Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hard Labor

Let me tell you a little something about my friend Anna before I share this story.

Anna is one of those people who does things when she says she's going to do them. Like, truly, really, actually accomplishes goals. You'll be casually talking about how neat the stars are, she suddenly says she wants to be an astronaut, the next morning she's driving to NASA, and then six months later she comes back with 12 missions accomplished and a Nobel prize. And then she washes all of her windows right when she gets home. By herself.

Makes me feel silly for waiting 3 weeks to call Comcast to tell them our cable was out.

So recently on a lazy Sunday evening Anna mentioned that she decided to level and pave a weeded dirt mound next to her side porch at her house to use as a patio. Most of humanity would come up with this idea and talk about it for 72 years with everyone who stopped by only to maybe hurry and pay someone to make it happen right before selling in order to up the property value.

But this wasn't most of humanity. This was Anna Swayne. And the very next day she was out there with a shovel, all 3 foot 2 of her (give or take), enthusiastically moving a mountain of dirt like she had planned this since the second grade. I mistakenly stopped by to drop something off and, because of all of my Christian duties, offered a hand.

Guys, manual labor is hard. Like, really hard.

I didn't know this because I've never really had to lift stuff before. Well, that's not totally true. In the third grade my friends and I used to go visit elderly prosthetic leg Betty down the street and we sometimes had to lift her out of her wheel chair and into a recliner. And the bottom of her was always really sweaty. Then she made us sing to her for the next two hours. But other than that, I've never really lifted anything before.

I just remembered one other thing I lifted once. As a missionary in Ukraine this old lady asked my companion and I to come help her move some stuff from the basement of her building to the attic. We went, dressed in white shirts and ties (so embarrassing! We both wore the same thing!). As it turned out, what needed moving were 40 large, very heavy, very sharp, and very rusted, jagged pieces of awkwardly shaped bomb(?) shrapnel. I think it was from World War II.

I blame most of today's problems on my tetanus. And hot dogs.

So when I picked up a shovel at Anna's house, I immediately started having rusty sweaty flashbacks to the other two times in my life when I worked. It was frightening. But not really in the way twins dressed in the same outfit are frightening. More like the kind of frightening when you get drug to scout camp and on the first day you realize that you have to be there the whole week.

But despite the fright, we worked quite well and had some fun in the process. It was actually sort of therapeutic and fulfilling for us to create something like people used to back before t.v. Plus, kicking it with Anna is always a jolly holiday, just like Mary Poppins. Except without the satanic witchcraft and sexual innuendo.

One of the reasons Anna and I get along so well is that we both have old souls.  So when we get together we turn very much into a stereotypical old couple who lived through the Depression. Except our roles are reversed. My old soul manifests itself through my love of oatmeal raisin cookies and my desire to just have it quiet. Anna's manifests itself through her old man mentality that you can't be proud of something unless you've built it yourself. She is very much like my great grandpa Hinkle when he was in his 90's. Except her house doesn't smell like pee as much. And she's much better at remembering our names.

Anna watched 400,000 Youtube videos on how to lay a stone patio, bought the supplies, and the very next day went to work. A small group of us showed up and worked along-side her for several hours until that dirt mound was transformed into a classy, usable space.

This was the most productive thing I have ever been involved in in my life. And I once spent an entire Saturday when I was 11 counting how many times I could walk around my parents' backyard without stopping. So . . .

I immediately went home and made a list of all of the things I have been wanting to do and determined that I would get them done right away.

Last night, I moved a bag of to-be-donated clothes, which have been sitting in my bedroom since last September, to the trunk of my car.

So, Anna's not the only one who is accomplishing things right now.

~It Just Gets Stranger

Just after the dirt was leveled
Back-breaking labor

Happily working (note our probably illegal use of child labor on the right)

Finished product, with a special appearance (thanks, Daniel)

And with lights


  1. That looks awesome!!!!! What are you guys doing next weekend? ;) I need her motivation!!!!

  2. I wish I could have seen you childhood.

  3. Eli.....awesome job and you do not give yourself enough credit. You have accomplished a lot in your life. You are funny though! M.

  4. Dude, glad to hear I'm not the only one who felt that way about scout camp. I remember getting there and hoping all week that there would be a forrest fire so we could go home. How terrible is that?

  5. Wow, mr. handyman. Glad to hear you got your Comcast situation worked out. Lol

  6. Almost makes me feel guilty for sitting here reading this blog and accomplishing nothing...almost. ;) (Looks great!)

  7. Er.... Betty's sweaty bottom?

  8. I remember "helping" out in the backyard of some coach's house years ago. That was some good labor and I remember one person got stuck behind longer to "help" even more.

  9. In order for you to have even more opportunities for Work and Fulfillment, I, too, have developed a list laborious tasks that need completion in our yard. Just for you. I am so happy to help you feel the fun again.