Sunday, March 29, 2009

Perfect Moments

When I was six, I learned to skate at a roller rink. It was a disgusting place. It smelled like old grease, it was unusually chilly, the music was too loud to hear anything else, and the main source of light was a disco ball. I loved it. You could pretend to not hear anyone screaming at you to go slower or to stop running headlong into walls as a way of braking. The rink completed its excellence by selling pizza slices and slurpees. I used to wake up some Saturdays determined to get there. And occasionally, I succeeded. Perhaps three times a year, my brothers and I were able to talk our mom into driving the half hour there, sitting on a bench covered in scratchy carpet for an hour while we skated in ovals, and then driving us back home. I'm sure she looks back at these times with as much fondness as I do.

As much fun as I had there, and as bouncy and chatty as I got about going there, I was usually paralyzed with a gripping fear the moment I got my skates on and had to venture out onto the scuffed wood floor. There was only one way in and out. The older kids skated at perhaps eight billion miles an hour. You were practically risking your life. 

I had been very brave the first four or five times I'd done it; I'd taken a breath and slid smoothly out to grip the railing. But one Saturday, I was just scared. I don't know why. It was just a scared kind of day. I spent ten minutes watching the other skaters whiz past from a three foot gap in the wall, feeling my heart race, wondering how I had done this before.

"Come on," Taylor, my older brother, said as he passed me for the third time. "It's not that scary. Give me your hands." He's always been a good guy, but he was a little impatient as a kid.

And for some reason, offers of help have always had the reverse effect on me that they're intended to have. We weren't a great duo in times of duress.

"No," I said. 

"Just do it!" 




"Fine. Stay there, then."

"Fine. I will. I like it here."

And he huffed and skated off. I was properly motivated now that he had gone. I would step out just as he was passing again, and show him I could do it on my own, and didn't need any of his help thank-you-very-much.

As he skated around the bottom of oval, and started the straight shot toward me again, I moved out onto the floor. Brave. Determined. And with no sense of balance. I fell down at once. It was more slippery than I'd expected, and a tad embarrassing. I pushed myself up, tried to take another step, and fell down a second time. What had they done, greased it with butter? It was very uncool. Totally ruined my entrance.

I looked back to see where Taylor was, and if he'd noticed. He was coming toward me still, looking vaguely concerned. Which annoyed me. This was my big moment to show him how awesome I was (and it had clearly been going perfectly up until that point). In front of him though, was a teenage girl, and she was skating backwards. 

Backwards. Unless she happened to have a rearview mirror handy, she couldn't see me at all. I tried to get up again, but failed again; I screamed at her to stop, but she couldn't hear me. I turned away and closed my eyes tight as I recognized the inevitable. She was going to run into me. 

Or, as it turns out, trip over me. I hadn't expected that. I was thinking she'd run into my back and maybe fall over, and then yell at me to get off the rink. Instead, she hit my back at a pretty good speed, and flipped right over me so her butt landed just beyond my feet. I can still remember the exact screech she made as she went down. It was brief, and very surprised. I don't remember anything else after that. I assume that as focused as she was on catching herself with her arms, she didn't pay much attention to controlling her weighted feet, which came down hard. On my head.

I woke up sometime later laying on the skate rental counter. It was playing the part of Exam Table for the doctor who'd watched it all happened and helped my mom snatch me out of the rink. I was playing the part of Concussed Child. Not my best role.

It hurt, but I wasn't so much bothered by the pain as I was by the mere fact that I'd been clonked over the head with roller skates. I mean, who could've seen that coming? The teenage girl was crying and apologizing nearby, which I thought was stupid at the time because it was obviously Taylor's fault (him and his offers of help. Pah.) The doctor man had a small light that he was shining in my eyes. My mom was intermittently comforting the teenager and rubbing my arm. 

"I'm fine," I told them all when I decided I could speak. 

"You're going to have a sizable bump," the doctor said. "We should find you some ice."

"Can I have a slurpee instead?"

"...No. You don't feel like you're going to throw up?"

"No," I said. "I really want to go home."

Nothing sounded better than my couch made up in sheets, and the TV on at a low volume while I ate Wheat Thins. It's what I always did when I was sick. 

It hurt like a mother, actually. But I couldn't even think about it. In retrospect, that probably had something to do with the concussion. But at the time, all I could think was, "Roller skates? Seriously? Concussion? What?" It made just as much sense then.

Fortunately, there was ice and Tylenol and some tests I can't quite remember anymore, and I came out of it fine. It was, at that point, the most physically painful thing that had happened to me, and I thought that nothing could hurt worse than the surprise of it happening, and the shock of pain.

I didn't know there were ways to shock and pain a person where ice and Tylenol and a day on the couch didn't help. And what can you do then besides sit and stew and feel the hollow ache in your chest get a little more helpless? 

I hate helpless. So in my head, I've collected a series of perfect moments in my life to use as a shield against the roller skate times. Even as the moment is happening, I know that someday, I will coax it close and hold tight to it. Someday, I will need it. This is my latest Perfect Moment, for anyone who needs to borrow one today:

Casey and I were driving in the first truly hot day of the year yesterday. We needed swimsuits and sandals all of a sudden, and had decided to go find them at Victoria Gardens. We were zipping down Route 66, and listening to country music that made us want to have boys to dance with or have shotgun weddings or keep driving until we came to end of the road in Chicago. Casey was drinking a Diet Coke and wishing it still came in glass bottles like it did when her grandparents were our age. I was rolling an orange cough drop between my teeth. The windows were down, and the air smelled like gasoline, and my hair was getting uncomfortably warm in the sun. Soon, it was going to be the same temperature as the seats in the car, and I would bake. 

"I'm not going to do homework today," Casey said, reaching for the Diet Coke as we stopped at our third red light. 

"Good," I said. "Me neither."

And Saturday afternoon was ours.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why I'm Going to be Kicked Out of Italian Class

Every Wednesday, my Italian class has a conversation hour with a very nice woman here from Milan. She is very concerned with manners, and etiquette, and our not going to Italy and immediately offending everyone there by incorrectly pronouncing the names of cities/making rude hand gestures/wearing an American flag as a wrap dress. Today, in her quest to make us socially acceptable, she taught us telephone etiquette, since we had finally learned the section of vocabulary that would make this possible. I mean, we learned it in theory. Some of us brought our books home from school over Spring Break, and said, "Homework over Spring Break is an outrage. They want us to suffer under the weight of our stress. They want us to stack up everything we're supposed to do over our break and shrivel under the icy stare of failure. I refuse!"

"You refuse failure? You're going to do your homework?" some of our mothers said, lamenting that after all this time, they still had to talk us into doing it.

"Never!" some of us said. "VIVA LA SPRING BREAK!"

"Please don't start a bonfire with your textbooks," some of the mothers said. "And put your shirt back on."

Well, that's all fine and good. Some of us have a rebellious streak. Some of us needed to relax. But some of us did not consider the consequences. Like, not being able to participate in phone etiquette because we didn't know the vocab. And not being able to tell Milan that we couldn't participate because this would definitely get us into Trouble.

Thus, this happened (except in Italian):

Milan: Okay, Adam*. Why don't you make a pretend phone call to Sara using everything we've learned.
Adam: Sure! *makes ringing noises, holding his fingers like a phone.*
Sara: *panics and lets phone ring*
Milan: ...Sara?
S: Right. *picks up imaginary phone.* Hello?
A: Hi, Sara. This is Adam. How are you?
S: Adam? Adam who?
A: Adam Fender.
S: I think you have the wrong number.
A: I'm in your Italian class at school.
S: Nope. I'm hanging up now.
A: No! I'm tall! I have black hair! We worked on that one project together last semester! I'm also in your math class! ADAM FENDER.
S: Oh. You. What do you want?
A: I'm so sorry to bother you, but I need a *word I don't know.*
S: Do you?
S: That's nice.
A: Do you have a *word I don't know* that I could borrow?
S: No. Please don't call this number again. Goodbye.

*Names changed. All physical descriptions and locations are accurate, though. But changing the names clearly protects their anonymity.

(And if anyone wandered over here from Blogtations, welcome! We hope you enjoy your stay.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ah, Monday. You never disappoint.

Does anyone else ever sign-in to their email in the morning, see the phrase, "You have 84 new messages!" and sign right back out? Yeah. And remember how when you first got an email address, you would check it every three and a half minutes, practically bounce out of your chair in excitement when you finally got something, discover it was spam, and yet still read it as though it were of Great Importance because it came via your new favorite thing, the Internet? I can't decide if I was young and naive back then, or am prematurely old and jaded now. I feel perhaps two seconds away from yelling at some whippersnapper to get off my lawn. 

On an unrelated note, I slept through my alarm this morning. I woke up exactly five minutes before class started, shoved myself into the clothes I was wearing yesterday, took a brief moment to channel Flo-Jo, and sprinted. I was still late, but at least now I can convince myself I worked out today and eat a slice of cheesecake.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lunch Date with Grandpa

"So how're you liking school?"

"I like it. It's sort of busy right now, what with finals around the corner, but I'm--"

"When I was in school, I didn't go to a single party. Not. Even. One."

"So you've said. I actually--"

"I didn't have a single drink, either. Half the class failed out their freshman year after boozing themselves half to death. Only the Catholics and the hard workers survived. Of course, I was both."

"Of course."

"I finished the engineering program in three years, and the University begged me to stay and get my Masters. But I told them no. I had a wife and two kids to take care of. I had to earn a living."

"Wasn't that the same year you got divorced and ran away to China?"

"It was my call from God. I was spreading Catholicism."

"Best excuse I've ever heard."

"It's not an excuse. You know, when I got back to the US, I got a knock on the door one day from two men. Jehovah's Witnesses."

"I thought they were Mormons. Last time you told me this story, they were Mormon."

"Mormons? No. Where the hell did you hear that? They were Jehovah's Witnesses. So I'm talking to them, you know, and I invite them in, because that's just Catholic hospitality--"

"Really? Because I've seen you make door-to-door salesmen cry."

"Absolutely not. I invited them in. And they were all, 'This this this this,' and I said, 'Well, yeah, but la la la la la.' And they said, 'Huh?' And would flip through their Bibles and go, 'Ohh. You're right. It does say blah blah blah.'"

"Well, it's a strong argument. How could they not agree?"

"Pretty soon, they're coming to me for Bible Study. A few years later, these two women show up. Also Jehovah's Witnesses. And they're nice-looking women. I mean, really nice. Really well-dressed, good bodies--"

"Great, great."

"And they're feeding me the same lines, you know, saying, 'La de dah,' and 'Rant rant rant.'"

"I hate it when people give me those lines."

"So, I invite them in, too, and tell them about the Book of Revelations, and they're sitting on either side of me, and they're really nice-looking. I mean, their bodies were--"

"We've established this."

"Anyway, they were pretty shaken when I finished my little speech. They both ended up converting, but I had to sleep with one of them before she got over it."


"She actually dated my buddy John for a while. It didn't last, though. John was a real prince of a guy, and Catholic, but he had some trouble being faithful. He ended up marrying this knockout redhead who wouldn't get into be--"




"You look thin. I was afraid you were getting chubby for a while, but you pulled through."

"...Thanks, Grandpa."

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Very Important Question

There are some days where I get dressed before nine a.m., run errands, actually look at my homework, go to three different appointments, and wind up looking at the clock in the afternoon and going, "Hey! It's still early! I should read that book/do laundry/neglect productive things and take a nap." Good job, Self. Go nap. 

There are some days where 6 p.m. finds me in sweatpants, wondering where the day went, and googling, "most delicious cookie dough recipes--for eating, not baking."

I'm torn, guys. Chocolate chip, or snickerdoodle? 

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Instructions for an Eventful Morning

1. Wake up with a burst of energy and a burning desire to paint your fingernails.
2. Bring clothes coordinating with your polish colors, as well as your make-up, into the bathroom, and set nail polish in front of them, admiring how well they match.
3. Lay towel down on the bathroom floor in case of spills, and take off old nail polish.
4. Spill bottle of Nail Polish Remover everywhere except the towel.
5. Scream, "NOOO!" and start mopping it up with your only available resource: toilet paper.
6. Start thinking of reasons why the stain on your mother's bathroom rug was definitely there before and consider which photos you can doctor to prove it.
7. Put on new nail polish.
8. Spill bottle of nail polish everywhere except the towel.
9. Scream, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD," and then realize you used all the toilet paper cleaning up the last spill.
10. Frantically search for a box of Kleenex in the bathroom cabinet, and then discover Kleenex sticks in the nail polish, giving it a fur-like effect, and that you have smeared it all over the rug.
11. Think of reasons why this stain was definitely there, too.
12. Take off pajamas, and put on clothes. Well, try. Learn that putting a bra on while your nails are wet is the hardest thing you've ever done.
13. Get full finger's worth of polish on the back of your favorite black bra.
14. Scream, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" and frantically try to wipe it off. End product should resemble a particularly untalented child's art project.
15. Try to wash it off with water.
16. Doorbell rings.
17. Remember that the AT&T guy is supposed to be over about now, and realize that you are the only one at home. 
18. Put on wet bra and a shirt and run downstairs, yelling, "I'm coming! Don't leave! I'm almost there!"
19. Discover it is a door-to-door salesman.
20. Squirm in wet bra, realize you are still wearing pink pajama pants, and eventually get him to leave by saying you're very ill and likely contagious. Cough for good effect.
21. Get phone call from AT&T  saying they are running late. Mutter to self.
22. Discover water and nail polish have transferred from bra to shirt.
23. Survey damage.
24. Put pajamas back on.
25. Leave note for mom explaining the current state of the bathroom.
26. Go back to sleep.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Sickness

Casey's boss is pregnant, and experiencing some bad morning sickness. The sickness of the morning time. That annoying part of the day when a pregnant woman wakes up nauseous, throws up, and then rests until the morning is over. Since "afternoon sickness" doesn't exist, then logically, once morning is over (say, 11ish?), she miraculously recovers. Sickness done.

To be oh-so-gentle about the subject, I think the term is a tad inadequate. A bit misguided, if you will. Somewhat stupid. Probably coined by someone without a uterus. Maybe...a man? Just guessing here.

Wikipedia doesn't have an entry on it, so the actual origins of the term remain a mystery. Not to fear, though. I happen to have the actual conversation in which those words were first said:

Man with Hat: *enters his office, wearing a hat, looking a bit peeved.* Grumble-mumble-grumble.
Man with Suspenders: *Thumbs hooked through his suspenders. Appears concerned.* Say there. You're looking less than your Eager Beaver self this morning. 
Hat: My wife didn't make me breakfast.
Suspenders: That's shocks-ville! What would make the little lady do a thing like that?
Hat: She's expecting, and she's doing that thing where, when I try to wake her up, she claims not to feel well. I even suggested that the stove was missing her, and that the eggs were awaiting her arrival. But she seems to find her favorite toys repulsive these days.
Suspenders: Well, bowl me over! Sounds like she's suffering from some sort of...of a...what's the word I'm looking for?
Hat: A sickness?
Suspenders: That's the very one! She probably recovers as soon as you've left, just in time for you to miss breakfast. The womenfolk sometimes don't understand their own feelings. It just takes her a while before she realizes that she's actually fine.
Hat: Still. I wish it happened in the afternoon. I don't like morning sickness.
Suspenders: I dig you. Like, crazy man.
Hat:...What era are you from?

My first idea is that we start referring to all ailments as "the Sickness." A sore throat is now, "the Throat Sickness." Having a fever is now, "the Hot Sickness." You may also add in times of day. Evening Ennui, maybe. Or Noontime Discomfort.

My second idea is that we coin a new term.

Casey's boss suggests, "hormone poisoning." I can't decide if this ends better with "disease," or "syndrome," so I'm letting it have both.

Hormone Poisoning Syndrome Disease. HPSD. Pronounced, "hupsda." All conversations must now go as follows:

Man with Hat: My wife has the hupsda.
Man with Hat:...Seriously, what era is this?

Spread the word.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I am not very good at my religion

Though I use the phrase "my religion" lightly. I do not really believe in it or follow it. I DO look back with fondness at getting a donut every Sunday afternoon if I did not take a sip of the Holy Wine during communion and spend the rest of the service pretending to be drunk. (Bribery works, guys.)

Of all the Catholic things I disliked, I disliked Lent the most. Lent (not to be confused with "lint," which I did confuse it with as a child) is the period of forty days before Easter during which you are supposed to give something up as a way to constantly remind yourself of what Jesus gave up for you. There is nothing that I like about it.

My initial hatred starts with Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. On this day, you go to Church, and a priest draws ashes in a cross on your forehead and murmurs to you in a soft voice, "Remember you are dust, and to dust to shall return." Cheerful. The first time my mother let me participate in this, I was ecstatic. I had been rather jealous years previously that she got to have dirt on her face, but mine had to stay clean. She had been waiting for my brothers and I to grow up a bit, and to learn and understand what the time was really about before we started participating in it.

She vastly overestimated my maturity.

At seven, I practically bounced my way to the front of the line, and about glowed with joy when the priest smeared ashes on me. Yes! My very own dirt! Then he said his line:

"Remember you are dust," he said, looking at me solemnly, "and to dust you shall return."

I blinked. "...When?"

I don't think anyone had ever talked back to him. He was stunned enough to lose his solemn look, shrug, and say, "When you've died."


I burst into tears and had to be dragged from the church. I did not get a donut. And it turns out, going to church on that Wednesday is not in anyway a replacement for that Sunday's service. You have to go again.

Much to my dismay, my mother informed me that night that being old enough to receive ashes also meant I was old enough to give something up. It's okay, though. I found a way around it.

"Sara," my mother said to me a week later, staring down at a teacher's note I had brought home to her and looking Not Happy. "Your teacher says you haven't turned in homework this week."

"Yeah," I said. I was not concerned about the Not Happy look. I was eating Doritos, and was therefore distracted.

"Why?" she asked.

"I gave it up for Lent."

Turns out, this is also not allowed. She made me give up Doritos instead. And again, no donut that Sunday.

So when Victoria informed me that she is wisely and maturely using Lent, a time she does not usually celebrate as she is not Catholic, to break herself of some bad habits, and give up swearing, I told her I was giving up Lent.

You know what I'm not giving up? Donuts. I'm going to go talk Casey into buying some right now.