Yesterday afternoon, I had an unexpected conversation about an unexpected topic that pretty much tanked my day and is doing a bit of a number on me today as well. The details are not something that I wish to repeat so this one will remain a mystery, sorry to say. Just know that encouraging words right now are greatly appreciated.

At least I’m capable of keeping up with my checklist fairly well today, and I’ve been pretty productive around the house. That’s a start.

The conversation will fade, in time, but I fear its effects will linger for a few days, so bear with me while I process things.

The Most Amazing Sunday


I had the most amazing Sunday yesterday.

It started out not too well. We got an email at 8:15 am announcing that, due to a ruptured water main, they had shut off the water to the entire complex. So my wife and I spent the morning debating whether we were going to need to go buy a few gallons of water in order to get us through. (Regular readers of this blog may remember that we generally have up to four gallons on hand in the fridge at any time, so we weren’t desperate for water just yet.) Fortunately, they got the problem fixed and got water restored before we needed to make a run down the corner.

Soon after the water was turned back on in the early afternoon, we showered and decided to head up to Round Rock (a suburb of Austin, not far from where we live) and have a cup of coffee at the coffee shop downtown, and maybe check to see if there were any PokéStops around the area.

My wife drove, as she usually does, and as we were getting close to the downtown area (which isn’t that big, but it’s very nice) I pulled up the Pokémon Go app to get the lay of the land.

And I was struck speechless.

Within sight of our apartment in map view, there are three PokéStops and four gyms. The Pokéstops are at their closest 200 meters apart or more, with a third one at least a quarter-mile away. (We’re in between the two furthest Stops.)

In downtown Round Rock, there were eight PokéStops within two blocks of one another, and the four most central all had lures going. (Lures are a 30 minute buff that significantly increases the spawn rate of Pokémon in the area around the PokéStop. This buff is effective for anyone that’s within range of the Stop.)

We parked, and that’s when I looked up for the first time.

I saw a family of six, mom, dad, three daughters and a son, all walking along the sidewalk in front of our car, all presumably with the PoGo app up and running. There was another family that followed shortly thereafter, with most of the family holding their phones out in front of them. We got out of the car and turned toward the coffeeshop.

There were at least two dozen people just standing out of the way or sitting on the ground on the corner, playing PoGo. We managed to grab a table outside the coffeeshop and I kept watch while my wife went to go get coffees for us. (Her order fluctuates depending on her mood, I almost always get the exact same thing wherever I go, so it’s usually easier for her to go get coffee than it is for me to remember what she wants that particular day.)

That’s when I noticed that from where I was sitting, I could hit four and sometimes five Stops, based on how accurate the GPS tracking was at the time. (Like anything else using GPS technology, there’s a margin of error from a precise reading.)

So we stayed there for a good hour or more, taking turns hitting the Stops (once you hit them for supplies, they take about five minutes to reset so you can hit them up again) and wandering up and down the block grabbing supplies from the other Stops in the immediate vicinity. Whenever a new Pokémon would appear, we’d catch it (or try to, at least). The area was so thick with Stops that it was a little difficult trying to zero in on the Pokémon while tapping on the screen.

Eventually my wife decided that she needed both air conditioning and an outlet to charge her phone, so we moved into the coffeeshop. Most of the Stops were accessible from the back of the place as well, and we’d still occasionally take sojourns outside to collect supplies from the Stops down the way.

Overall we were there for just shy of three hours. The four central Stops had a lure active the entire time we were there, and oftentimes a fifth Stop down the way also had a lure. I probably caught over 100 Pokémon in that time and hit well over that many Stops. I gained a level and a half, going from just barely being level 10 to over halfway through level 11 and heading into 12. My battery finally died as I was trying to catch two rarer Pokémon and that was the only frustrating thing about the day.

We went home, grabbing dinner on the way (a long-craved stop at Long John Silvers) and went home to recharge our phones and then eat.

After dinner, we put The Last Samurai in the Blu-ray player and watched that in the background of us poking our way through the Internet. While the movie was on, I decided to start evolving some of the more common Pokémon that I was accumulating a lot of. So I hit a lucky egg, which doubles XP for 30 minutes, and started evolving as fast as I could.

I lost count of the number of evolutions that I did. The most memorable instance was evolving an Eevee into a high level Vaporeon, which I later further powered up as much as I could. Going through the process of the evolutions took me from halfway to level 12 to just barely into level 14. All totaled, I gained four levels in a day. But that’s not the most exciting part of the day.

The best part of the day is that I willingly, eagerly, spent hours in a crowded area outside of the house, something that I would have otherwise been terrified of doing. And I’m looking forward to doing it again, hopefully soon, and preferably with friends.

And you know, in the broad scheme of things, it’s an important first step of getting back to normal.

An Unwelcome Development


This morning I awoke, had to have help getting dressed, and immediately sat on the couch with heating pads on my lower back and across my shoulders. The pain in my back eventually faded to the point of tolerance, but the pain in my shoulders and neck remains.

I’m used to pain in my left shoulder. If I overuse it, it can hurt for days or even weeks afterward. But the tightness in my right shoulder is new. Turning my head is a slow process; tilting my head from side to side is even worse.

I’ve been in bed most of the day sleeping my way through a muscle relaxer, and now that I’m awake the pain in my shoulder is still there. I’m not sure if I slept through its efficacy or it just bounced right off without effect, but either way I’m back to putting the heating pad across my shoulders.

This started yesterday morning, and I didn’t think much about it, chalking it up to that old favorite, “sleeping on it wrong.” (What does that even mean, anyway? Does that mean that I’m going to have points taken off my grade for sleeping when I die? When are midterms? It would be nice to know when the final is, at least. Anyway …) But it was worse this morning so under the heating pad I went. Tylenol isn’t doing it much good either.

The end result is that I’m basically useless around the house today, which I dislike. I normally can’t do a LOT of stuff, but at least I keep house well, and today I can’t really even do that.

Maybe this should be chalked up to the mileage I’ve put on this body. I’m not a young man, by any stretch. But then again, neither am I old, although I think sometimes I’m closer to old than young. I haven’t really taken very good care of myself and I’ve come up with every excuse under the sun to avoid devoting the time to self-care that I should.

So I think later tonight there might be a walk around the complex to try and loosen up these stiff old bones. Besides, there’s Pokémon out there, and I’m not old yet.

The Tale of Darth Babar


Yesterday I wrote about how I’ve started the ball rolling towards a sleep study. This will be my third one. My first one said that I had sleep apnea but that I had averaged six times an hour where I stopped breathing – not a particularly severe case, but one that merited a CPAP machine. The second was years after that one, and it said that the number of times I stopped breathing per hour had increased, although I never learned to what degree. They were just a lot more insistent that the CPAP become a thing. It is almost a guarantee that they will have determined my sleep apnea is getting progressively worse over time, and that the CPAP is now no longer an option – I’m going to have to have it if I want to get any sort of restful sleep at all.

I hate CPAP machines. It has always been my impression that, because I’m prone to snoring, a full face mask would be necessary. For many years, I wore a closely trimmed Van Dyke that would interfere with the seal on the mask, and so to make sure the seal was tight enough, I would have to strap the headgear holding the mask in place extra tight. This would not normally be a problem, except that in early 2000 I shaved my head, and only once since have I let it grow out, a decision that my wife immediately demanded be reversed. (She’s also insistent on the Van Dyke, otherwise I look like I’m 12, which is a bad trait in a married 47-year old.) That means that the headgear is so tightly affixed to my skull that it imprints into my skin, and those imprints take at least half the day to fade. They’re obvious on a bald head and very unsightly. I also toss and turn a lot in my sleep, from one side to the other, and as a result dragging the air hose around the bed as I squirm in my sleep becomes somewhat restrictive. Finally, I have a tendency to read in bed until my phone (thank you, Nook app) falls out of my hand and onto my face. The problem here is that full face masks go up the nose and across the bridge in order to achieve a seal, and I’ve been wearing glasses since I was three – meaning that I would have to put my phone down, take off my glasses, put on the mask, and then try to go to sleep while this device gently but insistently tries to force air into my lungs. It’s not something that I relish. But this time I think I’m going to be told that I don’t have a choice anymore, that CPAP usage is going to be mandatory.

I think I’m going to go with a nasal mask this time. This mask only covers the user’s nose or nostrils, and often doesn’t use the extension up the bridge of the nose to reinforce the seal. If I can get a nostrils mask instead of a nose mask, that would be ideal – the only point at which there needs to be a seal is on the nose itself, rather than around it, which would mean a compromised seal due to my mustache. (Do a Google images search for “cpap nasal mask” and you’ll discover what the difference is and see many examples of the kinds of masks that are available.)

Breathing with the first CPAP I had sounded a little like someone using a SCUBA regulator which, when combined with the air hose extending from my face, resulted in my nighttime look being dubbed “Darth Babar.” Fortunately the technology that goes into CPAP machines has greatly improved, making them quieter and considerably smaller. I don’t much like it, but I imagine that Darth Babar is going to be making a reappearance soon.



I haven’t written in almost a week because I’m not sure what to write about.

My lethargy has finally reached the breaking point. I had an appointment with my psych med manager that I’ve now had to postpone twice because I was just too tired to get behind the wheel. I’ve called my general practitioner’s office to get a referral for a sleep study, and at this point the referral is over in the hands of the sleep center waiting insurance approval before calling to make the appointment. I’m almost certain that sleeping with a CPAP is going to be helpful, but I don’t know how helpful it will be.

Pokémon Go has become a bigger part of my life. I’m up to level 9, I’ve caught over 100 Pokémon total, and have a few fairly high powered ‘mons to do battle with, though I still haven’t picked a team or gone to a gym. We’ve been going out to hit a series of PokéStops – these are locations that you can resupply at for free – at night and catching whatever we can along the way. (Tonight, it’s my turn to drive so my wife can play over in the passenger’s seat.) I admit that I haven’t been getting the exercise that I should be getting playing this game, but it’s getting me out of the house on a regular basis, and that’s a good thing. Last night we went to the store and I got a little exercise there. Also last night we met a couple that was out playing just as we were, and had a nice conversation with them. It’s our first social interaction with another player, and it was a good experience. It seems silly to admit that this little game is succeeding where almost nothing was before. (Although I have to admit, I very willingly left the house to go see the new Ghostbusters movie on Sunday, and was very glad I did – I enjoyed it very much.)

That parenthetical statement reminds me – apparently I helped make this past weekend very memorable for my wife. She thanked me multiple times for making her weekend so good, and I didn’t really do much except be willing to watch a few movies with her and go out hunting Pokémon. But I’m very glad that I did it because she was obviously overjoyed with how her weekend went, so there’s that.

Today’s been kinda low key. Got some housework done, got my main three daily tasks done (well, done once I hit publish, that is), and also have been taking short little naps in between. It hasn’t been a spectacular day, but it’s been good, and I’ll take that any day of the week.

One Of Us! One Of Us!


I don’t get this Pokémon Go thing.

It’s been out a week, and folks have been going absolutely bonkers over this game. I’ve heard a couple of negative stories, like the threesome that was waiting at a PokéStop to rob people who were stopping by for supplies, or the girl that discovered a dead body floating in a creek while hunting for the little critters. But far and away, the stories I’ve heard have been phenomenal. The story of those who were previously homebound due to anxiety getting out and exploring their neighborhoods and socializing with others. The article from Inc. magazine on how to utilize Pokémon Go as a marketing tool to maximize foot traffic into your place of business. The story of the kids who were traveling as a group, taking turns catching Pokémon, who got beat to a find by an old man walking his dog. The kid on the autistic spectrum who broke out of his routine, engaged strangers in conversations, and occasionally even looked people in the eye during his first outing with the game. The multiple stories of how the game has had an immediate and noticeable effect on players’ mental health.

I went to therapy today and discussed Pokémon Go with my therapist, and told her about these stories and more. I said that my wife had downloaded the game and was having fun with it, and that she’d let me catch a couple for her, and that she noticed that I got excited when I caught them. And my therapist told me that she thought it would be a good idea for me to download it and start playing.

So I did.

I can tell you the game is as fun as my wife made it look. I took advantage of the starter trick – let the three choices (Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle) for your first Pokémon spawn, then walk away until they respawn, and keep repeating this process until they respawn with a fourth selection – Pikachu. Since I started playing about an hour and a half ago, I’ve gotten a little exercise, set off an incense from the comfort of my couch, and caught a total of eleven Pokémon while making it over halfway to level four. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of them yet, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

Like I said before, I don’t get this Pokémon Go thing. I hope that I’ll eventually find myself out and about looking for wild Pokémon and strike up conversations with other players. It would be good for me socially, and the walking would do me a lot of good too.

One last thing – my wife’s favorite Pokémon is Snorlax, which means that I’ve grown a little fond of him as well. Neither of us have one, but the closest gym to the house is currently being held by a Snorlax.

Just don’t ask me what team I’m on. I haven’t got a clue which to choose yet.

Long-Term Lethargy


My wife mentioned something to me the other day that I’ve been mulling over ever since. I mentioned that I was lethargic again and she pointed out that I’ve more or less been that way for about six months.

I honestly had no idea that it’s been going on that long, but I’ve pretty much established a pattern of waking with (or before) my alarm, doing at least part of my morning routine, and then becoming just too tired to keep my head up anymore, and so I go back to sleep for a nap. I usually repeat that process at least once or twice during the day – get up, get little things done, and then go back to bed. Yesterday I didn’t get out of bed for good until the early evening, although to be fair, I spent a couple of hours in bed watching a movie on my phone, and wasn’t sleeping. Today I managed to stay awake long enough to get my entire morning routine done, but I was back in bed within an hour.

So the question is: what to do about this? It’s not a pressing matter yet, but sometime next year I’m going to be re-evaluated for my disability and if they deem me prepared to go back to work, then I’m not going to have a choice. I also don’t want this to be that long-term of a problem.

I’m starting to stress about the excess sleepiness.

Often I will consciously think to myself “I have nothing else to do, I should just probably go back to bed” and then do so. I’m skipping out on things that I would normally be doing with my day. Even though they aren’t much, they still keep me going and keep me entertained, and when I can’t even be bothered to goof off and watch a movie or play a game, then there’s likely something else at work here besides “I’m just tired all the time.”

And the extra sleep is affecting my mood. At the end of the day I have a mood tracking app that I use and looking back through that, the days where I write something reflecting staying in bed for portions of the day tend to coincide with days that my mood isn’t as good as it could be, usually falling on a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. Days that I feel productive and don’t spend as much time in bed and I actually find time to fill my hours, without otherwise having an emotional incident, are usually a 4. (In the five weeks or so that I’ve been doing this log, I’ve never had a 5 day. Nor, for that matter, have I had a 1 yet either. I’ve been kinda down or kinda up or just meh but not fantastically so in either case.)

Even now, as I begin to wrap this up, my brain is thinking that I don’t have anything else on my daily checklist to do until lunch, and that’s not until 3, so what am I going to do with that three-plus hours between me publishing this post and me eating lunch? My brain is already starting in: “Might as well sleep it off.”

Well, since I don’t have anything better to do …

Scares and Streaks


Shortly after four this morning, my wife and I were awakened by the tell-tale sound of the smoke detector going off. It sounded three times – and then quit. We both thoroughly checked out the apartment, there was no smoke or reason for it to go off. It didn’t chirp like a detector would if it were low on battery (the detectors here are wired into the building to ensure they’re always functional, but they have battery backups for times when the power is out), and we didn’t hear it again. We’re still not even certain that it was the smoke detector, or that it was sounding from inside the apartment. Back to bed we went, but it took me a solid thirty minutes to get back to sleep.

I’m sorry I haven’t written lately, but I’ve just been too much in a meh mood to really think of anything worth writing down. (Yeah, I know, “meh” is worth recording too.) What I can say is that 80 days ago, I started using my phone as a learning and health tool again, and every day from then to today, I have logged my food intake, done my brain games (I use the Elevate app), and studied my Spanish on Duolingo. I’m proud that no matter what has happened, no matter how blah I’ve felt, I’ve managed to get those things done.

Confessing a Weakness


I love music. My earliest memory is of me standing in the middle of the bench seat of the family station wagon singing the chorus to Don McLean’s “American Pie” at age two. I started piano when I was 7, drums when I was 8, had a failed experiment as a saxophonist in sixth grade, spend a month trying to teach myself electric bass, and owned a guitar in the hopes that I would eventually learn to play it (I didn’t). I’ve done (and won awards for) musical theater. I would practice a song for months before singing it at karaoke, back when I was able to do karaoke in a bar that wasn’t filled with smoke. Music is in my blood and always has been.

These days my musical expression has been limited to the two radio shows that I do each week. I’m in complete control of one show’s playlist, and have creative consultation rights to the other show, which is in actuality programmed by my wife. I haven’t been behind a drum kit since I was in my 20s, I haven’t seriously played piano in well over 30 years, and I can’t remember the last time I sung anything, even to myself at home, alone.

So along comes something like this video (sorry, folks, I’m too cheap to pay for the subscription that would allow me to embed video) that absolutely blows me away.

Choir! Choir! Choir! is a community choir in Toronto, and when they do a production, they do it big. They gathered over 500 people to sing “Space Oddity” to mark the death of David Bowie, and pulled in over 2,000 singers for a performance of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” in three-part harmony.

The video that I linked is of Choir! Choir! Choir!’s performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Fifteen hundred people gathered together and were led by Rufus Wainwright (the performer that did what is likely the best known rendition of the song, from the Shrek motion picture soundtrack) in a hauntingly beautiful rendition of what is already a hauntingly beautiful song.

And therein lies my weakness.

I read what the video was all about beforehand and had already started crying just thinking about how beautiful this video must be before I ever hit play. It starts out with the choir gathering at the Hearn Generating Station in Toronto, an introduction to the newcomers participating with C! C! C! for the first time, and then Rufus Wainwright took the stage and the single accompaniment of an acoustic guitar began the song. Rufus began the song, as I’m so accustomed to hearing him sing, but soon the choir joined in, and the beauty and power of 1,500 people singing this supremely gorgeous song just overwhelmed me. I was sobbing while listening, barely able to see the video through my tears.

And it’s not just music.

Sad tale of a dog or cat that has a happy ending? Tears. The story of someone that overcomes significant obstacles to reach a long-standing goal? Tears. The underdog wins the ball game? Tears.

I’m very prone to crying. I know I should be more in control of myself, but sometimes I just can’t help it. I wish I knew how to turn it off sometimes, because it can happen at the worst possible moment (for instance, I was in a bardic competition in the SCA a few years back and started crying uncontrollably while performing a song I wrote).

I suppose the alternative is to just stop feeling emotion at anything, and that’s really not an option. I just wish I had a better poker face when I’m overcome with emotion.

So anyway, there’s my confession, but really, the thing you should take away from this blog post is that video I linked. Take the time to watch it for yourself. It is really, really beautiful.

Improvement, But At A Price


On Tuesday, I went to the doctor’s for my annual physical and quarterly bloodwork. I can’t report much to you, since the test results were given to me while I was driving (look at me getting behind the wheel!) and I was paying more attention to the road than numerical values. I do remember my A1C is at 6.1, which is not quite where we want it, but it’s still very tolerable. My triglycerides are still high, despite the prescription strength fish oil that I’m taking, but at least they’re down significantly. They’re less than twice what they should be for the first time in years, so I’ll take it. My blood pressure was a little high, though, high enough that they retook it before letting me leave the office, and the prescribed me another medication to get it under control.

And what a job it’s doing. I’m used to my blood pressure hovering around 145/95ish, which is still pretty high. This morning it was 120/81, almost perfectly textbook. Other readings have been slightly higher, but still in the 120s/80s – much better than I had been recording. I’m very pleased with the results.

However, there is an unpleasant side effect to this medication. Everything that I take in by mouth – all food and drink – has a metallic aftertaste. In foods with strong flavors, it’s not really noticeable. (Thankfully, one of those foods is coffee.) But with water, since it really has no taste, the aftertaste lingers for a while, and it’s very strong – to the point that I initially thought the water filter had had something go wrong with it. And generally speaking, the only things I drink during a typical day are a glass of milk to get my morning meds down, coffee, and unflavored water – with the majority of what I drink water.

So I’m going to have to get used to this metallic taste, or find another medication that’s going to work. I hope I can get used to it – I really like the results I’m getting from my medication regimen these days.