Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the July/August Intelligentsia.

#44: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#38: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#36: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#26: St. Elsewhere
#24: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#19: Sara from Aryanhwy

Thoughtful Thursday

I don’t pry into people’s business, almost to a fault. Perhaps because my mother was so bothered by answering even simple questions about herself, even when asked by her daughter, I don’t tend to ask people about themselves. Unfortunately, it makes many conversations rather one-sided. At the end of meeting a new person, they probably know all about me — because they’ve asked — but I know almost nothing about them — because I haven’t asked. My non-nosiness doesn’t usually do me any favors socially, as most people actually like to talk about themselves.

And so of course I never ask other people about their family building paths, even when I can speculate that their road hasn’t been easy. Tamale’s best pal is a girl named Eve. They’ve been classmates for a year and a half, so almost half their lives (and the only half that they remember). Eve has two mommies, and so it’s reasonable to assume that at least some level of special effort went into bringing her into the world. But, I’ve never asked. We’ve spent a lot of time together at playdates and school functions and school pickup/dropoff, but we’ve never gone there.

Then one day a couple of weeks ago while I was dropping Burrito and Tamale off at school, out of nowhere Eve said to me, “My mommy is trying to give me a baby.” Hmm.

And so, I went out on a limb. I was emailing her moms about something else, and knowing that they have no relatives in the city who could babysit Eve at the last minute, I added an offer. I told them what Eve had said, and just in case giving her a baby involved an RE, they’d be free to call me and drop Eve off if they ever had a last-minute appointment. That I’d spent many years “trying to give myself a baby” and that I knew how the process can involve unpredictability.

The next morning at school I saw one of the moms, the one who had given birth to Eve. She thanked me for my offer and then, on the sidewalk, we got into a long talk about IVF and inconvenient scheduling and working really hard to have a baby.

I haven’t seen them since then, and I don’t know if they’ll ever call, but I still feel good about having made the offer, about having put myself out on a limb. Infertility treatments are such a lonely process; I hope that I made them feel a little less alone.

When was the last time you put yourself out on a limb?

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Time Warp Tuesday: Luck

March 13, 2013

For only the second time I’m participating in Time Warp Tuesday, run by Kathy at Four of a Kind. This week’s topic, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day: luck.

For someone who doesn’t believe in luck, I’ve written an awful lot of posts about luck. IN particular, I draw your attention to this one.

Done reading yet? I’ll wait…

Okay.

Most of the post holds up, but the part at the end about my career situation has changed. After so many stomachaches and so many stints as a bridesmaid rather than a bride in job searches, I ended up at a job that’s perfect for me, where I plan to stay long-term, in a fantastic city, where I also plan to stay long-term. I wrote the Bridesmaid post the same week that I didn’t get a dream job and DH didn’t get his beyond-his-wildest-dreams job; instead, a few months later DH landed an even better job: more money, more prestige, better work. Both of us were very lucky not to get the earlier jobs, since it meant that we were available for, and open to, the jobs that we did end up getting. Bad luck became good luck.

Similarly, I might go so far as to say that we were lucky during those 7 years of infertility, since all of the heartache and waiting brought us to our children. Bad luck became good luck.

Will our more recent bad luck — such as my RA diagnosis and our unsold money pit house — end up working out for the best? Wish me luck.

Join the Time Warp!

Thoughtful ThursdayA month ago, the New York Times photography blog posted a series of photos of a place that I am pretty sure I will never visit: the fake old west towns in Spain’s Tabernas Desert. When I go back to Spain, that is not where I want to be. I don’t even want to visit the actual old west towns that are within a few hours driving distance of me; why would I miss out on presumably limited time in Barcelona or Granada or Bilbao to go to Tabernas? The only way I can imagine would be if Burrito or Tamale becomes the world’s biggest Man With No Name fan, but even then, ugh.

Seeing those photos was a bit of a revelation because mostly, there is nowhere that is off my travel list. I have been lots and lots of places, including a few quite rarely visited, and there are a hundred others that I would like to visit. Even those that I’m not rushing to visit are all still possibilities. Australia? As soon as possible. Afghanistan? I hear it was amazing once; hopefully someday it will return to glory. Antarctica? Maybe… penguins are awfully cute.

My other lists in life aren’t quite as limitless as my travel possibilities, but still pretty big. I will never be the president, thank goodness, but it’s not impossible that I could gain wide recognition someday. I will never climb Mt. Everest, and I’m 100% fine with that, but I have climbed a mountain before and can’t rule out another one. But with my recent illness (which still hasn’t been sorted out, by the way), the possibility of true limits has descended. I saw a photo of the mountain that’s next to the one that I climbed in my youth, and instead of, “maybe I will climb that with Burrito and Tamale someday,” my thought was, “I can’t even climb a set of stairs right now; I will never scale anything again.” I don’t plan to run any marathons, but half-marathons have always been a possibility; suddenly when I got sick, walking became a big deal.

We plan not to have more children: DH doesn’t want to go beyond the twins, and most of the time I agree; even if we wanted more children, it would take herculean treatment efforts that would probably fail and cost us six figures and break our hearts. We’re done. It’s something I’ve accepted. But, getting sick made it feel like choice was no longer a consideration. I would forever be absent from the RE’s waiting room not because I chose never to return, but because my body had banned me for life.

At this point, with my health issues not yet resolved, I truly don’t know whether my pre-illness life possibilities remain true or whether a bunch of things have been permanently crossed off the list. Whatever happens, this crisis has cemented the fact that any mountains I climb or marathons I run will be accompanied by two children, but not three.

What have you already eliminated from your life list? Which items have you accepted willingly vs. regretfully?

Half

June 26, 2012

Thirteen thousand three hundred and eighty-eight days ago, I was born.

Six thousand six hundred and ninety-six days ago, I met him.

Six thousand six hundred and ninety-four days ago, we knew it was something special.

As of today, I have spent exactly half my life in love with the most wonderful person I have ever known.

To my true partner, my true equal, my true love, Happy Half Day.

Thoughtful ThursdayMy real estate agent isn’t that great. Not terrible by any means, but not the best. My now-former house has been for sale since my mother’s health took a turn for the worse, almost 6 months before she died, which was over a year ago. That means my house has been for sale for a year and a half. It’s been empty for 3 months and counting. We keep dropping the price, and it keeps not getting bought. Our agent does all the things she’s supposed to do, but we can’t help but feel that if we had someone top-notch, they’d be doing more. More marketing, more staging, smarter pricing from the outset, something. It may be the horrendously crappy real estate market, or it may be her.

The catch is that we can’t fire her, and we couldn’t have gone with any other agent — because she is my now-former boss’s wife. He never said that I had to use his wife, but it seemed like it could really be asking for trouble if I didn’t.

DH has a good friend who is the opposite kind of real estate agent, in a different city. He’s the kind you see on billboards. Everyone in the industry knows him. He’s been featured on one of those TV shows that follows someone looking for a new house. If we lived in his city, we’d be obligated to use him, the same way we’re obligated to use my boss’s wife, but I’m glad that we’re not. He is The Best, and he knows it. Maybe because he and DH have been friends for more than 30 years he’d give us extra personal attention rather than charming us at key points in the process and delegating all of the real work to his underlings. Maybe. But he is The Best because of volume, not because of personal attention. No, in the case of real estate I’d rather have someone who wants the best price for me rather than the fastest sale for him. I’d rather have someone who is good but not a superstar.

In many domains, though, I do extensive research to find The Best. Burrito and Tamale’s first pediatrician was absolutely the best in the area, in terms of both skill and bedside manner. My first RE was one of the most famous in the world; my 2nd RE was the most respected in the region. Each car we have bought has been the absolute best possible choice for our needs at the time. Twice I have worked for one of the most important people in the world in my field; both times I have gotten mistreated and been miserable, but I also ended up with letters of recommendation from two of the most important people in our world, and for the rest of my career people will say, “Oh, you worked with him? Wow. He’s my hero.”

In other domains, I settle for fine. For example, the guy who plowed our driveway was fine — I don’t know if it’s even possible to be the best at plowing driveways. Even if it was, how much better could the best plow guy be than the fine one? What difference would it really make? Sometimes, beyond driveways, it does matter. Trust me, when it comes to dentistry it matters — I once had a filling fall out because the crappy dentist hadn’t removed all of the decay. When it comes to selling a house, so far it’s made $100K of difference in the asking price (and counting? please, no, just let it sell, c’mon, please?).

When I was a child athlete, the difference between best and fine was the difference between 1st place and 3rd place.

I was a competitive figure skater as a kid. I was not blessed with natural athletic talent, but I had been taking dance since I was 2, which made me flexible and graceful. I don’t know how my mother chose my skating coaches. My main coach, Brenda, was very nice. Everyone in the rink liked her. Her students did pretty well in competitions. I, however, was perennially 3rd place. There was a Girl Who Won Everything, and every time I moved up to the next level she did too. She was way better than I was, but somehow she didn’t advance faster than I did. It was really annoying. That explained not being 1st, but I almost never got 2nd either. I just wasn’t that good. Not that I was the worst; I usually scored above the middle of the pack. But once I was the only one in my division, and I didn’t get 1st place. They only gave 1st if you deserved it. I was the only competitor, and I placed 2nd. Humiliating.

The Girl Who Won Everything had a very young coach, Tania. When I started skating, Tania wasn’t a coach, just a teenager who skated at the same rink. Then, when she turned 18, she became a coach. And, because Tania had been one of us, a bunch of kids left their coaches and went to her. She was fun and young and so nice, and good. Really good. I stayed loyal to Brenda. I went to her wedding. I helped her evaluate potential baby names. I accidentally blew out the candle on her baby’s first birthday cake. We had a relationship.

Meanwhile, Tania’s students started winning. And winning. And winning. Especially the Girl Who Won Everything, but everyone else too. They collectively swept every competition.

One day, my mother arranged for me to have a single lesson with Tania. I would still be staying with Brenda (and my 2nd coach; don’t ask me why an 11 year old who’s not that good has to have 2 different coaches, but I did), but everyone knew that Brenda’s students were killing it, even the kids who weren’t naturally talented, and I wanted to know what the fuss was about. I had just one lesson with her. In that one lesson, Tania completely changed the way I jumped. I was a better skater after 45 minutes with her. My muscle memory can still recall how it feels to jump the old way vs. the Tania way — I can’t do it anymore, but my brain remembers exactly how Tania taught me to jump twice as high. She was clearly The Best. Yet I stayed with Brenda, fine but unremarkable Brenda.

I don’t know what might have happened if I’d switched to Tania from the start, or what might have happened if I’d switched after that life-changing lesson. Maybe I would have stuck with skating longer. I was never destined for the Olympics, but maybe I could have learned to do the double and triple axels that Tania’s students were doing. I probably would have received at least a few 1st place trophies, which seemed so important at the time even though all of my trophies and medals are gone forever now: after my mother’s death they were all thrown away when her house was cleared out.

Or maybe if I’d switched to Tania, I wouldn’t have learned the feeling of being with someone mediocre and knowing that you could do better, knowing that you are trapped by your own inertia. That feeling is now embedded deep within me. When I should be choosing something better, I feel it at such a visceral level. That feeling has saved me from bad doctors and loser boyfriends and inferior cupcakes. That feeling is why I will find a kick-ass real estate agent for the next house.

When do you want The Best? When do you settle for fine?

Thoughtful ThursdayMel had a delightful post a couple of days ago in which she explained evolution to her twins. At their age, you understand so much but there is still so much you don’t understand.

It reminds me of a misunderstanding I had when I was their age, an error in deductive reasoning.

All of the photos from my dad’s childhood were black and white. Sometime in the 60s, the family photos changed to color.

In The Wizard of Oz, Kansas is black and white, and Oz is in color.

Based on these pieces of information, I determined that the entire world must have been black and white until sometime in the middle of the 20th century.

One day I asked my father, “How old were you when the world changed to color?” When I explained my logic to him, oh how he laughed and laughed.

What is the silliest misunderstanding you ever had, that seemed reasonable at the time?

Thoughtful Thursday: Why

March 8, 2012

Thoughtful ThursdayThere has recently been a lot of controversy in the ALI community. I won’t get into it, except to say that it has raised a fundamental question.

Why do you blog?

Some people are basically keeping a journal in public, and what they write would be the same whether or not anyone was reading. Not me.

Some people blog to be heard, to have their words read and acknowledged. That’s not it for me.

Some people blog to make connections, with their readers and with other bloggers. That’s part of it, but not all. I’m certainly not trying to rack up high numbers. I was just having a conversation with a friend who is a respected but not bestselling professional writer; he declared that he is sick of being a cult favorite, and he would like to be a mainstream success. I, on the other hand, love that my blog readers are people who get me. I’m not for everyone, in blogging or in life.

I blog, in large part, to help others. When I was at my most desperate, or hungry for information about being a certain number of days past transfer or how to administer an injection into my own butt, reading blogs helped, a lot. I have made a very conscious effort to provide information that can help others, such as my posts on breastfeeding after IF.

I also blog for intellectual engagement — for myself and my readers. That is certainly the impetus behind Thoughtful Thursdays. I enjoy crafting posts, challenging myself to write in different ways, expressing things that are hard to express.

However, if everyone stopped reading, the intellectual engagement would be there, but it wouldn’t be enough for me to keep blogging. I presumably couldn’t help people unless people stumbled upon posts later, and I definitely couldn’t connect to people in the same way if I never heard from them. I didn’t start blogging to make friends, but as a side benefit of the search to connect and to engage intellectually, I’ve made some great ones.

Why do you blog?