Dashing through the…fog.

Just a quick update before I leave for work.  Yesterday Faramir and I went to a holiday party in San Francisco, thrown by our college’s alumni association.  We could see the group through the windows as we walked up to the restaurant, and it was clear that the crowd was a) small and b) old.  But things livened up soon, and we weren’t the youngest ones there.  I even met a young alumna who recognized me from having led her tour as a prospective student!  That was ridiculously satisfying.

All my students have a bad case of pre-holiday mania.  Naptime yesterday was like a game of Whack-a-Mole, and I’m not going to lie to you, I kind of wished I had a mallet.

Onward!

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Turkey for me, turkey for you…

Better writers than I have described how strange it can feel to go home as an adult.  The word to which I keep returning is “overstimulating.”  Faramir and I spent Thanksgiving weekend with my parents, in the house that my family moved into when I was six.  I know that house better than I know any other place–maybe better than I’ll ever know any other place.  I get confused when things are different, not only because I’m suddenly at sea in a place I know so well, but because I can’t remember when changes are made.  I asked my mom when they cut down the tree in the front yard, and she said, “Oh, only about eight years ago.”  I forgot, until I was there, that they only have one car, even though I know perfectly well that they gave the other one to my sister and brother-in-law.  The house is fixed in my memory as it was when I was 18 or so.

Thanksgiving was wonderful.  I made the highly traditional meal that my family’s taste demands: no celery root in the mashed potatoes, no wild rice in the stuffing, and no kale anywhere.  I think this was the first year that, in deference to Faramir’s cranberry sauce recipe, we didn’t have a bowl of Ocean Spray on the table, complete with can ridges.  Until I got to college, I did not know you could make cranberry sauce out of cranberries.  I assumed some kind of highly technical process, achievable only by food chemists, was involved.  For the turkey, I used Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist Thanksgiving” recipe, which turned out pretty delicious despite shocking my father with the high initial temperature and short roasting time.  Dinner was delicious, Faramir charmed my mother by watching “Inspector Lewis” with her, and we enjoyed a few days of taking it very, very easy.

And do you know what else I’ve been able to do lately?  Read!  I finished two books over Thanksgiving break: and, in addition to heartwarming stories of love triumphing over tragedy, and occasional chit-chat about food, this blog’s gonna have book reviews too.  Usually of books that everyone else has already read, such as our first contestant:

Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart

Spelled his name right on the first try!  This book was good enough to keep me reading, but only just.  It wasn’t stupid, I’ll give it that.  Shteyngart does a pretty good job creating a world of the near future in which the people, places and technology are believable descendants of their contemporary counterparts (many non-science fiction authors have trouble with this–Margaret Atwood, whose work I love, is a good example of someone who can’t invent future slang to save her life).  I mostly kept reading in hopes that either of the two main characters would realize that the people around them were human beings.  They never did.  It was unclear to me how the reader was supposed to feel about the tepid and contemptuous romance around which the plot revolved.  Does Shteyngart know that his main character is not really in love with a woman, but with a set of characteristics he’s constructed based on her age, size, and race?  One hopes that he does, and yet Eunice jumps from male provider to male provider, doing very little to distinguish herself from a cynic’s stereotype of a woman.  I know a lot of people loved this book, and that Shteyngart is something of a critical darling, but I wasn’t that impressed.

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway

Okay, so I know absolutely nothing about Ernest Hemingway.  Nothing.  As I was reading, I turned to Faramir and said, “Did Hemingway ever get divorced?  Because he seems like he’d be really hard to live with.”  I say the darndest things.  I read and finished this collection of essays on the airplane back to California, completely fascinated all the while.  I actually appreciated the chance to read in ignorance, however.  The omissions that are Hemingway’s stock in trade are made more powerful by actually not knowing what he’s omitting.  His romance with his wife is charming and joyful, rather than doomed.  He has been through a war that aged him like nothing else can, but he’s still young and awkward around the established writers he meets in Paris.  F. Scott Fitzgerald is a disaster.  I loved it, and am eager to read more Hemingway.

I am happy to be home.  It was something of a relief when I realized that, as much as I loved being at my parents’ house, this place is home

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Big news

We have a new bed, and it’s all I can think about.  Well, almost all I can think about.

We chose it last Saturday, and it was delivered last night.  It’s a firm, queen-size mattress with a pillow top, and the whole thing just feels like unimaginable luxury after months of sleeping on Faramir’s old bed.  He’d be surprised to hear me say what affection I have for that bed.  It’s where I first told him I had a crush on him.  It’s where we first lay and held each other, until sand from a day spent at Ocean Beach spilled out of my pockets and all over the sheets.  But let’s be brutal, here.  Nostalgia aside, the bed was small.  The mattress was so beaten down that sheets meant for a full bed were large and baggy.  Every time he rolled over, I practically fell out or fell into the middle.  The springs rang like church bells–not the hour-chiming kind, but the carillons of the English countryside.

Ohh, the new bed.  I have gone into the bedroom today for no other purpose than to run my hand over it.  Sleeping in it last night was incredible.  I am honestly excited about going to bed; I mean, even more excited than I usually am.  But a new bed wasn’t the only thing we bought last Saturday.  We went to an estate jewelry store that he likes, which turned out to be about a block away from where my Uncle Mike used to live, and chose an engagement ring.

Yup.  We’re gonna get married.  (Or, to put it the way I think about it most of the time, “We’re gonna get married!!!!!!!1!!!”)  Does that mean I get to be a shield-mistress?  Shield-madam?

Brynhildr

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Hey friends,I w…

Hey friends,

I wasn’t able to post yesterday due to a migraine.  I shall have much to say tonight!

Brynhildr

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November 18, 2011 · 7:11 am

Too silly to be here

Today at work, my co-teacher brought out an activity meant to be done by one or two children on the floor.  It was a large world map and a basket of toy animals.  The animals had paws that were color-coded to the continents on the map, and the purpose of the activity was to place the animals on the continent to which they were indigenous.  Cool.  She demonstrated the activity to two children: a bright girl who pretty much does everything perfectly (you know the type), and a boy, one of those boys that teachers call “active” or “intense” when we’re in a good mood.  I watched them work together to complete the activity, and then I moved away.

When I returned, the boy was alone with the animals and map.  He was moving the animals from continent to continent, making them talk to one another in a quiet voice.  I chatted with him a little about what he was doing, but generally let him be.  As soon as my co-teacher saw him, however, she swooped in and began to chide him for putting the animals on the wrong continents.  He protested that “they’re walking home.”  I told her that he had completed the activity correctly, and she acknowledged that, but still reinforced that he was supposed to do it “right.”

There are times when I feel very out-0f-place at my job.  I work at a school that is attempting to “open up” their Montessori curriculum; my co-teacher is probably the most traditional Montessorian left at the school.  (I don’t think this is coincidence.  There were three new teachers, including me, hired to the early childhood program and partnered with teachers who’d been at the school a long time; of the three of them, I’m the only one with no Montessori training, in the most Montessori classroom).  She’s much more invested in teaching academic skills than I am, and while she’s able to pay lip service to the need for dramatic and creative play, they’re not at all her priority.  It’s hard for me to know how much to push my agenda: I’m pretty sure I was hired and paired with her for a reason, but I’ve only been there three months (to her fifteen years).  However, I also realize that I’ve been spoiled during my short career, teaching at schools and programs that were so in line with my own philosophy.  This job ain’t perfect, but what is?

One of my students put it perfectly the other day, in one of those moments where children are wiser than they intend.

“(Brynhildr), you’re too silly to be here.”

“Really?  Where should I be?”

“A silly school.”

Someday, kid.  Someday.

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Contrast

All right.  I made a decision today while I was walking to the grocery store.  Do you want to know what it is?

I’ll assume you do, or at least have a passing interest, since you’re reading this.

I’m going to start updating this blog on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.  No matter where I am, or what is happening, or whether or not I feel inspired.  I’ve been pushing this project to the back of my mind for weeks now, assuming that I’ll get around to writing whenever the spirit moves me.  Well, the spirit is a fickle lady who’s easily dissuaded by how tired I am or how much other stuff I have to do.  I want to keep writing.  I want you to keep reading.  For those things to happen, I need to make myself a rule.  Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays.

We are learning what real life and real cohabitation feel like.  The apartment is messy.  While Faramir was in the hospital, the apartment was almost never messy, and not only because he wasn’t here.  Back then, I didn’t have the time or the inclination to use most of the space.  I came home from work, cooked, went to the hospital, came home, cleaned the kitchen, and went to bed.  On weekends, I cleaned everything else.  Now life is happening here; and life, as it turns out, is messy.  There’s clutter lying around.  There are ants who don’t know that the Internet says they don’t like vinegar and bay leaves, and keep crawling around regardless (I tried yelling at them, too).  A few months ago, every spare moment I had was spent scrubbing this place; now it’s a place where people live.  Now it, and we, can breathe a little.

Way back in July, a dear friend came to visit and help me out.  I remember talking to her about how strange it was to think that in four months, or six months, or a year, I would have a completely different perspective on Faramir’s illness and our lives together than I did then.  In response, she shared a piece of wisdom with me: “We know what we know by contrast.”

We know what we know by contrast.

Until Tuesday (I mean it),

Brynhildr

P.S.  Can you tell I spent the whole day cleaning?  It occurs to me, upon re-reading this post, that I didn’t quite make it clear how completely over-the-moon god-damn happy Faramir and I are to be together every day.  Life is certainly messy, but it’s also joyful and hilarious.  Just wanted to make sure that was understood.

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Remission!

Well, I didn’t want to bury the lede.

The results of Faramir’s post-chemo tests started coming back last week.  None were able to determine any abnormal cell activity, and the tumor on his spine is clearly gone.  Even though this should have been good news, we didn’t feel able to celebrate yet.  Friends would ask about his tests and recovery, and I would hem and haw, not wanting to share something that felt like it could be taken away at any moment.

But he had a bone marrow biopsy last week, and we were sitting in the exam room on Tuesday, waiting for the results, and his doctor came in and said, “You’re in remission.”  And then it was real.  We high-fived (well, what were we supposed to do?  Kiss?  Cry?  His doctor, while awesome and cancer-curing and everything, is kind of strange, so high-fiving is about the strongest emotion we’re comfortable expressing in front of him).  He’s in remission.

The sense of relief is quiet but pervasive.  It’s like we have permission to resume our lives.  For the first time in months, there’s nothing hanging over our heads.

There is, however, also a kitty.

Her name is Tabbouleh.  We’re taking care of her for a friend for the next few months.  She is delightful and annoying in equal measures, and we’re so happy to have a cat around the place.

If it weren’t past my bedtime, and there weren’t leftovers to put away and a litterbox to clean, I’m sure I could come up with a more eloquent way to end this post.  As it is…thank you for reading.  Thank you for your help, and good thoughts, and love.  I’ll write again soon.

Brynhildr

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