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.

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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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Örlygur Can’t Find My Blog

See, I’ve got this friend, Örlygur.  We’re in choir together, and he’s part of the crew that I study with each day on campus.  I’ve generally studied alone, but something has changed about finals in the past couple of years.  In actuality it’s probably me, and I now need some peer pressure to keep myself on track.  This fateful day we were all sitting together, typing away on our laptops, or circling irritatingly uninteresting words in books about theory, when I turned to my friend, Maureen.

“Ooh, guess what!  I got a new country yesterday.”

“A country…”

“On my blog.  I got a view from a new country.”

“Nice!  Which one?”

“Israel!”

“Ooh, never would have guessed that!”

“Wait, what?”  Inserted Örlygur.  “You have a blog?”

“Oh.  Yeah, I keep a tiny blog I don’t tell anyone about.”

“What?  But you just told me.”

“Noooo, I told Maureen because I got a new country.  She knew because I asked her to read a post one time.  I wanted to make sure I didn’t sound too whiny.”

“Well, what’s your blog called?”

It was here I faced an ethical dilemma.  As of yet, I’m not doing anything to advertise or put my blog out there.  I’m using this as a space to practice writing, editing, storytelling, and consistency.  I’m very interested in what other people think, but this is still primarily a resource for my own slow development.  With that said, it’s incredibly fun to see how many people look here in a day, and where they are from.  This week, I got another country, Algeria, and am so very excited.  That brings me to a grand total of 7 countries, and I tell Maureen whenever I get a new one.

In summary, I’m not advertising affablebrabble, but intensely like when people read it.  So what, you may be wondering, is the ethical dilemma?

Well, on the one hand, Örlygur is my good friend, and I would welcome his perspective on my writing.  On the other hand, I absolutely love to play a good game, especially the long-running practical joke kind.

Can you tell which one I chose?

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The Winter Doldrums

I have recently been informed, via internet search, that ‘Doldrums’ is a colloquial expression derived from “historical maritime usage”.  Apparently, there is an actual physical space in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans where a large low-pressure zone keeps the winds and oceans still.  Historically, I image that means sailing ships caught in such an area floundered in their inactivity.  For me, that is what doldrums mean; inactivity, stagnation, despair.

Thankfully, we’re passed the first stage of my Winter Doldrums.  I’m from a Northern climate, and have moved to another.  Each year, the sun rises in the summer at a frantic rate, and you can get so much done.  18 hours of daylight is energizing, glorious, and cumulates in the Summer Solstice, where the sun in my hometown dips below the mountains, but never truly sets.  Sunset and dawn become one blended moment, an unending day.  I don’t remember the first time I realized that this pattern demonstrates the way Earth rotates on it’s orbital axis, but that is now what I think of each year, marveling at how very small I am; a single person in the great, wide everywhere.

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An unending day.

Of course, the opposite of this never-ending day is darkness.  Each year beginning in November, I sleep longer, manage a little less of my daily life, and cry more at sad movies and animal adoption commercials.  One might reasonably argue that this is a classic example of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and to you I say, kindly keep your logic out of this discussion.  It doesn’t count as SAD when everyone does it.  We all sleep poorly, we all feel sad, we all dread the Winter Doldrums.

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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.”

“Uh…what?”

“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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Thesis-ing: The Multiple Intelligences Theory

I’m afraid I’m going to detour before I even start this post.  I’ve been in coffee shops for 8-10 hours every day for the past 5 days.  My thesis proposal is due next week, and precisely 12 days before I need to turn it in, we received the final requirements.  Twelve days.  It bears repeating.  So, that fateful last Thursday I realized the 4 page outline-like overview I’d been preparing with my advisor was going to be horrifyingly insufficient.  Six thousand words on methodology, rationale, ethics, epistemology and theoretical perspective simply don’t write themselves; thus coffee shops and extensive pastry and latte bribery.

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5 times a day, everyday.

The good news is, I’m sitting at 4,000 words, and I’m careful when I write.  I’d rather get my thought out correctly the first time, so my editing will be minimal.  I’ll meet with my advisor tomorrow, and get much needed feedback on how I can’t mesh naturalist, objectivist, and subjectivist epistemology into one idea.  Fun (questionable word choice, very questionable) fact: I’ve yet to hear a single person effectively explain these giant words for ‘ways people think the world is organized’, i.e. epistemology, theoretical perspective, etc., and how they relate to each other.  Oh, many have tried, but they just move their hands a lot and search for words.  When words are found, it’s one of the few times I’ve ever completely empathized with the plight of a dog.  Why you ask?  All explanations sound remarkably like “Blah blah blah blah truth blah blah blah when one blah blah blah.  Blah blah blah blah clear, Bettina?”  I imagine it’s much like having an understanding of only 10-50 words, and everything else sounds like Charlie Brown adult “Whaaa whaaaaa” noises, no matter how hard you concentrate.  Here’s a nice presentation on epistemology and theoretical perspective if you’ve decided you desperately need more of that in your life (See slide 6), but I digress.

Here is my detour: hiding in coffee shops means I haven’t been overwhelmed by the media this week.  I’ve seen a couple article titles, the changing Facebook pictures, and have notifications in the hundreds for updated statuses and links to additional perspectives.  I read one overview on the 16th, and one today, but that’s all I can allow myself at the moment.  It is a luxury to know that I sit each day in complete safety.  It is a luxury to have safe friends and family.  It is a luxury to work on this proposal for my Masters thesis, researching and writing all day, each day, to meet this deadline.

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