Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Score, And Very Nearly Two Years Ago...

I've been going back and forth on whether or not I should post this one.  It feels mean, in a way, and I don't want to be mean, because I really like this guy.  I flirted wildly with him when I was 15 and in Norway for the first time.  I never kissed him, but I probably should have, even though it turned out for the best that I didn't, because he just happens to be the cousin of my current, and most favored Mister.

Anyway.  I went to his wedding in Brussels last month.  Not Mister's.  Obviously.  The cousin's.  The guy's.  I'm on my second glass of port.  Whatever.  It was a nice little wedding--rich in champagne, and retro 80's pop for the dance portion of the evening. 

Imagine my surprise, though, when I get his tasteful and, I might add, very prompt Thank You in the mail today, only to discover that I attended the wedding of none other than Abraham fucking Lincoln:

Minus the fetching goatie, of course.  Prettier wife too.  But, seriously.  Have you ever?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Clever, Clever Farfar

I'm sure I've already mentioned what an incredibly handy family I married into. Indeed, my house would be a far, far humbler affair if it hadn't been for the generous time and talent of my father-in-law. So I knew he'd be able to handle a Christmas order for some sort of storage device for the 12,892 LEGO pieces that have accumulated upstairs.

This was the first present of Christmas, delivered early Christmas Eve.

How perfect is that? I love it. No boxes to open. No lids to be shoved under the sofa. Everything just right there in orderly, color coded compartments where they need it.

Already near full, though. And this was before Boy opened the five--count 'em--FIVE giant LEGO sets he got for Christmas.

Undaunted, Farfar* is already planning a way to rig a second story to the thing. The bottom level will have wheels and roll out for convenience and easy storage.

Again I say--clever, clever Farfar.


So Christmas has come and gone already. We've had a mostly quiet and stress-free couple of days. I made the kids get out of their pajamas before they came to dinner last night. Today I was slightly more strict with them; around 4 p.m. I started nagging them about getting dressed. That's the level of quiet we're talking. Pretty much what Christmas should be. Right?

For those who are keeping score: I was right about the shiney new computer. Yey me!

I hope everyone had a very Merry, equally Chilled, and soggily Unsober Christmas.

Much love,
The JEDA's

*Farfar--for those of you who didn't already know--means father's father. Paternal grandfather, to get all technical about it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Careful What You Wish For

I always find myself bitching this time of year about the decided lack of white in the Bergen Christmas. Nor do I bitch alone. The entire city takes note, and grumbles accordingly.

Gray, rain, drizzle, gloam, gloam, gloam.

Two white Christmases in fifteen years. Two. And one of those was more a hoary dusting than a legitimate blanket.  The other one, I was in the States.  Hardly counts.

Apparently, though, the Gods have been listening. "Snow?" they said, "You want snow for Christmas? Fine. We'll give you your precious snow! Take THAT whiney mortals! And THAT! And THAT! And some gale force winds to go with it! You'll take it, and you'll take it all in one day. You'll like it too, because it is our benevolent gift to you. Merry fucking Christmas."

We went from the mildest November and early December in decades, to the coldest day in December like ever, to half a meter of snow.  And all this delightful change occurred in less than a week.

It took me four hours to clear the stairs, a narrow path on the drive up to the road, and a small patch just large enough to park the car. Four hours.

Did I have a snow shovel? No.

We rarely get more than six, seven, eight centimeters of snow fall at the most. So, for the most part, I make do with a broom to clear the stairs. A snow shovel has just never been very high on my list of priority purchases. 

Consider it priority number one this cold, white, winter's morn.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We Interrupt Our Sob Story To Bring You This Bit Of Christmas Cheer

I didn't get Christmas cards made this year, so you're going to have to consider this your substitute. 

I had a brilliant plan for a card: it involved Santa hats, and a globe, and a caption about axial tilt being the reason for the season.  But my sullen, ornery children would. not. cooperate.  I became angry.  Boy became miserable.  There were tears.  And in the end, a glass ornament was shattered.  I felt it best to cut my losses and run from the project.

A couple weeks later we visited the hastily resurrected Pepperkakeby (Gingerbread City).  Spirits were considerably higher that day.  The resulting pictures, more flattering.  Even Boy--still feeling somewhat guilty, no doubt, from the drama he had created the last time I tried to take a picture of him--sat still, and sort of smiled.

I have no idea why, but it is incredibly difficult to get these kids to smile for a picture.  Especially when they're together like this.  I mean, look at that!  Emma gets all mock, solemn introspection.  Amanda gives off this silent-plea-for-help vibe.  And Boy just smirks.  Smug little snot.  He's not really all that better than me...

So you'll recall the sad fate of the first Pepperkakeby.  They did catch the guy who did it.  Some drunk, possilby high (they never said which) 20 year old went in alone, and sort of lost his mind a little bit.  He ended up pretty much turning himself in after a couple of his friends ratted him out for the 100,000 kroner reward money.  But get this--apparently, this kid showed so much remorse, was so literally sick with guilt, and beside himself with the pressure of being hated and vilified by the entire country, that the authorities decided not to punish him any further.  Nothing.  As far as I understood it, they just let the kid go.  (If anyone out there knows otherwise, please let me know.  It is possible that I missed the news of any futher fines levied against him.  But the news of the day right after they caught him was that he had more or less punished himself enough.)

As I also mentioned, Bergen businesses and residents pulled together and had a new gingerbread city ready to open the following week.  We had to be in town the first Sunday it was open for a play which Emma's art class had made the stage scenery for, so we decided to go in early enough to stop by the Pepperkakeby first.

Good thing we got there in plenty of time.  Check out this line.  There were articles in the paper about how long that line was.  Big news here, apparently....

The line moved relatively fast, we were at the entrance in 35 minutes.  Just enough time to take all the above pictures you've just been enjoying.

Here are a few shots to give you an idea of the scale of the thing.  It really is rather impressive.

All the local landmarks are represented.  This is the harbor restaurant where Mister proposed to me.  Awwwwww.

Mister was rather proud to find this one.  That's one of his boats.  Not his, obviously.  He doesn't own it.  But he did design it.  It's a coast guard vessle that the navy docks here in Bergen.

I had other pictures uploaded. I must have exceeded my limit. Blogger won't let me post the rest. No matter. They were just more pictures of gingerbread landmarks. Probably it would have been tedious and boring to include anymore anyway.

Stay tuned for the conclusion of JEDA's heartwarming, coming-of-age story. Yes. There's more. Though something tells me it might be tedious and boring to include anymore of it, it's a saga that has been brewing in me all year. I'm telling it as much for my own sake, as anyone else's. Skip it if you're weary. But I have a feeling that this blog is going to be a whole lot of Edumacatin' Norwegian-wise from here on out. Consider yourselves alerted to the programming change.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sine, Cosine, But Mostly Tangent

Part Two:

During the process of investigating how to study geology in Norway, I figured out early on that I was probably going to need more science classes in order to qualify for admission into the program.  As I said yesterday, I avoided them in high school;  pretended they didn't even exist in college. 

Somewhere along the line I had managed to convince myself that, while I was a good student, I wasn't necessarily a smart student, so math and science weren't for the likes of me.  Somewhere considerably further along the line, I finally came to the conclusion that this isn't exactly true.

Geology has always interested me.  Ask my mother.  How annoying was I in the 9th grade when I was first learning about U-shaped valleys vs. V-shaped valleys?  Igneous vs. sedimentary?  Oh, and the names of all the different kinds of clouds?  Remember how I used to quiz you on the damn clouds?  I loved that shit.  But everytime it started to get a little technical: formulas for carbon dating, chemical reactions that desolve certain rocks, the physics of storm mind sort of shut down.  Refused to even consider the notion that I might be able to sort those kinds of details out.

It's what kept me from changing my major in college.  The first thing I would have to have done to major in Geology in college was take Inorganic Chemistry.  I had heard tell that Chemistry is hard, yo'.  At the time, I didn't believe I could do it.

(See?  I was stupid.  Just stupid in a different way than I thought.)

I could go on and on: Biology, Calculus, and ever more Chemistry.  All would have been necessary, and all of it intimidated me enough that I ultimately decided to stick with what I knew I could bullshit my way through.  Color, light, line, shape, texture, and the intentions of a bunch of dead, neurotic artists.  That shit's subjective man.  As long as it sounded good, no one could tell me I was wrong about it.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when I grew up.  But I'm no longer quite so intimidated by science.  Obviously.  In fact, I crave the knowledge.  I crave the challenge of acquiring that knowledge.  I know that, while I'm no genius--these subjects will be difficult for me--they're not impossible.  And I get now, that I don't have to have mastered all of them in order to apply their principles to whatever field of Geology I ultimately settle into.  For the most part, I'll just need the basics.

Once I had safely passed the Norwegian test I needed to pass, I turned my attention to math.  Math is the foundation of pretty much all the sciences, right?  So I figured it was a logical first step.  I took Trigonometry my junior year of high school.  I struggled with math, and I had done everything I needed to graduate, so I stopped there.  I should have done more.  I wish I had done more.  But I didn't, so there's no sense in belaboring the point.  And besides, even if I had taken AP Calculus my senior year, it doesn't necessarily follow that now, 18 years later, I'd remember any part of it.  I wouldn't.  I don't. 

I knew that if had a prayer of passing myself off as competent in a college level math class, I needed a full-scale review of everything I'd already studied--including the very basics of algebra.  To this end, I had my mom send me the material she gives her inmates (Mom teaches high school at the federal prison in Utah--me and the felons, doin' our homework....) 

It starts with easy-peasy order of operations stuff, and ends with the Quadradic Formula.  I'm very nearly finished with it.  In fact, I spent yesterday evening using the Quadradic Formula and the Pythagorean Theorem to find the lengths of the sides of right triangles.  And felt right brilliant doing it.

It's taken me the better part of two months to get through the 10 units she sent me.  The kids have been watching over my shoulder the whole time.  They're clearly intrigued.  All those x's and y's and parenthesis--you have to admit, algebra does make for a rather elegant page of work.  Poor Emma is still struggling to get her 7 times tables down, so the fact that I can make sense of anything more advanced is like witchcraft to her.

Not long ago she was babbling along in her Emma-like way.  I don't remember what led her to the subject, but for whatever reason she started listing the primary talents and assets of everyone in the family: 

"Cindy is the cuddly one.  I'm cuddly too, but mostly I'm the one who's good at drawing.  Daniel's not really good at anything yet (according to her), but he's getting better at Lego everyday, and he really likes it, so he's probably going to be a builder.  Amanda's good at making people laugh.  Daddy knows all about birds and nature.  And you, mom, you're the one who's good at math.  So you can help us with our homework."

Ha!  Hear that Mister?  I'm the one who's good at math!  Me!

I sort of love that.  I love that she thinks I'm some sort of savant because I don't even have to think about what 7x7 is, and I can make sense of "the math with the letters instead of numbers".  Mister was right there when she said it.  Mister, who really is a bit of a math wiz, let it slide.  He went ahead and let my daughter believe that her mom is the one who's good at math.  I sort of love that too.

My mother went back to school when I was around Missy's age.  I've been thinking a lot about that lately.  The precedent she set.  The role her example must have played in making me, not even for a single second, ever question the fact that I would go to college some day too.  I want to do that for my girls.  I want them to be proud of me, as I am of my mom.  I don't ever want them to look at my life and think, as I've been doing for the past 16 years now, what a fucking waste!

So, thank you, mom.  Thank you for the example.  Thank you for being brave enough to take the leap.  I still remember you got an A in that Algebra class.  I told Emma you were pretty damn good at math too.

And, thank you, Mister.  For letting our daughter believe a lie.  This was one of the good lies, Santa Claus.......

Thursday, December 10, 2009


It means advisor.  Or counselor.

A hint for the English speakers--it's not pronounced rad giver.  That's a silent 'd', followed by a soft 'g'.  Something more like 'raw-yeever'.  You can say it that way.  You'll sound like a total hick American when you do, but that's okay.  Norwegians are kind.  They'll indulge your awkward, unschooled tongue.


Long story short:  I met with a high school guidance counselor today.  She said, and I'm translating loosely here, "Too bad you were such a pussy about making that phone call, 'cuz now all the classes you need are full, and there's a waiting list to get in."


And now for the long story:  Part One. 

(Fair warning--This is epic. I'll forgive you if you don't make it all the way through.)

Clear back last January, I had a rather devastating emotional break-down.  A ruinous crisis of the soul which left me shattered, raw, and finally (at great, long last) ready to grow the fuck up already.

You'll remember that the world economy had just tanked a few months prior.  Everyone was still talking about how bad it might yet get.  Mister was worried about the fate of his relatively small engineering firm.  Worried enough that he told me there was no way he was draining our savings account in order to buy plane tickets home for the summer. His arguments were reasonable, logical.  His attitude was impeccably kind throughout our discussion.  I know he felt really bad about what happened to me over the course of the next few days.  What with the slow, agonizing unzipping of my sanity, and all.  But I couldn't seem to stop it from happening.  I couldn't get a grip.

After a couple of days*, I finally managed to stop crying, and we sat down to talk again.  The summer trip was back on.  Resources had been pooled, certain coffers plundered, five seats to Salt Lake City, Utah safely booked and ready to go.  So that part of my mind had been greatly eased.**  But I was still reeling from the suddenly violent rush of guilt I felt over not being able to help ease Torbjørn's burden--the worry of keeping our family afloat, even in the face of complete financial meltdown.

"I need to get a job," I said.

"That would help," he admitted.

"What can I do?  Should I ask around at grocery stores?  I know the barnehages are always short of assistants.  What else is there?"

"Look," he said, "It's not as bad as all that.  We're not destitute, and you're not cut out for just any old job.  You need to go back to school."

"But to study what?  I have no idea what I want to do."

"You said you wanted to be a mid-wife."

"But I have to be a nurse for two years first.  I don't want to be a nurse.  I'd make a truly shitty nurse."  He must have agreed with me, because he didn't try to argue the point any further. 

We sat in sullen silence for a good 10 minutes.  Then I said, "Goddammit! I wish I had just changed my major when I had the chance, and studied geology like I wanted to!  Art history!  The fuck was I thinking!"  This is something I've said before...too many times to count really.  But this was the first time Mister chose to respond to it. 

"Why don't you study it now?" was his terse, but brilliant rejoinder.

Honest to God, it had never occurred to me until that very moment that such a thing was possible.  But Mister must have been mulling this over for some time, just waiting for the right moment to plant the seed, "You could get a job with one of the oil companies, and be making more than I am now within 6 or 7 years."

I had myself enrolled in a Norwegian class, the last one I needed before I could be admitted into the university, the very next day. 

Direction.  At long last, direction.

I spent the next several months not only rounding off the rougher edges of my Norwegian, but also combing the internet for information and admission requirements into the geology program at the University of Bergen.  I'd return to the same sites over and over again hoping, I guess, that they'd eventually recognize my IP address and let me in out of sheer exasperation.  Christ, if you're that interested then.....go ahead and sign up..... 

I was full of questions.  I have a Bachelor of Arts from a college in the States--a good college in the States. How far would that get me?  Art history doesn't afford a lot of opportunities to delve deep into the natural sciences.  I avoided them in high school.  Surely I'd need to fill in some gaps there?  Which ones?  What the hell does matematikk R1+R2 cover exactly?  I took trig.  Is calculus really all that important?  And will 16 years of loafing and making babies count against me in the long run?  Did I mention Smith College?

Sometimes in the evenings I'd ponder these questions, and many more, over beers with Mister.  I'd work myself up into a frenzy uncertainty.  Can it be done?  I don't think it can even be done.  But I'm a good student.  Can't we just tell them what a good little student I am?

Mister would cross his arms and sigh for the umpteenth time, "I don't know Jamie.  You really need to call the University, and ask them."

Ah.  The call.  The dreaded call.  How to explain the why's and the wherefore's of the dread with which I met the prospect of that one phone call?  I put it off for a full 10 months.  That ought to tell you a little bit about what a genuine phobia I had managed to turn it into.  We're talking palm sweating, stomach churning...we'll get to all that later...

I hate phone calls.  I always have.  I'm not much for phone chit-chatting even with my friends and family.  And official business type calls?  Forget about it.  I get tongue-tied and confused.  I forget what I'm calling for.  If the other person starts asking questions, requiring dates or numbers or whatever of me, I get even more jittery.  And that's calls I might get to make in English.  Add Norwegian to the mix?  You never know which dialect you're going to get on the other end of the line.  Even if it's a dialect you understand resonably well, sometimes they'll speak it so fast it's impossible to catch every word over the phone.  Then you sound like an idiot anyway because you're constantly saying, "Huh?  Wuh?  That last bit?  Eh?"

So yes, I hate phones.  But I had 10 months to practice the dialogue in my head.  I had my opening line nailed.  And I had exhaustively practiced over four dozen possible versions of the ensuing conversation during every shower and long run around the lake since summer.  Plus I really have been speaking a lot more Norwegian this past year.  It's been a long time in coming, but I'm far more comfortable with the foreignness of it on my tongue than I ever have been before.  So the phone itself and the fear of sounding stupid in Norwegian was only a part of the hang-up.

The rest of it, I guess, had to do with what I was actually attempting to do.  Not the school part of it.  School doesn't scare me.  As I said before, I'm a good little student, and at this point, even school in Norwegian, even school with a bunch of teeny-bopper children, even school in the natural sciences doesn't scare me.  In fact, the challenge of it all thrills me a little bit. 

But what happens after school?  In four or five years, when the schooling's all done, I will be expected to go out into the real world and get a job.  I've never done that.  Ever.  The thought of starting a career post 40 years old?  Ever so slightly paralyzing.


End of Part One.  Sorry folks.  Remember, this story took over a year to unfold.  It's going to take some time to get it all out.  Plus Missy just came to me complaining of chills and a sore throat.  She needs tending to.  The consideration of moments like this, and all of Mister's god damn business trips, were part of the paralysis too.....

*You think I'm exaggerating.  But I'm not.  It seriously took two days to pull myself back together enough to talk about it.

**As I try to describe that whole episode, I realize how much of my reaction must seem simply like drama queen antics in order to get my way.  But, honestly, it was all much more visceral than that.  I didn't just want to go home in that moment.  I genuinely NEEDED it.  I have never felt so strongly the need to simply run away forever as I did that first night.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

In Which He Implies He's Come To Know And Understand Me

Me: What do you want for Christmas?

Him: Me? I don't know. Don't you know?

Me: How should I know? You're impossible to shop for.

Him: No I'm not.

Me: Yes you are.

Him: Am not.

Me: You're picky about your clothes. You don't have time for toys. You're inhumanly greedless. Are. too.

Him: (pout)

Me: Unlike meeee. I'm easy to shop for. Admit it, you already know half a dozen things I'd be thrilled to find under the tree with my name on it.

Him: Humph. That's true. You're easy. It'll cost me a bloody fortune, is all....


For the record, this is not entirely true. Yes, some of the items on my wish list (a new computer with more that 40 lame GBs of storage space, for example) are pricey. But I don't think he fully understands how absurdly satisfied I'd be with just season five of Grey's Anatomy, and say, a new bread knife.

Of course, all this is very easy to say, because I already know that I'm getting season five of Lost (which is all I ever really wanted for Christmas) from another considerate party. So I'm totally set.

....and also....of course.....I can go ahead and say all of that because I'm 99% certain that, come Christmas morning, there's going to be a new computer with more than 40 lame GBs of storage space somewhere under that tree....

Greed works. Mister has yet to learn this valuable lesson.