Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Right Foot

When I was a kid, sometimes my parents had my brother and me shovel the driveway. Not when there was a ton of snow, mind you, but when there wasn't enough to justify the snow blower. I don't remember doing it tons of times, but I remember hating it a lot. 'Work? Why should I have to work?' I thought. Surely, I didn't need to learn a work ethic or to contribute to my own upkeep. That's madness.

Any arguments I might have provided were shot down, however, and I was occasionally asked to chip in. One afternoon in December of 1985 was just such a time. My brother and I bundled up and headed out to our long--eternally long--driveway and got to it. It was arduous work, our backs ached, and we could think of nothing but going inside to warm up.

That is, until we noticed that the cement stairs leading up to our backyard was completely piled on with snow. We lived in a hilly town, and our back yard was probably about 8 feet above our driveway/house level. There was a staircase that went between the garage on the east and a retaining wall on the west. It was suggested (I don't know by which of us) that the pile of snow might make a nice sledding opportunity. Suddenly our painfully cold bodies were irrelevant, and only the thrill of the orange plastic sled was on our minds.

I remember going down the first time, but I'm not 100% sure about that. Either way, it was FUN. The staircase was long and steep enough to get some speed up before hitting the base of the stairs. There was a patch of grass between our patio area and the driveway, and that was the place that kind of slowed you down as you neared the driveway itself. It was seriously perfection. We went down again and again, eventually deciding it would be even faster and cooler with the two of us going down together. Oh, yeah. It was.

Eventually, Mom came out to see what was taking us so long to do the shoveling. When she saw what we were doing, she was naturally a little nervous and told us to be careful. Duh! Of course we would be careful. What was she so worried about? Honestly. What could possibly happen??

Nothing. Nothing happened, and we went inside when we had our fill. But by the next day, we were ready for more, only this time, we decided two people were not enough to get the speed we needed. A quick call to my bestie Mandy across the street solved that problem. Mandy was 1.5 years older than I was, but I was still larger (hmph). We decided to go heaviest person in the back (Dirk) and lightest in front (Mandy). That put me in the middle. Good times ahead. Nothing but good times.

We positioned ourselves at the top of the stairs, my legs sticking out around Mandy. And we were OFF. Down the hill we went, all joy and anticipation. Until about half-way down, when my foot hit the retaining wall and bent backwards. By the time we hit the bottom of the stairs, I was completely freaking out. My brother, who normally was a very supportive big brother, rolled his eyes and told me to stop crying when I told him I hurt my foot. (To be fair, I really was a total crybaby. I bawled when I stubbed a toe).

I went inside--crawling because I couldn't walk on the foot--and Mom wanted to know what I was bawling about. I told her and she was as skeptical as my brother. She put me in bed, elevated the foot, and told me to just wait for it to feel better. When she came in later to check on me, she couldn't help but notice my foot was swelling up. Eep. This was when she became concerned.

Then something happened that kind of amuses me. Dad came home and looked at it and said we'd have to go to the hospital to check it out...but not till after supper. WE ATE FIRST!! I've mentioned before that we're a food-centered family, but what the heck??? My ever swelling foot was second to food. Good thing I know they loved me, huh? Anyway, we went to the E.R. after dinner, and long story short I wore a cast for six weeks. Oh, and not surprisingly I milked that thing for all the sympathy I could get.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm a George

I was watching Seinfeld the other night, a show that I never tire of. It's mindless, but at the same time, I find myself applying theories and concepts from my studies and I love that. I've actually used several episodes in class to illustrate various communication and relationship issues. My students like it, I like it. Win-win.

So I was watching an episode the other night where George decides to see a therapist for his woman problems. As he's sitting in the therapist's office, he tries to unzip his parka, but the zipper sticks. After a few seconds of trying, the therapist encourages him to let it go and focus on the issues with his on/off girlfriend. George lets go of the zipper for about three seconds, but it lures him back. He can't focus on the conversation because the zipper is broken, and it's driving him crazy. So he's pulling and tugging on the zipper, and the therapist keeps telling him not to focus on it. But the more she says it, the more he becomes obsessed with it. And the more obsessed, the more filled with rage that it won't unzip. Pretty soon, he's completely freaking out in anger over this stupid little zipper.

I was laughing while it happened, but then I realized I was laughing because I could relate to it. It was funny because it That is absolutely 100% how I would behave in that situation. I become so obsessively focused on the little things, on the things that I can't fix (and that don't ultimately matter all that much), that I lose track of thinking of the really important stuff. I become so angry when things don't go the way they are supposed to that I lose it.

Because I live alone, drive alone, etc., I usually get away with this childish behavior without anyone noticing. But sometimes I lose it in front of friends and family--something inconsequential gets under my skin and I freak out. At the time it seems perfectly well within the range of reasonable responses to the situation, but inevitably I look back later and realize (with shame) that I was a giant ass. People laugh at George Costanza (me, too) for doing exactly what I do. This is not the way I want to live my life, nor how I want people to see me.

Serenity now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Five Weirdo Things I Believed as a Kid

5) When I was probably five or so, we replaced the sidewalk in front of our house. I honestly thought God would be totally P.O.'d at us because he put that sidewalk there when he made the earth and here we were ripping it up. Though, come to think of it, maybe that's why he didn't give me my Cabbage Patch Kid right away. Aha!!!! It was my parents' fault. Typical.

4) Speaking of God, the sanctuary of our church had vaulted ceilings, but the fellowship area right behind it had regular ceilings. That meant the back of the sanctuary had a wall that went only partway down from the ceiling to about 10 feet (ish) above the floor. On this partial wall was a big vent, which I suppose was related to the heating/cooling elements. As a kid, though, I didn't think much about heating or cooling. I did, however (as validated by the above), think a lot about how God was watching me misbehave. It was my working assumption that the vent was where God hid to watch the church service--and me. I figured if it was the "house of god," then God must live there, where he could see all the action from above. It didn't always keep me on the straight and narrow in church, but it did sometimes.

3) Nearly every Saturday afternoon, my dad took my brother and me to the public library to pick out books. I loved going to the library, and in particular looked for books with that plastic wrapping. I loved the sound of the plastic wrapping, which I always described as "special." I have no idea why I used that word. I remember one time I told my mom I liked it because it sounded "special." She laughed, and I didn't see why.

2) I saw Superman (II or III??) with my was the one where some of the people turned into robots or something--that's how I remember it, though I don't know if that's really what happened. This whole thing terrified me. There was one woman in particular who turned into a robot, and she had an Afro kind of haircut. Every night after that for years (seriously, for YEARS), I swore that woman lived under my bed, and countless times I saw the top of her afro creeping up over the edge of my bed to get me. I used to whine that my parents didn't let me see as many movies as I wanted, but maybe that was a good thing after all. Yeah, yeah, yeah. My parents were right. Blahdy blah blah blah.

1) There was a young woman who went to our church; she was a newlywed I think. She was just another old adult as far as I knew, but I'm guessing she was probably mid-20s. This was the early 80s, around the same time as the show "Bossom Buddies" was on TV. I rarely watched that show but I was aware of it, and the premise--that two men dressed as women every day. Whenever I saw this woman, I really believed she was just like those characters on TV--she was a man who wore women's clothing. Whenever I think of this, I am both amused and a little dismayed. This poor woman probably had no idea that the little blond brat a few rows back lived under the assumption that she was a drag queen. What if some little kid thinks that about me?? I'm tall, broad shouldered...yipes!!