Brenna’s Blog

Leaving August 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 1:24 pm

Matt (at the airport, feigning desperation): You can’t leave. I told you I love you. That means you can’t leave…I’m pregnant! You can’t leave!
Brenna: I am so putting that on the blog.

For the record, he is not. And I left. I was doing okay in the security line. Okay, that is a lie. I was crying in the security line. But I was doing marginally okay until a security agent redirected the mile long line, quickly pushing me towards an elevator. The hour-long wait had suddenly evaporated.

When I left for Thailand last year, I walked away from Matt, my dad, and my roommate with little more than a shaky smile. This time, I think I frightened the group of small children standing next to me when the elevator doors closed. Still, there is some relief in having the goodbye moment over with. We’ve only been staring down this day for a year. Now it’s done. I’m alive. The world appears to still be turning. Could it be that for now at least I’m…fine?

I sighed in resignation when I reached my plane seat. 41 F. The window seat in the very last row of the plane. Bring on the peanuts and claustrophobia. No one was sitting next to be yet, but I was quite sure based on how the day was going that they would be chatty. I was so very not in the mood for chatty. My neighbors did turn out to be marginally chatty, but I was the one initiating all the chatting with a husband and wife from Cancun and their adorable almost two year old. It worked out quite well, since my Spanish is at just about two year old level.

Brenna: Mira! Avion!
Cute little girl: Mama!

The girl was thrilled by each plane outside the window, naming them by size. “Avion bebe! Avion papa!” Also fun, her parents taught her that she was controlling when the planes were coming. We would watch out the window for the planes, then tell her to concentrate. She’d put her fingers to her temples and scrunch her face. Then she’d make a little ding noise and wave her finger like a wand. The plane would appear on cue, and she’d giggle.

I had the window seat, so eventually, I convinced her to crawl onto my lap and look outside. She pressed her face to the window, sighing slightly in awe of the clouds (nubes). I felt the weight of her in my lap. Then bounced in turbulence, and she laughed and laughed. I conspired with her parents to help her summon the turbulence. I’d watch for clouds, and then we’d tell her to concentrate. She’d wave her finger, “Ding!” Thump. “Ding!” Thump. Then she’d laugh and laugh until everyone around us was smiling. How could you not?

As we walked off the plane, I leaned in towards another girl on my team, “I needed that.” “Better than a teddy bear,” she answered. Indeed.

 

A Very Small Dog August 22, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 1:20 pm

It matters to me not a bit that two of my three blog readers already know this story. I need it written down so that when I have awful days I can think of tiny poodles and feel better. So much better.

Matt and I were at a park. It was a Sunday after church, and I’m sure we were talking about deep and spiritual things. Actually, on this occasion, we really were talking about deep things. I remember being on the verge of tears, and then frustrated, and then reassured. I was a big tangle of emotion, though it was not emotion directed at Matt, if that makes sense. Matt was sitting on the grass across from me, legs crossed, perhaps flicking my hair away from my eyes occasionally.

Here’s how the conversation was going:

Brenna: blah…blah…frustrated…blah…confused

Matt: calm…blah…focused…blah…blah

Brenna: blah…sad…blah

Matt: blah…reassuring…blah…encouraging

Suddenly, seemingly from out of nowhere, a tiny dog–a tiny black poodle to be exact–bounds into Matt’s lap, scrambling adorably into his arms. I stare at the tiny dog. I stare at Matt holding the tiny dog.

Matt: So as I was saying, blah…comforting…blah…

Brenna *interrupting*: Wait, I’m sorry. It’s just…I really can’t take you seriously when there is a tiny dog sitting in your lap.

Matt: *looks down at the dog*

Dog *looks up at Matt*: *I love you. I love you. I want to be your friend forever. Please take me home. Please feed me. I love you.*

And then we collapsed into laughter. I plucked the dog from Matt’s lap and cuddled it up to my cheek, scanning the park for an owner of some kind. Indeed, I saw a couple a few hundred feet coming from the same general direction that the poodle had materialized from. Oddly, they did not seem to mind that thier poodle had made fast friends with strangers at the park. They ignored the dog until we released it to see where it would go. The tiny ball of fluff happily hopped over to the couple. It ran around them in excited circles, returned to us, and then continued to zip back and forth between us until the owners called it over for the walk home. “Your dog,” I wanted to tell them, “just made my day.” But they headed off onto a trail, and I never got the chance.

 

Start at One August 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 8:38 am

I have learned to drive a stick shift…about 23 times. I have always been the driver in our family. As soon as I got my learner’s permit, I would beg my dad to let me drive him up to Santa Barbara for coffee every weekend. I got my driver’s license at 9 am on my 16th birthday. Of course with the price of gas, those were some expensive coffee runs. But can you really put a price on father/daughter bonding? I think not.

So, I love to drive. I like windy roads. I don’t mind crowded LA freeways. I am an excellent parallel parker. And yet, there I was, four years ago, in my sister’s manual transmission ’94 Ford Contour, slamming my hand against the steering wheel. This first attempt at stick shift driving in a warehouse parking lot can only be called an utter failure. Including the part where a group of men got a good fifteen minutes of entertainment watching me stall and start and stall and start and burn out and stall and on and on.

Somewhere between lessons 2 and 12, my father and my sister were convinced that I had it down. I just needed to practice my skills outside of parking lots. “You’ll be fine!” And we were fine in the sense that all of the passengers, and the car, emerged intact from this trial by fire learning experience. Of course, by any other measure, it didn’t go very well. Especially that bit where I stalled through two cycles of a stoplight.

Then there was my dear friend Emily. Who was actually by far the most successful teacher. At the end of our stick shift lessons three years ago, I was maneuvering neighborhoods with relative ease. Or at least minimal stalling. We declared this a rousing success. I was quite sure I could handle main roads without too much squealing of tires. Until I got to a stoplight, panicked, and stalled.

There were sporadic teaching efforts made by my father after that, but it became increasingly difficult to muster the motivation to practice a skill that gave me heart palpitations when, oh, look, I have this lovely automatic Honda Civic right here. Then Matt came along. Apparently, it is the duty of a good boyfriend to teach his girlfriend to operate a manual transmission. I’m not quite sure how this came to be the case. I guess it sounds kind of cute and romantic on some level, just like it was cute and fun when my dad taught me how to shift the gears while he drove when I was a little girl. In truth, grinding gears and whiplash hardly sound like the makings of a fun date, but Matt was sure he would make an excellent teacher.

Like any good driving student, I played the petulant teenager, fully convinced I already knew what I was doing.

Matt: “So now put in the clutch, then move it into first.”

Me: “I know. I’ve only done this like a hundred times.”

Matt: “Okay, well I haven’t been there. And it’s my car.”

Me: *heavy sigh*

That part was actually in good fun.  I even managed to mostly keep my mouth shut as he gave me the same directions I’d heard from my last three teachers. I turned easily through the parking lot, eventually getting up enough speed to enjoy the tight suspension on his little red car. After practicing starts about thirty times up a small hill, and proving that I could move easily from one gear to the next, Matt directed me out of the parking lot. He was fairly impressed, even, with how little I was stalling. This much is clear: if all the driving I did was in parking lots, I could drive a manual transmission with no trouble at all.

Things started off well enough. I managed stop signs and stop lights, even with cars behind me. I didn’t panic when I stalled once at a right hand turn. I drove slowly and carefully. I was doing fine. We were headed to a park, and Matt directed me through a neighborhood. “Turn here. Oops, wrong street. Turn around.” I carefully moved to the edge of the street so I would have enough room to turn around without needing to move into reverse. “Just make a left up here.” I looked carefully, and seeing not a single car on the quiet residential street, moved out make the turn. Correction, make that “attempted” to move out to make the turn. I stalled, rolled into the street a bit, stalled again, rolled, stalled again.

“You’re okay, just give it more gas,” Matt offered as I started to breath rapidly, “Calm down. Just try it again.” I stalled five, then six times, laughing in nervous, frustrated bursts as I tried over and over to start the car and get out of the street. Then two cars start appear from opposite directions, moving just quickly enough to frighten me into a panic as I sat in the middle of the street. Realistically, they were moving slowly enough, and could see me for long enough, that running into us would need to be a very intentional act. In my head, we were going to die.

Matt laughed lightly, trying to encourage me. Then he noticed the tears rolling from underneath my sunglasses as I clutched the wheel. Finally, the car lurched forward and continued moving. I shakily started to pull over. “I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore,” my words catching in my throat. Matt brushed at my tears and told me I was doing great. Then he jiggled the clutch and started laughing. “You were trying to start in third gear!” I laughed weakly and moved to the passengers seat, still shaking with adrenaline.

“That’s very impressive, you know. That you were even able to start the car at all from third gear.” Ya, that’s it. I was really just trying to show off my newfound stick shift prowess. I mean, with that skill I’m clearly ready for race car driving.

 

Sunday School in Three Acts August 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 1:01 pm

1. Proposal

Madeline: “Teacher Brenna, Brayden won’t marry me!”

Teacher Brenna: “Umm…I’m sorry.”

Madeline: “But I want to marry him and he won’t let me.”

Teacher Brenna: “That’s too bad, sweetie. I’m afraid I can’t really make him marry you.”

Madeline: “But I want him to.”

Teacher Brenna: “…”

2. Abuse*

Emily *crying*: “Sara kicked me in the head!”

Teacher: “Sara, did you kick Emily in the head?”

Sara: “Yes.”

Teacher: “Please come apologize.”

Apology, hugs, etc.

Five minutes later:

Bethany: “Emily, Sara didn’t mean to kick you in the head. It was an accident. See, she just put her foot out like this *holds foot out from playground equipment.*”

Emily: “No, she went like this *stands above Sara, foot poised in kicking position.*”

Teacher: “Woah! And no, not safe.”

3. Distraction

Teacher: “And then Ruth followed the workers and picked up the extra barley that fell on the ground…Madeline, where are you going?”

Madeline: “I’m going to get a book to read.”

Teacher: “Sit, please. We can read a book after story time.”

Madeline: “No.”

*Names changed to protect the guilty.

 

See also: Skilled in identification and categorization of stroller brands. August 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 7:10 pm

Today, Blaine and I were out at a berry picking “farm.” The kind with cute baby animals, and decorative bales of hay, and five dollar zucchinis. Can it really be called a farm if it sells Williams Sonoma cookbooks and designer tea towels?

Anyways, we were in the sweet shoppe (it doesn’t have a name, but I know that’s what they’d call it) looking at olde tyme candy when a mom walked in with a little boy and a new baby. I stole glances at the baby’s tiny, fuzzy head while the mom chatted with the woman at the fudge counter. Blaine and I walked up to the fudge counter for samples, and peered at the baby as the mother walked out. “I’m the great aunt,” said the fudge lady with a proud smile. We offered congratulations along with the obligatory (and true) “he’s so cute” comments. “Three weeks old?” I asked. She started to shake her head, “No, two…wait…three! Yes, he’s three weeks old.”

Blaine, having seen me perform this trick before, rolled her eyes a bit before obliging that, yes, I am pretty good at that. Of course, once outside the sweet shoppe, Blaine asked me to repeat my performance with the baby goats. “Oooh, there’s a baby. How old is that one? Fifty three days?”

I wonder if I can put that on a resume: “Practiced in discerning the approximate age of infants based on developed metrics.”

 

Sorry, You Suck August 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 4:33 pm

My sister Kelly can be credited with naming the “Sorry You Suck” letter. They are the letters that start, “We so appreciate you taking the time to apply…” or “Thank you for your interest in our program…” Somewhere in the middle of the letter there is an “unfortunately.” “Unfortunately, due to the high caliber of our applicant pool…” “Unfortunately, due to the limited space in our rigorous program…” “Unfortunately, due to your incredible ineptitude and under achievement…” They close with either “we hope” or “we wish.” “We hope you will apply again next year.” “We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.” “We hope you understand our decision does not reflect personally on your skills or abilities.”

My rejection letter from Yale (and believe me, I hoped for nothing more than a lovely “Sorry You Suck” letter on Yale stationery when I applied*) ended with: “We realize this decision may be disappointing to you. We hope you understand our decision is final and cannot be appealed. Seriously. Don’t even try. We will shut you down immediately and bar any future children you ever have from attending our prestigious school.” Okay, maybe just that first part.

There are several levels of “Sorry You Suck” letters. There are the crushing ones. These are the college application rejections. Getting turned down for the job you were hoping for or the program you wanted to get into. These are the ones that hurt the most. They come in a small envelope, where a big one would’ve indicated success.

Then there are the panic inducing ones. Like the letter I got last week stating, “We’re sorry you thought you graduated from college. You didn’t, really. Please enroll next quarter.” It’s all sorted out. I promise, mom. These ones are frightening at first, and then a pain in the neck, usually indicating that the matter you thought was resolved is very much not resolved. Other frightening “Sorry You Suck” letters include the words, “our records indicate…” You hope not to receive them from educational or financial institutions.

The lowest level of “Sorry You Suck” is the kind of letter that companies send in response to your own ineptitude. It’s more of a “We’re Sorry We Suck, But It’s Actually You, but We’ll Imply That It’s Us So We Don’t Lose Your Business.” Maybe this one should actually be called the “We’re Sorry You’re Kind of Dumb” letter.

Example:

Dear Ms. Brenna,

Thank you for your enrollment request to XX*Xxx. Unfortunately, we were unable to process your request because the account number provided is our routing number. Please locate the account number on your current statement and complete another request. If you need further assistance, please contact a Member Services Representative at xxx-xxx-xxxx, select option 3, Monday through Friday between the hours of 6:30am and 4:30pm PT. We apologize for any inconvenience this security measure may cause.

Sincerely,

XX*Xxx

Notice how they diplomatically avoid saying, “the account number you provided.” They also lay the blame on this bothersome “security measure.” Yes, the security measure of providing them with my actual account number. Darn banks these days with their crazy security procedures.

*Of course I kept it. That way, when I cure cancer I can hang it on my wall and everyone will get a laugh out of it.

 

King of the Jungle* August 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — brenna @ 11:46 pm

Today, I had a Sunday School classroom full of lions. The story of Daniel and the lion’s den lends itself very well to a group of three and four-year-olds. Within fifteen minutes of the start of class, all nine of the kids were exhibiting some form of lion behavior. This only presented a problem during outside time. A pack of lions roaming on all fours on hard concrete in church clothes might not make for happy parents. Luckily, I was able to convince Toby to teach the rest of the class a special lion trick: walking upright on hind legs. “Your front paws need to stay in the air,” I reminded nine growling lions.

Unfortunately, the subject matter also lends itself well to puns. I asked Nolan if he could be our “lion” leader out to the playground. And later, during craft time, I reminded all the kids to color inside the “lions.” I can’t help it. It’s just the way I was raised.

Aside: I was very confused during story time when a little girl raised her hand and told me her blood was sucked that week. I asked if a mosquito bit her. She just shook her head. I continued with the story, rather baffled. It just dawned on me a moment ago that she likely had her blood drawn at some point in the last week. This is still unrelated to God closing the mouths of lions, but luckily also unrelated to vampires.

*That is the lion, right?