I think I’m going in the wrong direction. Sort of.

I’ve gotten into a couple of big discussions/arguments on Facebook recently, and when I look back at them, not only are they eating up chunks of time that I could be using for anything else, but I don’t really think that they’re helping to move the needle in either direction, either.

This post is an elaboration of a tweet I posted earlier:

The problem I have is, I do feel like politics in general has become more relevant and important to me as I’ve gotten older … and yet whenever I try to have a discussion about it with anyone who doesn’t agree with me, I get very angsty and angry and regretful afterwards, usually wishing that I hadn’t even brought the thing up in the first place. And don’t get me wrong – I still think that both issues are very important in today’s world (#1 was the Hobby Lobby/contraceptive ruling, #2 was climate change denial in the media), but when I look back at the end of my day, I want to be content about what I did that day and spending hours upon hours arguing with my conservative relatives over things they’ve been arguing about their entire lives somehow doesn’t seem nearly as rewarding as hey, that thing you shared last night was pretty funny!

I originally posted that tweet above as kind of a joke,  but the more I think about it, the more this is something that I think I need to work on. Because as much as I’d like to change the world through social issues and science comprehension, I think I’ve personally got a better chance at doing it with funny jokes. That’s just me. 😉

So with that said, here’s some random stuff that I’ve recent found funny from around the Internet…

  1. Man Creates a Kickstarter to Make Delicious Potato Salad
  2. ClickHole (yes, the whole site)
  3. Independence Day Letter to America From the British
  4. Steve Hofstetter Gets a Heckler’s Girlfriend to Ditch Him
  5. Chainsawsuit – The Slope and How to Slip It

Hey, we almost made it through the list! I suppose when politics and humor clash, we’re just going to have to err on the side of humor and take it one step at a time… 😛

Baptism vs. the Atheist

June 8, 2014 1:38am
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I honestly jump back and forth between atheism and agnosticism a lot … this post isn’t really about that, but I note this simply because it’s interesting to consider that my wife chose to identify me as agnostic in the interactions with her church leading up to this particular event – I guess because “it was easier.”

What I will say though is that I’ve noticed that I tend to go atheist more when there are specific issues with religion that I’m angst-y about and agnostic when I’m feeling less defensive about the whole thing.

ANYWAYS! 😯

So we got Christopher baptized today.

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This was a big deal for my wife, who’s catholic, and kind of a big deal in the other way for myself. We’ve had countless talks, many long before we were even ready to have kids, about how religion would play a role in our children’s upbringing, and we always agreed that it had to be a mix where both of us felt comfortable about these subjects that we feel strongly about. And I knew that it was going to be a challenge for me in particular because on one hand, it’s not really fair to tell the kid, “Sure, you can get up early and go to church with Mom on Sunday, or you can stay home and sleep in with Dad!” … it’s hard to teach the absence of something without picking holes at the thing that you don’t yourself believe in.

There’s this ignorant comment that I see every so often on Facebook where a believer speaks against atheism by saying, “You don’t even believe in God, so why do you care if we pray in schools or put a cross out on the lawn? A cross is basically just a big plus sign to you people that believe in nothing.”

And aside from the mathematically impaired misunderstanding that a cross and a plus are in fact two different shapes, the underlying message always bugs me, too, because when I identify as an atheist, I’m not saying that I believe in nothing, I’m saying that I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in a higher power. I don’t believe in all of these things that you worship and take sacraments for and people cite as the reasons for making decisions big and small in their lives.

And even more specifically, when I find myself leaning more towards atheism than agnosticism, again, it’s typically because of some horribly offensive element of Christianity that I couldn’t possibly imagine an all-knowing, all-loving god ever having any part of and I’m specifically trying to distance myself from those kinds of things that I often see in organized religion. So no, I don’t believe in nothing … I don’t believe in God, and I believe that what you believe in is wrong.

And I totally get how that can be offensive to someone who believes in god…

…but if we’re being frank, most religions don’t exactly seem to have a whole lot of respect for me when they’re trying to integrate themselves into a society in places that are specifically designed with a separation of church and state, trying to create new laws that align with their values without regard for anyone who believes different, not to mention writing me off as going to burn in hell for all eternity while all of the good, little Christians will be celebrating up in heaven.

That’s not very nice!

So to get things back on topic, I’ve been long anticipating that today was going to be a challenging day, but it was something that I was willing to suffer through for Sara because I know that it’s important to her, and eventually once he starts to get older, that’s when he’ll get to start making his own decisions. But for the time being, baptism at an early age is apparently important … my Mom says that *I* was baptized, so I guess it doesn’t work on everybody! I knew going in that it was going to be pretty uncomfortable … I knew that every time Sara had to give me an update on what the plans were and I heard the frustrations about how ridiculously picky even within their own ranks the catholic church is even when it came to picking his godparents because depending on what kind of catholic you’ve been throughout your life determines what kind of godparent you’re allowed to be.

It’s stupid, petty stuff like that that just makes my blood boil thinking about religion … it reminds me of when we were trying to get married and one of the priests we talked to actually emailed Sara afterwards and said that “because of her fiance’s lack of faith, he wouldn’t feel right turning his back on God to accommodate those beliefs at her wedding.” Real loving bunch…

Thankfully, the ceremony ended up being just about as painless as it could’ve been. Although there was some repeat after me and Q&A-type interactions, we’d already agreed that she would answer the questions and I’d just remain silent … and most of them were actually done as a big group of all 12 babies being baptized that day, so that made it less obvious. And the preacher was super nice and very down-to-earth and friendly, so that definitely helped, too, because I can’t stand the type who speaks of all of these positive stories about Jesus and then passes judgment in a veiled manner afterwards. I even heard of some of that while we were going through IVF because the catholic church doesn’t condone unnatural childbirth when she asked for a prayer during mass, though I believe it was actually this particular preacher who didn’t agree with that decision and offered to do one anyways…

The rituals themselves were just as weird as they always are and we joked afterwards about needing to take him swimming to get the oils off him that they used for whatever that part was. Luckily it wasn’t a long ceremony and there weren’t any parts singling out the parents to give them a chance to rededicate their faiths or anything … that’s always awkward on the occasions when I’ve gone with Sara because I have to sit there for 15 minutes while everyone squeezes around me to go up and get their cracker and wine or whatever.

And then we took some pictures, and then we came home and barbecued and had cake and went swimming!

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I survived, and now Christopher has officially been relieved of original sin, even though that’s something I don’t believe in because the only sin that this baby has to his name so far is being absolutely adorable! Well, and costing me a small fortune to get him here. And that really nasty poop from the other week. But even that … sin is a pretty strong word for a baby, don’t you think?!

As far as I’ve been told, I’ve got a few years to relax now until my next ordeal with the catholic church on his behalf. Right now Sara occasionally takes him to church with her on Sunday mornings, but if it earns me a couple hours of free sleep without waking up to a screaming baby, I’m fine with that.

Once he starts actually understanding any of this stuff, I suppose that’ll be a different story… 🙄

It’s kind of funny – this whole time I’ve been saying that when we finally got through it all, I was going to sit down and properly write about everything that we’ve been through regarding infertility and going through IVF, and yet sometimes when you’ve been down a road for so long, you look back and can’t even tell where it really started anymore…

Like, literally, I can’t remember when Sara and I even started trying to have a baby at this point!  😕

But it’s definitely been more than just a couple of years … possibly dating back to when Sara graduated from nursing school … in 2009, maybe??? I don’t know – it’s been a long time and I don’t necessarily feel the need to go into all of the nitty-gritty anymore. Suffice to say, she had some issues and then upon further digging, I had some issues to be addressed, too, and over the past years that eventually led us to a local fertility clinic who helped us with some other procedures that ultimately led up to us doing IVF.

…which is why technically our son was first conceived in a test tube a year ago February, but ended up spending six months on ice before he was thawed and put back in with crossed fingers last August…

Anyways, it was a really hard time for us, and I had planned on writing up this big, old blog post about things that could’ve gone much different than they actually did, and the support that we were sometimes lacking, and just the emotional toll that it’s been on the two of us all of these years in general, and then I stumbled across this TED talk by Ash Beckham about ranking our hard against other people’s hard, and I kind of used her video as a stepping stone to get a lot of things that had been bothering me off my chest last fall in that earlier post.

So instead of re-opening those wounds when in these happy times I’m honestly just trying to forget about them, here are a few final thoughts on going through infertility from a number of perspectives that might be worth considering if you’re going through them yourself, or thinking about it, or you know somebody else who is…

If you’re getting ready to start IVF or are thinking about it:

  • Figure out what your support system is, earlier rather than later, and keep in mind that it may not necessarily be the people who it normally is in your life. A lot of cities have monthly groups that meet of people going through or have gone through the same thing, and there are all sorts of Facebook groups and forums online where people congregate, too. And what works for you may not work for your spouse due to traditional gender boundaries, but just keep talking.
  • IVF is stupid expensive and nobody else can make that financial decision but you. Both people in a relationship need to be on the same page because the bills will haunt you for years. My wife would’ve pulled the trigger far before we could actually afford it, whereas it took me a few years to get our budget to a point where I thought we could handle it. Just keep talking.
  • People will say dumb things. Some are trying to be supportive and some are just assholes who don’t know any better. Try to tune them out, even when they’re family or your boss and you really want to run them over with your car.
  • Failure sucks, and it will probably happen. We kind of lucked out in that our second IVF cycle worked (a frozen one), yet all signs were green for that first cycle to be perfect. It’s especially hard when you financially can’t just pick up and start again the following month because it’s so goddamned expensive. We did the Attain Refund Program and it was still several thousand dollars out of pocket each cycle for the drugs. FSAs from work help because you can commit to $2,500 in medical expenses and have it available on January 1st, but spread the payments out throughout the entire year.
  • Even after conception was scary because we were so paranoid about the risk of miscarriage, it was hard to really enjoy it. We’re “technically pregnant” became a running joke between us. Humor helps … a lot.
  • I learned a lot about cellular biology, and I’ve got a picture of my son when he was only 32 cells old that few people can beat!
  • Don’t give up on each other, even though the process makes it very easy to become insular. Take time out to do couple things. Have sex on non-optimal conception days. Anyone who’s ever planned out a conception calendar with a grid and everything will get that last one.
  • Just keep talking.

If you know somebody else who’s considering or going through IVF:

  • Don’t talk, just listen.
  • Don’t try to compare some other random challenge you’ve had to what they’re going through. It may sound perfectly relevant in your head, and you’re just trying to be supportive, but it doesn’t work that way.
  • Don’t not include them in things because babies or little kids will be around, but don’t be hurt if they don’t want to attend, either.
  • Don’t try to make their struggles about anything other than them.
  • If you have $50,000 just laying around, consider giving it to the couple as a gift. IVF is very expensive.
  • Like with most struggles that people go through in life, just being there is far more valuable than actually trying to solve their problems. Besides, you’re not a doctor and they’ve already committed lots and lots of money to obtain properly vetted medical advice.
  • For fuck’s sake, don’t make the joke about how “All you need to do is get her drunk” because “that’s what works for everybody else!” Seriously, IVF costs so much more than a $0.99 draft beer … this joke makes us want to punch you in the face, even if we’re in a conference room at work and you’re technically two levels above our pay grade.
  • Just keep listening.

I don’t think anybody ever really expects to deal with infertility when they’re finally ready to have kids … it was a big enough decision for me just to get to that point, so to start trying and then find that it wasn’t working was just unfathomable. It was tough at first when all signs and fingers pointed to problems on my wife’s side, and it was both relieving and even more aggravating when some of my own issues surfaced to help equalize the blame, too. Like I said, it’s weird to even look back at all of the time that’s passed now because it just seems like a blur … and I don’t just say that because I’m already sleep deprived running around for this kid now that he’s out!

And of course, there are other options besides IVF if you want to have children but can’t. My sister is a proud proponent of adoption because she’s an adopted kid and I suppose ultimately that turned out ok 😉 , but at this point in our lives Sara still wanted to be able to experience childbirth if at all possible so that’s why we went the route that we did. I think whatever you choose is going to be very taxing and very expensive and you need to be in it for the long haul … you have to really want it. Which most prospective mothers I’m sure have no problem committing to, but both people have to want it … not necessarily equally all of the time … but it will wear on you and when you hit a wall like our fourth try didn’t work or we need to save for two years before we can try again, you’re going to need that willpower to help pick you up off the ground so that you can move on…

I mean, even now I still worry a little in the back of my head – when are we going to get to bring Christopher home and what are we going to hear that might be bad from the next status update???

I’d like to think that the hard part is over, and there’s a part of me that keeps saying the hard part is just beginning. That seems pessimistic even for me, so maybe instead we just say that one of the hard parts is over, and I’m sure there will be more hard parts to come because life is like that most of the time.

Still, it’s pretty amazing that science was able to take two messed up adults and somehow still manage to breed a baby out of us, and that’s pretty cool.

IVF was a huge challenge for us, and for those just starting, there is hope on the other side, even if it’s not necessarily the path that you had planned. Worst case scenario, you can always just steal a baby.

No – don’t do that!

Remember that sense of humor that I was talking about?! Sometimes you think about stealing babies … that’s how tough infertility can be! But then sometimes everything ends up working out, and you don’t have to steal a baby … even though it definitely would’ve been cheaper than going the IVF route. But everything’s like that, really – everything is more expensive when you do it legally.

Now that’s the sleep deprivation talking…

Keep your head up, try not to go bankrupt or insane, and with any luck hopefully one day you can be sleep deprived and delirious, too. 😉

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More thoughts after my big old rant about the banking industry earlier tonight … mainly, even though we literally spent like two hours at our local Wells Fargo last week updating accounts and rearranging things, and even though the lady was super-nice about it all, I just can’t help but think that if I’m really against all of this predatory banking crap, we really shouldn’t be banking with them.

Go figure – Sara actually has an account with one of the local credit unions from her teaching days that we’re trying to move away from … albeit it’s not the greatest account in the world.

Still, I pulled up the terms for Grow Financial – another one nearby that literally just opened a new branch 6.2 miles from my house – and well, the difference is kind of staggering…

Checking Accounts

  • Wells Fargo – earns 0.01% APY on any balance over $500; would have a monthly fee if not for my mortgage being with them
  • Grow FCU – they offer a regular “free” checking that doesn’t gain interest, but also a Grow Green Checking that offers a whopping 2.50% APY on balances up to $5,000 (with conditions on direct deposits, debit card use, and e-statements), and then 0.15% above $5,000.

And just to be clear, using an example $5,000 balance for each – in one year’s time, Grow would pay out $125 in interest while Wells Fargo would pay out $0.50. 😯

Savings Accounts

  • Wells Fargo – earns … the same as my checking at 0.01% APY; they had a money market account that I was trying to get, but the terms were confusing and the bump would’ve only been up to 0.03% or 0.05% anyways
  • Grow FCU – basic savings is 0.10% APY … still not great, yet 10x what their competition offers! Also has another option for a Get Fit Savings where you can only deposit $400/month, but you earn 0.35% APY instead and when you reach $10,000, they give you $100.

Comparisons: On a $5,000 balance, Wells is at $0.50 (0.01%) / $1.50 (0.03%) / $2.50 (0.05%), whereas Grow is looking at $5 (0.10%) and $17.50 (0.35%).

Credit Cards

  • Wells Fargo – this was a very sore subject that inspired my last post – interest rate they offered was between 12.15% – 25.99% and they settled on giving us 21.15%. 🙁 Only upside is that it does offer 0% interest for 12 months, which we’ll probably be exploiting.
  • Grow FCU – they seem to offer a range of 11.24% – 15.24% for similar rewards cards, with introductory rates from 1.99% – 8.99%. Also notable, however is that in their penalty terms, if you pay late twice within 12 months, your rate jumps to 18% for six months, NOT INDEFINITELY!!! This is such a pet peeve with Chase, I want to punch somebody right now just thinking about it…

And of course, there are other accounts to compare, too, like our mortgage (which Wells does better) and my business accounts and so on … and I think that’s where this all starts to get complicated because I think what’s really holding me back from switching right this second (or at least when they open in the morning) is a few things:

  1. I don’t want to be that asshole who just took up two hours of the bank lady’s time last week and is now telling her, “Nevermind – close ’em all out…” Granted, I could always go to another branch or do it over the phone or something, but it’s a hassle.
  2. I don’t think our credit can survive moving everything at once. Case in point, we had a hard enough time getting the credit card and that came in at a rate that nearly had me doubled over when I opened the envelope! Whereas Wells Fargo is sort of working with us to help refinance and consolidate some things (with the 0% for 12 mos, and also a line of credit for another loan), there’s no way the credit union will be able to do the same things after we just opened everything at Wells Fargo a week earlier.
  3. We now have a lot of our banking at Wells Fargo. Because this was my original point – to get everything under one roof because it would be easier! My mortgage is there, my one credit card is there and we’re about to have another, plus our checking and savings, and they have investment options (I have no idea what their terms are for this – haven’t researched it yet). I do all of our finances each month, and the idea of being able to just do simple transfers between accounts seemed like such an easier way to do it…

Yet I think I know what the right thing to do is … at least in the long-term.

As much as I’d love to have everything safely underneath one online banking roof, I’m just not sure how much sense it makes to keep banking with one of the big guys who A) I have so much animosity towards for doing the things that they do, and B) for having such little regard for the consumers, even though they’re eager for me to have all of these not all that great accounts with them. And it’s not like the interest that Grow is offering is life changing … I think that’s how I’ve shrugged off focusing on those numbers in the past – by just saying that they all suck right now, but then again, if/when interest rates do start to climb again, it makes only sense that a credit union would rise higher/faster than the big banks simply because they’re already ahead to begin with.

If we were to get to the point where we have upwards of $25,000 in the bank between savings and checking and whatnot, we could be looking at a couple of hundred bucks a year in interest at Grow’s current rates.

At the best possible rate that Wells Fargo offered (money market – 0.05%), I would have to deposit nearly $400,000 to see the same $200/year return in interest.

🙄

So I’m not sure what I’m going to do just yet, but I’ve got a few ideas. One is to maybe see about opening up an account and trickling a little money in each month so that we can get the hang of it. I’d really be curious to see if there’s an “easy” way to transfer money from my regular checking over to Grow like we used to do with ING before they got gobbled up by Capital One … even if it takes a few days, if we just move enough over to start some savings and maybe pay a few bills so as to meet the transaction requirements, that could be a start and a way to see if it’s actually right for us.

It’s weird because when I first started looking into all of Wells Fargo’s options for these new accounts that we setup, I was really excited because somehow it made me feel more grown-up that I was organizing my finances properly – all nice and neat in one place, and with a national bank that was a big name. My Grandpa even did some banking with them (although I think his main bank was Chase), and it felt like I was moving in the right direction because they already own my mortgage, other debts, etc…, and because via their acquisition of Wachovia, I’ve had an account with them for a long time…

And all of that is good and swell until you start to look at the numbers on the paper, and get pissed off about a 21.15% interest rate, and you start to realize that they’re in it to make money, which is why all of their APRs seem ridiculously high and their APYs seem ridiculously low.

It probably doesn’t help that I almost did this once already when we were trying to buy our house, and another local credit union gave us such a runaround on the fees and the terms of the mortgage and what we actually qualified for compared to what they pitched us, and the sign-on bonuses that we missed out on because we didn’t open accounts in the right order … all of that nonsense I think kind of bittered me to credit unions in general for a couple of years, so when a month into our mortgage we learned that Wells Fargo had bought our mortgage from the original lender anyways, the reaction was, “Cool!” instead of just “Ok…”

At the end of the day, some of this stuff might take a while because we do need to let our credit recover by paying down some of these debts that are just going to spike our scores too high for a credit union to touch anyways, but I think it’s time to start dabbling in the credit union world – especially if we can figure out a way to try a few things without diving in headfirst.

Because let’s be honest, if your bank’s CEO makes $20 million a year with your rates in the basement, he’s probably not very likely to just drop it back to $15 million a year so that you can share in the wealth, too… 😕

I know that I tend to go off about this a lot these days, and I’m sure that I’ve lost a few Twitter followers and Facebook friends and soured the perceptions of a few family members along the way, too, and that’s just going to have to be ok.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know where it all started. I’ve personally known maybe enough gay people to count on one hand, and I wouldn’t even consider any of them to be  really good friends, as much as more co-workers and acquaintances. But that doesn’t matter – you don’t have to know someone personally to believe that they deserve to be treated equally.

It’s to the point where a lot of times I feel rather silly that we’re even still fighting about this topic, but deep down I know that if I shrug my shoulders and walk off, and enough other people do the same, then another ten years from now we’re just going to keep having this same argument over and over again.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so to speak.

It’s just civil rights for me, plain and simple.

  • Until 1865, African Americans could be kept as slaves and were counted as 3/5ths of a person in America.
  • In 1920, women  were granted the right to vote in America.
  • In 1965, African Americans were guaranteed the right to vote in America – a right which was technically granted in 1870, but then quickly eroded away by discriminatory Jim Crow laws.
  • In 2014, gay Americans are allowed to marry in 14 out of 50 states, though legislation is frequent both to retract this right as well as reinforce other discriminatory acts towards them in the name of religious freedom.

Not even 100 years ago, none of the women in my life would’ve been allowed to vote, and a mere 50 years ago, black people were just then granted not only the right to vote, but also the right to sit at the same lunch counter and use the same public restrooms as white people.

That’s crazy, and to think that similar discrimination still exists today towards other Americans simply on account of who they are is unconscionable to me. It’s not right, it’s not fair, and I don’t really care if it makes anyone uncomfortable – we have to change and fix it.

We were wrong when our ancestors thought that it was ok to keep slaves, just like we were wrong when our ancestors thought that women weren’t equal to men. And just like it wouldn’t be right for someone to be persecuted because they were Jewish, or Italian, or atheist, it’s not right that here in the land of the free, some people are deemed more acceptable than others in the eyes of our government.

If someone wants to personally dislike gay people, that’s fine with me – history is full of jerks and by no means will they be the last.

But if they want to use their collective power to keep gay people beneath them and deny them rights that they themselves enjoy today, then that’s not right and I do take up issue with that.

Not to mention, specifically with regards to gay marriage I don’t understand…

  1. How is the “the sanctity of marriage” not impacted by the astounding divorce rate here in America?
  2. How is it that I’m able to be married and not even believe in god, though a gay person can’t even though he or she might?

It just doesn’t add up to me, so yeah, it’s a hot topic in my world, not because someone close to me is personally impacted by these rulings on a daily basis, but simply because what’s happening here just isn’t right, and until we can look across the landscape and gay people enjoy all of the same rights as you and me, then fair warning – I’m probably not going to shut up about it.

And no doubt somewhere even further down the line, there will be something completely different that raises its head and challenges societal norms all over again, and then our children’s generation is going to have to decide if they’re going to be accepting of that strange and new or if the cycle is going to persist. The best I can do is strive to see that they’re not still dealing with the civil rights faux pas of here and now, and I do think that we’re making progress.

It may not be going fast enough, but social justice never does or else it wouldn’t be required in the first place. 😕

Sometimes being an introvert can be a bad thing.

This evening while I was waiting in the checkout line at Walmart, there was a couple in front of me trying to pay for part of their groceries with food stamps … or SNAP, or whatever you call it. They had a bunch of printed certificates that covered specific items, but when the cashier went to process them, she pointed out that they had already expired.

The Mom ran out to the car to look for money or more certificates or something while the Dad stayed with their son who was just sitting in the cart, minding his own business. I had watched the Mom play with her son to keep him entertained for the last 20 minutes while we stood in line together, and they seemed like nice enough people. About 5 minutes later, the Dad left to go after her while the cashier watched the kid, but when both parents finally returned, they were grumbling to one another about not paying attention, and then the Mom walked off to get a cart to go put the extra items back that they couldn’t pay for.

While I watched all of this unfold, I imagined in my head offering to pay for it for them myself … in the spirit of the season and all … but instead I just stood there and politely waited until it was my turn to checkout, and said nothing. The guy even apologized for holding up the line, and I shrugged it off and said, “No problem…” but nothing more.

It wasn’t a lot of stuff – a couple of gallons of milk, some eggs, beans … couldn’t have been more than $20.

They didn’t even do the typical Walmart stereotype and just walk away, leaving all of that cold food for the cashier to deal with. While the Dad took their son and the rest of the food out to the car, the Mom headed back into the store to put  each of the items back where they had found them.

I wish I had spoken up and just offered to help.

I don’t know if I was worried about whether my offer would be well received, or if I was just nervous about the interaction in general. But even as they walked away and the cashier started to checkout my items, I instantly regretted my lack of action and wished that I could have turned back time and done it differently.

Next time it happens, I hope that I do.

So now that I’m safe and sound back on the ground again, I wanted to take a bit here to expand on some thoughts that dominated my brain for at least 2.5-3 hours on two occasions over the last weekend…

I’m starting to get really afraid of flying, and it shows!  😯

Admittedly our flight back home from Michigan wasn’t nearly as bad as going up – we had a row all to ourselves, we weren’t stuck in the very back, and I was able to last the majority of the flight without constantly worrying about whether or not the plane might just randomly fall out of the sky somewhere in between Flint and Tampa.

Seriously – they do that sometimes…

It’s to the point where pretty much anything that happens on an airplane makes a scene like that appear in my mind, and I have to actively fight not thinking about those kinds of tragedies while we’re taking off or going through turbulence. And I know that flying in a plane is still technically safer than driving on the highway, and I know that I’m probably more likely to get hit by lightning while driving on the highway than I am to have anything happen to me up in the air … but at some point I always find myself taken aback and just sort of defeating that very logic with the incredible feat that it really is to get an 85,000 ton steel bird off the ground in the first place … I guess it just makes me wonder, are we really supposed to be up there in the first place?!

Of course, the crux of it is that with having both of our families more than a day’s car ride away, flying is really the only reasonable way for us to visit unless we’re staying for an extended length of time. Like last fall, it made sense for us to drive up to Michigan because we were going to be there for two full weeks and it was nice having our own transportation so that we didn’t have to inconvenience family all of the time, but for a trip like the one we just made where we literally had to fly up Thursday morning and back home on Sunday morning, there’s just no way that would’ve ever been possible if we had to spend 20 hours driving each way in order to make it happen.

So I get that it’s a necessity for me to travel via air for certain trips, and I’ll even admit that there are some that I’d like to go on in the future like visiting Hawaii and Europe and even Australia that there’s pretty much no other way to get there save for via plane!

…but I don’t like it, and short of talking to my doctor about giving me a handful of drugs to just make it all go away for those 3 hours while we’re dancing with death at 35,000 feet, I’m really not sure what else I can do. I try to distract myself the best that I can … writing, or playing games on my phone, or even blogging in my latest trip … but the whole experience still makes me feel really uneasy and I certainly couldn’t imagine being in the type of job that requires it on a regular basis.

Hmmmm … so I guess that’s about it for now. Thankfully, I don’t really see us having to fly anywhere really for at least the rest of the year, if not even longer, so at least there’s that.

At this point I don’t know if this is something that I need to learn how to conquer one way or another, or if I should just be grateful that I really don’t find myself flying more than once every couple of years and leave it at that.  😕

So I kinda stalled out on this effort last year because:

  1. it turned out to be a lot more work than I had expected
  2. I was having second thoughts about paying an annual fee to Flickr for hosting when I already pay for web hosting by itself

I guess today’s announcement by Flickr kind of changes part of that … at least the second one … because with ONE TERABYTE of hosting for FREE, there really isn’t much sense in my paying for a subscription anymore. I’m actually really happy with this one because I’ve always liked Flickr, but photos aren’t a huge priority for me … I feel guilty because I don’t have them online, but I know that they’re mostly there for me and maybe a few friends and family at best.

And yet I’ve never gotten around to putting up a full-fledged site self-hosted because I’m just not really happy with the software that’s available. I tried for a while using Gallery/Gallery2, but their themes have never really kept up with the times … whereas the interfaces for sites like Facebook and Flickr look pretty great. I could throw up a self-hosted site that would take up half of my server’s disk space by itself, and it would look like it was built in 2001, or I can use somebody else’s service like Flickr’s and just go all in.

The real challenge here is simply … getting the photos uploaded.

Right now my Flickr account has about 700 photos between about a dozen sets.

The folder of photos on my PC has about 25,000 photos in about 150 sub-folders … almost 70 GB total!

Now that’s certainly no issue for Flickr’s new size limits, but it’s still a bear of a volume for me to go through before uploading them because I’m sure at least half of them, if not more, aren’t worth saving, and I’d also like to add some captions here and there, maybe do a little editing for the ones taken back when I knew even less about photography than the tiny bit that I do now, etc, etc…

I guess what I need to do is just make a point to do a few folders each week and keep pushing on it – roughly speaking, with about 7 months left in the year, if I could do say 5 folders a week, in theory I should be all caught up by the end of the year. I haven’t uploaded photos in such a long time that I’m not really sure if that equates to an hour a week or much, much more than an hour a week … I think that’s what always slowed me down in the past because it was really easy to get in the zone going through photos, but when I finally looked up again, I’d realize that it’d been a week and a half and I hadn’t done any actual writing in that whole time!

Still, I’d really like to get this done, so enough – that’s my challenge.

Personal photos online and caught up by the end of 2013. Bam!

And here are a handful of old favorites that I’m digging out of my archives for this post to help get me psyched up about starting this effort back up again…  😉

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Social Anxiety

May 5, 2013 11:46pm
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I’m sure you could say that to an extent I’ve always been troubled with some sort of social anxiety, though it seems like in recent years it’s starting to get worse and I don’t exactly understand why.

Case in point – last night Sara & I spent the day over in Orlando and ended up at one of those mystery dinner shows because she’s been itching to check them out for a long time. I was willing to go because she wanted to, but I’ll be honest, I was pretty apprehensive leading up to dinner and even a good portion of the way through the show itself because it was the kind of show where they sit a bunch of random people at a table together, and in this case, it was pretty clear that we were going to have to work together to solve the mystery!

By the end of the night, I had pretty much gotten over it and ended up having a really good time, but it still baffles me as to why this has gotten stronger in the last couple of years.

Like when we went on the cruise for our anniversary last year – we had Anytime Dining and there were only two of us, so it was known that there was always the chance of us being seated with whoever else was waiting at the time … and I hated it! Realistically, I think we only ended up sitting with other couples maybe two or three times and in each instance, they ended up being ok, but … I don’t know.

Same thing with those Japanese steakhouses where you all sit around the grill and watch the chef do tricks with your food … my wife and I both really love the food, but unless we’re going with a group big enough to take up the entire table, I’m always worried that I’m going to get stuck making small talk with some random stranger.

I think that might be part of the problem because frankly, I really don’t like  small talk – I just don’t see the point of it. Having a conversation just for the sake of having a conversation with another random person has always felt kind of meaningless to me, whether I’m checking out at the grocery store, sharing a waiting room with somebody, or an elevator, or whatever. If we have a legitimate reason to talk to one another, then I usually don’t have a problem … I’m sure there are plenty of times when my wife wishes that I’d shut up for a change with her! … but if we just happen to be occupying a space together for a short period of time? It’s all just talk about the weather or where you’re from or how’s your day (fine), and personally I’d rather just stare at the wall and wait for the time to pass if I had it my way.

…which admittedly does seem a little bizarre when you consider all of the blogging and tweeting that I do, but then again, maybe those are safe because for the most part it’s a one-sided conversation of me just posting things that I find funny or interesting … very rarely would you ever find me posting about the weather…

*ahem*

You know what I meant. 😛

Anyways, I wanted to write about this just a bit under personal challenges because it really is something that I want to get over, or at the very least try to get a little back under control so that my anxiety doesn’t end up preventing me from doing the things that I want to do. I’ve wondered for a long time if it’s something that I should actually be taking some sort of medication for, although those kinds of drugs kind of freak me out because it scares me the idea of having to rely on something like that to manipulate my brain into taking it easy. Sara, being the loving, overbearing nurse that she is, suggested years ago that maybe I should be on prozac on an as needed basis because every now and then I’ve also been known to temporarily go off the deep end and it usually isn’t pretty, but I’ve avoided that for the same reason, and besides, can you really just walk into your family doctor’s office and go, “Hey, doc – every once in a blue moon my stress gets the best of me and I go a little crazy … can I please have some pills for that?!”

I actually got a lot out of the PATV episode where they talked about both Mike and Jerry being on Lexapro and how it’s essentially changed their lives, but I’m not sure if that’s the point where I am with all of this, and what it would take to get me to that next step.

At the end of the day, drugs are scary and I don’t want to feel like I need something like that in order to live my life. Just food for thought, maybe I’ll exude more on this one another day…  😳

So this is it – the big commitment. I’m going to run a marathon in 2013!

😯 😯 😯

I don’t exactly know which race yet, but it looks like I’ve got a couple of different options…

  • 5K races in either September (Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend) or November (Wine & Dine Marathon Weekend)
  • Half Marathon in November (Wine & Dine)
  • or if I’m way ahead of schedule… – 10-mile marathon in September (Twilight Zone)

And I know that these are all just baby marathons in comparison to the big 26-mile monstrosity that WDW holds once a year in January, but A) clearly the one two months from now is way too soon for me to even consider, and B) I kinda figured that a shorter race would give me a chance to see if I even want to do something that long in the first place! They say that a good target pace to train for is a 15-minute mile, which would clock the full-scale marathon in at about 6.5 hours of running, and even the half marathon is half of that, so either way I think it’s safe to say that I’ve got a lot of work to do if I’m going to even attempt this without managing to kill myself in the process!

For right now, I think my target is to try and shoot for the half marathon in November, and then if I both survive and enjoy it, then I might move on to try the full marathon two months later as well.

I know that I’ve got a long ways to go, but I really think that I need something different to help motivate me – who knows, maybe this is it. I do know that I desperately need to pick up a new pair of shoes as soon as possible because my current walking shoes actually have missing rubber in a couple of places and after trying a small amount of random jogging during my nightly dog walks that I’ve recently resumed, only to find my shins hurting like a sonofabitch, I’ve got to assume that actual running shoes have a bit more cushion in certain areas than walking shoes to help soften the blow, per se.

My plan, aside from buy new shoes, is first of all to simply incorporate a little more jogging into my walks every couple of days until in theory eventually I’m doing more jogging than running. I currently walk 3.5 miles in about 65 minutes, which gives me roughly an 18.5-minute mile. Dropping from there down to 15 doesn’t seem too bad, although I know that endurance is going to play just as big a part if I want to be able to do this for over three hours straight!

Maybe this means that I’ll be able to start writing a little more about my efforts again in the future, too. I kinda dropped off there because life exploded and made an absolute mess of the progress that I had been making earlier this year, but with any luck maybe something new and different will help get me back on track again.

13 miles – what in the world am I getting myself into?!

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