I talked a bit about what everyday life was like for me. I was barely being social, I was pretty much a shut-in, I was only driving if it was absolutely necessary, and I was very prone to anxiety attacks at the drop of a hat. I was still pretty early in The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Sixth Edition, and my meds were keeping my mood low but stable.

Fast forward to today. I’ve completed the Workbook and had my meds tweaked to a super effective combination, and together they’ve allowed me to make progress that I could never have foreseen in January. I’ve recently completed my first semester in college, with both classes being taught in the classroom and not online. I started driving pretty much anywhere and going to stores on my own. My confidence started to come back, although it still has a ways to go. I have far more good days than bad. My mood is usually fairly medium but it’s easy for it to spike and rare for it to plummet even for a brief time.

This has been nothing short of a transformative year for me, and I’m hoping that 2018 is going to be more of the same. I’ve got a hell of a workload in the spring semester that starts next month, and just at the beginning of it I’m moving, but if I can get through that with mostly A’s and the occasional B, then I’ll consider myself very prepared for anything else that college – and life – can throw my way.

I want to thank you for following me through this banner year. Your words of encouragement and wisdom mean the world to me, and I appreciate every one of you for taking time out of your day to read my (sometimes nonsensical) musings about my life.

See you folks next year. Enjoy the turn of the calendar and all the promise and hope it brings.

#601 – What a Lovely Day

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Today was a fantastic day. I got to spend the afternoon with one of my favorite people, and when I picked my wife up from work found out that she had an even better day after a conversation with her supervisor.

The evening’s been spent lying in bed and goofing off on the computer. I’ll enjoy this little bit of respite. We’re going to be packing tomorrow night for a flight to Orlando Saturday morning to spend time with my wife’s family for New Year’s. Once we get back, the packing and preparation for our move is going to start in earnest, and it won’t be many days before I’ll be back in school.

Gotta enjoy the downtime while I can. There’s not a lot of it on the horizon.

What’s In My DNA?

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A little while ago, maybe a couple weeks, I honestly don’t remember, I applied to be part of a 23 and Me research study into the genetics of patients with depression and bipolar disorder. In exchange for me participating in several surveys over the coming months, they would send me a complimentary genetics testing kit and put my information in their database for future use.

I don’t know if this means that I’ll also get a complimentary overview of my ancestral makeup, but at least my DNA will be on file should I choose to purchase that package in the future.

This is particularly interesting to me because I don’t know a quarter of my genetic makeup. My biological maternal grandfather was apparently a one night stand during a time when such things were downright scandalous, as was having a child out of wedlock. My mother was adopted by her great aunt and uncle, and that is the couple that I recognize as my maternal grandparents.

As a result of this missing information, I’ve never attempted to try and chase down my ancestry. I’ve always been curious about it, but to be honest I’m not sure how a situation like this would be handled in genealogy circles. I know there has to be a protocol, but I don’t know what it is and honestly am not THAT curious to track down a definitive answer.

What I AM curious about is where my bloodline originated from. I’ve never had an answer to that question, and I’ve always felt a tiny pang of jealousy of those people that can accurately identify their national ancestry. That would be a question that this testing kit may be able to answer for me.

I do know that I will receive a more medically-oriented report on my DNA, so I’ll know if there’s something that I need to be on the lookout for in the future. That’s worth participating in the research program all on its own. But if I get an ancestral report to boot? That would be ideal.

Interestingly enough, the kit is coming from a town about an hour and fifteen minutes away from where I was born and raised. Not sure if I’d call that a sign, but it’s a neat little factoid that probably interests only me.

I’ll let you know what I find out when the test results come back, probably in two or three months.

Rest in Peace

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Today was the funeral service for my father-in-law. We expected there to be some family drama but there was hardly any, and the service was very nice. We survived intact.

My wife did tear up during the service, as both she and I expected, but it was brief. I expect that at some point it’ll finally dawn on her and she’s have a good cry over it. I may be wrong. They weren’t very close except during the last year of his life, and even then it was a temporary thing.

We did get an opportunity to visit with some SCA friends of ours that have moved out to Phoenix. It was great seeing them and we miss seeing them more often.

The big social event this evening was a pizza party in the lobby of the hotel for the same family members that went to Texas Roadhouse last night.

As I write this my wife is very busily trying to get us as packed as she can for the trip home tomorrow afternoon. We leave the hotel at 9:30 am to head for the airport, and neither one of us want to leave things until the last minute.

As hectic and chaotic as things got at times this weekend, I’m still glad that we got a chance to see family. While this is all my wife’s people, they’ve taken me in and accepted me as family, and coming from a very small family myself, that’s a good feeling.

Tomorrow night we’ll be in our own apartment, petting our own kitties, and relaxing on our own couch. It’ll be a welcome rest after what’s been an emotionally charged and busy week.

As for my part in it, at no point during the trip did I feel anxiety. There were some situations that felt a little awkward, but that very familiar “fight or flight” instinct that I so very often get in social situations wasn’t there. My wife has been worried about how I might suddenly and catastrophically relapse back into being too anxious to function, but I’ve tried to assure her that it’s not going to happen. If it weren’t for just feeling better and not experiencing any anxiety, I’d put that on the back burner to deal with after we got home. This trip was for her to say goodbye to her father, and my job has been to keep her as together as I can during this time. But as I said, I’m fine. Tired, a little homesick, but fine.

Phoenix is a lovely city. The views are gorgeous and I got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen while I was here. But it’s oppressively hot during the summer, and neither me nor my wife do well in extreme heat, so this wouldn’t be a viable place for us to look to relocate if we ever decided to leave Austin. Austin has its own problems with heat, and we willingly left a climate that has four distinct seasons in order to live there among our friends again, and I don’t see us leaving Austin for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t mind coming back to see Phoenix during the winter. My wife’s brother and his family live here, and it will always be a good thing to see our niece and nephew. But I think we’re going to avoid it during the summertime.

It’s been a good trip, but I’ll be glad to be back home.

Calm Before the Storm

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My wife and I are in Phoenix preparing for the funeral of her father. The service is tomorrow morning, and today we’ve been taking it easy, trying to avoid the 107-degree heat outside. We had breakfast with my wife’s mother, and in the afternoon my wife’s brother and his family came over to enjoy the pool and to visit for a while. We got to see our niece and nephew for a little bit before it was time to head down to the pool, and when they split off to the pool, we headed into our room to order lunch and to relax until dinner this evening. We’ve got ten adults and three kids that are gathering for an evening at Texas Roadhouse (at least that’s the plan, they don’t take reservations and a thirteen-top needs some advanced notice) and after that likely back to the hotel room for the evening.

We’ve got a little bit of time before dinner, so we’re thinking it’s going to be a good opportunity to catch a nap. Both of us are tired and we’re still preparing for the service tomorrow, where we suspect there might be some family drama that’s been building for some time. Hopefully not, but we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

The squishy hotel bed calls me.

Long Day

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I had a meeting today with Texas Workforce Commission regarding my action plan. We’re looking to potentially upgrade it to another educational program, but I’m getting mixed messages about things again, so I insisted that I get two weeks to do my due diligence this time and not get rushed into yet another spur of the moment decision. Rather than bore you with the details, I’ll fill you in once I’m on the other side of my meeting on the 27th and I know for sure what’s happening. Things could be changing for the better, things could be changing for the worse, I really don’t know. I hate not knowing what’s going on and not having much time to react to new information.

The flight was good. Both my wife and I are large, so we don’t sit in a coach seat very well, and things were exceptionally cramped for us. We had seats on the exit row to give us more legroom, but we traded having a tray in front of us for one that would unfold over our legs, and neither of us can really use those trays because of our size. Fortunately when they closed the hatch and began taxiing away from the gate, the two seats on the other side of the aisle were unoccupied, so at the flight attendant’s urging, I took one aisle seat and my wife took the other, and we could use the tray for the empty seat for drinks and snacks. The flight was pretty uneventful and it went quickly, although we did have a touch of turbulence during our descent for landing in Phoenix. My wife doesn’t like flying very much and we held hands across the aisle for the takeoff and landing. It’s become our tradition whenever we fly, and I like that my touch is comforting to her.

My body thinks it’s going on one in the morning, so without much else to say, I’m signing off for the evening. Tomorrow we’re going to be visiting with family and Thursday is the service, and I expect that to be fairly emotionally charged for multiple reasons. Here’s hoping we get out of Phoenix relatively intact.

Still Saving Spoons

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Today was mostly another take-it-easy kind of day. Tomorrow absolutely won’t be, as we have to pack and make it to the airport, plus I have an appointment a couple hours before we’re due to head out for our trip, so things are going to be crazy. I’m going to be looking forward to getting into Phoenix tomorrow night and collapsing at the hotel room.

So far the only thing on tap that I know about is going to be dinner with the family Wednesday night and the service on Thursday morning. I hope it’s going to be a low-key trip the rest of the way.

I’m still waiting on an issue with one of my characters in Secret World Legends, but I’m spending quite a bit of time on my other two characters. One of them is for all intents and purposes teamed with my wife’s character of the same faction – we have decided to play them together for the duration of the game – and one I’m spending my solo free time on. It’s good to be playing with my wife. We enjoy each other’s company immensely, and we always seem to make a very good team in whatever game we’re playing.

We’ve got a social weekend planned, on top of the trip. There’s a barbecue on Saturday afternoon that we’d like to make an appearance at, and on Sunday afternoon we’re going to a couple of friends’ new-ish place (we haven’t been there yet, so it’s new to us) to visit and help her out with some work stuff. Other than that, I think we’re going to be laying pretty low to conserve what we can for next week.

Keeping On

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Today was my wife’s last day at work until the 17th. We’ll be attending her father’s memorial service in Arizona next week, and she wants time at home both before and after the trip. I can’t say as I blame her. She’s processing things as best as she can, although today seemed like it was a little better for her. She’s even been able to crack a smile and laugh a few times today, which is more like her usual self.

It’s been business as usual for me today, although her father’s been on my mind a good deal. I hate she’s having to go through this, but eventually we all have to at some point.

I’ve taken it easy today – been dealing with a headache most of the evening, for starters – so today hasn’t been terribly productive. Not sure tomorrow is going to be productive either.

We’re skipping our show tomorrow night, because neither of us really feel up to being on the radio just now.

I’ve been tired all day. Can’t wait for bed.

The Call You Never Hope Comes

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Yesterday afternoon we got confirmation that my wife’s father had been moved to hospice care. This was expected. He’d been suffering from pancreatic cancer which has a one-year survival rate of 20% across all stages and a five-year survival rate for Stage IV, his diagnosis, of 1%. On top of that, he’d been fighting other health issues for a few months: pneumonia, severe GI problems, and most recently sepsis of the blood. Things have not been looking good for some time, and yesterday, we got word that the doctors had done all they could do for him. There would be pain management, but given that he’d signed a DNR directive, they wouldn’t be treating his illnesses anymore.

It’s a very sad thing to get to that stage of an illness. Given my fear of dying, I can’t imagine being at the point that you’re just waiting to go. But that’s where we had found ourselves with her father. It was a matter of when, not if.

My wife got a call at about 2:00 am this morning and learned that he’d passed on.

It’s still sinking in for her. She didn’t cry until she got to work today, and even then she fought the tears that would inevitably come. Part of me is expecting her to break down at some point soon and let it go, but not for the reasons that you would think.

My wife and her father had a very strained relationship. My wife’s parents adopted her in 1975, and adopted her brother two years later. Her father always wanted a boy, and when her brother came along, most of her dad’s attention went to him and stayed there from that point on. Whenever my wife’s parents divorced, her brother was devastated that their father didn’t make an attempt to gain custody of at least him (my wife’s brother), whereas my wife’s mother often referred to my wife as the “bitter ex” in the relationship. It took my wife a long time to come to grips with her relationship with her father and as long as I’ve known her, most frequently referred to him by his first name and not ever Dad unless it was to his face. (During this blog post, I’ve been careful to respect that boundary by always referring to him as “her father” and not “her dad.”)

It’s my opinion that her grief is more for the loss of the potential relationship that they might have had. Earlier this year when he started to really go downhill, they seemed to reconcile, and I was hopeful that things would start being different, but as soon as the immediate life-threatening scare was over, things were back to the way they always have been. I think that momentary lapse of estrangement between the two of them really drove home that sense of loss of potential at the end.

I can relate to what she’s going through somewhat because I’ve experienced both the loss of a parent and the loss of potential in a relationship. I lost my dad in 1995, and my half-brother – who I had only the most tenuous of relationships with – in 2008. Dad’s death hit me hard, but my brother’s death barely registered with me emotionally – until I started to realize that the ability to build a stronger relationship with him would never come, and then I started to grieve. I can’t really say that I know what she’s going through, though. Neither my brother nor I seemed to value a sibling relationship enough to want to pursue one, yet my wife spent her entire childhood and a good portion of her adult life desperately wanting her father’s approval. This has got to be extremely hard on her for the so very many emotions that she’s experiencing right now, and I don’t envy her that. I’ll help where I can, supporting her through the whole thing, but it’s her grief to have.

As for me, my own relationship with the man wasn’t very good, as you might imagine. His solution to my mental health issues was always “get a job.” He didn’t understand that it was painfully difficult for me to do so most of the time, and he was always convinced that he knew what was right for me when he barely knew me at all. Most of my experiences with him were strained at best, though always cordial. Generally I existed in his world and that was that. The only time that he ever wished me happy birthday was this year, when my wife was visiting him on the occasion and she had to tell him what day it was. That instance always felt more like a situation that wishing me happy birthday was the only course of action that he could really take given the circumstances, and not a very genuine gesture.

I’m mourning because my wife is, and not much more than that.

I feel bad about that, I really do. I wish that he’d have acknowledged me as a son-in-law rather than just the guy that married his daughter, but it always felt more like the latter to me.

Part of me is relieved for him. Pancreatic cancer is a hell of a way to go, and I know he was in a lot of pain. I’m glad that he’s not hurting anymore.