Sunday, February 24, 2019

DR Retreat 2019 and Ear Boogers

Well, we wrapped up the DR Retreat 2019.  It began last Tuesday evening, and we took last weekend off.  What is the DR Retreat?

Generally, it begins at 9am with lunch and dinner at 12 and 6:30pm with sessions in between.  I heard the sessions were good.

I see a few purposes for having the retreat.  On the first day, we took a look at everything that was accomplished in the village over the last year.  We filled up 3 white boards with things; new buildings, new dogs, new residents, successful classes, and well-attended workshops.  It felt like a victory lap after a long and busy year.

Retreat is also a chance for folks to connect more deeply if they so choose.  I’ve written about it before, but I am amazed how easy it is to not see folks for days even though we are a village of only about 50 adults.  Retreat is a chance to connect in person.  I’m a counter, and I have counted about 17 to 25 people at the gatherings where we are all together.  We also break out into smaller groups, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Finally, we take a look at what is upcoming in 2019 and attempt to set priorities.  I say “attempt” as we never know what may surface.  Much time and energy has been unexpectedly but appropriately dedicated to helping folks cope with the village situation that surprised us all which I wrote about in my last blog.

Let me tell you a little about the sessions.

My favorite session was the Samba Dance Troupe -  daDa-daDa-Da-duh, daDa-daDa-Da-duh.  My foot is tapping just remembering it. If you have no morning Samba in your life, I suggest you get some.  Jason, an awesome drummer that just moved here a few months ago from Colorado, led the whole thing by demonstrating the instrument to be played and handing it off to someone in the circle and giving them the beat, daDa-daDa-Da-duh, daDa-daDa-Da-duh, until they caught on.  Castanets, cow bells, balaclavas, triangles, and rattles were represented.  I had a rattle.  Don’t judge.  Another rattle broke open during the ruckus spraying hundreds of little beads across the floor.  Very authentic.  I hear some of Carnival’s best Somba troupes will often break a rattle mid-dance.

Once Jason had all the instruments passed out, he sat down with a bass pedal next to the suitcase he had just taken all the instruments out of to distribute.  But this was no ordinary suitcase.  This suitcase became a bass drum. He also set up a snare drum and a cymbal.  For 15 or 20 minutes, we were the rockin’est Somba Dance Troupe in Rutledge.  You hear that Scotland County MO?  We were the rockin’est Somba Dance Troupe in Rutledge!

And now a word about drummer face.  Drummer face is the face I make when I play the drums or any other percussion instrument, the rattle in this particular instance.  Don't judge.  My drummer face is unlike any other face I make.  In fact, I can’t even strum my fingers on the table during dinner without making a wee bit of drummer face.  Jason most definitely had drummer face.  Drummer face is how I would look if I was cool.  Drummer face is the face I would make after getting off my Harley and stretching my legs after 12 hours in the saddle.  Drummer face is the face I would make if I ever got a strike in bowling.  As if.

And now for the worst transition ever written.  Drummer face is the face I would make after flushing a ball of earwax the size of a grape out of my ear.  Some friends and I had a conversation about these “ear boogers” on the way to town the other day.  For years, I’ve softened mine up with those ear drops that make tickly bubbles in my ears which I follow up with a vigorous, warm water irrigation via a small, plastic, squeeze bulb.  It is so satisfying when the water flows back out freely, and I know what’s coming when I look into the sink; ear booger!  We all agreed Q-tips are not indicated for such situations and actually act as ramrods packing our ears tighter and making them hurt more.  One friend suggested a curved device with a tiny scoop on the end, possibly Chinese in origin, that would do the trick nicely. 

The counterpoint to this suggestion was not letting a friend anywhere near your ear with such a device and only trust yourself if hazarding this modality at all.  In the back of my head, I can hear my mom passing on the advice her doctor gave her, “The only thing you should ever put in your ear is your elbow with a towel wrapped around it.”

So the great thing about flushing the grapes out of my ears is that my balance has been noticeably better.  I’m currently having almost no dizziness which I’ve struggled with since the beginning of July.  Granted things have been slowly improving as I’ve tried some other means to help get rid of the vertigo, but is sure seems like getting rid of the ear boogers has helped considerably.  Who knew?

You never know what you’re going to get in my blog so be sure and tune in next time when I cover the various disclaimers that have come with the food I’ve eaten since I moved here.

Sneak Preview:  “I made too much food for the dog, do you want some?” and, “If you don’t mind a little mold, ....”

Sorry.  I forgot about the other retreat topics;  firewood, conflict resolution, Kid Committee, what committee will hold what issues, Milkweed Mercantile, lunch, snacks, and dinner.  It’s in the notes if you want to know more.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Can't Breathe

A touchy subject came up at coffee the other morning.  Compared to my hopes, dreams and expectations how has my experience thus far at Dancing Rabbit measured up?  My answer - it depends on which hope, dream or expectation I take a look at.

I was taught well, years ago, that an expectation is a premeditated resentment, but I still hope for the best.  I still indulge in imagining a world that I think will comfort, satisfy, and entertain me.  I understand the world is not here for my comfort, satisfaction, and entertainment, but I do believe there will be a reasonable measure of such things if I align myself with the way things are, do a little work in the right direction, and don’t take myself, and you, too seriously.  And yes, there will be an occasional sucker punch in the stomach that takes my breath away.

I remember the first time I got the wind knocked out of me.  Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, and I were camping just south of Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the country.  As I remember, the pond down there was newly built and the dam still had large chunks of earth everywhere that had not yet been worn smooth by the wind and rains nor had much vegetation sprouted. 

From the top of the new dam, I was making my way down to the campsite at the dam base.  As gravity and running had their way with me, in no time at all I was going way faster than my short four-year-old legs could carry me, and I fell face first hitting the ground with a dirt clod gouging me right in the stomach.  Out goes the air.  Out stays the air.  I think the experience gave me empathy for the fish we had caught and thrown on the bank earlier in the day, bullheads we called them.  I couldn’t breathe.

I have had the wind knocked out of me here at Dancing Rabbit.  A long-time Dancing Rabbit member was recently arrested.  I could barely breathe.  The community has been gouged in the soul.  I’ve felt scared and hurt.  I’ve been angry.  I’ve lost trust.  I’ve been disabused of the dream that “I’ll move out to the country to an eco-village where I’ll garden, read, meditate, go on walks, and generally help out around the place.  It will be a relaxed and peaceful sanctuary to regain my health and take a much-needed break from the everyday world and all its troubles.” 

Gardening is still going on thanks to the hoop house with all the lettuce.  I count seven books on the table next to me all of which I am enjoying.  Meditation makes up about an hour of my day.  I walked down to the pond this morning and cut some willow wands so that they won’t keep growing and degrade the dam over time.  I’m trying to keep the fireplace warm enough today so our baker can get the bread dough to rise.  And I found a way to keep the boiler going without getting so much smoke into the house which is a big bonus.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  This is typical of most days since I’ve been here at DR and meets my expectations.

But on one of these typical days last week, the sheriff was here to make the arrest.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to breathe again.  I don’t know when the community will breathe again.  We are gasping.  There are feelings of helplessness, rage, disbelief, and shame.  Will we return to normal or is this the end?

I never saw it coming, and it happened in an instant.  It changed everything here at DR.  I hesitate to share any of this, but it is the reality here at this time.  My burden is light compared to those most directly impacted.  I don’t have all the right words, but I feel not saying anything is not right either.

I look forward to being able to breathe again, and I aspire to be an agent of peace and healing here.

Saturday, February 9, 2019


Sleeping Cat wallpaper | 1920x1200 | #75060

I delight in naps.

It’s hard to believe my little three-year-old self did not run into my bedroom eager to lay down for my afternoon nap.  At the time, I desperately wanted to watch Bozo The Clown on television even as my eyes would half close, because I was so tired.  I vaguely remember faking a nap so I could believably lie to Mom when she asked if I slept, “Yes, I slept a little.”  Why so nap-averse?  There were other kids outside playing, Bozo was on television, and Mom was probably doing something I needed to help her with.  As I type, I’m remembering naps at La Petite Academy - the daycare center I went to awhile as a kid.  We had little cots akin to modern-day camp cots with aluminum frames and nylon fabric slung across them.  They were not particularly comfortable.  Nap time also meant a Dixie cup with some red “fruit” juice.  The juice was a nice touch.  They should have spiked it.  I would have slept better.

Like I said, I delight in naps these days, but that is rather vague.  It’s like saying I like food or I like travel.  If I really want you to understand me, which of course I do, and a vital part of my ecovillage life here at Dancing Rabbit, then you must have some fundamental grasp of my daily nappage.  Unlike food or travel, there is only one kind of nap I don’t like whereas there are many foods and modes of travel I dislike.  The only kind of nap I don’t like is a nap that is interrupted. 

Here’s the rundown on my typical afternoon nap this winter.  Let us refer to it as The Basic Afternoon Nap or BAN.  First, the BAN is usually in the afternoon.  Sometimes I’ll do a little something after lunch, but more often than not, I’ll eat a satisfying lunch, visit with my kitchen coop peeps while we clean up then head back to my room for a BAN.

Removing my boots or shoes, I lay atop the bed (which I have made), prop up the pillows (three of them), and pull either a super soft throw blanket or my sleeping bag over me.  The temperature in my room ranges from about 52 to 62 this winter so I choose my covering accordingly.  I clasp my hands and rest them on my belly and feel myself breathe.  I usually start on my back and sometimes remain in this position for the duration of the BAN.  Other times I will roll onto my side, one or the other, a time or two.  One quirk of back napping for me is the pre-REM waking snore snort.

Just as I’m actually falling asleep, that fugue state between waking and resting reality, I seemingly try to inhale a hard-boiled egg into my left nostril.  Rude awakening.  Upon checking for and finding no hard-boiled eggs, I roll onto one side or the other and go to sleep.  This could last anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.  It is delightful.

Sometimes there is music playing downstairs or I hear the sound of doors opening and closing.  Footsteps treading up the stairs which could be human or canine.  Summer naps often featured the sounds of children and dogs, power tools and breezes.  Naps vary seasonally based on accommodations, time of day, and village activities.  I grew more accustomed to the Sweaty Summer Nap (SSN) as I found I usually stopped sweating after about 10 minutes.  A 12-volt fan blowing across my body also helped.

So far I’ve only touched on my Basic Afternoon Nap, but I don’t want you to think that’s all I have in my napping repertoire.  I’ve also been known to indulge in The Nap Before Bedtime.  In this nap variation, the procedure is much like the BAN but it differs in time of day.  The NBB happens shortly after dinner, is of short duration, and ends with me waking up briefly, taking off my clothes, brushing my teeth and going right back to bed for the night. 

I’m also not afraid of a good Mid-Morning Nap (MMN).  For some unknown reason, the MMN is more often accompanied by a river of drool that tends to wake me abruptly when I roll into it.  I think I call it “drool” because I don’t want to admit to myself that I would ever roll over, face first, into a gallon of my own spit.  Gross.  While less frequent, this nap indicates a less than ideal night’s sleep the night before.  Maybe I got to bed late, after 9pm, or maybe a little acid reflux kept me awake or whatever.  I’m not afraid to adjust to the situation on the fly and supplement with a good Mid-Morning Nap.

Other specialty naps you might be familiar with yourself are The Rainstorm Nap,  The Sick Day Nap, The I’m Too Sad To Face The World Nap, and the It Could Be A Long Night So I Better Get Some Extra Rest Nap.  Almost forgot the Nap While Not Really Watching Golf.  I’ve considered taping golf announcers and just playing it back on a loop to ease me to sleep at night.  It’s easy for me to imagine going to sleep hearing Jim Nance whisper, “It breaks a little to the right...It breaks a little to the right...It breaks a little to the breaks a  little ....ZZZZzzzzz...zzz.

I’m currently doing some field research on other potential naps.  For my research, I’ve decided to enlist the help of some of our local napping experts.  These beings seem to live for naps and have a far greater repertoire and higher proficiency than us humans.  You’ve probably already guessed, I’m talking about The Cat Nap or TCN.

Sweet dreams.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Little White Baggy

Once and for all, for the last time, am I, or am I not addicted to delicious white chocolate yogurt covered pretzels?  I don’t want you to give me any of this, “It depends,” crap.   I want a simple “yes” or “no”.
I’ll wait.  I’m waitng.  Waiting...
What do you mean you can’t tell me?  I have to decide for myself?  You’re useless.  Go away.

Fine.  I’ll go straight to the experts and figure it out for myself.  I bet the good folks at The American Society for Addiction Medicine have a self-test or something.

I’m checking here now…
Seriously.  Those clowns could overcomplicate a balloon snake.

Wait.  I have a better idea.  I’ll just ask Dr. Google...
And Google sucks.  Here I am asking “am i addicted to yogurt covered pretzels” and all I get is advertisements for buying shipping containers full of said pretzels and recipes to make -Most Delicious Yogurt Covered Pretzels You’ve Ever Experienced- , and an offer for a free e-book on Life Changing Yogurt Covered Pretzel Vending Opportunity.  I’m sweating.  My hands are shaking.

I’ll just go with my gut.  Guts are smart.  Some say guts are smarter than brains and even smarter than our funbits.  My guts are definitely smarter than my funbits.

Guess what my gut says?  My gut says, “MORE DELICIOUS WHITE CHOCOLATE YOGURT COVERED PRETZELS!”  Maybe smartness is not the most reliable way to figure out if I’m addicted to delicious yogurt covered pretzels.  Smartness isn’t all that and a bag of chips as they say.

I’m realizing I jumped right into the deep question end of the pool without giving you any context.  Context is everything.  Without context a roach infested trap house in the bad part of town is just a house.  Here’s some context.
Most days here at Dancing Rabbit from about 4 ‘til about 6pm I go to Happy Hour downstairs where I’m staying here at The Milkweed Mercantile.  Usually it’s a quiet social scene; one friend warming himself in front of the fire, a couple at the bar naming a new drink they just concocted, and me watching the wood burn in the fireplace.  For weeks I’ve ordered a root beer and nursed it for an hour or so.  Twice, at the exhortation of the bartender, I tried a ginger ale, but I find myself returning to root beer.  Root beer is a nice accompaniment to the fresh popped popcorn I can’t stop shoving down my facehole.  Seriously, who eats popcorn this fast?  I’m an embarrassingly fast popcorn eater. Popcorn, however, is not the point.

On display in one corner of the room is an assortment of snacks.  Flavored chips in fanciful packages, gourmet chocolate bars, and the snack currently under discussion, delicious white chocolate yogurt covered pretzels.  They are white and slightly bigger than a quarter - and they are delicious.

A small bag, I’d say about 8 oz. is $2.00.  I held off for many weeks eating any of these little delicacies until one day I said, “What the hay T?  Live a little.  Have a little bag of pretzels.  They’re covered in yogurt so they are probably beneficial to your microbiome.”  I got a bag.  As a kid, I didn’t even know I had a microbiome.  Maybe it was not discovered yet?  I’m amazed how anyone survived as long as I have without knowing about microbiomes.

Every day since that first purchase with almost no exception, I’ve gotten another bag of white yogurt covered pretzels at Happy Hour.  I do share with my friends.  “Want a pretzel?  No, please have one.  Save me from myself.  I can’t stop eating them.”

You see when it comes to me and sweet, tasty things, almost every package I’ve ever encountered is a single serving size.  A pound of M&M peanuts - single serving.  A half gallon of eggnog - single serving.  A half gallon of Breyer’s Vanilla Bean with Fudge ice cream - single serving size.  A little baggy of delicious white yogurt covered pretzels - single serving.

I have even had a second bag at one Happy Hour.  I tried to save some one other time.  You know, seal up the bag, take it to my room and bring them down the next day - save a little money and a few calories.  I finished them off upstairs after dinner before going to bed that night.  I could have died in my sleep and left a half eaten bag of yogurt covered pretzels in my closet hidden in a little box.  What a shame that would have been.

There was a big Game Night planned the other night in town at a former Rabbit’s house, and I didn’t want to go empty handed so I bought 3 bags of pretzels.  I squirreled away one for myself, my own private stash, and I carried the other 2 openly where others could see I was not coming to the party snackless.  Well, we didn’t end up going to the party due to another stuck truck, and there I am awash in yogurt pretzel abundance.  I’m impressed with my willpower so far.  I took one bag to Happy Hour last night and finished it.  I have not gotten into the other two bags.  I hid them in the box in top of my closet as kind of a barrier to impulsivity.  So far so good.

One time I joked to the bartender that I have willpower.  “Hey Matt, I’m going to eat this whole bag of yogurt covered pretzels.”  And I did.  I have willpower.

I’m feeling a little disappointed in myself for returning to daily junk food eating after staying away for weeks and feeling good.  But are these really hurting me?  Was the clog in my left carotid that broke loose and scrambled my brain a couple years ago just a leftover piece of Chunk from all the Chunky Monkey ice cream I was eating or maybe the stroke was caused by a glob of cookie dough that got dislodged?  I’ll never know.  It’s hard to tell with these things sometimes.

So far, I haven’t lied to anyone about my pretzel eating.  I don’t think my personality changes for better or worse when I eat delicious white chocolate covered yogurt pretzels.  Maybe, if I go to Happy Hour hangry, pretzels may make me a nicer, more social person.  But is that too much sugar what with the root beer AND pretzels.  Is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?

If you read this and then comment on my pretzels eating next time you see me at Happy Hour, I might get a little defensive and call you a name or point out that you can’t stop shoving popcorn in your mouth.  (Actually, I’m the one that stuffs popcorn in his mouth.  Strange how I forgot about that so soon.  Oh hell no!  We’re not going to talk about popcorn too.  Nope. Not gonna do it.  Popcorn is off limits.)  Yogurt covered pretzels are legal in Missouri after all, and I’m a grown ass man, and I quit so many other things I’m not going to be denied this, and if the Goddess did not want me to eat pretzels she would not have made them so, so delicious.  I think we’re done here.

Sorry.  Maybe I got a little carried away, but now you get a better idea of what is going on.  Now you have context.  Maybe we can circle back to ASAM and see if I can get any clarity on my question, “Am I addicted to delicious white chocolate yogurt covered pretzels?”

(Another aside, I limited myself to only 1 jar of peanuts this week, and I did so good.  I bought the jar on Sunday, and they were gone by Tuesday, and I did not buy another one until Sunday, and I like writing run-on sentences, and I just wanted you to know I know what a run-on sentence is.)

I’m not hopeful, but I’ll revisit the ASAM folks, because they did, at least, have a definition of addiction.  Maybe together we can look at the background info I just gave you compared to what they say an addiction is and make some kind of reasonable guess as to whether or not I’m addicted to yogurt covered pretzels of the delicious chocolate covered variety.

Here’s the short definition of addiction from ASAM:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

Even this short definition sort of hurts my head, but I’ll look at that second paragraph specifically and break it down into simple questions answering a firm “yes” or “no” to each.

1.  Do I have an inability to consistently abstain from yogurt covered pretzels?  Yes.
2.  Do yogurt covered pretzels impair my behavioral control?  No.  Denial?
3.  Do I crave yogurt covered pretzels?  Yes.
4.  Do yogurt covered pretzels diminish my recognition of significant problems with my behavior?  No.  Denial again?
5.  Do yogurt covered pretzels diminish my recognition of significant problems with my interpersonal relationships?  No.  And another possibility of denial.
6.  Do yogurt covered pretzels lead me to dysfunctional emotional response?  No.  Shut up!
7. Have I quit eating yogurt covered pretzels, stopped for awhile, and then gone back to eating them?  No.  Only because I haven’t stopped yet.
8. Is it possible that my current consumption pattern of yogurt covered pretzels could lead to disability or premature death?  Yes.  One could get stuck in my carotid artery, get jiggled out and give me another stroke.

Well, there it is.  Right here in black and white, clear as day, I have my answer.

Thanks for going through this with me.  Having people like you around is what I really cherish in life.  If it was between you, and delicious white chocolate yogurt covered pretzel, I’d definitely hide a bag of yogurt covered pretzels in a box in the top of my closet and profess to be pretzel-free because you are more important to me than any silly, sugary snack.  I can hear myself -

“Of course you’re more important to me that a stupid bag of yogurt covered pretzels.  You’re the most important thing in this world to me.  You want me off the pretzels?  I’m off the pretzels.  Clear as day.”