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Skull Ring

The ChickieNob and I had a Girl Scout trip on the Eastern shore, so we decided to go a bit early and spend the afternoon together at a nearby beach.  I had called ahead to find out if our favourite arcade would be open, and while I was told that it would be, when we got to the beach, the metal garage door was pulled over the entrance.  Closed.

We walked down the boardwalk to a different arcade, a much smaller one with nary a classic game in sight.  The ChickieNob was bummed and didn’t really want to follow my suggestion that we play a few rounds of ski ball, but she half-heartedly fed a quarter into the slot and started rolling the balls towards the hoops.  At the end of the game, two tickets slid out of her machine.

“What is this?” she asked, ripping off the tickets.

“You get tickets when you play, and then you can trade in the tickets at that desk and get a prize.”

She wandered over to the desk and saw that they had brightly-coloured metal rings.  She really wanted one, but they were 60 tickets each.  That’s fine, we have all afternoon.

I should add at this point that we are pretty much the only people in the arcade with the exception of the clearly stoned teenage boy who was manning the space.  He was listening to our exchange since he had nothing else to do.

So we played side-by-side, cheering each other on, and we were almost at the necessary 60 tickets when the ChickieNob shyly informed me that what she really wanted was a skull ring.  But that was 110 tickets, an enormous number considering how long it had taken us to get to 60.  But I promised her that we could do it.  We just had to play harder, play faster, perhaps not cheer and dance for five minutes every time we got anything over 20 points in a roll.

So we worked hard and finally had 112 tickets.  Brilliant.  We turned them over to the stoned boy who fed them into a machine.  “You know,” he said, “each ticket is actually worth 5 points, so you had enough tickets about a half hour ago.  In fact, you have over 500 points right now, which means you can get… 5 SKULL RINGS!!!”

Yes, he shouted it and pumped his fist.

And we stared at him.

Okay.  So this was great.  We could get two matching skull rings.  The skull rings were awesome, and we clinked them together and said to each other “memento mori” (from A Series of Unfortunate Events, and not, let’s say, the Hermits of Saint Paul of France).  The stoned boy pulled out a calculator, and announced, “YOU STILL HAVE 300 POINTS!!!”

Yes, he once again excitedly shouted it, as if our name had been called on the Price is Right and he wanted to psyche us up as we made our way down the carpeted steps.

Okay.  So she picked out a few things for the Wolvog and Josh and one of her friends.  Every time, he would punch the number into the calculator and excitedly tell us how many more points we had.  You know what?  We learned that it is really hard to use up 300+ points.  We ended up with a spider ring, little plastic poppers, a handful of marbles.  Finally, I told the boy that we had to give up, and he gave me our last points in arcade stickers.

The skull ring is pretty sweet.  Totally worth the gargantuan effort to reach the requisite number of tickets.  Sure, we went over that amount 5-fold and we had to engage in an extended conversation with the stoned boy about the DC Universe, the polar bear challenge, and his home town.  But we learned an important lesson about team work and having a goal and celebrating the small milestones along the way.

Cheers.

skull ring

April 26, 2016   8 Comments

#MicroblogMondays 87: Give Up or Take On

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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We are in the middle of Pesach.  This is my hardest holiday.  I am really bad at giving things up.  I can’t stop thinking about the bread and pasta that I’m not allowed to eat for 8 days.

It’s just 8 days.  There are plenty of things that I don’t eat 8 days in a row, and it never feels like a hardship.  An artichoke, for instance.  I haven’t had an artichoke in the last 8 days, and you don’t see me wringing my hands over it.  But tell me that I’m not allowed to have an artichoke for 8 days and all I will think about are artichokes 24/7.

Would you rather give up a food item for 8 days or have to eat an undesirable food item 8 days in a row?

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Are you also doing #MicroblogMondays? Add your link below. The list will be open until Tuesday morning. Link to the post itself, not your blog URL. (Don’t know what that means? Please read the three rules on this post to understand the difference between a permalink to a post and a blog’s main URL.) Only personal blogs can be added to the list. I will remove any posts that are connected to businesses or are sponsored posts.

1. Mali (No Kidding) 12. Failing at Haiku 23. Junebug
2. Mali (A Separate Life) 13. Journeywoman 24. Cristy
3. Middle Girl 14. Raven 25. Virginia
4. Karen (Formerly Serenity) 15. Living With Baby Loss 26. Stephanie (Travelcraft Journal)
5. Wendy English 16. Stacy E. 27. torthúil
6. Lori Lavender Luz 17. Cynthia Samuels 28. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled)
7. Lori@ Laughing IS Conceivable 18. Kechara 29. Jess
8. IF Pom 19. * Our Wish* 30. articulation
9. Traci York, Writer 20. Waiting to Expand 31. deathstar
10. Unpregnant Chicken 21. Shail
11. Isabelle 22. Just Heather

 

April 25, 2016   28 Comments

Small Family

Though I’m usually a pick-whatever-is-there person, this year I decided to call ahead to the kosher butcher and put in my order for the seder so Josh could run in and pick it up for me.  “Small order,” he commented after he wrote it all down.  What was he talking about?  I bought meat for 12 people despite the fact that some of us are vegetarians and won’t be eating it.  It was certainly more meat that I purchase on an average day.

“I’m only hosting one seder,” I explained.  “My cousin is hosting the other one.”

“Oh,” is all he said in response.

Later that week, Josh went to pick up the order, and when he dropped it off at home, he said that when he started to say my name, the butcher said, “Oh, yeah, the small order.”  He went back into their refrigerators to get it.

“What is he talking about?  It’s a totally normal order for 12 people.  And we’re having vegetarian dishes and a bunch of side dishes…”

“Mel, he’s used to big orders from big families.”

It didn’t occur to me until that moment that he was making a comment on our family size.  That it wasn’t the amount of meat or the fact that some of us are vegetarians.  He was commenting on the fact that in a community where a couple brings 10 people to the seder table before they start adding in their extended family and friends, we have two children.  Small family.  Small order.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that the entire time I cooked.  That tiny comment wiggled under my skin.

How we look to others from the outside.  How we know a different story from the inside.

[Aside: I clearly took his comment as a negative remark, but maybe it was the opposite.  Maybe he is jealous that we have two kids instead of 10.  I guess no one knows how it looks on the inside.]

April 24, 2016   10 Comments

592nd Friday Blog Roundup

Pesach starts tonight.  It’s a little easier this year because for the first time in hundreds of years, Conservative Jews are allowed to eat kitniyot.  You see, there are the things you definitely can’t eat during Pesach, such as pasta or bread — anything with wheat, oats, or barley — but then there is another category called kitniyot, which contains things like rice and beans and corn and lentils.  You can’t eat those, either, which made it very difficult to eat during Pesach if you’re a vegetarian.

It has always been a holiday that has made me fairly miserable.  I’m better at fasting for a day than giving up rice and beans for 8.

But this year, Conservative rabbis overturned the rule, which means we can have garbanzo beans in the salad and rice and beans during the week.  It makes things a lot easier.

Still, I was thinking about MLO Knitting, a child-free after IF blogger who died back in 2013.  I can’t link to her blog anymore because it looks like it has been taken down, but she had a corn allergy, and she loved Pesach because it was a chance to stock up on corn syrup-free products.  It’s food for thought: every change that makes things easier for one group of people may make it harder for another.

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On the other hand, I finally, officially, beat gluten’s ass.  My friend’s child needs gluten-free cookies, and I tried to make her hamantaschen this year.  What a freakin’ mess.  I hadn’t accounted for the fat in the almond flour when adding the butter and the end result was a gooey mess that spread across the cookie sheet.

This time, I got the ratios correct, and I managed to reverse engineer a Twix-bar and figure out hamantaschen.  Oh, it’s on, gluten, it’s on.

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Stop procrastinating.  Go make your backups.  Don’t have regrets.

Seriously.  Stop what you’re doing for a moment.  It will take you fifteen minutes, tops.  But you will have peace of mind for days and days.  It’s the gift to yourself that keeps on giving.

As always, add any new thoughts to the Friday Backup post and peruse new comments in order to find out about methods, plug-ins, and devices that help you quickly back up your data and accounts.

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And now the blogs…

But first, second helpings of the posts that appeared in the open comment thread last week.  In order to read the description before clicking over, please return to the open thread:

Okay, now my choices this week.

Notes from the Ninth Circle has a tiny, breath-holding post about hope.  It’s really too tiny to even describe without ruining the effect.  Just click over to see what she has done with 4 lines.

A+ Effort’s post about her foray into Whole30 cracked me up, especially: “I’ve been mostly gluten-free for almost two years, and I still cannot pass up a donut. I mean, I pass them up in the store, but if a box is sitting in the office, you better believe I’ll be there napkin in hand.”  As someone who struggles against cravings, too, I raise my mushed up banana to her.

It Is What It Is is back with a post summing up life before she turns 50.  I love this: “At my last birthday, I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of turning 50 in just a years time, yet, here I am and I must say I am thrilled to be approaching this mid-century of my life with such gusto and gratitude.”  It’s a great post about marking the milestone.

Outlandish Notions has a post about a run.  It’s almost poetry as she passes through her town, first forward and then in reverse.  My favourite part: “The air conditioners, all of them, already.  The cars, all of them, rushing by on the street, the sound dipping and sliding around walls and fences and trees and earthworks, weaving in and out of the background noises of living things.”  I felt like I was there.

Lastly, A Half Baked Life has a post about bridgetenders that made me smile, not least of which due to the online project eons ago that I ran called Bridges (remember that site?) bringing together various niches of the blogosphere.  As a watcher, I love the idea of sitting in the same place, day after day, observing the water and surrounding area.  The whole post just made me feel good.

The roundup to the Roundup: Rice and beans on Pesach!  Take that, gluten.  Your weekly backup nudge.  And lots of great posts to read.  So what did you find this week?  Please use a permalink to the blog post (written between April 15th and April 22nd) and not the blog’s main url. Not understanding why I’m asking you what you found this week?  Read the original open thread post here.

April 22, 2016   9 Comments

Does the Pain Olympics Stem From Emotional Exhaustion?

In June, I’ll mark 10 years of blogging.  That’s a lot of blogging, right?  That’s pretty much a fourth of my life.  I’ve spent a quarter of my life blogging.

Whoa… that just gave me pause.

Anyway, 10 years ago, I was a new blogger, and I’ve seen 10 years worth of new bloggers arrive in the community.  Some of the people I started with are still around.  Many more have stopped writing but hang out on other forms of social media.  Others have slipped away entirely, and I have no clue where they are or how they are.

One thing I’ve noticed — though there are clearly exceptions to this rule — is that most people who join the infertility blogosphere utter some form of “I am so glad I found all of you.”  Maybe they have no support in their face-to-face world and they find it online, or maybe they have been thinking they’re the only person in the world experiencing infertility while everyone else around them pops out baby after baby.  And suddenly they have tapped into a well of knowledge and collective empathy and realized that they are definitely not alone.  There are a lot of us out here.

And then something happens over time.

This… thing… I think manifests in two different ways:

  1. People start to play the Pain Olympics, silently or not-so-silently, writing off other people’s experiences as being lesser than their own.  They start thinking “at least you…” statements as they read another person’s blog.
  2. Or I’ve also seen it emerge as the person detaching from the community, writing less but also commenting less.  They come in strong, full of enthusiasm, and then seemingly burn out and a lot of the time, slip away.

Maybe they stem from the same place.

Mental Floss recently had an article on empathy and why we get empathy burnout.  The research found a few interesting things about empathy.

  1. Empathy is susceptible to suggestion.  In other words, we can tell someone not to be empathetic to someone else, and it can override their natural tendency to be empathetic.  The same is true in the other direction: we can get the message from watching others and follow suit.
  2. So empathy then is given or not given depending on the context and whether we think the other person is “worthy” of empathy.
  3. We are stingy in giving empathy when we don’t think empathy is a renewable resource.  If we think of it as something to budget and allocate, we’re less likely to give it others.

We see the same thing happen in the microcosm of the infertility blogosphere.  People enter feeling a sense of relief having found a group of people and look for similarities because they want to feel as if they fit in themselves.

Then, once they are certain they fit in, they start looking for differences so they can allocate their empathy better.  Once you’ve comforted several hundred other people, it wears on you and you start budgeting you empathy.  To do so, you have to dehumanize the situation by thinking about comparative pain (they’re not in as much pain as this person because that person’s situation is worse).  Which leads, eventually, to the Pain Olympics.

Right?

Moreover, empathy is something we give others, but it’s also something we give ourselves.  I think we inwardly get empathy exhaustion, being gentle with ourselves in the beginning and then growing harder and harder on ourselves over time.  We want to write every second of the day about our journey, and then we burn out and post irregularly or not at all.  It’s as if we’ve stopped allocating ourselves empathy.

We can’t control whether other people give us empathy, but we can control whether we are empathetic to ourselves.

I guess the interesting thing I took away from the post is that there are other options beyond empathy exhaustion and comparative pain (or, in the case of self-empathy, minimizing our own pain and telling ourselves that we should suck it up).  If empathy is a choice, we can decide that it’s going to be one we make rather than withhold.

Zaki suggests we have an essential, automatic component to empathy—a built-in biological leaning toward caring for the suffering of others—but that our empathetic response is at the same time highly contextual.

So, yes, maybe we are strategic in where we place our empathy at the subconscious level, but can we tell our subconscious that we want to keep empathy always flowing at a lower, continuous rate rather than having it gush and then dry up over time?  Can we set the speed and intensity in which our empathy flows so we don’t get burned out and cynical over time?  Can we keep a continuous flow moving outward towards others AND inward towards ourselves and not have our empathetic energy dry up completely?

I don’t even know if this is possible; if we can tell our hearts not to go all out in the beginning because we need to pace our empathy so we always have it to give.  This isn’t unique to the infertility community, and I know caregivers deal with burnout all the time.  I’d be curious to hear what you think of the article and study.

Your thoughts?

April 20, 2016   21 Comments

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