Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bangs! The Ultimate First World Problem

A few months ago, I was craving change. I had been recently stuck on the couch after an epic dodge ball accident and begged the husband to get me out of there. So we went to Canada.

While surveying the lovely downtown Vancouver area, I had that same feeling of change-craving. I'm not committed enough to go full throttle by getting a tattoo so I made the impulse decision to try an image revolutionizing trick that would totally make my dreams come true. In that cloudy afternoon right on the sea front in an Aveda salon, I got the first bangs I've had since 6th grade.

Fast forward---they should have given me a manual for taking care of these things! They have a mind of their own! Below is what my morning routine consists of and no Youtube tutorial has adequately taught me the right or best way to wrestle with these wispy hairs.

First world problem-Bangs!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Handicapped-The First World Problem I never thought I'd have to learn

A couple months ago, I did what I normally do on a Thursday evening. I played indoor gym games with high school students. The game of the week was a paintball-style dodgeball game and as a staff member, I got to join the staff team to take out some students across the court. After about the first 45 seconds of the game, I had an almost clear shot of a student peeking out from behind a barrier. I ran for it, pivoting to my left when all of a sudden, I felt an excruciating pain stab my left knee. I crumpled to the ground and attempted to scoot behind another barrier. I begged my teammates to play and win and not worry about my injury.

 Fast forward....the injury was diagnosed, thanks to an MRI and my faithful orthopedist, as a bucket handle medial meniscus tear. A flap of muscle had been sliced by my rapid movement, flopped over, and was pinned between my knee bones and caused extreme pain just about every time I moved. Since February 4, I've been on crutches. I had surgery in mid-March and the doctor did his best to unflop the tissue, sew it back where it belonged, and get some blood back flowing again.

Still, despite his best efforts, he gave me a 60% chance of it healing properly, meaning I will have to have my meniscus removed if it doesn't heal right which means a total knee replacement in a few years with lots of grinding bones in between.
My doctor's drawing of how he fixed my meniscus, drawn on the paper liner of the medical table.

 Point of all of this is, I've been able to see and observe this slice of the world from the perspective of a handicapped person for the past two-and-a-half months. Below are some of my observations:

  People stare and don't know what to do. When I was being pushed around in a wheel chair at some points during my rehabilitation, people either stared and then looked away, or they asked me what happened. Both behaviors struck me as strange because I don't think I'd ever ask someone in a wheel chair what happened to them.

People band together who have gone through major injury. Often times when people were opening doors for me, helping me get up stairs, or just standing near me, they would open up about their own terrible injuries. One man in the airport told me his wife was rehabilitating from meniscus surgery for the 2nd time because a small child had run into her and made her re-tear her first repair. We also sat next to an amputee on a different flight and got to hear his whole incredible story of recovering from a motorcycle accident after losing his leg. Needless to say, he sold the motorcycle.

Only selfish jerks use the handicapped stalls. I waited for about ten minutes for one stall when I was in a wheel chair when out came a teenaged girl who'd left me a "present" in the toilet. In my former days, I'd sometimes figure it was okay to use the handicapped stall because of course, I deserved it. I won't go into the difficulties of trying to use a toilet, while getting in an out of a wheel chair, but trust me-it sucks. Nowadays, I will only let women with small children or disabled people use it, because they shouldn't have to wait and truly do need that extra space.

Shops, doorways, sidewalks, and cities are incredibly difficult to move around in. Whether I was on crutches or in a wheelchair, moving around was exhausting and not worth it. I felt like I was always in the way, or just wanted to rest most of the time.

Shopping is impossible. The third week I was on crutches, I attempted to shop at Safeway for rice for dinner. It was one item; how difficult could it be? Some slightly obese person had taken the electric scooter so I crutched over to the rice and stared at how I was going to carry a 10-lb of rice to the cash register. A young guy came up to me and asked for help. I cried out for joy and thanked him profusely. I asked what his name was and he said, "Aaron," (which is also my husband's name) and I offered to pay. Then I cursed my husband for not buying his own rice.

Every thought is a battle. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to have a pity party for myself (and still do). To know that the recovery time is just SO slow and that I'd be missing out on everything that I loved to do outside, I couldn't quite hold it together sometimes. This is when I had to say to myself to cut the crappy sad thoughts and instead focus on all the great things in my life (like sunshine, my sweet dogs who never leave my side, and my loving husband).

I fantasize about dancing in a music video. I am not a dancer, nor will I ever be. Yet now that I've lost and have had to re-learn how to walk again, I daily think about dancing, hiking, running, rock climbing, and skiing-all these things that I can't yet do. I look at people who sit on the couch who have two legs that work and it bums me out. Anyone need a back up dancer in a couple months?

This too, shall pass. In the scheme of things, this accident and my recovery will be a small blip on the radar. I'll barely remember it like my other 2 ACL surgeries and I'll be back doing what I love to do again. I have to be thankful every day that I am not permanently disabled like so many others, and that I have a clear diagnosis and recovery path, unlike many. Every day I see improvement and I can't wait to make a bonfire and melt all this medical equipment into one tangled sculpture.

So on a rather more serious note, I want to pay tribute to all of those who have a disability in this First World and run into crazy little problems all the time that the rest of us can't even fathom. I hope that, like my friends and community who have unabashedly taken care of me in every way, that we can give that same love and support to those around us who need it most.


Dear Gretchen,
I am a new driver and after I carefully pulled out of my parking space in the Safeway parking lot, I had to slam on my brakes because an old lady tried to cross the street to get into the store. I laid on my horn to try to communicate to her that I needed to get somewhere, but she took her sweet time and shuffled across the road with her sad little cane. How can I better communicate my rage to clueless pedestrians when I'm driving? I'm also upset at the teacher who was in the front passenger seat of my car who told me that I couldn't honk at old people.

-Speed Racer

Dear Racer,

When I first heard this story, I wondered how you hadn't started a riot right there in the parking lot of Safeway. Here's a driver's training tip for you; people who are walking around in parking lots/streets (aka known as "pedestrians") are the bosses of the road and you have to answer to them. I know, it doesn't seem fair. After all, you are made powerful by your big machine that you are driving and could easily mow them all down. Unfortunately, the minimum punishment by law for a hit and run crime is being sent to jail for a year or being fined up to $10,000. So don't be a jerk. Next time you see an old lady crossing the street, get out and help her across. Don't be like this guy:

Pet Week on FWP

We all love our pets, don't we? I am the proud owner of two adorkable bulldog mixes and there are days when I come home and I just think to myself, these two have the life! What would I do with myself if I just slept for 20 hours a day and my biggest stresses were strangers at the door and when I could go poo. The following posts are dedicated to my kindred pet owners and their secret envy of "A Dog's Life". Thanks to those who submitted photos for these entries! Enjoy!

Featuring: Bam Bam and Ema, Bogey, and Holly the Cat (who swears she's human)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Advice submission-

If you or anyone you know has a very real, very funny first world problem that you would like to have specialized advice to help you through, put it in the comments section! I'll be happy to formulate an answer to help you on your way! -Gretchen

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Thigh Gap Tragedy

Dear Gretchen, 

In my friend group there is one girl with a thigh gap and the rest of us are kind of just a little bit chubbier. Since she's the only one with a thigh gap, can we ask her to stop wearing skinny jeans and standing next to us?

-Uncomfortable in Leggings #firstworldproblems

Dear Leggings,

Oh dear, where do I even begin? First of all, in all honesty, it makes me so sad that this insane/unattainable/downright stupid idea has snuck its way into your and your friends' heads. So let's do it-let's talk about thigh gap. I know your generation grew up on a television personality that you fell in love with, and could never live up to this individual's expectations. Yes, I'm talking about Sponge Bob Square Pants. I mean, how horrible would you feel about yourself if he came to your school and stood in your group? Even your friend with the skinny jeans would feel uncomfortable!

Okay okay, I'm just joking with poor old Sponge Bob. We as women will forever be cursed with that little voice that says, "You're not skinny enough!" What's crazy about this voice is that no matter your weight or life circumstances, it's always there in the back of your mind. My sweet little grandma, at the age of 85, went to the public pool every week to do water aerobics. She was active, fit, and a hoot to be around and yet even she worried about the size of her thighs in her little saggy bottom bathing suit. When I heard her complain about her weight, it threw me for a loop because I was certain that was something that I would grow out of someday. And I never have shaken that voice that attacks those certain "problem areas" and how they bulge in all the wrong places. When I was in high school, I too jumped in (or probably started) the whole thing where I'd stand in front of the mirror and say, "I look fat in these pants," while I waited for my friends to chime in and say, "No! You're so pretty and skinny and..." If I could go back and roll my eyes at my teenage self I would. That's such a dumb game that we girls play!

Here's the thing. You and your friends are the worst critics and judges of yourselves. Seriously, if you asked any guy what they think about the whole thigh gap thing, they will first ask you what you're talking about and then they will tell you that it's stupid. Guys like a little junk in the trunk, or so I'm told. So the only person that cares about the gap in your thighs is you, and that's such a weird part of your body to equate with beauty anyway. Who looks there anyway?

I really want to shake you by your shoulders and beg you to name some of your female role models, then ask you if you've ever thought of her thighs before. To go further, when I think of women like Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Emily Dickinson, Michelle Obama, Melinda Gates, Jane Goodall, Tina Fey, Maya Angelou,  or Mother Theresa, I see women who changed the world; who avenged injustices, explored new ideas, spread love to the people who needed it the most. I see artists and activists and writers and actors, and not once do I wonder how many inches apart their thighs were when their feet were together.

Next time the thought enters your head and creeps its way into your conversations with your friends, chase it away by asking yourself what you are doing to change the world or help those around you. Because your thoughts are precious and you don't want to waste them on something as insignificant as the size of your thighs. And besides, thigh gap looks ridiculous and our cafeteria is awesome so go make a sandwich and get over yourself!

If you're still convinced that you need to attain the perfect gap, here are some tips to help get you there.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Story behind the problems

I thought it would be appropriate to explain this blog, now that it's a few weeks old. Full disclosure: I am a high school teacher/marketing director that works daily with teenagers. They make me laugh every day with some of their non-problem-problems so I thought I would write about them. Gretchen is just my pseudonym and I thought it would be fun and entertaining for myself to take things that my students actually complain about and publish them into an advice column. Keep in mind that everything on here was actually complained to me or some of my co-workers and other teachers. I actually teach a class and beg my students to relinquish some of the worst first world problems that they've heard lately. They've been good at helping me dream up "issues" and let me go off on rants about different silly stuff. So I'd like to dedicate this blog to my digital arts students and thank them for being patient with my drama and freak-outs about nothing too. Like I wrote in this post, I was the worst of them all (and probably still am).