In a few days, it will be the one year anniversary of Mom’s death, as covered in the previous post. I’ve felt the need to do an update for a while, but I’m finally getting around to it tonight. Partially because I’ve been reading up on organizing and procrastinating, and partially just because I feel I have some things I want to put here, rather than on Facebook, mainly due to length.
Over the past 51-ish weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out where things go from here, now that I’m no longer putting my life aside to help take care of Mom. That’s pretty much stating the obvious. While I’ve been wrestling with that, other things happened:
- In August, I picked up Starfinder, Paizo’s space fantasy. I enjoy the most of the system, the setting not so much. I don’t care for space combat, but I’m working on a solution.
- In August, I finished running Numenera, and came to the conclusion I won’t be running that game again, and in fact, earlier this year, I put all my books up for sale at the FLGS, Crazy Squirrel. The GM Intrusion is an intrusion on my storytelling to the point that I feel I can’t properly run a game.
- Nothing really special happened in September. My sister and I made it through our first birthdays without Mom’s presence without falling apart, which is good. (My sister was born the day before my 9th birthday.)
- Late October, shit started hitting the fan for me. I had lots of car problems, starting with my tires going bad just after their warranty had expired, followed by leaks in my car, which turned out to be the oil filter flange and a coolant system leak, which required a couple of replacements, and culminating in…
- Mid-November, when my car was broken into at CSGS, in which all my laptop (in it’s bag) and my EDC were stolen. That stretch cost me about $3,000, which I had only because I had Mom’s death benefits. Fortunately in a couple of cases, I ended up with better items (like the replacement laptop) than the items I lost.
- Thanksgiving went okay without Mom as well, as did Christmas and New Year’s. We all still miss her, and sometimes things set us off (like the Fallout 4 usage of Country Roads, the John Denver song, which our family has a special affinity for as Mom’s family is from West Virginia).
- In January, I started running two Starfinder campaigns, in a modified version of the Post-Gap Golarion universe. One was the Kids’ game, and the other is my Thursday night game at CSGS. I didn’t care for the plot of the first Adventure Path, but the first book is pretty decent, hitting a number of different systems (like ship combat and Zero-G), so I ran it for both groups, but decided to put both games in the same universe. I’ll discuss this more after I’m done recapping the year.
- In March, my sister got to talking with a former co-worker who is now a realtor, and we started talking about selling the house. While there were logical reasons to do it, there were a lot of reasons not to, and eventually those won. We finally stopped looking in mid-May, when the reality of the process caught up with us.
- Which brings us to June, our first Mom’s birthday without Mom. For her birthday, my brother took us to see Brian Regan, a comedian who we had listened to on tape on a previous Mom’s birthday while driving up to Yosemite. We all had a good time. And now, both my sister and I realizing we need to make changes in our lives, bigger changes that we thought in August of last year.
And that’s pretty much been the past year.
I had two things I wanted to expand on from above, and I’ll start with the lighter of the two, gaming.
As I mentioned, I started running two games in the same universe. As I didn’t care for the setting they included, I had the players in both groups create planets with some sort of adventure I could put on them. In a couple of cases, players from each group independently came up with the same idea. I stitched that together with parts of the Future Golarian I liked and we went from there.
The adults in the Thursday night game have completed the first adventure path and dealt with some backlash. I significantly changed the end, making their trip through the adventure an elaborate recreation of the adventure the kids are working their way through. That the adults are moving faster (because we meet weekly), I’ve had to guess at things the kids will do and how it will impact the adults’ game, and vice versa.
I’ve started watching the second campaign of Critical Role, which is up to Episode 24 on a weekly series. I’ve learned a good deal from Matt Mercer about how to handle NPCs and narrating the effects of combat, and I’ve been trying to incorporate those new lessons into the game as we play. I’m having a better time GMing that I have in quite a while, even with Titansgrave a couple of years ago. I’ve felt more creative than I have in a long time.
On to the important stuff, real life…
Once Mom died, I started thinking about my commitment to my job, as well as my direction in life. The job is just an income, and is slowly turning into nothing but a source of stress. The free time has kinda worked for me, but my own lack of organization and discipline means I’m not getting anything significant done. I need to change these things.
A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a Facebook post that referenced a movie in which the main character makes a deal with the Devil to get his heart’s desire, and of course, that doesn’t work out well. The poster went on to say that the lead character didn’t want to work for the things he wished for. It kind of hit me as my own situation for quite a while now: I have things I want, but I haven’t wanted to work for them for quite a while, probably since about 2012, when I last submitted to Wizards before 4e was cancelled. I’ve been coasting.
Lack of desire to work doesn’t interact well with ADHD, at least, not if you want to change things in your life. So, over the past few weeks, while I’m not working, looking for a job that I care about enough to actually put in the effort to apply for, and doing some gaming stuff, I’ve been looking at methods to try to regiment my time better. I’ve pretty much decided to try some variation of bullet journalling. In that research, I stumbled across this page: https://waitbutwhy.com/2013/11/how-to-beat-procrastination.html. This post, and a couple of connected ones, are very much a description of my life. And hopefully a pointer to a way I can get some motivation to get out of my current, going-nowhere situation.
That’s all I’m going to post this time around. It seems incomplete, but I’ve spent quite a bit of time working on this post, and I’d like to move on to something else. There are so many other things I could write about, but if I wracked my brain and remembered all of them,and then wrote about all of them, I’d never complete this post. If I restart posting here consistently, it will mean I’ve actually got something other than how my life is going to post about.
I’m not sure how to start this post. It’s basically going to be a eulogy, along with some of my own stuff.
Nada Evelyn Brown, “Mom”, passed away on July 4th, 2017, age 77, due to complications of diabetes. Her final days came quickly. On June 29th, the hospital was going to send her home. On July 2nd, she was on a bi-PAP for breathing problems. July 4th, she was put into hospice care at noon, and she passed away at 4:17PM.
Everyone liked Mom. Before she lost her hearing and she could still interact with folks, she came across as Mrs. Claus. A sweet little butterball of a woman, Mom made friends easily. But she was also somewhat stoic. We rarely saw her cry for any reason. She’d complain only a little about her aches and pains, but not when she felt really bad. “Oh, never mind,” was something we heard a lot, instead of “I really don’t feel good.”
That was what made her request to go to the hospital that last time so surprising. Usually she would have just suffered through and my sister and I would have to make the call. Not this time. Mom was desperate, not something I’d seen before.
She seemed to get better the first few days. But on July 1st, they couldn’t give Mom a full dialysis without her blood pressure crashing. July 2nd, the hospital called to tell us that her death was eminent. My brother made it down from Sacramento in record time. The doctors had a little hope one more attempt to give Mom dialysis might help, but that failed, too. So after meeting again with the palliative team, we made the decision to start hospice.
The weeks following Mom’s death were a mess. She was to be cremated, but the crematorium had just gotten a new oven and it broke down, so I had to leave work early to sign off on moving her body to a different crematorium (a majority of the survivors have to sign-off on such things). The cemetery has a limited number of places for cremated remains (I hate the portmanteau the industry uses, and I’ll not repeat it here), and between hunger and an assault of numerical information, we had some difficulty dealing with getting a plot for her. We had to make a couple of trips to the marker makers to get her a marker (because the first lady helping us didn’t know the program well). There were some issues with the photos we were using for the service. But, when the day finally came, everything went well. Having three weeks between her death and her memorial service, as well as six months of her out of the house, helped us in expressing our emotions, so the service was relatively tear-free. We had a picnic after as a reception, with fried chicken, as Mom would have enjoyed.
Three weeks have passed since the service, which is a total of six weeks (seven tomorrow) since Mom’s death. We think about her a lot, and there are plenty of old habits that die hard. Just last night, I wondered to myself if my sister had made a plate for Mom, and then remembered that Mom doesn’t need a plate any more.
On the other hand, “Independence Day” has a second meaning for us. It will no doubt sound heartless to say that not only was my mother freed from her failing body, we were also freed from all of the chores and burdens associated with caring for her. My sister the most, as she had manipulated her work schedule most and had the doctor appointment duty. Our time is now our own. My sister has taken more advantage of it than I have, having a couple of trips under her belt. No trips for me, but I’m working more hours, now that I’m free to work every day, rather than the Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule I had been working for the past year and a half.
Both of us are now looking for new jobs. Mom’s income was a fair chunk of the household income. My sister is having more success than I am, but that’s not stopping me. We need more income, and we now have freer schedules, we’re now open to new things, and available for more hours a day.
Some quick gaming updates–
I’ve continued running Numenera on Thursdays. I like that I can edit the piss-poor scenario I’m running on the fly. I can look at an opponent, assess their imbalance, and do the correcting math in about two minutes (assuming a lot of abilities that need to be adjusted). I don’t know that I’ll continue running it past the couple of published adventures I have available to me, but it’s good to know the system is so flexible.
The D&D 4e Kids game is almost done. They have one more battle (because I decided that there was one more battle I didn’t want to slog through, especially now that they have the macguffin weapon that is deadly to most of the creatures in the adventure). I put the bug in the kids’ ears that we can continue with a different game and a different world. We’ll see where they want to go in a couple of months.
My brain has been focused on the Superhero project. I’ve found the index card method really helps keep me from rewriting things, but not revising. But I haven’t gone revision crazy, so I’m staying focused. I’ve also decided that I may go ahead with gaming stats for the characters, but I’ll be using Fate Core and Venture City for my rules set. Why? Because numbers aren’t a big part of the system, but descriptives are, which are good for writing. John Rogers of The Librarians and Leverage fame uses the game for his own character development. So I think it can work for me. I can develop my characters without getting bogged down in mechanics.
That pretty much covers life for the past few weeks. But I’ve come to a conclusion. I’ve been quite happy not blogging for the past few weeks. The blog has really started to feel like a chore, even as I’ve kept altering my schedule to less and less regularity. For now, this blog is a burden I don’t need, so I’m going on indefinite hiatus where this blog is concerned. I’ll just be sticking, for now, to Facebook and Twitter and Google+ (and LiveJournal, but nobody uses LJ anymore).
Thanks for reading.
Most of my readers will have already gotten this information from my Facebook posts, but Mom has entered the end of her life. She’s a fighter, but soon she’ll lose this battle.
I’m going to need time to process this loss. I’m closer to Mom than I was to my dad, so I’m expecting a lot more hurt, even though I’ve been aware this was coming for a long time now. I’ve been mourning in stages from the time we went to the meeting at the dialysis center when they first told us Mom was on the road to dialysis. The loss of hearing, her loss of mobility, and her recent loss of “fire in the belly” to come home from rehabilitation have all kept me painfully aware that “the end was nigh.”
Anyway, I’m taking a couple of weeks away from this blog, as well as most other things. I’ve contacted my boss about work and my Thursday night group about taking time from the GM duties I’d just assumed. This post is your notice, Gentle Reader.
(Note: the first half of this post was started on June 9th, a few days after the last post. I thought I’d posted the draft and had simply not promoted it. Obviously I was wrong and I’m adding to the post now.)
After my last post, I sat down and re-examined the Google Docs file I’ve been using to write my thoughts about my superhero project. In so doing, I realized a problem with my creative flow: I cover the same ground multiple times. I noticed this with the StarSea as well. I continuously go over the same ideas.
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to change the way I work. I was looking to do that when I got my first iPad. That was why I was typing the five notepads I had filled when I started on the StarSea project. The idea was that eventually I would move the text files into some sort of database or wiki that would allow me to connect segments together. My distraction from that caused me to not learn this lesson.
Now I’m going to try something new. I was largely able to stay on track with the Adventurers! Rewrite by using index cards, numbered as chapters so I could follow them like an outline. So I’m going to try the card system with my superhero project and see how it works.
I’ve also got a Trello app for my mobile devices that I might try working with soon. I’m thinking about picking up OmniOutliner, too. It was included on one of my laptops as free software a few years ago, and I like using it, but that version doesn’t work like this new version, which works across devices through iCloud. While the app is relatively inexpensive for the Mac, it’s a bit more than I want to pay for the mobile version, even though I’ll be able to use it on both devices. I’ll be giving it more thought in the near future.
I really haven’t done much with this index card idea since I wrote the above. I mentioned the UTI issue last time. About the time I started this post, she was given Ativan to help her sleep. Unfortunately, sedatives like that linger in the diabetic’s body, especially in my mother’s case, as her liver also doesn’t function correctly. The liver and kidneys filter drugs out of the system, and when they don’t work, the filtering they should do obviously doesn’t happen. That’s part of the reason for dialysis. So from that point to now, Mom’s mind has been altered. It wasn’t frightening (at least what I experienced), and in fact, it was kind of amusing. But now it’s persisted.
We brought her home Thursday night, and put her directly to bed. Friday morning she was complaining of pain and acting very strange. She wasn’t very coherent, but she could answer questions, but mostly the answers were her repeating her complaints and then crying in pain. So we sent her back to the hospital, where they dialyzed her, as well as drawing a liter of fluid from her abdomen. It tested clean, so it seems it was just her body allowing fluid to pool. She came home last night, and complained enough that I was up attending to her three times this morning, shifting her position in the bed as best I could. All day today, she has been listless and lethargic. And since she’s been in bed again for a week, she again has no muscle tone or strength. Things are not going well. And tomorrow is her first dialysis after leaving the hospital, so we’re wondering if she’ll be able to transfer to a wheelchair for transport.
That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll remember to discuss FreeRPGDay at length. The short version is that I spent a lot of time prepping an adventure I ended up having to cancel. There is plenty more there, but I’m out of time for tonight.
Last time, I mentioned how Mom’s prognosis was up and down. Over the past ten days, it’s been all over the place, exasperated by insurance issues. Last Friday (that is, before Mother’s Day), we were informed that Mom’s insurance would no longer cover her as a short term patient, as of this Thursday. So, our options are to bring her home unable to walk, but with therapists and nurses and such here at home, with all sorts of new devices to help us move her around, or we could put her in long term care, which would end any therapy for her and she would never come home.
We decided to bring her home.
But a week later, and she’s still at the convalescent home and we’re still without the equipment. The equipment is supposed to be here tomorrow, and so might Mom, but we have no real idea if we’re ready for her to be home. The next couple of weeks are going to be difficult no matter what.
Mom has realized that she didn’t do enough to help herself out of this situation, but we also realized that her health is so sensitive that her ability to consistently perform is hampered. She mentioned feeling shaky and not able to do her therapy many times during her stay, and only this past week or so did we realize that the shakiness was related to her infections. The most recent bout of shakiness was due to a UTI, which I know I’ve mentioned before is related to the lack of functionality of her kidneys.
When we learned about her impending discharge, we decided we’d put off doing anything for Mother’s Day until she came home. We did have the staff put Mom in her chair so we could take her out on the patio and have some peach pie my sister made the day before. I hear from folks a lot that I should enjoy these times more than I do, but I often feel like I’m spending time with a stranger. I know I’ve mentioned it before that Mom has lost her hearing. I used to spend a lot of time with her, discussing life and all that. Now, since the destruction of her hearing, it is so difficult trying to talk to her that I’ve basically given up on such complex subjects.
I say “destruction” because that’s basically the truth of the matter. Mom’s hearing was destroyed by Amikacin, and antibiotic used to treat MRSA, which Mom had contracted during one of her visits to the hospital. I posted about it on Facebook, and I wanted to repost my original post every year, but Facebook makes that basically impossible, so I’ll try to make this a regular thing here on the blog. So here’s my warning to you, gentle reader:
Amikacin is an antibiotic used in the treatment of MRSA, medically resistant staphylococcus aureus. It has a known side effect of burning out the cilia in the inner ear, destroying the patient’s ability to hear. You have been warned, friends: you will lose your hearing if you are prescribed amikacin.
Only a cochlear implant has any hope of restoring hearing, and implants are not advised for diabetics, due to healing issues related to the disease. So Mom will never clearly hear again, and I can’t really talk to her any more.
I could go on with other things, like John Wick, or my creative projects, but it’s late and I’m not really interested in writing more now.
Last night, I wrote a lengthy piece on how work has been going lately. I’m in a better mood today, and I’ve decide it was too long and inappropriate to be posting in anything approaching a public forum. Suffice it to say, it has been very stressful lately.
Adding to the stress is Mom’s condition. One week, she seems on fire and is really working to come home. The next week, she seems completely unmotivated. She’s been out of the house since sometime in February, I think. We thought going to Yosemite for her birthday would motivate her, and it seemed to for about two weeks. My sister and I are getting tired of the delays, and they all seem centered on Mom.
I finished the Economix book. I really wasn’t too surprised by much in the final chapters. I’ve lived through them.
I still recommend the book to anyone interested in how our economy got as messed up as it is.
I otherwise haven’t done much of anything creative lately. I honestly couldn’t tell you what I’ve been doing with my evenings that aren’t Thursday through Saturday. Sometime in the last two weeks, I watched Arrival, which was a pretty amazing movie. I reread the Killraven comic book mini-series of a few years ago, written and illustrated by Alan Davis. There are some ideas within that series that have inspired some of my ideas in StarSea. That’s all I can remember right now, even looking at a calendar.
That’s pretty much it for this fortnight. Later.
I haven’t mentioned here, but a few weeks ago, near the beginning of March, Mom had to go back to the hospital with a mild case of pneumonia. It took a couple of weeks for her to get over that, as well as the other infections she developed while there. whenever she’s at the hospital for more than a couple of days, she ends up sitting and lying around so much she can’t stand up and needs physical therapy. So, she’s been out of the house for a couple of weeks now. That means I can work more, as I’m not caring for her every other day. So lately I’ve had a couple of weeks in which I’ve worked three or four of the weekdays. That’s great for my pocketbook, but horrible for getting anything done after work. That means I’ve just been kicking back after work and not motivated to accomplish anything meaningful to me. But I have accomplished a little.
One of the few things I’ve done is some work with my Dragon Age character. After the last post, we did character creation. I was afraid my GM might not want me to follow a certain path (a specialization that uses others’ pain to empower the character), as it’s pretty dark. He was cool with it though, and we got on our way.
My character is an escaped elven slave, and it’s interesting to play a character who wants to keep a low profile. It’s really coloring my decisions as the character moves through the world. For example, there was a weapon throwing contest, which the character would be pretty good at, but I decided he wouldn’t want to draw the attention of those who might turn him into a bounty hunter and return him to slavery. It’s very different for me, as I usually end up with my characters right up front, even if I don’t build them to be there. I look forward to seeing where the character goes in the course of the game.
I’m also building a mini for him. At first, I bought a couple of the new unpainted plastic Elven Ranger minis WizKids is producing for D&D, but after purchasing them, I realized they are Drizzt. I could paint them as high elves or whatever, but the fur mantle on his cloak is simply too damned recognizable. Instead, I’ll use a WHFB Dark Elf Corsair with two blades. I think he’ll have a good, dynamic pose that will be fun to paint.
My Superhero Rebuild project hasn’t been a big focus either, although I had some breakthroughs. I cleaned out the waterlogged box of game books and found some of my old Street Fighter stuff (the books were all destroyed). In there, I’d actually included histories on Agent Omega/Vindicator/ShadowWalker and Dr. Power. While I don’t have all their powers, etc., I do have the important things: their histories and some other details, like Dr. Power’s secret identity.
I’ve pretty much rewritten AO/V/SW’s history, as it was a bit dated and I wanted to make the timeline work better for 20 years later. I’m still not sure what happened between the last of the Champions games and the present, but I moved that character forward about 20 years in about 15 minutes.
Still not sure what to do with his missing years and travels to alien dimensions. My first thought had been to do a Planetary Romance/Sword and Planet (John Carter) sort of thing. However, that doesn’t necessarily move the character in a direction I like. If I don’t do that, I’m not sure what to do with him. I’ve also become interested in proprioception and situational awareness as superpowers. I think he will continue to be a gear-based character. That just seems to make sense.
This weekend at the local Bookwyrm gaming convention (had about 100 people at the con at the same time I was) I got to play a game called Phoenix: Dawn Command. It’s created by Keith Baker, the guy who created the card game Gloom and the D&D setting Eberron. I had a fantastic time with it, although it was a difficult location, and I’m sure the other players didn’t see my enthusiasm throughout most of the game. We were in the Story Room of a library, and the shape of the room caused the noise of other tables to drown out some of the players’ voices, especially the DM’s. And I ended up with another healer/social character, which I only realized later. I’m getting rather tired of that combination.
However, the game play was very entertaining. The idea is that your characters are reincarnated heroes of some time past. In fact, I first heard about it at the same time I got the idea for the Reincarnated setting I’ve been working on. P:DC was one of the inspirations for the setting, alongside Age of Sigmar.
These Phoenixes are brought into schools (classes) which determine their abilities. Those schools are very much a niche protection system, as only one player can choose a particular class. Each school is also based on the character’s first life, and death. We used pregens, so I saw none of the character creation material. The book and box are pretty bland as far as shelf appeal, but the real art treat is the cards used for challenge resolution. They are Tarot card sized and include some very stylized art that enhances the feel of the setting, a medieval world that is slowly being overrun by a group of evils collectively known as the Dread.
Challenge resolution is handled by placing cards from your hand out to try to achieve a total that is compared to a chart, which was included on the pregen sheet. There are three suits, each associated to a typical game ability: Strength, Grace, and Intellect. Grace is both physical grace and internal grace, as it is used for social challenges as well as physical. As the characters have a personalized deck with cards that favor their abilities, it is rare that a character can’t get a relatively decent spread of cards. As well, each character can always use his favored suit as a different suit if needed.
So, the game has some level of tactical/strategic play alongside a very story driven setting. As well, in an encounter, there is a card called the Torch. The Torch acts as the initiative system, with the players literally “passing the Torch” to the next player in line, which is determined by the player ending his turn at that moment. Enemies have a Speed stat, which determines how many players go between their actions. So for example, the dreadknights we faced always had a speed of 2, which meant two of us players would go, then the dreadknight, then two more of us, then the dreadknight again.
As well, the Torch lists a number of elements that are part of the encounter. These elements function like scene aspects in Fate, but each can only be used once. Having this list in front of you or another player is a good reminder they exist. It really helped us actually use those “aspects.” My character used one, and I came up with an effect that helped create a fun story. There was a listing for “Discarded Chains” on the Torch. I decided my cleric character walked by the chains on the way to a villain, picked up a chain, charged it with magical energy and flailed the villain with it. This made for a fun story and brought smiles to everyone’s faces.
At some point, I may pick up the game. I think the kids could play it and have a lot of fun, and I think the rest of the people I play with would be entertained by it as well. However, the book is heavy, there are a lot of cards, all in a very well constructed box, so the game is a little spendy for an indie game ($65 compared to the usual $20), so it may be a while before I pick it up. But it would be a worthy addition to any indie player’s game library.
Something I’ve been stumbling on for the Reincarnated setting I’ve been working on is the map. One thing I’ve wanted to do with it is have my players build the individual nation-states for the region of the fallen empire we would be playing in. I’ve been fascinated by the map below since I found it, and I’ve wanted to somehow incorporate something like this into my map.
Obviously, each octagon or circle is an encounter location, which is what attracted me to the map. This map is a campaign flowchart, essentially. I find that a brilliant idea, that it is laid out so plainly to that end.
But in thinking about this map, and our discussions after my Thursday night game, I realized that what I think I really need for my map is a variation of a Western Marches campaign. We talked about doing a Western Marches style game (a setting idea by game designer Ben Robbins, creator of Microscope, Kingdom, and the upcoming Follow), which consists of a safe and boring base for the players, while they make excursions to the West of the base to assault ancient ruins and monsters, which absolutely do not exist anywhere to the East. In imitation of Moorcock’s Corum, which I’ve mentioned is also an inspiration for the setting, I plan on putting the safe zone one an island from which the players can jump off to attack the invader gods and their followers. I need to think a little more about how to do this, and I think flowcharting the setting a little bit more might be in order.
Finally, I bought and started reading Economix, in an effort to educate myself on, well, Economics. I’d stumbled across this site and book a few weeks ago, and something sparked me to really dig into the subject (mainly my brain getting hooked on it after driving by yet another strip mall going up in town). I can’t recommend this book enough, and I’m only 58 pages in. If you weren’t an Economics major, or like me you simply failed to ever take a course in the subject, you might want to look into this book.
I think that’s all this time around, so I’ll complete things and get off to bed so I can get to work in the morning.