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Dinosaur, my Mantra

“Does a dinosaur stomp her feet on the floor and shout I want to hear one book more?”¹

Singing a song. Reading a book. Over and over and over. So much so that in unexpected moments the words form involuntarily on my lips at work, on my bike, while cutting onions. Each night we find meaning teased out in repetition completely unrelated to actual words.

“You sit on my cold feet and I’ll sit on your cold feet and you sit on my cold feet and I’ll sit on your cold feet.”

For two years and three months. And it continues. Another night, the rocking chair creaks, the bodies relax. We sit together in praise of the consistent, the repetitive, the good.

“Do not think about tomorrow. Let tomorrow come and go. Tonight you’ve got a nice warm boxcar, safe from all this wind and snow.”³

Each night we look at the same books.

Each night we sing the same songs.

Mostly we stick to the agenda with the occasional gentle deviation.

But everything is changing always. Every second there is more of her building bones, teeth, hair, skin, guts and stuff. Each and every cell needs to hear these stories, listen to these songs, learn to rock.

These tiny mantras and all of these things are necessary; for in a state of constant change, we need anchors and guideposts to carry us. Each cell added to the pile needs to be brought into line so every fiber of her being will know how a dinosaur says good night.

“Nein, das ist auch nicht meine Mami.”*

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Partial Bullshit, Uncategorized

Hello, I have a Cold: A Guide to Remedies

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I got this gif from here. A listing of things Vaporub can do. 

For three weeks I was a coughing wreck. It would come on strong in the evening as I snuggled down to sleep. The cold, lung-rattling coughs, throwing my head back to lengthen, straighten my throat so that any untoward visitors could writhe out so they could be disposed of.

And yet this monster hung on, wedged in my sinuses wreaking havoc. As is custom, I played the game of ‘Ought I visit the doctor?’

Of course, this is the United States where healthcare is costly and you do everything possible to avoid missing work or ponying up that $30 co-pay on top of the hundreds you already pay per month for service from a company that will ultimately pick and choose what they deign to cover.

And ultimately, it was a cold.

A virus. So I just had to wait it out as they say. Drink plenty of fluids. Get some rest. But I knew there was a secret some where. Everyone has an idea and everyone has an opinion. And you just get to the point – I reached it at 10 days – when you are willing to try any suggestion.

Please find herewith a chronicle of the remedies in various categories I tried and their efficacy or lack thereof based on a scale of ‘Just for Shits & Giggles’ to ‘Meh’ to ‘Sorta’.

Folksy

  • Fire Cider: This is what the fancy granola kids down at the co-op are doing these days. Horseradish, garlic, onion, ginger, and chiles all dolled up in apple cider vinegar. Here’s the recipe I’m trying.
    • Rating: Sortathis was a good kind of folksy that also got points for harnessing my obsession with Mr. Can Do No Wrong ‘Apple Cider Vinegar’. I don’t know if it did much for my cold. But I now have more hair on my chest, so that’s great.
  • Vicks® VapoRub on the feet + heavy socks: Every single time I have a cold and every single time I talk to Mom, we go over this one again. Before bed slather on a decent amount of Vicks® VapoRub or equivalent on the bottom of your feet. Put on heavy socks. Go to bed.
    • Rating: Just for Shits & Giggles, I’ll keep trying it because Mom says so, but I normally wake up with a cough and sticky, jelly socks.
  • Grandma’s hot toddy recipe – Directly before bed, take an 8 oz tumbler and fill it halfway with whiskey (not the good stuff), add 3 TB sugar, lemon juice and then fill it the rest of the way with hot water. Slam it in one fell swoop. Jump into bed with three extra blankets on top. Sleep.
    • Rating: Meh/Sorta, this one kind of does the trick b/c you’re wasted. But somehow it didn’t actually stop my cough, so I was hacking and wasted. Plus, I woke up at 2am and already had a hangover, so I had to drink a pile of water and take an aspirin. Then I had to get up and use the toilet. So with slight modifications, this one might work.

Herbalish

  • Oil of Oregano: Colds are generally a bonding activity. We all have them, we all have tricks. Janice from Vermont said I should do this one. It took me a while to find. I tried it. Wafts of Italy drifted up from deep inside all day. But with more minor colds it was somewhat effective, I think. With my current cold it did nothing.
    • Rating: Just for Shits & Giggles/Sorta
  • Olive Leaf: See wafts of Italy above.
    • Rating: Just for Shits & Giggles
  • Fenugreek/Thyme: See wafts of Italy above. But Thyme tea is actually pretty effective for chest issues.
    • Rating: Sorta
  • Yin Chao: A Chinese herbal mix that’s supposed to do something. If you let the pills linger in your mouth with water, it’s kind of sugary, which is cool.
    • Rating: Meh

Druggy

  • Mucinex: Besides a horrible name – though appropriate – this is largely an excuse to ingest a bunch of stuff with difficult to pronounce names that couldn’t do shit against this cold.
    • Rating: Just for Shits and GigglesI have yet to have Mucinex have any effect on anything I have ever had. If there is any effect, it’s mostly that weird druggy, unnatural dried out thing where you kind of feel worse because it does one thing good, but is that feeling any better than being sick? I’m not sure.
  • Sudafed: – On Day 9, my friend Theo shared his sworn-by remedy and slipped me a 500mg tablet of Sudafed while at work. Just take it and keep taking it to dry things out while giving your body a chance to do it’s recovery thing.
    • Rating: SortaTheo’s right. It did take away some of the sinus pressure and reduced the volume of snot coming out. But I also had that feeling that there was some dried up diseasy stuff in my sinuses that was just rattling around and being gross instead of going away.
  • NyQuil: The old standby has nothing on this cold. I just ended up with a dry draft house up in sinus town, a hoarse cough and no sleep.
    • Rating: MehI remember about how cool NyQuil was when I was younger. But at this point, I’d take the hot toddy instead and skip all of the druggy crap here.
  • Anti-Freaking-Biotics (Augmentin): After nearly three weeks with a cough, a tired wife and a sleepy child, I finally went to the doctor. While everything sounded normal, my sinuses seemed weezy and infection-y so he prescribed this stuff.
    • RatingSortait’s tough to tell if the stupid cold was just finally running its course or if this knocked it out. I’m prone to think the former, but don’t want to underestimate the latter. Either way, boosting my yogurt intake for the time being.

So that’s about all I got through. I’m getting tired of this post. What do you get up to when you get a stubborn cold that just won’t quit?

 

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Follow the Signs: Things I like in Germany

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Remember when you were a kid and you could cut through the neighbor’s yard on the way home from school? Is cutting through the neighbor’s yard even a thing anymore? Do kids still walk?

Well, that’s beside the point. The point here is that if you happen to find yourself in Germany and you see this sign, don’t be concerned. This is not a place to abscond away with small children. No, this sign indicates a city sanctioned backyard shortcut. Most times they’re shorter than walking the sidewalk; sometimes they aren’t.

But I have never regretted taking one.

They’re often out of the way, you’ll never find a car on one, you can see what’s coming up in the garden and steal some blackberries. Plus the air is generally clearer. And as a marginally nosy neighbor, I have discovered that these paths are the perfect opportunity to stick your nose in other people’s business legally.

All hail the blue circle sign with the woman and the kid.

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Thinking on music

Kenn used to work at The Exclusive Company. Kenn has one of the largest music collections I have ever been privy to. On certain days at the mailhouse I worked at, Kenn would arrive and pull a CD out of his knapsack.

Pick up this album. It’s old, I know, but ever so good. But as I recall, it took my 1998-addled brain some time.

“This my friend, you will love,” he would declare confidently.

I would look at the unfamiliar label, turn it over in my hands and then wait the rest of the day to run up to my dorm room and begin my sonic exploration. Some days I would jump into it. Other days it would take some time. And with a number of albums, nothing would happen.

Those CDs would go on my shelf and accumulate over time. On occasional early Sundays, I would pull one of them out. It may have been Beulah or Cedell Davis or the third album of Marah. I would listen to one or two songs and try to find an access point, never quite making it.

But then one day, I would turn around and put that fourth Beulah album in for some reason. And it may have been the weather that day or where I was driving or the break-up I just went through and that music hit a line drive straight into my cerebellum and embedded itself right beside everything I’d ever loved.

And we’d have a lovely time. Where I’d thought that Cedell Davis was a out of tune, jangly, blues freaker, he suddenly became the bearer of truth. Just by marinating in the music box until I was ready.

In most cases, I realized that Kenn was always right. I just needed to find the right time. 

I don’t really do that anymore. Take an album and let it hang on the line. I sample songs, pick and choose off of the merry-go-round of music blogs and if it doesn’t grab me, I don’t take it.

It’s on days like these that I miss my trusted musical advisor.

(On that note, I’m listening to the latest album from Forest Fire. And if at first you can’t access, put it on hold. Wait a while and let’s see how it feels on a lazy Saturday morning while writing a crappy, nostalgia-laden blog post.)

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RIP Doña Carmelina

Doña Carmelina was one of my best friends in the village where I lived in Guatemala from 2003 to 2005.

Tonight I found out that she passed away after talking with a friend. Even though she was only about 60 years old and looked like she was at least 73, she seemed so full of life that age would never suffice to describe her.

I think fondly of the nights when she’d show up at my door with fresh, handmade tortillas wrapped in a dirty towel, ‘Coma su tortilla, Don Ronaldo’ she would implore. And then we would have a chat about the weather and she would stroll back to her house. This is a brief story I wrote up about her back then.

Doña Carmelina

Doña Carmelina

25 August 2005

With a smile like the sun she waits in the fields watching her sheep as another day closes. Carmelina is an old woman with weary eyes ringed by wrinkles from years of happiness in the face of a rather tough life.

She’s only 55 years old, but her eyes and languid gait make her seem decades older. She’s tall and rail thin in contrast to the majority of stocky indigenous women in the area, and her black hair is tied back in two foot-long ponytails with ribbon woven through.

Every day on my way home from work I pass through her family’s backyard. Their home consists of one small adobe building with a terra cotta roof next to another small adobe with a thatch-roof. Black, inky creosote dappled with condensation hangs from the ceiling after years of cooking over an open flame on the dirt floor. Carmelina lives with her husband Pio, two sons, Faustino and Jesus, her daughter-in-law and her two grandchildren.

Each day I pass through her yard and Carmelina ducks out the front door and beckons me with, “Ma’ tzuli!” (You arrived’ in Mam), then she smiles and lets loose with a chest-rattling cough brought on by years of cooking over an open fire indoors.

Carmelina delights in hearing me struggle to speak Mam, the indigenous language, and so every time I pass she asks me questions and I stammer and stutter. Then I ask what she said and she tells me. And then I ask her how to reply and I reply. And the next day I forget how to reply and we do it all over again. But every time I say a single word in Mam her face lights up and she gives a hearty laugh before breaking into her trademark cough.

Carmelina’s family is typical of the poorer families in town. They cultivate 1/2 acre of potatoes a year and own 19 sheep of a dubious lineage. The family survives on less than $50 a month. Each day Carmelina’s husband and son hike over the hill to the forest to look for wood for fuel. Occasionally they slaughter the sheep for food, but usually they hold onto the animals in case of an emergency when they sell them for quick cash.

But there are no complaints of how tough life is. She doesn’t complain about the years she had to work for nearly nothing in coffee plantations when her husband couldn’t work because of a hernia. The hacking cough from cooking over that open fire? It’s okay. God knows and God is good because we’ve all lived to see another day.

And so she smiles while holding her grandaughter’s hand. Carmelina and her granddaughter are always together. Some days they’re in the backyard watching the family’s sheep eat. Other days I return and they are sitting at the top of the hill looking out over Chiabal as the sun sets.

And that’s where I would find her, like most days, waiting in the sun.

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Germany, hell, Holy crap, Uncategorized

Hearty Faith Once Shaken, Now Breakin’

I’d forgotten to post this when it happened, but today at breakfast I was reminded of it by a new friend who had just bought a used bike, so here it is:

I have no faith. I believe in no God.*

This image by Denny Bond comes up when you Google search 'losing my religion'

Okay, now with that out of the way, I can explain. Back when I first arrived in Germany, Gianinna from human resources at Fairtrade International was taking me to the Stadthaus to get all of my papers in order so I could live and work here. As we approached, she briefly guided me through the process.

“And when they ask if you have religion, you should say no.”

Really? As if paying nearly half your wages in taxes wasn’t enough (actually, it’s really pretty sensible), the German government also wants to know your religion so you can pay 30 Euros a month in church tax. The only way to evade this tax is sign a paper officially stating you have no religion.

Interesting fact: Back when Germany was reunified, there was a mass exodus from the church. At the time, a reunification tax was implemented so everyone would contribute to sewing Germany together again. Though Germans respect the power of public services and the taxes that make them possible, this was a burden too large and many opted out of the church tax by renouncing their faith.

I really didn’t think it was a big deal. I rarely go to church. I kind of consider myself more of a Quaker than anything at the moment. Buddhism is pretty interesting and the meditation meetings were pretty great in Santa Fe. But as the woman at the Stadthaus methodically went through the questions, I paused when the religion one came up.

My parents raised me Roman Catholic. They made great sacrifices to put me and my five brothers through Catholic grade school and I was confirmed back around 1995, knighted by the archbishop and all that jazz. God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and I have had some great times.

And here I was, ready to renounce my faith. Turn my back on my old pals for a measly 30 Euros a month. I blinked and paused. The whole question seemed ridiculous. And given German history, I was loathe to give the government any more identifying information than necessary.

But publicly renouncing my faith, whatever that may be, in a wide open office smelling oddly of bureaucracy cranking along under the steady hum of fluorescent lights was harder than I expected.

Actually, it wasn’t really that hard: 30 Euros a month is a lot. So I signed myself over to the legions of officially unfaithful. I thought about this as I rode my bike home this morning. And the more I think about it, religion is bigger than the state, faith is beyond government.

So yes, sorry mom and pop, I have no religion.

*In Germany

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It’s Hippie Christmas for Bonners

Spermüll Still Life #1

I came careening toward the intersection meeting two panel vans laying claim to the same corner. I darted between them on Marly, my bicycle, and made my dash to the next pile of ‘bulky refuse.’

It’s Spermüll day in the neighborhood, a time of unrelenting joy for all.

Is that old bookshelf bringing you down? Too many tables and not enough space? Maybe that crappy Ikea furniture is starting to fall apart? Just put it on the corner and watch it disappear the next day when city workers come around with giant dump trucks to collect it.

Spermüll Still Life #2

But before that happens, it’s a hard scrabble mad dash to salvage the best bits of bulky waste.

Once every quarter, each neighborhood holds their quarterly ‘Spermüll’ or bulky refuse day. It’s time to get that broken fridge out of the basement or maybe those old books you’ve never read just have to go. The afternoon before, people begin laying their waste to the curbside. The whole scene is akin to ‘Hippie Christmas’ in Madison when all of the students move out of the dorms and pile their goods, but it happens every three months here.

Spermüll Still Life #3

The most interesting aspect of Spermüll is the legion of panel vans that roam the streets. The event has gained renown throughout the area and vans from Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and the former East Germany flood the neighborhoods early to begin the picking process.

The whole scene and competition from the professional Spermüllers lends an urgency to the sorting. There’s no time for dilly-dallying when competing with folks who have been doing this for years.

So far I’ve found three tables, a bookshelf, a couple of nice deck chairs, a laundry basket and sundry items. For another version of what I just wrote about here, click for some other person’s take.

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