Posted in Personal Notes

Trauma and the Things That Save Us

I read the essays in Last Night, A Superhero Saved My Life yesterday, pretty quickly after having received the book. It amazes me, even now, how much I identify with many of these writers and the events of their lives.

It inspired me to write my own essay about my trauma, and the things that saved me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t superheroes or comics, but it was still fiction and it is still important for me to write about it.

This is my essay. It rambles. My early life was chaotic, thus is the telling of it. I’d apologize for it, but why should I be sorry?


By most standards, I had a normal, middle-class childhood. My parents worked hard; they ran a business together. My mother did accounting and sales, my father did marine electronics repair. We traveled a lot, sometimes for my parents’ business, other times for holidays, once or twice for family shenanigans.

I became a reader very young. I remember the first Christmas where I received a set of Hardy Boys books. They were among the first things I opened, and I started reading immediately. My mother had to continuously remind me to come back to the other presents. My love of reading never dimmed; I spent a lot of time in my school library, and when my rural town finally got one, my town’s library.

When I was about six years old, my mother fell ill with brain cancer. I only vaguely remember this. She had surgery, a tumor was removed, and life went on.

Then the Rule of Three struck a couple of years later.

My parents’ business ran in peaks and waves. Spring and summer were very active times; fall and winter were not. To conserve money, they raised and lowered their insurance rates accordingly, since they’d have more or less customer equipment (and new equipment or replacement parts) in the shop during certain times.

If you know the human brain, you know what a fickle thing it is. Add in a dash of brain cancer (i.e. A GIANT SQUISHY THING PRESSING BETWEEN YOUR SKULL AND YOUR ACTUAL BRAIN) and you might understand why my mother (the aforementioned accountant of the family) failed to raise the insurance rates before the business’s busy period started.

That’s when the shop burned, or immolated, or whatever it did. It didn’t burn to the ground. It just kind of… melted. The structure was left intact, but everything inside was destroyed.

Thankfully, no lives were lost. Just the business and my parents’ livelihood.

Because of all this, my parents went through bankruptcy. My brother and I lost significant college savings accounts, my parents lost their business, my mother’s insurance was maxed to the hilt for her cancer. We had to sell my childhood home and move.

My world was rocking. My once-wide circle of friends shrank to just one (who became my adopted brother, and his family my adopted family). My books became my escape. I was going through puberty, fast. I was already taller and heavier than most of my classmates, some of my teachers, and my father. By the time my mother died, I was eleven years old, over six feet tall, and weighed easily two hundred pounds.

The last few months of my mother’s illness started me down the path of escapism into fiction. There was too much I didn’t understand in the real world. Cleaning up my mother after she wet the bed, picking her up out of shattered pictures frames because she’d fallen down, babysitting her in the car while my father fought with the pharmacist over prescription refills. The worlds in my books were nicer places to be.

The escapism continued even after my mother passed away. After her death, my father changed. Where once he was kind and caring (with a side of harsh criticisms), now he was emotionally abusive and tyrannical. It took me over a year to cry about my mother’s death, at which point I was told she was gone, move on, shut up.

So I did. I moved into outer space. I moved into fantastical realms. I found a place where I could be okay, even for the briefest moment. I learned moral codes, found people who treated themselves and others the way I wanted to be treated. I found fathers and mothers that I could temporarily believe could be mine. I found siblings that might have valued me for me, rather than as a tool to gain a tyrant’s favor or as a shield against his wrath.

Whenever I wasn’t escaped into a book, I lived in literal fear for my life. According to my father, if I talked to my mother’s family and friends (or didn’t clean my room, or do my homework), my mother’s family and friends would take me away from my father and brother and destroy my life. I’d just lost my mother, how could I contemplate losing my remaining parent?

Drugs and alcohol were becoming problems in my hometown amongst teens. I can’t recount here the number of times I heard the phrase, “You’re mother didn’t like drinking. So you won’t.” or “If you get involved with that shit, I’ll kill you.”

Outside of my books, I became invisible. It became my quest, between reading sessions. Don’t talk unless asked a question. Avoid my younger brother, lest I be drawn into an argument that draws father’s ire.

I made the mistake, once, of telling my father of the treatment I received on the school bus. Because of my early onset puberty, many of the other males on my bus liked to harass me. This particular day, one of them had their girlfriend with them. She had a panty liner with her. They thought it would be hilarious to attach it to the back of my shirt, right where I couldn’t reach it.

My father listened, and dealt with it. The school kicked the kids in question off the bus for a week.

When they returned, the harassment turned to full-fledged physical assault. One of the kids punched me in the lower back until I blacked out. Luckily, I woke up in time to get off at my stop. 

When I told my father about it this time, he told me I should’ve taken care of it, that he was done. Apparently, I should’ve fought back.

So I shut up, went quiet, strove for invisibility. The harassment didn’t end, the assault didn’t end. Reporting to teachers was laughable: I was over six feet tall, and outweighed my harassers. Surely I could take care of myself? My brother even got in on it (when we started at a new school, at my father’s insistence, my brother told everyone I was the “mentally challenged” brother who was at the school to fill some sympathy slot on the school’s admissions roster).

The only safe place I had was my books. I didn’t have a particular favorite. No characters spoke to me. I just needed a good plot, good writing, and off I’d go. I’d escape into that world and enjoy my stay for as long as I can.

Posted in Personal Notes

Memories on May the Fourth

It was one year ago today that we lost my father-in-law, Charlie, to lung cancer. It was fast, confusing, distressing, heartbreaking, and a whole host of things.
Charlie and I had a strange relationship. When Caroline and I first started dating, I was this hulking, quiet, bear of a guy that was suddenly in his daughter’s life. He had no idea who I was or what I was like. I barely talked. He cracked jokes, as he always did, and I barely reacted.

After a few years, though, it became clear that Caroline and I were in a serious relationship, and I also started opening up. I remember clearly the day the ice broke completely, for me, and I truly felt like I was part of the Moore family.

I’d been struggling in school; I had been for years. My academic performance had descended to the point where I was deathly afraid–literally afraid for my life–that my flesh-and-blood father would do me harm. I was put on academic probation. I was close to being put on academic suspension. The university had sent my father a letter.

Dear Lord, I thought I was going to die.

When all of this went down, Caroline and I had been visiting her parents for a long weekend. I honestly forget how the subject came up, I just remember it was late at night and Charlie finally confronted me about what was going on. He asked me one question that no one else had bluntly asked me before:

“What are you really afraid of?”

That was the moment I realized how terrified of my own father I was. I realized that it didn’t matter what my academic performance was. None of it mattered. I’d been living in fear, soul-rending fear for so long that I’d lost track of what really mattered.

That was the first time I’d cried, really cried, since I was a child. Since before my mother passed away. The last time I’d cried like that, my mother had held me in her arms.

And you know what happened next?

Charlie hugged me.

It was an unexpected gesture, but exactly what I needed at that moment. And that one gesture told me I was part of his family, he understood me, and he cared about me.

From that moment on, he and I had a much better relationship. We had our ups and downs, our spats. I definitely pissed him off a few times. But we talked a lot, we laughed and joked, and we worked together.

There’s a reason I took my wife’s name when we were married, and this is part of it.

So last year, when we lost Charlie, I lost not only my father-in-law, but a dear friend and someone who was much more a father to me than my own was.

To Charlie: Wherever in the ‘verse you are now, I hope they are treating you right.

Posted in Personal Notes

The Ups and Downs of a Day

Down: I had therapy this morning with my new therapist. Unfortunately, this morning is the last session with this therapist. There’s something missing from the sessions and I’m convinced there’s no way to fix it.
Up: I finished a short story. Drafted it by hand and I approximate that it comes to about 1,500 words (it is eight hand-written pages).

Up: I’ve been using the iOS and Mac app Things to keep track of To Do items, iCloud’s Calendar to track appointments and school events, and IFTTT’s iOS app to set reminders for taking medications. Overall, this “outboard brain” (as Tobias Buckell refers to it) is doing much better than my previous hand-written calendar and task sheet at keeping me organized and on-target.

Up: I’m already juggling ideas for a new short story that I’ll start (and maybe finish!) writing tomorrow while the girls are in school.

Posted in Tech

Backup iCloud Docs Without Expensive Software

Did you know you had all the software you need to perform backups already installed on your Mac?
There’s Time Machine, which does well, but beyond that, usually most articles point you to expensive apps to do selective backups. What if I have this one folder I want backed up?

Given that OS X is based on a Unix backbone, there are all kinds of under-the-hood tools to use.

Here’s one I’ve started using to back up my iCloud Drive files. Follow these steps in order to start using it yourself.

  1. Create a folder in your Home directory called “iCloud”
  2. Open TextEdit from your Applications folder. Paste the following, exactly as shown, into a new document:
  3. Save the file as “icloud-backup.sh” in your Home directory. Be sure to use “.sh” as the file extension, not “.txt”
  4. Open Terminal from your Applications -> Utilities folder. Type the following: chmod +x icloud-backup.sh
  5. Now type
    crontab -e
  6. In the new window, use the arrows on your keyboard to scroll down to the bottom of the file. Paste the following, exactly as shown:
    0 0 * * * ./icloud-backup.sh
  7. On your keyboard, press CTRL and O (the letter O), then the enter/return key. Then press CTRL and X. Exit Terminal.

Your computer should now sync your iCloud Drive to your computer’s Home directory every hour. Only changed files will be synced.

Posted in Personal Notes

Thoughts On Internet Privacy

I’ve read a lot over my years as a developer about privacy, especially as it relates to the Internet and technology. My views have skewed from one extreme to another (Everything should be private! Nothing is private!). Over the last year or so, my views (and the actions that go along with them) have settled a bit.
It wasn’t so long ago that I would go out of my way to host my blog and e-mail on my own server, where I (theoretically) was the only one with access. Yes, it was in a remote data center, so someone else still had physical access to the drive the data was stored on. So, again theoretically, everything I put on the drive was encrypted and would take awhile for someone to break into.

Then something would happen and my views would change. Who cares what happens to my data? Use whatever service I want. To hell with privacy policies.

Now, though, I’m a bit more middle of the road.

There’s got to be an understanding that technology will only do what us, as humans, tell it to (at least right now — if you’re reading this, Skynet, please don’t hurt me!). Humans, by nature, are fallible and imperfect creatures. Mistakes happen.

So what does this mean?

It means I’m willing to use services I need or that fit my workflow best, with the knowledge that: a) my privacy may not always be 100%; b) there are trade-offs to putting data into the cloud.

Mistakes are going to happen. If I use GMail (and I do) for my data, a mistake could happen that routes my e-mail to someone else’s box. Or allows another user into my account. If I use WordPress.com to host my blog (and I do), errors could happen that allow my private or draft posts to be exposed to the public.

Things happen. (And, yes, government intrusion into my data is also something that could happen. Is it likely? No. I haven’t done anything that would warrant the government snooping my data.)

Now, the other part of this is, if I make content available to the public, I have to accept that people might copy it, or comment on it, or something. I can’t control what other people do. The only thing I can control — if I have the money, time, and wherewithal — is whether another person makes money from content that I created, or content based on content I created.

In the end, there’s got to be some understanding for how these systems works, and how putting content out into the public arena works.

Posted in Personal Notes

Moving Hosting Service

This is a grab bag of disjointed updates. I’m attempting to journal a bit more, so this is coming as a stream-of-consciousness style post.
My wife, via her workplace, just got a free-for-life hosting deal for her websites. Which means we no longer really need the Linode VPS I’ve been running for us.

I haven’t been doing much writing. I’m trying to generate ideas, and I’m fixed on one. I just can’t seem to get started. I’m doing more journaling here, which is good.

I’m finally back in therapy. I was traveling, round trip, 250+ miles every couple of weeks to see my therapist. Because she is great and I’d been seeing her for over six years. That’s a lot of trust and rapport to lose, just switching to a new therapist. I finally did find a new therapist, though, who is much closer and easier to visit. Although… she isn’t my old therapist and I’m finding it hard to get comfortable.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Tim

Posted in Personal Notes

I’ve got no idea, but a house on the beach sounds nice

For the last couple of days, I’ve been playing around with some new software called Jekyll. It’s an alternative website compiler that just delivers static files, rather than being database-driven.
It’s pretty slick.

And it has been itching the tech geek bone a bit. I didn’t realize how much I missed noodling around with some of these things until I was eyeballs deep in getting my Linode server configured to run Jekyll and Ruby and all of the other pieces.

I also managed to break my Linode server, then fixed it on my own without the almighty Google. I feel fairly proud of that, as usually I know how to run the commands, just not what commands I need.

I’ve also managed to somehow break the DNS for my main URL. I think it’s a matter of propagation with DNSSEC, which I turned on for a bit yesterday. So we’ll wait and see how that turns out.

Posted in Personal Notes

Today’s Progress & Some Light On My Process

As of today, I’ve written a second outline for my fantasy story. I’ve now tentatively titled it The Sapphire Sword, though that’s bound to change over time. Stats:

  • Title: The Sapphire Sword
  • Word Count: 1000 fiction / 3400 (over two outlines)
  • Total Words: 4400
  • Deadline: March 30, 2016
  • Genre: Fantasy

On other fronts, I’m discovering two things that I need:

  1. a “clean” app to write in. So far, the only one I’ve found that works on iOS and Mac without a lot of extra fiddling is Microsoft Office. I can just open the app, find where I left off, and start typing. I’ve tried Scrivener, but I get lost in the details: stop this scene, open a new page, write next scene, go fiddle with outline cards, go change compile settings, etc. Vastly too many ways to get lost in the app rather than the writing (a lot like WordPress, that).
  2. an outline to write from. For the last several months, I’ve been trying to write and get a few pages or scenes in and hit a brick wall. Most of the time, I’ve discovered that it’s because I don’t know where the characters are going, or where the story is trying to go. Now, I don’t want to bend the story or characters to my will, but I need to know something of an arc from beginning to middle to end before I get moving. That way, I can let my skills as a parent out to play to shepherd the story along when it starts wandering off to play in the toy bin.
Posted in Fiction, Writing

Writing Project, Title Unknown

I’ve started a new writing project. I’ve got three different names for it currently and I’m not sure which one suits it best. Here are some stats on it:

  • Title: Unknown
  • Word Count: 0 fiction / 1700 outline
  • Total Words: 1700
  • Deadline: March 30, 2016
  • Genre: Fantasy

I’m going to try writing daily and posting about my progress at least weekly.

Posted in Uncategorized

A New Year, A New Start

I’ve been seeing a lot of year-in-review posts and, since I’ve been thinking about restarting this blog, I figured I’d do one of my own (not that I’ve kept very good track of anything…).
2014 was a very stressful year for me. My PTSD and depression brought me to an all-time low, which greatly effected my work. I started the year in a leadership position at work and gradually worked my way out of that, back to a standard code monkey, and now, to medical leave.

It isn’t easy trying to reconcile a version of yourself that got buried twenty years ago with the different self that you are today. It’s a long, hard road (one I’m still on and will be for the foreseeable future), but I’m thankful that I have finally got a solid support system built up around me.

Between the PTSD and depression, I’ve been working with my doctors and therapists to find a good medication to help. PTSD isn’t necessarily treatable with medication (cognitive-behavioral therapy is best), but the deep dives into depression that I’ve had are. The hard part of this is that it takes thee to five weeks per medication before it’s effective. So, when I need to change meds (which I’ve done half a dozen times now) I have to deal with the initial I-want-to-sleep-all-the-time side effects. And if it isn’t effective, that feels like five weeks down the tubes.

2014 was like many other years for me, in that I didn’t focus much on myself or the things I am passionate about. During November and December, while on medical leave, I finally started writing again (not with any regularity, but it’s something!). In 2015, I hope to get the habit down of writing at least once per day, if not more often, and eventually have a set word count per day towards specific projects.

One small step at a time.10890560_422470817901739_1592996253_n

Aside from a gout inflammation during the holidays, I had a good time this year. Thanksgiving was just us and Caroline’s parents. Christmas featured an appearance by Uncle J. The girls were both very happy, which goes a long way towards repairing my view of this time of year.

(Oh, and I got a quadcopter!)