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We love to climb. I wonder if she will.

That's not always the way it works. When I was little, my parents played volleyball on weekends with their friends. They trucked my brothers and me out to the elementary school playground and then, after putting up the net, proceeded to ignore us while they had fun.

Heat wavered above the blacktop. The metal slides and chains on the swing set were scorching to the touch. After a while, bored with the games of my little brothers, I'd crawl into a shady spot to read. I couldn't have cared less about volleyball. It was the thing distracting my parents from the pleasure of my company. If anything, I resented the sport for being worth their time. 

They wore neon windbreaker shorts and tank tops. For a while, my dad even had a pair of Reebok Pumps. I think. Anyway, they played with two other couples while a boom box blared Mungo Jerry's In the Summertime. They were slick with sweat and red with exertion, and they were having a blast. Between games they stopped to chug water, and we skipped over to be nearer to them. But soon enough, the game would be on again. 

If someone shanked the ball, we were called upon to shag it. I hated that, too.

When, a few years later, I prepared to start high school, they suggested I try out for the volleyball team. I scoffed. I choked. I rolled my eyes. I gagged. I grimaced. What a stupid idea. What a beyond stupid idea. The kind parents have. Parents who don't know anything. Ugh. God. Lame.

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The only time I miss having a car is when I know it's time to shop for kitty litter. I've had more than my share of fun snafus when dragging those heavy boxes home from various shops around the city. Particularly on icy days like the ones we're enjoying in Oslo this January. Good news! We've found a solution: DEX.

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Dagligvarexpressen (DEX) is an online grocery shopping service. This is something I know my American friends have been enjoying for a while (and DEX was established in 2008, so it's possible I'm just the last one to the virtual supermarket line here in Norway, too). It's a lifesaver.

Now, we only use DEX for kitty litter and cat food right now. The heavy stuff. The stuff we would have liked to be buying in bulk for years! Thinking diapers and some other baby stuff could be added to that list soon, too.

Here's how it works:

Go to dex.no...

  • Fill your handlevogn with the goods you need (and they've got it all, including fresh produce)
  • Select a day and window of time for the delivery to be scheduled
  • Delivery charge is only 99 nok!
  • Give them your address and place your order
  • If you schedule your delivery before 2pm, they'll even deliver the same day! I've done that. Hugely satisfying.

It should be noted that items for sale on the website are more expensive than you'll find in stores. One reason why I haven't gone completely lazy with the shopping. Yet. Instead, we order a dozen boxes of wet cat food and a half dozen boxes of cat litter, and we call it good. Because the delivery comes all the way up our stairs to the door of our fifth floor apartment. And that, my friends, is priceless.

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At some point during a blogger's pregnancy, it's obligatory, right? 

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For so long, the Hazelnut was only with me. She was the shock and the blurry, happy numbness in my fingers as I held the positive pregnancy test. She was the raw, beautiful squeeze of a bear hug Jonathan gave me when I told him the news. She was a blinking set of pixels in the middle of a kidney bean shape on a screen at the 8-week ultrasound. She was on my mind. She was the exquisite curve of a forehead and shoulders bobbing and spinning at the 12-week ultrasound. Even after I shared the fact of her with our family and friends, she remained mostly my own. She was the galloping horse of a heartbeat on the doppler. She was the flexing arms and kicking legs and precious lips at the 18-week ultrasound. She was the tightness around my middle that required elastic-waisted jeans and belly bands.

Then, one day around week 20, she was a flutter. She was a vibration, a shudder, a spin, a tumble. She was a blink, a fidget, a bubble bursting, a breath against my skin. But still all inside. Still all mine. 

From the outside, to the stranger on the street, I looked like the same girl I'd always been. Or maybe that same girl after recently enjoying a few too many pints of Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough ice cream. Which is fine by me. The better shape I stay in now, the easier time I'll have regaining my previous shape after the birth. At least, that's what the books tell me. I can still zip up my parka without too much trouble, which is important as temperatures plummet, as they did around Christmas. That's the milestone I'm not looking forward to... losing that capability. Here's hoping we can make it to March first. Probably a pipe dream.

Only recently has the Hazelnut become a presence in the world, too. Something obvious. No more guessing. She gets noticed. I get congratulated. It's lovely. And I'm proud to wear her out in front of me. Better still is the way I now share her with Jonathan, as her kicks and turns have become, at least occasionally, unambigous and strong enough for him to feel with his hands.

This is as close as we'll ever be; it's as much control as I'll ever have. For the rest of my life, she'll only be drifting further and further from my side. Now, at least, I can move my palms over the rise of my own stomach and feel her there. My kid. That dandelion of potential. She's safe with me. All mine.

My third trimester begins in a week and a half, just after I start a second semester at the university. It's going to be a challenging few months for body, mind, and soul. Wish me luck!

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A real winter storm finally arrived on Norway's west coast this weekend. Snow piled up in Oslo. I love our city, and I can never decide when the streets look prettiest: blanketed in white, or full of yellow-leafed trees, or under the violet-skies of perpetual twilight, or filled with lilacs. At every turn of a season, I think I have the answer. Then I change my mind again.

Since sledding and cross-country skiing (the way I do it is dangerous even on the flat-n-straights) are out of the question for me this year, it would be easy to let the snow keep us inside. Thankfully, a double date for brunch with friends on Saturday morning got our weekend off on the right, snow-booted foot. The four of us spent a couple of hours laughing and gabbing and sampling the tasty, eclectic menu at our local creperie, Les Crêpes D'Elen. Located just off the 12 line in Frogner, I highly recommend this little place. Delicious food and a fun, French atmosphere, as well as a friendly staff.

After brunch, Jonathan and I wandered all over the city. We were on a quest: a rug for The Hazelnut's room. We've been nesting, and finding a rug that is pretty, soft, on-theme, and affordable in Norway has been close to impossible. It was still a good excuse to walk the snowy city streets.

Without anything to show for our wintery outing on Saturday, you'd think I wouldn't be pointing to this weekend with such pride. But we still had all of Sunday to be productive, and I'm pleased to say... we were!

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I almost hate to kiss 2014 goodbye. It's been a fun year! But there's also a lot to look forward to, so I'll be happy to kiss the new year in.

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And this year it was Disney's turn to "write" the card...

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    Where previously there was none, a flower blooms, a fruit suspends itself from the branch of a tree, and this is what we see: round, starburst thing. Velvet petals and smooth, rosy skin. Shape and matter, weight when we lift it between our own curious palms. Where did it come from? 

    That might well have been Joseph's question as Mary swelled in front of him, soft and glowing with a future for which she'd never asked, and in which, Joseph held no physical stake. 

    We now know all about fertilization: pollen grips stigma, sperm penetrates egg. Though it happens in the red-shadowed darkness, conception is not magic, either in flora or fauna. Unlikely to the point of miraculousness in its overwhelming repetition the world over, certainly, but not magic.

    Yet, in those early days of prophets and shepherds, the spontaneous fire of life in the womb of his betrothed must have stymied Joseph. 

    And what of Mary? A child herself in both age and stature, limited by social constructs and by her religion to a small geography and an abbreviated list of choices, most of life's mysteries likely seemed magical to Mary. 

    Were the conception of her child not, in fact, immaculate, it is equally doubtful either that she consented to a lying down in the dark with a man not her betrothed, or that she understood the consequences of such actions.

    Whatever the case, a blastocyst implanted itself in the ripened lining of Mary's uterus early in the spring of a year that would be zero. Was it the product of egg-meeting-sperm? Or egg-alone plus a tadpole-sized dose of the Holy Spirit? And does this matter?

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    "I am trying to summon all my strength just to not want anything for you. Not to hope you have all the things I didn't, and all the things I did, nor to frame your being with the stiffened angles of my own regret. Not even to hope you will be able forgive me, for all my many trespasses."
    -- Susanna Hislop, To My Unborn Child

    There are far too many exquisite quotes to pull from this particular Hislop piece. We're so in sync. It's as if she's drawing her fingers across the pulsing surface of my heart and translating the Braille of its rhythm. Okay, just a couple more, but you really ought to read the whole thing!

    "You are endlessly fascinating to me, even if I did sometimes find myself - in the slow, empty chaos of hours and days and weeks after you were born - torn asunder by fear and boredom and shock. Even if a genetic predisposition to not dealing with you at all well hovered in the shadows of the room as I held your hungry mouth to my breast. No. I love you, I am sure, more than all the love I have ever held in my heart."

    "But in this catching of happiness - if I am to be a good mother - will you make me dull? It's the women I listen to. George Eliot ridiculing Celia in Middlemarch: that familiar figure of nappied inanity lost in a world of maternal arrogance. A pregnant Plath, having 'boarded the train there's no getting off'. But then Woolf, with whole houses and a mind of her own, howling, childless, in the night..."

    "My very far away, unborn hope: of you I am as terrified as of an unknown child in a darkened room, whose clear vowels rise through the moonlight, asking only for love."

    Love.

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    As I launch into the writing of my third and final term paper of the Høst 2014 semester, it occurs to me that I never did share my reading lists with you, my readers, many of whom like lists of books almost as you enjoy the actual reading of the books themselves. I'm like that, too. Reviewing a soundly curated book list is like taking an imagination break and walking the stacks of a library of the mind. So, I thought I'd post a couple of the lists here for your pleasure/edification. (Course descriptions have been cribbed from the UiO website.)

    Women Writing: Feminist Fiction in English (ENG 4363)

    This is a course in English-language feminist fiction from the nineteenth and/or twentieth century. Students will study a selection of novels and/or short stories that focus on women's lives and reflect on what it means to be a woman and a feminist from various sexual, racial, class, and national perspectives. The course will consider the development and thematics of feminist fiction and its contribution to the development of new narrative techniques.

    • Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (1929)
    • Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth (1905)
    • Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)
    • Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)
    • Sarah Hall, Daughters of the North (2007)
    • Helen Oyeyemi, Mr Fox (2011)
    • Joyce Carol Oates, 'Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?' (1966) (available online)

    This was my favorite reading list of the semester, and not because I'm a raging feminist, either. I simple responded well to the variety of voices. Every book was unique and uniquely suited to the aspect of Women's Writing we discussed that week. Mr. Fox was, far and away, the strangest, but being the most contemporary, that didn't surprise me. A Room of One's Own was the book I couldn't believe I hadn't encountered prior to this course (having graduated with my B.A. in English from UC Davis in 2006 and my M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Lesley University in 2012). And Wide Sargasso Sea is the book I'm not recommending to people who tell me their favorite classic was Jane Eyre

    Time & Money in the American Novel (ENG 4416)

    Time and money are two of the main forces that shape human ends.  Our conception of time has a profound impact on how we understand ourselves, and on how we draw the boundary between the possible and the unreasonable.  In a similar fashion, our collective understanding of money exerts a sharp influence on how we order our personal and communal lives.  This course will examine these two forces through the lens of literature. It will use the reading and analysis of a select group of American novels as a way of interrogating the links between time, money, and literature.

    In this course, we will examine the ways in which novels work to naturalize or challenge social conceptions of time and money.  More importantly, we will consider all the ways in which the reading of novels helps us reflect on the nature of time and money, and we will think about the way these reflections are connected to issues of race, sexuality, subjectivity, and community.

    • Frank Norris, The Octopus
    • W.E.B. Du Bois, The Quest of the Silver Fleece
    • James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man
    • Nella Larsen, Passing
    • James T. Farrell, Judgment Day
    • Don DeLillo, Cosmopolis
    • Richard Powers, Gain

    Honestly, I think this course needs to be renamed. Time, Money & Race in the American Novel would have been spot on. These were challenging texts, all. The Octopus was exceedingly long, but beautiful, and it was a perfect fit for the class. The Quest of the Silver Fleece is the book that will stick with me longest, I think, and I enjoyed writing my final paper on it. Here I'll admit that I did not read Judgment Day. I was in California for the class discussion and had already selected a different text as my qualifying essay topic, so I gave myself a break. And between the surreal Cosmopolis and the enigmatic Gain, I'd have to say that this was the most eclectic class reading list I've ever encountered.

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    Last night, we watched Valley Uprising, the latest in the Reel Rock Tour movie series, all about Yosemite Valley's climbing revolution. It made me want to get back on the wall again. Like, immediately. Like, if Jonathan said, "Let's move back to California and live close to Yosemite this time," I would have begun packing before he finished the sentence. That's not likely to happen, though, at least not for now. The movie was cool, full of wicked climbing footage and resonant musings on the evolution of the sport. If you're a climber, you should definitely check it out.

    But this is not a post about climbing. Rather, I was reminded last night that one of the downsides of being a climber is what it does to your hands. For years, not only did I have to keep my nails cut down to the quick, but the chalk dried out my skin and my fingers were constantly scraped up, sometimes bloody. I didn't know what I was missing, really, because years of playing and coaching volleyball and basketball had also necessitated strong, quick, low maintenance hands. But since moving to Norway, I've had the luxury of growing my nails out on occasion (and one pleasant side effect of pregnancy happens to be healthier nails), which has made me think about nail polish for the first time in my life.

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    OPI has quickly become my favorite brand. It's awfully expensive here in Oslo (like everything else), so I don't get it often, but last weekend I acquired a new color from the Duty Free on the DFDS mini-cruise we took to Copenhagen. Why? Because their new Nordic Collection was so sparkly.

    With colors like Going My Way or Norway? and Thank Glogg It's Friday and Do You Have This Color in Stock-holm? how could I resist?

    I nabbed OPI With A Nice Finn-ish, a shiny gold. Sadly, because I haven't become the kind of grown-up who is dainty with her hands, I'm sure it will be chipped up like crazy before Christmas, but I don't mind. I'll just do it all over again in a couple of weeks. Because my last final paper will be due next Wednesday and then I'll be on winter break. Time to celebrate!

    *A fun write-up on all the colors in the Nordic Collection can be found on The Polish Aholic Blog.

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    Suffice it to say that there's a lot of garbage out there on the interwebs. It's tough to sift through the majority of it to find the relevant, articulate, credible stuff. Social Media is sometimes the worst way to do it. Then again, social media guarantees that I--deep in my liberal bubble lined with back issues of The New Yorker--won't miss out on at least a few bits of priceless crap. Like this one: THE SEXODUS, PART 1: THE MEN GIVING UP ON WOMEN AND CHECKING OUT OF SOCIETY. Please don't click on it. You don't need to read it. Chances are it will offend you, as it offended me, and as it would offend anyone who believes that the ultimate goals of humanity should be love, respect, intelligence, and dignity for all. 

    For those who aren't aware of it, there's a movement that has begun to swell. It's a group, mostly men, who believe that the American way of life has been bastardized by the Feminists, and that the rights of men have been severely trampled by the advancement of women over the last century. These men rally. They march. They rant.

    It looks, in fact, a lot like the very beginnings of the Feminist movement must have looked so long ago. Whiny and irrelevant. And we all know what happened there, so maybe we'd better keep an eye on these guys.

    Or not. Because there actually is no deep Feminist plot to keep men down and put women in all the high places.

    Which is one of the major differences between the Feminist movement and the, shall we say, Masculinist movement. When Feminists call for "women's rights," they're talking about rights which previously have been granted to men, but not women in equal measure. When Masculinists call for "men's rights," they're talking about rights which used to be theirs exclusively, and have been allegedly usurped by women. So, these are rights that the men want back. 

    What rights are the Masculinists talking about? For starters: American education has, allegedly, been so twisted by the Feminist "establishment," with the focus placed entirely and obsessively on the needs of girls, that boys have stopped being accommodated at all. This has, according to the Masculinists, led to a decline in male literacy, male high school completion, and male college attendance/degree acquisition. Teaching has been Feminized, and the poor little boys are suffering.

    I'll grant you that the decline of male educational achievement is no myth, but the only way you can blame that decline on Feminists is if you simultaneously admit that women have never been the weaker sex... simply the dormant one. If you believe what these Masculinists are preaching, the only logical conclusion is that, the second women stood up to fight on fairer ground, men sat down. Which is ridiculous. 

    Unfortunately, Masculinist propaganda like this Sexodus piece manages to reach its intended audience: men who aren't part of that movement, but who due to personal circumstances and/or upbringing, believe they are entitled to more than they have actually earned, and are looking for someone to blame. These guys grew up watching Disney's Cinderella, too. But where the girls were being negatively saturated with the image of a helpless, stoic, beautiful girl who is rescued from her plight by a nameless prince... the boys were being negatively saturated by the image of a nameless prince whose only task was to ride up on the horse with a glass slipper to have the beautiful, silent girl throw herself into his arms. Now, we're reaping the consequences.

    I love the marriage Jonathan and I have built. And there may be people out there who are surprised to learn that our relationship includes almost zero power struggle. We split the tasks required of us based on personal prerogative and aptitude. It could be that our conservative Christian upbringing has positioned us to maintain some kind of modern relationship hybrid in the liberal setting to which we've moved ourselves--including the best parts of love, sex, monogamy, fidelity, partnership, respect, and equality. Or not. Maybe it's all luck. But I'm writing this piece while barefoot, pregnant, and in the midst of sending my husband off to the office with a kiss... and I'm still a Feminist. And so is he.

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