Under the Moon

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I’m at an SCA event and more specifically in evening court. My battery is dying, and my wife and I are spending the night on site, so this is what I got for a blog post tonight. I’ll write about today tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m going back to paying attention to court. Have a lovely evening, my readers.

Long Day in the Algebra Mines

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Not that much to report today. I slept very poorly last night so once I got my wife off to work I slept until nearly noon to make up for it. The problem with that is that I have a ton of algebra homework that I’ve put off and the deadline is Monday morning, plus I have an SCA event tomorrow, so I effectively have today and Sunday to get things done.

Once I did wake up and ate lunch, I started in on my homework, and kept my head down into that except for a few breaks until after 10:00 tonight. I am all algebra’d out for the day and am really looking forward to collapsing in bed and having a day off tomorrow.

I’m really going to have to work on my time management better if I want to handle a full 12 credits next semester.

Remission

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Regular readers of this blog know that I suffer from PTSD, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 15 – that was 33 years ago. The anxiety diagnosis is somewhat more recent, and the PTSD is the most recently diagnosed, but its onset actually predates the bipolar disorder. My point here is that I’ve been dealing with these illnesses for a long time, and I’ve been in therapy to deal with them for years on end.

My therapy has been successful to varying degrees through the years. My current therapist and I have been working together every other week for a little less than three years, and she’s seen me through a lot.

She’s helped me discover tools that mitigate the rough spots when they occur, and talked me through some dark times. Over the last year or so, I’ve been steadily improving, and over the last six months or so I’ve improved so much it’s been like someone flipped a switch. This most recent change I attribute to a change in medication, but my therapist is quick to downplay the effect the meds have had on me, and just as fast to remind me that an awful lot of my improvement has been through my own education and efforts.

Today we met and discussed the trip to California. I told her about all that I saw and did, and then concentrated on three aspects of the trip – the party on Saturday night, the driving I did on Sunday morning, and the traffic that we encountered in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon. Each of these instances were a prime opportunity for my anxiety to open the floodgates to a bad downswing. Dealing with strangers in a social setting is something that I’ve avoided for as long as I can remember, yet on Saturday night I was practically a social butterfly. It wasn’t very long ago that I was only driving if it was absolutely necessary, and even then on familiar surface roads, and on Sunday morning I was excited to be out driving highways I was barely familiar with. While I wasn’t driving, the traffic in San Francisco was the worst gridlock I’ve ever experienced, and bad traffic is usually a trigger for my anxiety regardless of where I’m sitting in the car – but I handled it like it was nothing.

In short, it’s the most “normal” I’ve felt in a very long time.

My therapist was very pleased to hear how well the trip went, and how well classes are going as well, and she made a point of telling me what a long way I’ve come since I started seeing her. At the end of the session, we discussed my options for a follow-up appointment, and we agreed that we can start seeing each other on a monthly basis rather than biweekly.

I have never before been on a monthly schedule with any therapist.

Like so many other diseases, my illnesses are lifelong, and can be managed with medication and psychotherapy, but not truly cured. Being a once-monthly client is an acknowledgment that my symptoms are well under control at the present time. It’s about as close to remission as mental illnesses get. It’s an odd feeling, but not in a bad way at all. I’m not apprehensive about cutting back to once a month, something I’d have been terrified to do as recent as the start of 2017.

My follow-up is October 26, and we agreed that if something should go wrong in the meantime that I’m always free to call and schedule an interim appointment. We also agreed that if something happened that was particularly good I could text her to fill her in on the news.

It’s a really good feeling.


Oh, for those who have been following my activities of the week in my classes, tonight was my first closed-book algebra test. I think I did fairly well on it. There was one question that I’m pretty sure I got wrong, and a couple more I think I figured out, but other than that I’m comfortable with my performance. Of course, we’ll see how that goes once the grades come back.

Stress? What Stress?

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Today was my first full day back since vacation, and it was back to the usual grind. The morning’s algebra class went well, and I got to see my friend on the way out, as usual (but not for long, her class ends in a week). I went home to knock out my dailies in Secret World Legends and got a little distracted afterwards, but then got busy on cramming for my biology quiz tonight.

My study partner for biology is amazing. She takes impeccable notes in real-time with Google Docs and even adds diagrams where necessary, and she catches some things that I miss with my chicken scratch. (I have quite neat handwriting, but if I’m in a hurry, the careful practice that I put into a calligraphic-like hand goes out the window into something barely legible even to me.) Since it’s a shared document, we were both in it at the same time and after some conversation agreed to meet before class to get some last-minute studying in. She got delayed by an accident on her way to campus and so didn’t arrive until just a few minutes before class started. We tried to study, but there wasn’t much time.

Turns out, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Our instructor postponed the quiz until Monday, and so the evening was all lecture, which I took notes on the best I could. My partner was editing the Google Doc as she went, and we traded snark back and forth as our instructor went off onto wild tangents from time to time. Somewhere in there, we agreed to head to the local Starbucks after class to catch up on our studying, and that’s what we did.

There were so many students failing anatomy and physiology I that the college instituted an entrance exam for the course. The biology class that I’m in exists solely to prepare the student to take that exam. As a result, our class objectives pretty much mirror the objectives of the exam, and so rather than study more recent material in preparation for Monday’s quiz, we started working on plugging the answers into that objective list, since at the end of the day that’s really what we need to know coming out of this class. We worked together to find answers to bullet points while my partner did most of the data entry and generally had a good time sucking down coffee and studying.

So that adds a wrinkle to my plans between now and Monday night. Tomorrow is the deadline to take my first algebra test, and so I’m going to spend the morning studying before heading to my therapist’s appointment in the afternoon, then picking up my wife from work and heading home to program my radio show. Friday will be spent working on the first algebra homework assignment which is due Monday. Saturday I have an SCA event that I’ll be at pretty much all day, although I’m going to bring my books along in case I can sneak away and get some schoolwork done. Sunday will be spent finishing up the algebra homework and studying in earnest for the biology quiz, and then Monday everything’s due, and things should be returning back to the usual levels of panic and stress in my life.

Genetically Speaking

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Some time ago, my wife and I signed up to participate in a 23 and Me study on bipolar disorder and depression. They sent us two sample collection kits, we provided the sample, and we sent them back, thinking that we’d get only a partial report because we’re part of a study and not paying customers.

While we were in California, I got my results. (My wife is still awaiting hers.) They provided me with a full battery of reports, so I have a ton of new information about myself that I didn’t know.

They test variants on 42 different diseases, ranging from the well-known to the obscure. My results did not show a variant for any of these diseases. That’s good news!

They also test for genetic health risks for six diseases: age-related macular degeneration, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, hereditary hemochromatosis, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and hereditary thrombophilia. They discovered a single variant for the first three of these, which means that while I do show one variant, it is unlikely that the disease will develop. The last three I had no corresponding variants.

They also checked for 22 different traits, ranging from eye color to back hair. They were right on 17 of the 22.

There were also reports on my genetic disposition to wellness, with a lot of disclaimers that state that these conditions are largely dependent on lifestyle and diet rather than genetics.

Finally, they also tested my ancestral makeup, the report I was secretly hoping they’d include. Since my mother was adopted, and we know nothing about my maternal grandfather, I was hoping this would help fill in the blanks, at least to the extent that I could say what my heritage is. I’ve been able to track one ancestral line back fifteen generations to England in the early 1600s, but beyond that I haven’t discovered anything.

In addition to my ancestry composition, I received reports on my DNA family (the number of DNA relatives I have in their database), my maternal and paternal haplogroups (a haplogroup is a group of genes in an organism that are inherited together from a single parent; my maternal haplogroup can be traced back to a single woman in eastern Africa 150,000 years ago and my paternal haplogroup stems from a single man living in eastern Africa 275,000 years ago), and my Neanderthal ancestry (measuring how many Neanderthal variants I have in comparison to other people in their database). These are all fascinating, but tell me little about where I actually came from. That’s where the ancestry composition report comes in, and I can finally say the sentence I’ve been waiting for years to discover.

I am of northwestern European heritage, primarily British and Irish.

More specifically, my results show that I am 72.2% British and Irish, 6.4% French and German, 1.2% Scandinavian, 1.1% sub-Saharan African, 0.1% east Asian and Native American, and 17.4% “broadly northwestern European,” a designation they use when a piece of DNA matches a regional population but can’t be assigned to a more specific population.

It’s a little anticlimactic, since I had a feeling that my results would point in this direction, but now I have a very good idea of my genetic makeup. I don’t have what you’d call pride in my heritage – in today’s charged political climate when the history books are almost exclusively my people’s history, stating that I have pride in where I come from smacks of supremacy, something I am vehemently and passionately against. I am happy to see that at least some small part of me is Scandinavian, given my Icelandic SCA persona, and I’m mostly intrigued by that portion of me that comes from Africa, but beyond that it’s just nice to finally have an answer to that age-old question “where do I come from?”

The Last Three Days

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First off, I’m sorry I haven’t written anything of substance for the last couple of days. Things have been really busy on this vacation and I’ve gotten in with just enough energy in the tank to say “I’ll get you tomorrow” twice and then go immediately to bed.So today’s blog post is going to cover the last three days – Saturday, Sunday, and today.

Saturday was the day that my wife’s best friend held a party in her her honor. We went over to their place early so we could help get things ready. My wife and her best friend mostly cleaned (I helped some) and I mostly did homework and played Secret World Legends in an attempt to occupy my wife’s best friend’s three year old. (Trying to play a game in a zombie-infested town in rural Maine with a toddler watching is very interesting, and pretty amusing. About every fifteen to twenty seconds I was asked what I was doing, and then that was followed by a litany of “why?” until the next time to ask what I was doing came around. This was occasionally interrupted when it was pointed out that I was running down the middle of the street – a perfectly safe thing to do, since all vehicles were either abandoned or being used as a barricade – because you shouldn’t walk in the street. So I had to use the sidewalk for the better part of my gaming session. Oh, and I couldn’t jump over fences either. It was cute.) The party that evening was not a big one, there were sixteen people there total, but there were only six of those people that I knew before the party, and three of the attendees were children, so this was a big test of my anxiety. I had to be social for hours with strangers, and all while the kids were playing fairly to really loudly indoors. I did really well, however. I talked with everyone at least a little bit, had a few protracted conversations with people I’d just met, and only went outside twice to get a little peace from the noise of several conversations mingling with kids at play. We were among the last to leave, and I genuinely had a good time.

Sunday was the day that we went to do the one touristy thing that I asked to do during this trip, that being to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We got into San Francisco and traffic started getting worse the closer we were to the city, and then we hit the area around Golden Gate Park and traffic came to a complete standstill. It took us well over 30 minutes to travel a mile through the worse gridlock I’ve ever seen in person. We were on our way to a particular spot to see the bridge, and on the way we missed our turns twice, complicating the trip even further. With the second miss, we had committed to actually crossing the bridge, which we did just long enough to turn around and come back, and finally traveling this way the way to my pre-ordained spot was clear. There was traffic, however, and no place to park, so there were some hurried photos taken before we had to drive on. One of those photos is above, and the significance of the place is that it is marked on Google Maps as the future home of Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy. For those that have seen the movies, the background of this photo might look a little familiar. Once we finished there, we started searching around for a place to refill our loaner car, and once we’d done that, we headed off to meet a fellow DJ from the radio station. We had a great visit with him, probably a couple hours at least, and then we dropped him off at the BART station to head back home, and we then drove to my wife’s best friend’s house for dinner and conversation for a few more hours before heading back to where we are staying for the night.

This morning we went around to some of the communities around the San Jose area just seeing what the towns looked like. I saw some places that were notable from my wife’s childhood, as well as a few tourist locations, including Winchester Mystery House and the new Apple Park complex. We also took a considerable amount of time to find a particular business that was very near and dear to our hearts, and after looking in three places using two mapping applications, we finally arrived at the corporate office for the Society for Creative Anachronism, the historical re-creation organization that my wife and I have been part of for around 20 years and that we met through. Having reached our fill of driving around, we went back to where we’re staying and took a nap.

Tonight will be a big dinner at our hosts’ house, with the two of them, their younger son – my wife’s best friend – and his family, and the two of us. It’ll be a last chance to visit with all of them before we start packing things up in preparation to fly home early tomorrow morning.

This has been an incredible trip. I’ve gotten to see a lot of the Bay Area and know now why the cost of living here is so expensive – the place is utterly gorgeous. More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to see places and meet people that are important to my wife. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It has been twenty years since my wife was last here in California, and these last few days have been some of the best she’s had since we got together over seventeen years ago. I have made promises to several people that it will not be another twenty years before we come back to visit. There’s still so much that I haven’t seen, and I want her friends and me to have the opportunity to get to know one another better.

Tomorrow’s going to be a hectic day. Besides the flight, I have a lot of studying to do in preparation for a biology quiz on Wednesday and an algebra test on Thursday. I genuinely hope I do well – I would prefer not to have more grades that are on the low side, especially on that test. While the low quiz score will be dropped, that won’t be the case with the test, and I’ve been doing a lot of my work up to this point open-book, something that the testing center won’t allow. If I can get through this week, I think school will be easier to handle for a while.

This Place is Beautiful

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Today my wife and I did some more sightseeing in the south Bay Area in California. We started off with a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway and a stop off at one of the scenic vistas that overlook Monterey Bay. The view was spectacular – see for yourself above. After leaving the vista, we continued south down the PCH to Monterey where we drove around for a little bit before heading back north to Santa Cruz.

At one point during the trip my wife pointed out a particularly tall tree. After being told that Sequoia National Park was hours away, I had given up hope that I would be seeing redwoods, but here it was, towering over the highway.

The drive to Santa Cruz down California Route 17 was breathtaking. Route 17 is a winding road through the mountains that reminded me strongly of the mountains in North Carolina where I grew up. There were tall trees on both sides of the road – not as tall as the redwoods, but still easily a hundred feet high – and I craned my neck to be able to see them. Eventually we made it to Santa Cruz, got a bite to eat at Togo’s, a place my wife has been raving about for years, and headed for the boardwalk and the beach.

There’s a very good chance that you’ve seen the Santa Cruz Boardwalk – it featured prominently in the movie The Lost Boys. It’s exactly what you’d expect a boardwalk to be – arcades, attractions, rides, the whole nine yards. But it was really the beach that we came to see.

We took off our shoes, and I my socks, and we rolled up our jeans before heading for the water. The sand was wonderfully warm compared to the relatively chilly air, and I noted at one point when I walked that I didn’t remember sinking into the sand as deeply the last time I was on the beach. Then I remembered that I was still a teenager the last time I went for a stroll across the sand, and that was decades and many, many pounds ago.

It took us a while to work up to getting our feet wet, knowing the water would be cold, and it was surprisingly so – but it didn’t take long to get used to it, and we stood there for several minutes as the waves crashed across our feet and up our legs, soaking our rolled-up jeans. Finally we decided it was probably time to head back to where we were staying, but once we got to the sidewalk we paused to sit and listen to the ocean and to give our legs and feet a chance to dry so we could brush off the sand before getting back in the car. On the way, we stopped again to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds.

My wife spent six years living in Los Gatos, a town about 20 miles away from Santa Cruz, and she would often cut class and make her way from Gatos to this strip of beach. She could be found many weekends at the numerous beach volleyball courts there, and these were some of the best times of her life. The nostalgia was palpable. I could tell she didn’t want to leave, and I was content to let her have as much time as she wanted. We finally walked back the car and drove back to Los Gatos.

There were other events today, some good, some not so much so, but this will be the memory I keep with me of today – of seeing some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen, and of reliving my wife’s childhood with her.

Fourth Stage Complete

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(My blog posts for the next couple weeks are going to revolve around two things: my trip to the Bay Area, and my attempts to work my already hectic school schedule around the vacation.)

We woke up this morning at 3:30 in order to catch our Lyft ride to the airport at 4:15, to make it through security in time for a 7:00 flight. We got there in plenty of time, which was good since I got patted down and my CPAP machine got the once-over before we were finally allowed to head to the gate.

The flight itself was smooth, albeit a little long. Both my wife and I slept for part of the flight and I spent a large portion of the rest of the time reading ahead in my biology textbook.

We were picked up my my wife’s best friend in high school, and went for breakfast before dropping him off at the train station. We drove to his parents’ home, where we’re staying for the trip, and checked in there.

After a lengthy catching-up session, we went to go see the town where my wife graduated from high school. The campus is lovely and we got there to see the grounds covered in students – we got there during lunch. We went to check in with the office and were asked to return after school was dismissed to tour the grounds, so we headed back out to the car and drove downtown to see the sights.

Los Gatos, California is a lovely town, very picture postcard, with a beautiful downtown. We strolled through the downtown region for some time before heading back to where we were staying to rest and to let our phones recharge.

We went over to her friend’s house for dinner, and finally met his three-year-old son, who’s adorable and precocious. The late hour got to me, however, and soon we were heading back to our base of operations for the night.

Tomorrow we’ll be going to Santa Cruz and seeing the Pacific Coast Highway. I’m looking forward to that trip.