Sleepwalking: New Personal Best

I’m not quite sure why this is a month of sleep adventures.  It could be the summer solstice, and all the extra sun I’m experiencing.  Maybe my brain is trying to make sense of my recent move.  Perhaps the stress of deadlines and writing is putting me over the edge.  Whatever the cause, I’m sleepwalking.

Not in this moment, clearly, but last week I had at least 3 instances, and three the week before.  It’s a lot.  I’ve been a restless sleeper my whole life.  Any odd noise will wake me, and I sleep best in total darkness and rainstorms.  When I actually am sleeping, I kick, turn in circles, talk, dream, and occasionally sleepwalk.  I was about 3 the first time I remember waking up somewhere other than where I went to sleep, and my father soon took up a position sleeping on the couch to ease his backaches and make sure I didn’t leave the house in the night.  A couple of times he tried to shake me awake, but quickly learned not to.  Sleepwalkers can wake violently if startled, and that’s me to a T.  I flailed, cried, and screamed, and it took 2 or 3 minutes to calm down enough to realize everything was fine, but the whole house was awake by then.

I also have very definite sleep walking habits.

When I was very young I mostly stripped naked and wandered around the house.  Occasionally I’d wander into the bathroom and fill up the bathtub with water, or go to the kitchen and put all the glasses on the counter.  Once I put all the dairy in the freezer, to much confusion the next morning.  Also only once, I put on my coat and shoes, unlocked the front door, and walked to the street corner.  I stood there for maybe a minute, watched carefully by my father some 10 paces behind me, before going back inside, putting everything back, and going to sleep.

As a teenager and young adult I rearrange things in nonsensical ways.  If you wake up and find all the forks on the counter, I did it.  My favorite room appears to be the kitchen, because I’ll move everything to a place it shouldn’t be.  Occasionally I’d wake up naked, or in clothes I hadn’t gone to bed in, so I guess I like dressing too.  I’ll also hide things, carefully putting a binder, 5 plates, or cans of cat food in the back of a closet, the freezer (another favorite), or under a pile clean clothes in my dresser.  This has made for more than a few very confusing mornings.

I know I still sleepwalk, especially when I would wake up in student housing with things from the kitchen in my room, but I thought I was down to 2 or 3 times a year.  Incorrect.  Last week I woke up barricaded in my bed.  A long row of binders, sweaters, and all my coats boxed me in.  Another time all my clean clothes were gone from a drawer of the dresser.  I found them in a mound in front of the door.  I had a moment of panic when I went into the bathroom at 6am and found the contents of my roommate’s cabinet lined up in the kitchen sink. I franticly put them back.  There’s no way it was her, so it was definitely me.

However, I seem to have a new favorite hobby: Moving my roommate’s stuff.

I’d told her before we moved in that I walked around in my sleep, and she said weird, but whatever.  I’d roomed with a girl last summer who watched me open and shut the blinds 40 times in the middle of the night, and she’d told the story far and wide.  She’d even talked to me.

“Uh, hey Bettina, what are you doing?”

“Opening the blinds.”

“Why are you doing that?”

“I need to open them.  I’m busy.”

She realized I was sleeping and watched me like a hawk, assuming I would murder her as soon as I was done with the blinds.  I didn’t.

The new roommate doesn’t wake up while I was walking around, she sleeps like the dead, and I’m pretty glad she does.

Last week I woke up after a very confusing dream.  I don’t usually dream about real people and real life, if I do it turns into a nightmare.  That morning I dreamed that I’d woken up and turned to count my pillows.  1,2,3.  Odd.  I went to find my roommate who was brushing her teeth.  “I have three pillows, I should only have one.  I think I took one of yours.”  “Oh, that’s fine.”  She said.

When I actually woke up I had a strange feeling, and looked behind me to count my pillows.  1, 2, 3.  Very odd, as I moved in with only one.

Sure enough, wadded up in my laundry basket was one of my roommates pillowcases, and the fluffy, down laden pillows I’d perched on top of my own were hers.  Through careful supposition, she and I recreated the crime.

Bettina, in her sleep, walked once or even twice to her roommate’s room and stole a pillow from her bed while said roommate was sleeping in it.  I then removed one of her pillowcases, put it in the laundry basket, and replaced in with one of my own from the hall closet.  I then went to sleep, and we both failed to notice the new additions/missing items in our beds for nearly a week.

For an added bonus, Iceland is actually quite warm this time of year, and I’ve been too hot to wear pajamas.  So I stole my roommate’s pillows from her bed while she was sleeping in it while naked.

Thank goodness she likes me.




Creepy Man in 16!

So, last Tuesday I met this super creepy guy.

I fully admit that one of the things I enjoy about Iceland is the general shortage of suspicious men hanging out on street corners, or following you around the grocery store, or being that guy you dated in high school, but it happens everywhere and Iceland is no exception.  I’ve had one guy who was overly persistent in a bar, but I don’t hang out a lot in those, and another who has ‘questionable’ (those are absolutely air quotes) opinions about the role of women and doesn’t seem to hear the word no, but that’s two men in two years.  Pretty good I’d say.

On this fateful Tuesday, I met man three.  A little before 8pm I saw a guy walking up to the door of student housing, and since any day you have to dig your keys out of your bag a moment sooner than you need to is a sadder one, I quickly waved goodbye to my friends and jogged up while he still had the door open.  I thanked him, and he said “you’re welcome”.

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Dream of the Dwarf King

I’m very active in my sleep.  I spin, talk, kick my sister, and any number of inconvenient things.  Additionally, and for whatever reason, I’ve also always had very vivid dreams.  They’ve changed as I get older and it’s interesting to note their progression.

What does it all mean?!?

When I was a young child, probably 3-10, I mostly remembered nightmares.  They centered around family and friends, but most often my parents.  I’d wake up terrified because I had dreamed Mom and Dad were mummies, or half spiders, or my mother had been kidnapped by aliens.  The worst part was I couldn’t tell the difference between dream and reality until the morning, so I lay utterly still hoping nothing in the nightmare was waiting to get me. I also dreamed of walking to the bathroom a lot, but then I’d wake up and walk to the bathroom.  It was a literal message that I needed to pee.

Puberty brought on some alarming changes.  I’d wake up 3-7 days a week dreaming I’d died, and almost always by murder.  It’s not unusual to dream that you die, and it turns out my Mom had the same sort of murder dreams when she was that age.  Thank you genetics.  That phase lasted until my early twenties, and brought many interesting firsts.  I dreamed regularly in black and white, and once in Spanish (if I didn’t know a word I couldn’t think it).  I dreamed that I was someone else, for the first time changing genders, and I had a couple of truly spectacular dreams.

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The Banana Thief

Did you steal my bananas?
Did you steal my bananas?

Libby was a girl I shared a dormitory with one winter.  She was bubbly, colorful, and cheery on good days, and dramatic, loud, and pushy on poor ones.  So goes cohabitation, a mixed bag like Forrest’s chocolates.  We met when she moved in, and she came from a tiny country I’ve only ever heard about in the movies.  Of course, I didn’t want to tell her that, and rushed off to go look at a map.

Our second day was rocky.

I was drinking one of my many daily cups of tea when she came over to ask about my life, and family.  She had excellent stories about cooking at home, and we both commiserated on the high price of groceries in Iceland.  $12 for a 1/2 pint of blueberries is cost prohibitive to students, families, and everyone really.  She asked if I was married, and said there was a guy back home for her, if only he’d make up his mind.  Then she asked, “And you’re a Christian?”  We talked about it for a while.  I told her about my parents and grandparents, and my family traditions growing up.

My beliefs are my own, deeply held, and, while not identical to my parent’s and grandparent’s, they stem from a complex combination of family, culture, and individuality.

Thank you Iza, for this sheep picture that helps me demonstrate: Now is not the time for this.
Thank you Iza, for this sheep picture that helps me demonstrate: Now is not the time for this.

It turns out Libby had not been looking to have a conversation.  She told me that she, her family, and everyone in her country is deeply Christian, and she was ‘disappointed with the lack of Holy Spirit’ found in Iceland.  She’d never been anyplace where people openly admitted to being gay, or not Christian, or thought it was alright to have children before marriage.  Then she told me It’s your responsibility to develop your relationship with God, and rely on him in all things. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself when you end up in Hell’.

That’s not a nice thing to say to someone.

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The New Coat

Almost without exception, my childhood wardrobe was updated twice a year from the Land’s End catalog.  At the beginning of each school year, my Mother would pick out matching sets of jumper dresses and long sleeve shirts, mix and match cotton trousers and crew neck shirts, and consult me on colors.  I was going through my surly phase (ages 6 to 15) and insisted on no silly patterns, no bows or ribbons, and absolutely no 95% of all available everything.  I ended up with a lot of navy and dark purple.

Seeing as I never grew very quickly, and in general failed to grow very much at all, shoes, coats, hats, and trousers that my Mother bought a size or two too large stayed that way for several years.  In fact, the last pair of shoes we bought larger, so I could grow into them, was at age 14.  I wore them yesterday with an extra pair of socks, but they’re still 2 sizes larger than my feet.

Ah yes, this year’s Christmas pajama contribution.

The only other time I got new clothes was at Christmas.  Aunts and Uncles might send a sweater, or pajamas, and my parents always got me colorful socks, and any clothing I’d happened to wear out between Septembers.  One year, that item happened to be my winter coat.  By the time October rolled around, my wrists were uncovered between my sleeves and gloves, so Mom took me out to try on coats.  My coat would probably come from the Land’s End catalog, but I tried some on in person in case we found something that would work without shipping costs.

We only went to The Mall perhaps twice a year, and Mom took me around to all the stores that November.  I tried on anything that looked like a possible size match, but the biggest problem was definitely my 13 year old self in an 8 year old sized body.  This coat had sleeves much too long, and this one was so puffy my arms couldn’t rest at my sides.  This one had a pink lining and was automatically vetoed, and no Mom, it doesn’t matter that you can’t see the lining when it’s zipped.  This one has flower buttons, and little ribbon ties around the hood.  No, that one is plain brown and ugly.  So it went, with nary a coat to be found.

Then suddenly, it was there.

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The Slow Death of No Coffee

I have many fine roommates.  I generally wish they were a little cleaner, and that I were a little cleaner too, but we have baking parties, watch Harry Potter all the time, and they introduce me to strange and glorious food I would never eat on my own.  This is the nicest roommate housing I’ve ever been in, and I am generally quite please to live here with a group of Icelandic and foreign students.

With that said, I’ve begun…feeling a little angst-y around one of the crew.  There are 10 of us, so I get along better with some than others, but Sævar (sigh-var) has recently become a serious hinderance.  When the school year was new, parties on the floor above ours were pretty much continuous, and I found sleep absolutely impossible one evening.  I took myself and a book to the common room to make tea.  It was about 2:30 am, and they always wind down by 4 am, so instead of wanting to strangle everyone, I took a reading break.

There I was cozied up under the quilt made from my father’s old plaid shirts, when along came Sævar.  He was…unsteady on his feet, and much more talkative than I’d ever seen him.

“Bettina!”  He said.  “You’re awake!”

“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep.”

“Your mission is to make me coffee!”

“Sorry, I don’t have any.”

He gave me a squinty eyed look, and pointed one wandering finger towards me.  “You’re lying.”


“Bettina,”  He said, very seriously.  “You’re lying to me.  I will die without coffee.  I need you to make me coffee.”

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Ugly T-Rex & the Girl

Note: This story will contain accurate wording for male anatomy.  It’s how the story happened, so that’s what you get.  This is a friendly notice so you aren’t too surprised.

Before we really begin, there are a couple of ethical considerations that need to be noted.  This is a true accounting of events involving children, and that’s innately problematic.  Children cannot give consent for their story to be told, for their picture to be taken, or for you to chat about them at the coffee shop with your other mom-friends or co-workers.  I was there, and I can only tell you what I saw, but I’m still uncomfortable with the fact that the line of ethics is not clear.  This is my story, but not mine alone.

So here’s what I can do.  I’ve been working, volunteering, and observing in pre-schools, day-care centers, private homes, and schools for more than ten years.  In that time, I’ve spent time with thousands of children, and I defy anyone to figure out who I’m talking about.  In addition, I state my intent to change anything I want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the  story itself.  I will change names, ages, setting, details, genders, family structure, and anything else I see fit in order to preserve anonymity.  I’m telling this story because I think it should be told.

Elliot was a boy I first met at age 2.  He was quiet, thoughtful, and friendly, with a mop of auburn hair that curled out in unmanageable cowlicks.  The first thing I remember saying to his mother was how impressed I was with Elliot’s empathy.  It’s a rare two year old that sincerely stops to comfort a crying friend, or cheer them up when they’re cranky.  By age 4, Elliot had dropped most of his toddler lisp, and had a habit of running his hands through his shoulder length hair or curling it around his fingers.  He was friends with everyone, and played dinosaur stampede with the guys, and chef in the play kitchen with the girls.  Elliot wore the same pair of sandals until he outgrew them, then came into school with a brand new, nearly identical pair, and his favorite yellow tee-shirt with a giant, smiling sun.

One day, when Elliot was still 4, he sat at the craft table surrounded by the chef crew, carefully coloring an entire page pink.  When he was finished, he colored each of his fingernails, then set about glueing feathers, beads, and copious amounts of glitter to the page until it was very wet.  Then he drew an orange dinosaur in one corner, but was disgusted it turned a brown-green shade over the pink.  “It’s ugly.” he said, gluing a feather over it.  When it dried, he wrote MOM in big, shaky letters on the front.  Before he went home I stopped him.

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