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Archive for March, 2007

Out with a Bang

Ok, I may be leaving this provincial bucolic little town in a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean I’m going quietly. Official type people in this town feel obliged to send me citations about an innocuous pile of leaves in my front yard, informing me of “clean, safe, and sanitary conditions” which shall be maintained on the exterior property by the occupant.
What a load of crap. I like my pile of leaves. I’ve created a mini ecosystem in which my children revel in discovering different bugs and worms and generally being introduced to the micro world around them. Plus it’s composting. I’m doing the borough a service by not having to add my biodegradable matter into a landfill. Instead, I’m using it to benefit the environment by replenishing depleted nutrients into the parched land that is my front yard.
So I have 15 days to remedy my compost pile or face prosecution for the violation. Here’s where I complain: What business does this borough have telling me what’s “clean, safe, and sanitary” on private property? My environmentally friendly leaf mound is not spilling into anyone else’s yard or onto the sidewalk. It’s self-contained and inoffensive.
When it comes to publicly used property this borough is neither “clean, safe, or sanitary.” The playgrounds are completely unusable and a major tax-suck; between the barren swingset frames and the bumblebee infested tire swing and the rusty nails sticking up from broken and splintered wooden planks on the bouncy fire truck and car, I can’t even consider bringing my kids to play there. The sandbox has become a litter box to all the neighborhood stray cats; I’ve found used condoms and hypedermic needles just laying in the grass; there are cigarette butts everywhere and we’re lucky if the grass is mowed more than twice a month (and that’s too infrequent during mosquito season). Those are just the unclean, unsafe, and unsanitary conditions, to say nothing of the merely discomfort related conditions. There are no benches or shaded areas for parents; the water fountain hasn’t worked in more than 10 years; there are no bathrooms – not even a port-a-potty. How can you herd a gaggle of potty-training toddlers and yardapes to a park and not have to pee during the trip? Several times.
The complaint is this, people walk by my house all the time dropping their litter – all manner of fast-food containers, plastic bags, and squashed pop cans. Several times a week I have to clean all that up because it’s garbage and obviously not “clean, safe, and sanitary.” So I wonder, where are the litter police? Why aren’t the people actually creating the mess getting citations? Why doesn’t the borough clean up its own “backyard” before coming after me about my front yard?
I’m protesting this. It’s insulting to expect me to do away with something that’s hurting no one and likely helping – in some small way – everyone. It’s insulting for this borough official, the “Code Enforcement Officer,” to nit-pick my yard for a tiny, perceived offense when it’s my yard; I work there; I play there; I bother no one. Yet I can’t walk down the street with my kids to the playground because it’s a public health and safety hazard.
Oh! And don’t even get me started on the sidewalk between my house and the playground! You want to talk about unsafe! They have had to apply reflective paint to the juts between slabs of sidewalk to somehow guard against a misstep. But I’m sorry, two-year-olds just don’t get the concept of reflective paint, and so they fall. Is that safe? I don’t think so.

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Good Advice

Thanks to Barb, I’ve found my glasses. I said I had looked many times in the couch for my glasses, and I was done looking. But Barb said she lost a set of keys and looked and looked, then over a year later Sarah found them buried down in the couch. Well, I took the advice to not give up, and it was fruitful. After more than a week of tension headaches and near misses while driving, I can see again. Of course that doesn’t remedy the broken earpiece, but that’s a problem for another day.

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…to be me”
I used to love this Tom Petty song, still do in a way. It was my anthem in junior high and high school. I’d turn it loud in my bedroom with all the windows open and just sing-yell it as loud as I could. And I believed it. I believed no one knew what it was like to be me. No one had lived my personal hell or could ever imagine how rotten I had it. I carried this mindset into adulthood and still believed I had had it worse than anyone I knew, and no one could comprehend. I had become a victim of circumstances, a casualty of childhood – I was collateral damage.
I’m discovering that plenty of other people felt and still feel that way too. That no one else can ever get it, truly relate to what they’ve been through. Not only is this mindset narrow, it’s vain, self-effacing, and exclusionary. Friends aren’t allowed to step in and offer a shoulder.
It’s a by-product of the human condition to be jaded, shit on, kicked in the face, simply mistreated. How can one person say to another, “You don’t know how it feels to be me”? Of course we do – by knowing how it feels to be us, we know how it feels to be you. That is why we are capable of empathy – putting ourselves into another’s position and then experiencing his or her feelings. How could we ever get through the general suckiness of life if God didn’t equip us with a way to console each other?
I think it’s small-minded to believe that you or I had or have it so bad that no one on the planet could possibly relate. The scope of human thought and experience is not that big and the world population is 6.6 billion, so the navel-gazing attitude of “you don’t know how it feels,” is nothing short of ludicrous. In the masses of 6.6 billion people, you’re the only one generating a certain feeling or thought pattern? I might never have experienced the exact circumstances of your unique heartache, but the point is that I have lived through my own heartache and I know what hurt feels like, just like anyone else. We can relate, not on merit of our circumstances, but on the universal understanding of heartache or happiness.
If you have hurt and I have hurt, we are the same. Why do we try and make our individual hurts more relevant and distinct and memorable and worse? To prove a point? To shun the comfort offered by others – because they couldn’t possibly get it? To remain in a perpetual state of victimization because we thrive on the drama and lonliness of our self-created isolation?
I don’t know. I don’t know why we do this. But I know that I’m guilty of “you don’t know how it feels,” “you have no idea what I’m going through,” and “you don’t understand.” It’s all a pack of lies, and if we’d just quit trying to one-up everyone all the time, we might realize how much more satisfying it is to identify all the similarities in our collective pains and engage in some reciprocal sympathies.
In short, I think “You don’t know how it feels…” is a cop out to naming the emotions or participating in a back and forth conversation. It’s a statement that no one can respond to without sounding petulent: “Yes I do! I do too know how it feels.” Give me a break. People say “You don’t know how it feels…” when they don’t want anyone to know how they feel. It’s a way to hide because if you don’t tell me how you feel, obviously I don’t know.

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Our House-To-Be

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Racist Toilet Plungers

So this evening as part of our out and about-ness, we had to stop at Giant Eagle for diapers, during which time I loudly confirmed to an unsuspecting black man that racism is still alive and well in the world.
I don’t often realize I have what’s considered by some an extensive vocabulary. To me, it’s normal; the words I speak are the words I read and the words in which I think. However, it has not been uncommon for me to hear others mention my frequent use of “big words.” Big words are fine, but friends, I’m here to tell you, keep your big words far away from your cleverness. They don’t mix; like oxygen tanks and cigarettes in a hospital, someone’s bound to need skin grafts when the sprinklers shut off.
As we’re walking through the diaper aisle, Casey and I are discussing something inane like toilet plungers when he says something opposite of something he said before. Naturally, I take up the argument and point out his incongruity – because that’s what I do – and instead of just calling him dumb for what he was saying, I had to be clever. I wanted to call him a name that meant he was taking back something he previously said, replacing with a new story. I could have called him an “Indian-giver” since I remember kids saying that in 5th grade or whatever, but as I am not likely to meet any Native Americans around here, I had to choose something more racially relevant.
(I know you’re wondering what race has to do with toilet plungers, and I have to say, I don’t know. I was appalled at the discovery myself.) As we turned around the end of the aisle, I smuggly and full of pomp practically shouted “Re-nigger!” at Casey at precisely the moment the aforementioned unsuspecting black man passed us. Because I was so enthralled with my rendition of the word “renege” (which sounds like “renig” and means to take back) I came to tears moments later when I smacked into the obvious.
Of course there was no explaining it, not even to myself. How did it escape the filter of my own ears before it echoed off the steel beams and linoleum? I couldn’t stop thinking about that man walking to his car, returning home with his dog food or whatever, and wishing he’d just waited until the morning to go out. If I knew who he was, I would find him and apologize for what sounded like an ignorant dirty insult.
Because I wanted to be clever with my big words. Well, from now on clever and big words play on different sides of the playground. I know I was careless with my word choice, but I have to think, what really caused this problem in the first place?
I blame my broken toilet and the smart-ass plunger that would rather flip itself into a belligerent ladle than do its job, without which Casey and I would have no cause for discussing said plunger or arguing about what he said in the first place.
So there you have it: Racist Toilet Plungers.

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Silver Lining

Today was a good day. This morning I fell down the attic stairs messing up my left butt and my back. This afternoon I died slowly during the interminable wait in a doctor’s office for my sister to have a tetanus shot – which never materialized.
BUT
I had a great workout with a great friend at the crack of dawn. I managed to shower before anyone else’s morning pee disturbed me. The children played well; they were helpful and didn’t try to make my head spin (more than once). Loan paperwork has been read, scrutinized, re-read, mailed. Last night I enjoyed lively and engaging conversation with a friend from across the country, and the after-glow lasted through today. Jessica helped me sort, purge, and pack a lot of stuff today. I hope my ambition will continue tomorrow when I tackle the eight bags of stuffed animals. I was able to help out a friend in a small yet useful way. Now, at the end of the day, I feel good like I accomplished something and made a divot of a difference in my corner of the world. We are preparing to embark on our life and it feels good. New breezes blowing and all that.
This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

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