Showing posts with label sleeping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sleeping. Show all posts

Monday, January 27, 2014

Oh, the places you will go!

Or rather: oh, the foods you will eat!

In the last week, I've introduced strawberries, pineapple, lentils, red leaf and butter lettuce, full butter instead of just ghee, coconut meat, hazelnuts, raw whole almonds, a banana, fresh crab meat, Brussels sprouts, HONEY and aged white cheddar cheese. HONEY deserves all caps. It's a glory. And so outrageously sweet! It never tasted this sweet before.

One of these things did not go well - but all the others did, for the most part! I bet you can guess which one. Yup; it was the cheese. Within an hour to 90 minutes of eating it, I had terrible stomach pains that first felt like a side ache, and then a dull ache, and then everything passed uncomfortably. It is sensational to be both this aware of one's digestion, and able to pinpoint exactly what is causing what.

And there I was in last Monday's entry, waxing poetic about venturing out into the world… which I did, but only a little. I met some friends at a bar for one drink (which typically means 2 or 3 drinks). I successfully sipped chamomile tea the whole time and no one really cared at all; we still gossiped and caught up and laughed and debated. I also went out to lunch for a work event, and managed to eat a restaurant meal, only slightly modified (leave off the cheese, please add a poached egg). I suspect that the vinaigrette had some sugar in it, but if it did, how much - really? A pinch or two? Everything else in the meal was menu-approved. I also made it back to working out, just today; a huge challenge, but the first day back is always the worst.

And so yes, this process - it's tearing down my identity still, the same way I felt last week, though I AM feeling a little more like myself. Being back to 99% health (a slight sniffle remains) certainly helps. The mental clarity helps. I'm off caffeine now too, and I'm sleeping well, rising well, and have no energy crashes during the days - at all. That's actually a little disquieting when I think of it!

But there's one other little piece, that I first thought was due to deprivation. Then I thought it was due to illness. But now I think there's no explanation for it other than living my life without sugar, and the sugar highs and lows that occur from using food to fill time, to create breaks, to reward and to self-comfort. And that is that I'm way more emotional. If something makes me want to cry or tear up, I used to be able to choke that back damn well. And now, these last few weeks, I can't. I have to let the tears come, and let them flow. They may not last long, but it's like I have no choice - and it's pretty damn scary. For a control(led) freak like me, knowing the world is coming in, ready or not, is both terrifying and marvelous. Meaning: I marvel at it. This partnership between body and mind is indeed a marvel, isn't it? How about yours?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

July 29 into 30: A long Pommern night.

(As written in my journal that day; grammar and minor edits only. Italicized portions are additions written after the trip.)

I think of John forcing me to drink water the last time I had food poisoning - so I try hard to be my own pusher, and keep hydrated. I spent the day at that clinic. I'm not putting myself in a position to have to go there!

Hour on the hour, I'm up - and it is worse each time, more violent. I may never eat peanut butter again after the taste of those noodles and weird sauce coming back up. Everyone is so thoughtful but I besieged by anxiety. How long will this last?

I don't want to be alone, and Meggie is the best nurse - we move rooms to be in one vacated by Peg and Nancy. Their room has a bathroom! Meggie puts on some music for me (precious battery life on the iPhone), gets me an extra blanket - I'm freezing - and half a case of water bottles. I want music with no words, and she makes me chuckle - the piano music she has is from an album called Dark Night of the Soul.

At one point I say, "Meggie, some day this is going to be a funny story."

The generator lights go out - must be around 10 PM - and thus I'm on the hourly puke-and-shit round. I've been able to do one, then the other, but can feel myself losing strength to walk very far, strength to carry my bucket in with me. (Thank god Meggie got me a bucket - I was so sure I wouldn't need it...)

Fluffing up a famous quote, our family friend Dennis is known for saying, "It's always darkest before it goes completely fucking black."

I sit on the throne. I am going to have just enough time to turn and flush before I have to vomit.

Pull. Pull on the chain. Pull on the chain again. Stuck, stuck. No movement. Nothing. "Meggie! Meggie!" I shout, as I realize it. "There's no water!"

"It's ok then, it'll be back on in the morning."

And standing there I look at the shower drain hole in the floor, and the unflushed toilet. Gotta do it. And so I vomit into the bowl, filling it further - a classic scream-puke, if you're familiar (second definition at that link). I'm also crying, just to add another liquid-shedding bodily function to the mess, and I stumble back to the bed - I've given up on fiddling with the mosquito net, and am just leaving it up, so let's hope that puking up the malarone is not putting me at any risk.

I'm out of breath and lay there, panting, sweating. Meggie has left - to get Joe, it turns out. He brings an unused half-bag sun shower; the water is cold now and he's going to fill the toilet tank with it (I unknowingly used the last flush an hour ago).

"Oh no, no, don't look in there," I half-call out.

"Oh, please. I'm a veterinarian," he says. "And I have four kids," he adds as he lifts the toilet seat. "Eh! It's nothing." Later I think that he looked to be sure there was nothing dangerous going on - blood or anything - since he's the closest thing we have to a doctor. I mean - it's him or Dr. Elton, the dentist at the clinic!

He fills the tank, flushes, fills it again, and comes out. "OK, you've got one more good flush in there for a bit. Need anything?" I sort of moan. Meggie tells him we're alright.

Eventually the two bodily functions merge into one, and I have to hold the bucket on my lap, and then dump it into the shower drain or toilet after using the throne - the bucket contains such clear liquid it looks like water you could drink. There is literally nothing left in me.

When I come shuffling back to bed again, and lay down, Meggie is hovering above me. "Here, drink some water!" She looks anxious. I'm out of breath from the sheer act of full expulsion and gasp, "Just give me a second!" I have to catch my breath before I can drink water - with that awful knowledge that I am providing my body with exactly what is going to be coming back up again, so painfully, soon.

A little while later, the water comes back on.

At about 1 AM, I awake but am able to ride out the urges, and I fall into something a little like sleep, a little like passing out.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

July 22, Iringa to Pommern/Pommerini/Pommerine/Pommerin.

(As written in my journal that day; grammar and minor edits only. Italicized portions are additions written after the trip.)

The road out of Iringa is, at last, this "real Africa" we keep being told about by Edward. Within minutes of turning off the main paved road, the huts change. They are still stick-framed and mud-walled. But unlike the slums of Dar, they look built to last. Heavy walls and decent window openings. Thick thatched roofs. And children, everywhere children - so many I get overwhelmed. I wondered if I'd want to adopt when I saw all these kids, but I don't feel that at all. That would save one of, what?, four million? And effective 0% savior rate while taking a child of Tanzania away, maybe considered a net loss to the people living here. It might, however, be pushing me toward adopting in my own city or country, but interestingly pushes me away from international adoption thoughts.

The sky really opens up once we leave Iringa; maybe it is the anticipation of life in the village, but the air feels cleaner and thinner at the elevation. It is so dry, and the red dirt we've heard about makes its first appearance. 

The 1.5 to 2 hour drive on dirt roads from Iringa to Pommern looks like this...
Buildings that have more substance:

Stick frames, that will be filled with mud and topped with thatch:

An enormous sky, and room to breathe for the first time:

Red dirt... which will be ground into our heels, between our toes, in our beds, our eyes, our teeth, soon enough:

And dried corn fields - where corn only has one ear per stalk, and it sounds like a Halloween sound track in the breeze, all the time we're there...

Then we arrive in Pommern! The reason I gave it three names in the title post here is that there is no agreed-upon pronunciation of the village name. Pommern, like Pom-urn, is a German name from the German East Africa Lutheran missionary days. But the local people call it Pommerini, also the demonym for residents. They sometimes also call it Pommerine - rhymes with tangerine. Or, some call it Pom-er-in. The sign posts spell it "Pommern" but even many people over in Iringa were not sure where this village is. There are 4,000 residents - and the census a couple years ago showed roughly 53% of that 4,000 are ages 0 to 18. 

How John would laugh at our bedding! Twin beds with a thin sheet stretched over the "mattress" and wood frame mosquito nets... and each one with a lumpy pillow and a thick, warm, polyester animal print blanket. 

The EXACT type of blanket that John once had... called the tiger blanket because of the print... that I despised. It always felt damp, and even though it was ridiculously warm, it just grossed me out. Having these exact same disgusting-but-warm blankets makes me laugh.

Living out of a suitcase, all my gear uber-neatly organized:

The dining room table; the only place to sit in the mission house other than our beds:

This gives a sense of the house; very worn, indeed. Cold cement floors that made us grateful each night for a fire in the fireplace, even if it made us smell like campground residents all the time! The yellow basket is the trash can (there are no plastic bags to be found, and nowhere to purchase any).

The beloved tea table... tea, instant coffee (Africafe), powdered milk, powdered hot cocoa, hot water, sugar (and hot sauce, margarine, peanut butter and jam)... out 24/7 for us to get a hot drink or little snack. And hot drinks we needed! We continue to be shocked how chilly it is when the sun goes down, and well into the morning, until 11 AM or noon.

The wall of water... bottled water for all drinking, tooth brushing, and it only took about three days before we busted out the little flavor packets (Crystal Light, Mio, etc.) that it was recommended we bring, to spice up the pathetic American palates that grow bored so quickly.

Dinner tonight is chunks of stewed beef or goat, with bone and tendon still attached, in a spicy sauce and served with white rice, toast, a few canned green beans, a few slices of watermelon and some boiled greens (much like frozen spinach). The greens are "local cabbage" we're later told; it looks like a kale growing in the backyard garden (the only thing in the garden), but with less flavor and less bulk - it even tastes thin and low in vitamins to me, though it's something green and that's warmly welcomed, even if we each only get about a quarter cup that first night. Later, more is cooked each night, as the cook realizes we all crave greens and pile our plates with them, all the drowning in cooking oil be damned!

Our cook is named Mamatony; Tony is her first born, and she's been known by this name for over 20 years. It's a little weird to know there will be a cook; but on the other hand, with no electricity or refrigeration in the village, cooking is done over open wood fires. Peeking into the kitchen, with just a couple pots and running water from a gravity-flow-tank system. I can't imagine ensuring everything gets boiled and sterilized and cooked safely, all while keeping the wood fire at the right heat - and making sure dinner for 14 is on the table at (roughly) the appointed time. The guilt of being cooked for is outweighed by the challenge it would present to any one of us (it would be our full time job). And, this is why there was a program fee, I think, and why our support network pitched in to help get us here. For us to be able to go out into the village, ok, yeah - we will need a cook. 

After a few days, I see that Mamatony has more variety of clothes than other people around us. She has earrings, she has a nice coat - so this is a lucrative gig, and it's interesting to know that her salary, which we pay, is probably supporting a family (and how odd here that a woman's salary supports others!).

Edward tells us what to expect tomorrow, our first full day in the village. It is touring and introduction day; no official work. Much like meeting the General Secretary today, we need to meet all the important people in the village tomorrow, to show respect and ask permission to begin working. We're reminded by Peg, the volunteer who was here last year, that no villagers are allowed in the house. 

Edward uses a pen on the table as an example to illustrate why. This pen, he says, is nothing to you. You'll set it down, and if it's not there when you come back, you might not even think about it. But that pen would mean so much to someone who has nothing, someone who works to save a few pennies, all month long, just to buy a small supply of salt. He extends this story, then, to iPods and phones and books and clothes - things we do value that someone who has nothing literally cannot resist taking, to use, or perhaps, to sell. By having the rule that villagers cannot enter the mission house when guests are residing there, we will be able to set anything down at any time, and expect it to be there when we return. On another day, Edward says that he and Mamatony and Mohammed only use their eyes, not their hands, in the house. This is true; no one ever loses a single item, nor do things even get moved more than a foot or two.

I feel for the first time today, a long emotional day with the ever-present poverty in my face, but now growing from urban filthy poverty to a drier, starker, thinner and more dangerous feeling rural poverty, that it is OK to be a wealthy Westerner who loves having baby wipes with me, my pretty pink hoodie, my headlamp, my earrings, my comforting gear. Edward's speech about the wide gulf between his people and us visitors makes me realize it's neither my fault nor theirs that this grinding poverty stands between us. That my unearned, unfair, imbalanced wealth exists, and that their desperate lack of any material items, much less wealth, exists. We're all in this system together - is it the system of reality? - and there may be ways we need to protect each other - but faulting each other (for wealth, for theft) is like faulting the dog for his spots. 

Tonight, my first Pommern sunset: 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Every Single Morning:

I don't want to make my bed.

And every single night, when I come home from work: I am pleased and content to see a made bed.

But you'd think it would get easier, right? It would start becoming automatic? Even flossing is starting to feel automatic (three cheers for a new year's resolution finally embedding into daily life!) but I've been making the bed for almost three years (I think) now - and it does not get one ounce easier each morning.

Over n out, your might-just-have-a-Case-of-the-Mondays-blogger,

The Pig of (semi)Success.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I can read his mind.

John wakes me up the other morning, after his workout, while I'm lingering in the dark, pretending I can sleep another hour - but I only have five more minutes.

"Baby, guess what!?" he says with utter glee. "Today is best day of all the days, since we have been together, can you guess what has happened?"

"Mmmm. It's snowing?" I slightly slur, with a sleepy voice.

"Nope, baby, it's not snowing. It's something that's never happened."

"Ummm, David Bowie has a new album out?"

"Yes! David Bowie has a new album out! Yes! Today is his birthday! 14 tracks! It's coming out in March!"

And while I'm delighted that his musical idol is releasing a new album - is it Bowie's 29th or 30th, I shall let you debate that with him - I'm even more delighted that even in my near-sleep, I can pick up on the unique energy of his voice, his posture, his psychic messages and learn stuff like this. Ah, mawwiage. This is one of the cool parts!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sick day.

For most of my working life (from my first job at 15 until age 28) I was not the beneficiary of paid sick days - nor of any other employment benefit like health care, life insurance, vacation time, retirement savings, etc. For a little over two years, I have had the option of all of the above and today, I went home sick.

But, oh, how quickly we adjust to a new reality! What have I spent some of today doing? I was worried about the work going undone, the emails going unreturned, the lack of hard deadline for my return - will I be better tonight? In the morning? Will I have this cold as bad as John has had it, which has knocked him over for a week? I have been checking my BlackBerry, thinking of little things and sending an email or two to the co-workers I just left hours ago, and obsessing about one piece of casework in particular - where I can't save a life by being at work, but I can be the best listener they have right now, and that has some serious value.

But what I haven't done today is stop and be grateful that I am getting paid right now. My paycheck won't be less for having to miss work today - so I don't have to cut a few dollars from the budget to compensate, as I did for so long - and since I'm not at a super-small business*, I don't have to worry about retribution, lost hours, or a lost job, for not showing up. I don't have to lie about annoying allergies when I really have a head cold, and I get to hope that my 3-hour-nap and chicken noodle soup and tea and salt water gargles and Neti Pot will end up making me well sooner - which is what sick time is truly all about.

So before I let the last two years of safety net whitewash over the previous 13, I'm taking a moment to feel grateful while the tea water boils. Again.

* Not all very small businesses would engage in such practices. But some would, and do - and did in my working life. If they're not required to abide by FMLA or other labor laws, they definitely don't, for reasons both sensible - and evil.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


In church this week, Reverend Bill talked about the season of Advent that the Christian calendar is now starting. Four Sundays, four weeks of waiting, four weeks of joy and light and decor and shopping (ha!, he laughed too) before the birthday celebration of Christmas.

But, he pointed out, Advent was not always a joyous time. In other traditions especially it was, and still is, a season of deep darkness. A season of waiting and of wanting, of hunger. A season of wondering if the light, the abundance, the spring, will ever return - when each morning dawns later and each night comes sooner, and we feel so, so tired.

Having three pregnant friends around me, I thought, it's also a season of not-knowing. (Yes, every season is one of not-knowing in this life, but especially when you're waiting for a baby to come and you can't say, oh, "three more weeks," or "one more Friday!" and instead you just have to wait. And wait. And wait. Or sometimes, it comes too soon, and that's anxiety-inducing as well.)

The waiting season is not always joyous. It's not always easy.

I find that I am bringing more lights and more holiday decoration and even sneaking a few more cookies into my home, as talismans against the dark; as hopeful offerings to the one who I hope will tip us back the other way on the night of the Solstice.

It's not easy to remain motivated at work, or energetic in Zumba class, or to get up and write at 6:30 AM each morning (guess which thing has been canceled until the Solstice takes place...)

So taking the wise council of Reverend B, I'm trying hard to embrace the dark season. This means I'm sleeping a little later, and heading to bed a little earlier. I'm making a little tea and toast (right now, in fact). I'm letting a few responsibilities slide, and I'm scheduling a little more time with friends - I'm pushing myself away from the solitude of my own little hearth (which is blazing with gas-powered fire every chilly, dark night!).

And while I hope, and believe, that the light will return soon, I'm letting myself be a little afraid, too, that it won't. For that's the real darkness, and I'm letting in a little, as part of a rounded, full year of this life.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The End of Rock n Roll.

Even though I am one-year-plus away from turning 30, my long-holiday-weekend ability to rock 'n roll might be gone. Case in point: we were away camping this weekend, and the first night, I went to bed at 1:30 AM. The second night, at 11:30 PM. And the third night (last night when back at home) at 9:30 PM. Goodbye, youth!

At lease I can comfort myself by noting that John retired anywhere from 1-2-hours earlier on each of those nights.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Pause in Judgement.

My judgmental attitude is no secret. I've crafted and honed it; I can form an opinion in Olympic medal-winning time. When Michael Jackson died last year, I didn't have any pity or sadness. I was only fascinated to watch it tsunami over Twitter and Facebook, as I was on those sites for work all day and saw the bandwidth shudder under the "news".

I confidently came down on the side of those who were shocked by the outpouring of support for Jackson. I thought, what happened to the man who settled out of court on child molestation charges? Pop culture has a short memory - but this short?

However, an article introducing a new insomnia blog page at was printed yesterday. It talked about Americans spending thousands of dollars on fancy sheets, perfect mattresses, aromatherapy and nighttime music.... all the while still drinking too much alcohol and caffeine, staying up watching TV, pushing ourselves with few hours of rest. And author Patricia Morrisroe wrote:
I can’t think of anyone more dissimilar to the hard-boiled Hemingway than Michael Jackson, yet he too suffered from chronic insomnia. One can only imagine the pressure Jackson was under rehearsing for a grueling world tour with the sadly prophetic title, “This Is It.” Over the years sleeping pills and other tranquilizers had lost their effectiveness to the point that he demanded that his doctor administer the powerful anesthetic propofol, which was later ruled a major factor in his death. Jackson referred to it as his “milk.” There’s something terribly sad about someone wanting to sleep so badly that he’d opt for a hospital anesthetic, rather than the old-fashioned sedative: a cup of warm milk.
And so even my epic heights of judgment stop and pause. I take a breath, and I remember the Buddhist advice to treat every living being as if he or she is (or has been) your own loving mother. How much compassion can you muster for your mother when she is pain? Imagine mustering that compassion for every rude driver, every unhelpful customer service rep, every sad celebrity. And I let my weekend be time for more practice in this compassion.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not Unless You Make Me.

There is a list that seems to grow all the time... the list of things that I hate to do, won't do 'em, and then when I am forced to do them?... I really like them.

Getting up early on the weekends tops this list. If I can get up and out of bed before 9 AM, I end up having loads of relaxation time, make it to church easily, and still carry a full social calendar. It also makes weekdays easier. But, oh, the warm, comfy, soft bed... and the cool, dark, quiet house... the battle continues.

So the new job has added another "not unless you make me" item to this list. The job is about 18 blocks away - or, an 18 minute walk. I have yet to tackle walking TO work, true. But I dread walking home as 5:00 creeps closer and I am flagging... but then I enjoy it fully every time. Crisp air, stretching my legs, marking yet another day I don't contribute additional carbon output (by getting to leave my car off).

I'll get back to you on finding the 18 minutes in the morning.