A Twist in the Tale? (From Thursday, June 29th, 2017)

Good morning, folks! Time for a quick update before I rush off to a rescheduled personal training appointment!

Lots of small but major things to report today. I’ll start with the negative so that we can move on to the positive! Somewhere between Tuesday’s TRX class, lunch, fifteen minutes of treadmill walking for steps, and twenty minutes in the hot tub to recover – I noticed some strange spots in my vision that wouldn’t seem to go away. Having heard of this sort of thing before at my preconception visit (a common sign of pre-eclampsia,) I guessed that maybe either the class or the hot tub had raised my blood pressure enough to cause temporary floaters. Concerning, but not alarming by themselves. I decided to proceed with my day.

After the floaters were still unchanged by yesterday morning, I decided it was time to go and get them checked out. At my last ophthalmologist visit back in January, they’d found some bleeding in the back of my eyes – a semi-common complication of uncontrolled blood sugar, and one of the reasons I’ve been working so hard to correct myself since then. Often, establishing and maintaining control quickly can be enough to heal the damage without intervention. I have an appointment booked for mid-July to recheck that and treat it if necessary, but my biggest concern was that I’d been too late, or that my eyes had worsened somehow despite all the changes I’d made. Floaters are also a sign of said bleeding.

Of course, the only slot they had available was at 3:30 – the exact time I had scheduled to get back to my counseling appointments, after two weeks of not seeing my therapist! Long story short: my 20/20-mandated counseling is now over, but I’ve opted to keep seeing Merrill on my own. She’s been great for me and my social anxiety already, and I feel like she’ll be even more valuable once I’m trying for a baby and/or pregnant, since family and kid therapy are some of her areas of expertise. That said — I also decided that seeing her every two weeks instead of weekly was fine. I’m not having the kind of constant breakdowns I feared when I started the program, and I feel like I can trust myself and my ability to cope with things now, which is a huge milestone! Alas, the change in schedule meant that she wasn’t available for a couple of weeks, and now I’ll have to go another two weeks without seeing her. I’m feeling good and I’ve been handling things well, so at least it’s a good time for the break.

As for the floaters – everything is fine. Better than fine. My emergency visit turned out to be something of a non-issue, as the head doctor at the office checked out my eyes in minute detail and couldn’t find anything wrong. I don’t have any retinal tearing, which is the worst possible thing that floaters can indicate. My ocular pressure was still high again this visit, but last time my usual doctor told me that I have thick corneas, which can affect their readings a bit. (This isn’t a sign of anything; your corneas are whatever thickness they are.) It wasn’t any further up than it was in January. He didn’t seem concerned, so I won’t be either. The best news is that the bleeding from before has improved a ton, so I’m well on the road to recovery now! That was a huge weight off my shoulders, considering that I was preparing myself for that to be the cause of the floaters.

(On an unrelated note, the doctor also handed me a little gadget that I could look into if I wanted to see my own cataracts. This was way cooler than I expected! Where people without cataracts would look into it and see nothing but a generalized light (John did this,) I get to see patterns that aren’t unlike a kaleidoscope or a sand dollar. For the doctor, the dark pattern against the light actually lights up, since cataracts reflect light. According to him, most people don’t have quite such interesting patterns. I guess I’ll take that as a compliment!)

The bad news… is that I still have floaters. Since the doctor could barely see them in his scans, and there was nothing wrong in my eyes otherwise (aside from my cataracts, which continue to remain unchanged,) he had no real advice outside of learning to live with them. According to him, most people get some of these as they age, and most learn to ignore them after several weeks to months. If they get worse, I start seeing flashing lights, or my peripheral vision gets bad, I’ll need to rush back in since those are signs of the tearing I mentioned before, but otherwise, I’ll have to concede that my eyes are aging faster than the rest of my body. As a diabetic, I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. I’m only 32, and yet I have several eye issues that are typical of people my grandparents’ age. Sigh. At least the rest of me is looking and feeling younger!

Now for the good stuff!

This week is Week 15 of the program, and I just got my measurements taken again yesterday. (John won’t have his done until Friday – trainers all handle this on their own schedules.) I don’t have any massive changes this time, but almost everything is down by an inch or an inch and a half. My hips are down two more inches, which explains why I’ve continued to have trouble holding onto my old pants. 🙂 It’s donation time for sure! My biceps and neck are the only two places with no change, and we’re all pretty sure that they ARE changing, just in terms of composition rather than size. I’m amazingly strong and capable now compared to when I started, and I’m still getting better every day, so that’s a clear sign of progress. Even with the foot injury and my cold during these past five weeks, I’m still moving in the right direction! My weight has settled for a bit at 266, but considering that this is the first week I’ve been getting all the steps and exercise I’ve needed since I got sick, that’s a) not shocking and b) still down from last week.

We are now on the last phase of our diet as well! Last week we added grains back, and we added cereal and snack crackers back this week. It’s weird to think that we can now eat most things again – most. We’re still trying to lose weight, and we still have to adhere to the calorie deficit and nutrition guidelines they set out for us, so this isn’t “go ahead and eat three cheeseburgers” time. 🙂 What it does mean is that we have a lot more choice in what we can eat, even if we still have to watch portion size and balance things well. There will still be plenty of things we can’t access (say, real tacos, or a takeout pizza,) but things are now almost equivalent to the “pregnant diabetic” diet I was on from before. The only difference is that I’m prioritizing things better than I used to, now that I know what I’m doing. I have every faith that we’ll keep losing weight and making great changes now that we have the maximum amount of freedom we can have on the program!

Lastly – the note that inspired the title for this post. John and I have been throwing most of our spare time into planning for our EXPER3 projects. Last week, both of us managed to hit a wall – him with his story, and me with my ability to wrangle RPG Maker into what I wanted to do for my project. I’d been chatting with Erin quite a bit about EXPER3 and the history behind it, and she (of course) brought up the fact that John and I are very well matched, since I’m the story-dominant person and he’s the coding-dominant person. She mentioned that we should try collaborating on a story sometime… which I’ve heard so many times from the folks that love us, but I have misgivings about.

You see… we tried. Once. It didn’t go well.

It’s funny to think that a couple that gets along as well as we do could come to blows over a project, but… that’s what happened. We were both young, naive college kids with no time, a ridiculous amount of stress, and many, many fewer years of cooperation and collaboration than we have now. At the time, what I wanted for my project was less of a partner and more of a pet coder – someone to make the stuff I dreamed up happen according to my whims. Of course, he wanted more input – and all of that input tended to highlight the exact areas that I was weakest, such as game design planning and plot depth. As a writer still in my infancy, and accustomed to being the coolest kid on every forum writing gig I’d ever done, I couldn’t handle the criticism or the concept of needing to “edit” my work, no matter how kind; he wasn’t willing to “settle” when he felt like the project he wanted to make was very different than what I’d suggested. (Did I mention both of us are very passionate about our work and our expectations of ourselves?)

The whole thing left me twice as furious at myself for not being able to code without help, and very insecure about my writing ability. Rather than put in the time and the effort to improve, it was far easier to run away and give up; it took years to overcome that impulse. You’ve all seen my work since then, and it’s orders of magnitude better than what I used to produce, but I had to grow up a lot in order to be able to make that happen. Learning to take feedback from John without freaking out was one of the lessons I set myself to learning, back when Ink Raindrops was my once-a-month writing website and not this blog. I’m now very welcoming and encouraging of feedback, both from John and from others! Everything has room to improve, no matter how small, and it’s important to know what things bother your readers/players. At the end of the day, as the author/developer, you have control over what you choose to change, but there’s almost always some small tweak you can make to bridge the gap between annoyance and successfully telling the story you meant to.

Flash forward to now…

With both of us blocked on our individual projects, and the inevitable dawn of my realization that my project (as always) is too ambitious for me, I started thinking. I’d become too attached to the concept I’d been working with to let it go and try something else that might be better suited to my skill level. John had the skills and the knowledge I needed to make it happen, and I was already reconsidering the foolishness of trying to keep things secret when I flat-out KNOW I need his help for something of this depth. I’ll never learn the skills that I need to TRULY surprise him, if I don’t accept the help now, when I’m still so raw and new at this. On top of that, the concept I’d been working with was something that I thought he would also enjoy; the setting encourages both silly, humorous stuff as well as plenty of drama, and it seemed like the kind of game that would benefit from having us both on board. The way I’d envisioned things would allow for both of us to contribute without needing to argue over ownership as much as other games might, too. If ever there was a time to try collaborating on a project again, it was now, with this project  – especially since neither of us has the time to devote to something larger.


All this is a lengthy way of saying… that this year’s EXPER3 will be taking a different shape. Instead of two separate projects, you’ll be getting a taste of what the Bruce duo can accomplish when we put our hearts, minds, and talents together! As it turned out, the bones of the story idea John had been struggling with bore a remarkable resemblance to mine, in the kind of bizarre, impossible union that our friends and family know we so often manage without meaning to. 🙂 It would be one thing if we’d come up with a similar setting (say, a game set in a school,) but we actually came up with the same weird twist (say, a game set in a school IN A VOLCANO.) We haven’t talked about this stuff at all to each other. I’ve been doing my level best NOT to leak anything I’ve been doing! And I’d been worried about taking away the progress he HAD made, by asking him to join my project. While I have much more in the way of story than he did, I’m still developing it as I go, which means there’s lots of opportunities for him to have input there too.

After all these years, we’re still the best solutions to each other’s problems. I kind of hope that never changes. There’s still a part of me that’s nervous, and I hope very much that I’ve learned what I need to about gracefully handling feedback and criticism. I hope he’s learned how to rely on me more, too. I’m a much better writer than I used to be, and I’m even a better designer and developer, even if there’s still a lot I can’t do. I’ve nearly finished a project now, after all! I’m learning to speak the language he needs to understand me, instead of “well just… y’know, make it look like this” statements that I’ve come to realize are a fast track to coder insanity. 🙂 I have to be able to explain my needs well, and extra points are given for explaining how I think the thing I’m asking for will work – and I have to be prepared for him to tell me that that won’t work. Or it’s too much work against a one-month deadline. Or something else entirely. He’s the one with deadline experience; if he tells me it can’t be done, I need to listen. I’m not very good at knowing my own limitations OR those of others yet!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been part of a creative team, and it’s one of the things I’ve most wanted in recent memory. As fun as it is to have full control over what goes on in your story, it’s always fun to see what others can bring to your ideas, and yours to theirs. My old forum role-playing taught me that, and instilled in me a deep love for the craft – even if 99% of it does happen to be adolescent drivel in hindsight. 😉 Working with John on this project feels a little bit like coming home to the place we first met; neck-deep in the written word, adding sentences to shared paragraphs from thousands of miles away, with all the excitement of kids sharing a naughty secret between them. I’ve missed this feeling in the years since falling away from online communities, whether they’ve been focused on writing or on games; for the first time in ten-plus years, I feel like I’m ready to risk trying again.

Vulnerability… right? Neither of us will get everything we want. Neither of us can afford to be perfect. But the end result will be better for it, because we’re always better together. It’s a lesson I feel like I’ve needed to learn for a very, very long time.


  1. Carolyn

    So very thankful that your eyes are okay and that they’re not changing in ways any more troublesome than floaters. I hope you are indeed soon able to ignore them (the floaters). ~ I think it’s a great idea, this year especially, for you and John to combine your EXPER3 puzzles into a single creation! Best of luck with this! ~ And continuing congratulations on the lifestyle progress each of you is continuing to make! Marvelous!

  2. Cara

    Sorry to hear about your floaters! If it makes you feel better, I recently got pre-eclampsia and those are more like silver and black streaming dots (similar to how the text scrolls on the matrix). But, I was thinking, could it be a blood pressure issue? If you’re not pregnant and there’s nothing wrong with your eyes, maybe it’s a body issue? High blood pressure can cause vision issues like floaters etc. I’m assuming they check that kind of thing regularly at your doctor/the 20/20 program but incase not, just a thought!
    SO exciting about you guys collaborating on Exper3 this year! I bet it’s going to turn out wonderfully, both in terms of a project being more complete with both your efforts as well as it fitting into your schedule constraints at this time. I wish you the best of luck! The puzzle theme sounds fun and I know you guys will blow us all away with your fun ideas around that! 🙂

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