Friday, July 13, 2012


Words are some of my favorite things. There are so many layers of communication which words are just a small part of, but that's for another post.

Have you ever thought or said a word so many times that it sounded almost fake? Try saying the word 'foot' several times aloud. Change the pronunciation a little. Elongate the O's. Change it to a U sound. Say 'foot' fast and then say 'foot' slow. Say 'foot' in a British accent. Say 'foot' cross-eyed while looking in the mirror. Say 'foot' while doing yoga. Say 'foot' while doing dishes. Say 'foot' while putting on your shoes. Say 'foot' in your car. Say 'foot' in the shower. Say 'foot' while reading. Say 'foot' while talking to your friends. In fact, replace the word 'like' with 'foot' and see what happens.

"So, I was foot, 'Double-ya tee eff, mate?' and she was foot, 'Hey! I don't foot it when you talk to me foot that!' and I was foot 'Girl, your foot a sprinkler! I never know when you're going to go off!' and she was foot, 'I foot sprinklers!' and I was foot..."

Now try it with the word 'Onamonapia.'

Hitch Hiker's Drop Off

Someone told me about a storytelling contest that is going on at a local pub. The next theme that will be held is titled, "Road Warriors: Adventure Stories."

Of course, this got me thinking about my adventures on the road. No, I'm not going to compete in the story slam, but here's an anecdote for your pleasure. If you can one-up me in road stories, please share!

We were north of Navan, Ireland staying at a farm hostel. Nearby was a music festival that we went to check out. It was a bit of a dive. John and I did not want to stay. We missed Dublin and wanted nothing more than to be there. So, we went back to the hostel and packed our bags.

It was midnight by the time we left the hostel. No bus is leaving Navan at midnight. And we were 20 minutes away from Navan. So we started walking, certain that someone in Ireland still encouraged hitch hikers to get around their enchanted island.

We got to the main road. It started drizzling. We kept walking. We made signs that we tied to our backpacks, but no one could see them. It was midnight. I'm not convinced people could see us let alone the signs dangling from our backs.
After about an hour of walking, we noticed a car had pulled over quite a ways behind us.

"Is that for us?"

"I don't know. Let's check it out!"

By the time we got there, we noticed that it was in fact a taxicab. We told the driver that we are hitch hiking because we didn't have fare money. He told us that he stopped to pee. Not to pick us up. Oh. Uh. This is awkward.

"Don't worry about it. Jump in!"

His name was Malone and he moved to Ireland from Sudan after a time in the refugee camps. He offered us some money so we could eat when we got into Navan. We declined, but thanked him all the same.

That night we tried to find the road out of Navan that would lead us to Dublin. There are exactly three main roads out of Navan all going different directions. Yes, the signs are in English, but we could not decipher them whatsoever. I closed my eyes, went to the middle of the intersection, and spun around while pointing. Where ever I was pointing when I fell over was the road we chose to take.

For about 10 minutes.

"Man, it's like 2 in the morning. Should we be hitch hiking right now?"

"Probably not, but I'm not going to be the voice of reason" I said. "That's going to be left to you."

We kept walking.

We noticed a woman in front of us. We were trying to get to Dublin before the break of dawn (which is about an hour and a half away via bus) so we were walking rather fast. We were gaining on her, but we thought nothing of it. Until she stopped hurriedly, took off her high heels and darted to the other side of the street. She didn't stop running until she was out of sight. Even then, I'm not sure if she stopped.

We kept walking.

I see John swaying a little from the weight of his pack. He was not going to give in before me. Should we stop? It was almost 2:30am at this point. I ask him if we should sleep in a remote field if we find one.

"Yeah, that sounds great. I'm hitting a wall."

Thirty seconds pass.

"Or how about under that bridge there? That looks safe."

We crawl under the bridge hoping to not to disturb any other homeless folks. We find that our five star en suite is complete with cobblestone sleeping space. We tossed and turned trying to fit each rocky knot into our spine in the least uncomfortable arrangement. We never cracked the code. 

Four hours later, we both sat up at the same time and looked at each other.

"Breakfast?" We say in unison.

We made our way back into Navan and found a little cafe. We eat our eggs and black pudding and start looking for a bus to take us the rest of the way to Dublin. Enough of this hitch hiking crap. It didn't work at 2am, why would it work at 7am?!

The bus came and we settled in for an hour and a half ride with 15 drunk high school students. I was able to sleep through most of it, until someone threw an empty beer can which landed square on the back of my head. I turned around and handed the can to a very intimidated 15-year-old boy. I had a small moment of celebration. The first time someone was actually afraid of me! I was very tired.

We made it to Dublin and found our friend's flat. The moment he opened the door, I crashed on the couch. John took time to fix a bed on the floor. No one could rouse us for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Dog Days

Have you ever wondered what's going on inside a dog's mind? Granted, I have no proof that they think like you and I do, but there is that possibility. Do they have a stream of monolog constantly reeling? Do they ever get a song stuck in their head? Do dogs ever wonder if their human likes them as much as they like their human?

I have to assume they dream. I know a dog that chases rabbits in her sleep. She'll be lying on her side on her pillow, then she'll start growling a little bit and bark. Pretty soon she is running full speed. At least she would be if she was standing. Watching a dog run while she is lying on her side is a perplexing image. I've never seen Emma run that fast when she was awake.

There are 5 love languages that every person uses to show love and feel loved. Do these apply to dogs? Lets see...Touch would definitely be one of them. Quality time, I'm sure. Does feeding your dog count as Gifts? Words of Affirmation always got my dog's tail wagging. Now, Acts of Service. That's a tough one. How does one serve his or her dog? Going for walks would be quality time. Bathing the dog could be an act of service, but the dog definitely doesn't feel loved by it.

There have been times when I talked to my dog for what seemed like a long time and she had a look in her eye that said I was holding her attention. She was never disinterested in what I was saying. What did she get from those conversations? "Conversation" is a generous term. She never said anything back to me. Well, not very often at least.

"Hmm. There's my human making all these weird noises at me. Some of the sounds I recognize. But the rest sounds like a load of rubbish."

Because my dog used the word "rubbish" in her thoughts.

Have you ever heard a dog laugh? I've seen them smile. I've seen what I thought was a laugh. It would be a dismal existance if one couldn't laugh. Radiolab did a bit on laughter, and in it they tickled rats. A very interesting program if you get an hour to listen.

At the end of the day I would like to say that we have a give and take relationship with our dogs, but I wonder how much we take from the love they give us? They run up to us when we come home (words? of affirmation). They nudge you with their noses (touch). They sit with us in the living room or take walks with us (quality time). They protect our property (service). And sometimes they bring us dead gophers (gifts).

You've heard it said to love your neighbor as yourself. Would it be more tangible to say "Love your neighbor like a dog"?

Mmm... maybe not.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

He's Just a Spoonful of Sugar

Being sick takes the jam out of my doughnut.

I like having time off from work. I get to sleep in. Take my time in the shower. Slip into something comfortable and inappropriate if there was anyone else at my apartment. Then I sit down on the couch with a book or the remote control and realize exactly why I am not at work.

My head hurts. My stomach is upset. The toast I made for breakfast looks most unappetizing. The book I'm trying to read gives me a headache and the tv makes me dizzy. I can't sleep because I just woke up. Moving about the house is a task comparable to Hercules' 12 labors.

So I sit. Bored. I'd think if the wheels in my brain weren't so rusty. I'd compose a blog if the letters would hold still on the keyboard.

"Daannaaaa!! I want more ibuprofen."

"Ok, sweetheart. You're going to have to get it yourself."

"But why?! I don't wanna get up."

"I know, but you text me. I'm at work and I can't come home to get you meds. Drink lots of water and try to sleep."

Nuts. It was worth a shot.

The rest of the day I continue to whine at Dana via SMS and patiently she responds with loving messages.

"Rub my feet. Sing to me. Make my head stop throbbing."

"I'll be home in 3 hours."

"Come now!"

"I'll be home in an hour."


"I'm on my way."


I could be described as an impish brat when it comes to illness. I have been called "princess" more than once. In the heat of the moment, I really don't care, though. I just want it to go away, and I'll tell anyone willing to listen. Interestingly, not many people are willing to listen for very long. I can't imagine why.

What's your sick story?

Notes from the Tarmac

In an earlier post, I referenced a time when I went flying in a single engine plane where the thrills were cheaper than water. Today I would like to revisit the joys of flying in a passenger jet.

"Joys" is a relative term at best. I thoroughly enjoy flying. For the first ten minutes. Then, depending on the distance to the destination, there is a delightful duration of dizzying doldrums.

I have had very good luck on planes, I must admit. I have never had terrible attendants, nor have I been on an international flight without a personal tv that I could watch anything from movies to shows to music videos. I've never sat next to anyone who smelled of sewage or anyone who tried to snuggle during the flight or anyone who tried to convert me to his or her respective religion.

In the same respect, sitting in coach is not sitting in first class. One time I sat on a plane to Guangzhou in China for 15 hours. My personal tv had terrible options to watch so I ended up watching the same movie 4.5 times in a row. Why didn't I sleep? It was early on in my plane riding days, and I had not learned the trick of lulling off to the constant rumble of jet engines jarring my nerves. The flight home wasn't as painful. I was able to get exactly 60 minutes of shut eye before we hit turbulence. Then again, the ride home stretched out over 18 hours instead of 15.

The ten minutes of sheer pleasure comes from take-off. Take-off is simply lugging giant hunk of lead down a runway hoping it will take to air before too long. If you've experienced this extoling feeling, you would extrapolate that you could quite possibly expire. Yet the plane is extricated from the pavement and at that exact moment your very existance defies evolution and its laws of human flight. What's more fun than breaking rules?

I love take-off so much that at one point I signed up for pilot lessons. I spent $50 on the application fee and I was signed up for classes. Two weeks later I had a serious sit-down with myself and decided that I had better things to spend sixty-thousand dollars on than an off-handed decision to go to piloting school. I disenrolled.

Today, my apartment has a large south-facing window under which sits the sofa. My wife and I often kneel on our couch and watch the happenings in our neighborhood. It also permits a great view of planes coming to and going from MSP airport. This spot is where many of our dreams take form. Often we sit and relish the thought of where we will go next or where we have been. From this seat our dreams have formed into plans. Some have even made it to the budgeting stage. Others have fizzled out before we left our perch on the couch. Usually in a fit of laughter.

Goals are the best motivation to get through dry spells in life. What are your dreams that make the mundane worth it in your life?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Songs from a Small Town

Growing up in a small town has its ups and downs. I am wired for city living, and I'm not ashamed of that. At the same time, I have a deep appreciation for the small town pace of life. The city (should I say village?) I grew up in had a bold population sign of 404 people. Loud and proud.

I lived a few miles outside of town with my five siblings and a herd of goats. My parents built a comfortable home by squishing two cabins together. We lived on a dirt road where I would fight loose gravel for control of my bike tires. We knew all our neighbors and never considered locking the front door when we left.

We would have picnics on the ruins of a nearby small town destroyed by a fire long before my grandpa was born. The foundations of old homes and warehouses stuck out of the ground in defiance of the inevitable weathering that will some day reduce it to dust.

I spent a lot of time at my neighbor's house who made peanut butter and honey sandwiches. As a child, I described them with a grin as having "too much peanut butter and way too much honey." They were perfect. When my mouth was sufficiently sticky, my neighbor would pull out her guitar and we would sing. My favorite songs were gospel bluegrass.

My mom's vegetable garden was my least favorite place to be. I hated planting. I hated weeding. I hated harvesting. But I loved snapping the ends off green beans. We laid out news paper across the living room floor and sat with grocery bags full of beans. We would watch WWII movies like "Stalag 17" or musicals like "Singing in the Rain" while snapping beans. I'm sure I did more watching than snapping, but I was good at hiding my idleness.  Or so I thought.

The rate at which life goes in a bigger city is fast and rarely dull. I like the idea of going for a walk and seeing hundreds of people that I've never seen before, nor will I see again. I like having the opportunity to meet someone new every day. There is always something to do whether or not I have money. And the summers are just hotter in the city.

I've had the best of both worlds for which I'm grateful. I grew up in small town, I'm living young adult in a mid-sized city. Now I need to figure out the best place to experience middle-age and retirement. This may stem from my small town roots, but I'm not in a hurry to figure it out.