Brenna’s Blog

Someday, When You’re Older July 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 10:01 pm

Some might argue that I’ve acted like a grown up for a long time. Much longer than is probably normal or healthy. Example, I’ve been watching 60 Minutes since the fourth grade, possibly earlier. If I was completely honest with myself, I would have to admit that to some degree I acted above my age level because I liked the attention that is paid to nine year old casually discussing world events. Through my elementary years, I was charming to most adults, and insufferable to most children. At 21, I am no longer precocious. Instead, I now find myself regularly startled by the fact that, in many ways, I really am a grown up now.

In some sense, I think adulthood never stops being surprising. At least, I haven’t found an adult yet who doesn’t look around sometimes and wonder how they got here, with the house, the kids, the mortgage, and the water bill. Just out of college, I am slightly horrified, but mostly charmed by the ways that my own adulthood is reaffirmed at every turn. Ya, it’s scary in all the stereotypical ways that every major life-stage shift is. But I still find plenty of cheap thrills in the mundane world of choosing my own direction and paying for my own stuff.

Let’s start with the fact that I love grocery shopping. It still makes me feel grown up to pick out what kind of cereal I would like to buy this week. I give myself extra grown up points if I choose something like, “Extra Fiber Go Lean Crunch” over “Peanut Butter Panda Puffs*.” Other activities that make me feel like a real grown up:

  • Taking my car to the mechanic.
  • Getting my oil changed. (Before I got a boyfriend who does it for me, that is.)
  • Writing checks.
  • Buying stamps.
  • Navigating airports.
  • Dealing with any government agency.
  • Talking to my insurance agent. (Um, car insurance. I’m not that grown up.)
  • Taking clothes to the tailor. (Confession: I probably could hem my own jeans, but I get a surprising amount of satisfaction in paying the cute couple at the tailor shop to do it.)
  • Owning stationery.
  • Dressing in business casual attire.
  • Not calling my mother before I make a purchase over $100. (I still do mostly. I hate spending money and usually need someone else to talk me into it.)
  • Being waited on by anyone who looks younger than me.
  • Choosing my own dentist.
  • Getting junk mail addressed to me.

Those are just the little things. There are of course the big ones like voting, drinking, or attending the weddings of friends.

Last Thursday, at Matt’s fancy work party, I walked around a country club holding a vodka tonic with cranberry in one hand, and a martini glass filled with ceviche (seafood salad) in the other. I looked around at women wearing pearls and holding wine glasses, at men in collared shirts loading up tiny plates with mozzarella and sundried tomato skewers or spicy tuna sushi rolls. Then I looked over at a crowd of men out on the patio staring at the sky. Matt works for a company that makes unmanned aircraft. Drones and things. I don’t really know. Anyway, Matt and I wander outside towards the group of men who are clustered around a guy holding a giant controller with about ten little joysticks and a bunch of buttons. Up in the sky, a tiny plane is zipping and swooping, diving towards the ground at a ninety degree angle and then swiftly shooting back up again. Ahh, of course, what do the big shot engineers do at their big shot contract party? They play with their toy airplane.

*Every time I buy these, Matt bemoans the poor endangered pandas that went into making them. Every. Single. Time.

 

House-sitter for Fire July 17, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 9:38 am

In a lot of ways, I am a model house-sitter. I am very clean. I follow instructions well. I provide animals with the appropriate exercise/food/water. I probably couldn’t throw a house party if I tried. But at the risk of losing business from anyone who might read this blog, I have to say, I think I have bad house-sitting luck.

Consider the following mishaps:

  • There was the time that I left the sprinklers on all night at the neighbor’s house. Well, make that the two times. In those cases, I would run home during the 20 minutes of lawn watering and…forget to return.
  • Then there was the occasion that I picked up the dog from the kennel, put her out in the backyard, and returned 20 minutes later to discover…an empty yard. This resulted in skyrocketing blood pressure, a frantic phone call, and an hour and a half search through neighborhoods with a flash light. After the unsuccessful search party was defeated, we retired to the couch to watch a movie. A movie in which a dog escapes a yard, eats poison…and dies. Thankfully, Ellie did not meet the same tragic end, and likely slept better than I did that night at her rescuer’s house.
  • Most recently, the family I house-sat for called the day after I left wondering if I happened to have any trouble with the computer. Uh oh. No, that error warning was not there when I used it. Of course the computer would malfunction the day after I leave despite working perfectly every single day I was there. Because of course it would.
  • Two hours after the call about the computer, I listen to my messages and hear that…the fish died. Then they went to the pet store and picked up a new fish…and that fish died. Keep in mind, this message was filled with muffled laughter, not accusation, because at that point it is kind of funny. The fish, Grace, belonged to a six-year-old little girl. I had just left a little note on her bed the day before telling her how well behaved her precious fish was during my stay. Yes, perhaps she was well behaved because she was an INCH FROM DEATH. I thought she was swimming more slowly those last two days. “Well, they’ll be home soon,” I thought, “No need to bother them about the fish.” I’ve never had a fish, so cleaning the water did not cross my mind. I said I was good at following directions, not improvising.

Did you know that they make you bring in the dead fish with the receipt when you want to exchange it for a new one? Like, how many people are trying to score extra fish by faking the death of the one they took home three hours earlier? The image of this little girl having to hold her dead fish in a little baggie on the car ride back to the pet store broke my heart  a bit. “Ann, you are never going to let me watch your house again,” I told her on the phone before I went over to pick up my check, “But…at least I kept the dog alive.”

 

GEK-co July 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 2:12 pm

I was just reading back through my Thailand writing, and I don’t remember why I never posted this. I might add in more random Thailand posts as I remember things. There are a few things I purposely didn’t blog about at the time because the readership was too broad. I might fix that now.

Anyways, geckos!

(5/6/07): I remember the sheep with the black faces in Ireland. My mom was obsessed with those sheep. I’m not sure how many fields we stopped at to take pictures of sheep. A lot. We stopped at a lot of fields. It was one of those novelty things, we didn’t have any sheep nearly that adorable in America. The white sheep with the black faces were so cute, and so quaint standing there grazing on the bright green hillsides. So Irish.

Well, that’s sort of how I felt about the geckos here. You may not know this, but geckos are really cute. The little ones are at least. The first time I looked up at the ceiling and saw a collection of little baby geckos sticking to the ceiling, I squealed and whipped out my camera. Little geckos. With sticky little gecko feet. And tiny black gecko eyes. Adorable. How tropical and exotic.

I’m not sure my mom ever got sick of the sheep, but I have to say, I am over the geckos.

First of all, I like my showers to be free of all skittery creatures. There should not be tails sticking out from behind the sink in the bathroom. When I open the mosquito netting around my bed, teeny tiny baby geckos should not fall out. That gecko got what it deserved when blaine accidentally knocked its tail off.

Then there is the time between dusk and just after sunset when the geckos eat their fill of mosquito swarms. These aren’t the cute little geckos, these are their parents, or maybe their gigantic mutant cousins. These are real reptiles. Did you know that geckos are loud? It’s true. They were named for the noise they make- GEK-ko. It sounds a bit like a bird call, maybe with a touch of frog croak thrown in. Whatever it is, it is not a normal animal sound. There is a hallway I have to walk through to get to the stairs up to my room. At this gecko witching hour, the hallway is filled with a fog of mosquitoes. Geckos line the walls, snapping at the bugs, getting fatter by the second. So every night I dash through the hall, eyes shut, running madly through the storm of mosquitoes and snappy geckos. When I make it to the common area upstairs, I am greeted by the little skittery baby geckos, and that one big gecko that likes to hide out behind the painting next to my door.

Then there are the geckos on a death mission. Little geckos who drop from the ceiling and plop onto the floor with a frightening little thud. My favorite was the gecko that threw itself against the window above my head in its frantic attempt to catch a mosquito. There was the clunk as it hit the window, and then a vacuum seal pop as its little feet suctioned onto the glass.

Gecko poop also has a frightening tendency to look like mouse poop. Gecko feet skittering across the ceiling sound not unlike a colony of small rodents crawling above my head at night. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of rodents. I am so much not a fan that it’s possible I spent my first night here curled up in a ball on my bed crying real tears over “the mice!!!” Blaine was not amused. Give me swooping bugs, beetles that drop onto my laptop keyboard, and spiders the size of my palm, but I am done with geckos.

Giant Mutant Gecko

Gecko fingernails!

 

Hey, hey LBJ

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 1:03 am

This past Saturday, Matt was part of a Vietnam War reenactment. I know, right, who reenacts the Vietnam War? In Matt’s defense, his involvement in this reenactment has nothing do to with some obsession on his part. His dad is a Vietnam vet, and it’s kind of a bonding thing. I think. My intention is not to tease, mostly because I’d get in trouble, but also because I think it’s sweet that Matt’s willing to take part in something that’s mostly his dad’s thing. I intended to follow Matt’s strict prohibition against laughter of any kind when he came out of his room after getting dressed. I probably could have complied if he were dressed up in a US soldier ensemble. Alas, seeing my boyfriend dressed up as a Vietcong soldier was a bit too much. Workers unite!

I have to admit that I don’t really get the concept of war reenactments. When I tried to explain my qualms to Matt he looked at me sympathetically and nodded, “You’re right, we should just forget about all that bad history stuff.” And to that I say, you look silly dressed up like a Vietnamese farmer. So there.

He’s right to some degree, of course. It is important to remember history, especially the bad parts. But do reenactments help us remember? Or do they just remove all the ugly parts of war, leaving at best a glorification of the violence that occurred, or at worst, a complete fabrication in the minds of people who weren’t there? The reenactment included reenacters from every major American confrontation and several foreign wars, including IRA members, and Polish soldiers. These groups stage battles representing their particular skirmish. For the World War II battles, there are no Nazis allowed. There are a few “German soldiers,” but they must be injured and accompanied by a nurse. Makes for a pretty quick battle. This policy brings to light the issues I have with reenactments. People blanch at letting men dress up as Nazis, because it seems to take something heinous and real, and turn it into something pretend. Necessarily, some of the rawness and ugliness is stripped away when Nazi soldiers are brought into this contrived setting.

Honestly, I don’t have that much trouble with reenactments in general. I don’t get the appeal. I’d rather read a non-fiction historical account or visit a museum. But really, of the things that tick me off, reenactments fall fairly low on the list. World hunger and violence against women and children ranking much, much higher. But I do think that taking issue with Nazis being present at reenactments is quibbling. The Nazis did terrible, awful things, but many armies have done many terrible, awful things during many wars. Where do you draw the line when it comes to war crimes? Who chooses which foes are too awful to be present at the reenactment gathering?

After I muffled my laughter at Matt’s black Vietcong uniform (paired with Rainbow sandals, naturally), I pretend pouted. “Matt, I don’t want you to go off to war,” I whined. He rested his hands on my shoulders, looked at me sincerely, and said “Don’t worry…we win.”

 

Sunday School July 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 4:32 pm

This week I finally felt like I was getting a handle on teaching Sunday School. By the end of the class each of the kids could recite the verse and tell me what the story was about. Of course, it helped that there were only four kids. But three of those were boys who would spend the whole class building guns and jumping off the shelving units if I let them. During story time, they each got to hold a “quiet zucchini,” which had to stay near someone who was quiet and sitting on the rug. I was actually really surprised that one worked.

We’re still working on not jumping off of tables, chairs, and toy trucks. I’ve been using “safe is______,” a lot. “Safe is not throwing toys.” “Safe is sand in the sandbox.” “Safe is feet on the floor.” Halfway through class, as Toby was poised to fling himself from the window of the playhouse, I gave him a look and said, “Toby, safe.” The little boy next to him shouts, “Safe is feet on the floor!”

Gun building activities are only avoided when there is a game or craft interesting enough to hold the attention of all the boys. It doesn’t bother me too much, although I’d rather not have the parents walk in on an all out gun battle at the end of Sunday School. I walked over to the block area, also known as the gun factory, and heard this conversation:

Toby: “My gun is bigger than an ANT!”

Troy: “Well, my gun is bigger than an ANTEATER!”

But my favorite interchange came during snack time when my co-teacher told the class that she has seven guinea pigs living in her room at home. Troy stared at her for a moment, then said, “Do they freak you out?”

 

A Very Merry Unbirthday to Me July 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 8:52 pm

There is something to be said for watching the joy on a child’s face when they ride Dumbo for the first time. There is also something to be said for only being responsible for one person’s bathroom visits-my own. In the past, my trips to Disneyland have always included small children, a large group of teenagers, or my family. There are pros and cons to navigating Disneyland with each of these groups. Small children tend to enter into the Disney marketing magic more fully than anyone else. High school youth group trips to Disneyland always provided the most entertaining car rides. Except for that one time that the youth pastor locked his keys in the car and then broke the window to get back in. That ride was more chilly than it was entertaining. And as far as travelling with my family: free. Enough said.

But yesterday’s trip to Disneyland was just Matt and I. I have to say, it might be a hard one to top. True, Fantasyland rides seem more thrilling with a three-year-old there to scream at the “scary” parts, but it’s also nice to have a traveling companion who doesn’t dissolve into tears when the line is just “toooo loooooong.” It’s hard to top high school youth group car trip, but Matt and I came close with an exciting detour through South Central. “I told you that was the 5! I told you to get off!” “Yes, you were right. Now let me look at the map.” Ahem. Thankfully, my GPS service (Dad) was just a phone call away.  And, yesterday was my birthday, so: free. Plus a lovely dinner. Thanks Matt!

There were no lines over fifteen minutes long. There was no squabbling over where to go next. There were no broken car windows. It was just so much fun. Although, it is funny seeing someone else’s Disneyland culture. In our family, we bring our own food, we carry backpacks instead of getting lockers, and we don’t visit Tom Sawyer Island. That last one isn’t a hard and set rule or anything, with three girls it’s just never happened. In Matt’s family, park food and lockers are a given, and forgetting to visit Tom Sawyer Island until it’s too late is cause for despair. Okay, not despair, but maybe what my reaction would have been if we had forgotten to visit The Matterhorn.

And here’s how the locker conversation went:

M: “Let’s go get a locker.”

B: “Why, what are you going to put in the locker?”

M: “The food.”

B: “No, I need the food. I’ll carry the food.”

M: “My camera case. The sunscreen.”

B: “How much can those possibly weigh?”

M: “Okay, fine, the sweatshirts.”

B: “So you’re going to pay five dollars for someone to hold your sweatshirts for the day? I’ll carry the sweatshirts.”

M: “Yes, I’m going to pay five dollars for a locker because when you are at Disneyland you spend ridiculous amounts of money because that is what you do, and I let you bring the food.”

For the record, I just think that five dollars would be better spent on a ridiculously overpriced Mickey Mouse ice cream bar. I kept corralling us to one ride after the next until the locker argument was moot.

B: “So, do you still want a locker?” I asked sweetly as we were exiting the park at 9 pm. “They’re right over there.”

M: “Yes, I’m going to go get three lockers and put nothing in them just to spite you.”

We used to have this tape that my mom would play in the car when I was little. It had a song about how being a grown up is so much better than you could possibly imagine. “Take fifty grand to Disneyland, it’s better than that.” I knew even then that it was tongue in cheek. But yesterday, after spinning in teacups, and eating Mickey ice cream, Matt and I sat down at a little cafe and ate tapas (smoked salmon baguette sandwiches, pita and tzatziki, hangar steak, and roasted artichoke) while I sipped my first margarita. There are times when it is better than that.

 

Fireworks July 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 5:26 am

My hometown friends and I have developed something of a Fourth of July tradition. Well, more of an understanding. If we show up at Mark’s house, there will be food and fireworks. He lives just above our city’s community college, which hosts the local fireworks show. We used to sit up on the roof, but that was nixed this year. Too many kids old enough to want to be up on the roof, but too young to scale the rickety ladder. The front yard is a good vantage point, though, raised about five feet from the sidewalk. We joined the small crowd out on the lawn.

Mark’s family is the kind you can drop in on. Like you could stop by at 10 pm, pour yourself a bowl of cereal, turn on a movie, and Katie would simply stick her head out to say a quick hello and tell you that there is left over pasta in the fridge. “Help yourself!” is the ever present refrain. So I was hardly surprised when a couple with a baby standing down below on the sidewalk were invited up to watch the fireworks with a better view. “Come on up! How old is the baby? Sixteen months? How fun.” We all exclaimed over the baby and made small talk until the show started.

This little pajamaed boy had never seen fireworks. We didn’t have to wait long for his reaction. Utter, complete, totally unbridled joy. He laughed and laughed, until his voice went hoarse. Then he cried. Then he laughed some more. Every new explosion was a new fit of screeching giggles, echoed by the laughter of the whole crowd on the lawn. My boyfriend, Matt, found the baby more entertaining than the fireworks. “Matt, aren’t you going to watch the fireworks?” I asked as he turned around in his chair, waiting for the baby’s reaction to the next explosion. “I’ve seen fireworks,” he said, waving at the baby.

The fireworks ended. The baby faded, eyes drooping, head resting on his mother’s chest. “Same time next year?” Mark’s dad offered the young couple as they buckled the baby into the stroller. They nodded and smiled, thanking him for letting them take up lawn space. They left happy.