Friday, March 09, 2007


I've always been wary of going to a chiropractor. I know too many people who seem to be "addicted" to getting adjustments, and I didn't want to fall into that - having a sense of "I HAVE to go to the chiropractor if I want to feel normal!" And I have to admit I had a bit of a suspicion about how real chiropractic medicine is. I know that's unfair, but sometimes it just seems weird to me that by poking or prodding at this or that, a body part in another location can feel better (even though I believe this to be true!). Furthermore, I have been rather afraid of what a chiropractor would tell me was wrong with me - I had a feeling my many years of sports and running and being tall were not the best things to be doing my knees and back...being that those parts of my body seem to hurt on a semi-regular basis.

Nearly a month ago I moved some way in hockey practice, and I remember feeling "something" and thinking, "That's going to make me hurt for a bit." I can't say what precisely I did - it felt like I had pulled a very thin muscle, or a muscle fiber, if that's possible. Things like this happen to me on and off, and I always feel better within a few days. However, this time I did not feel better. I found that I would hurt quite a bit on the side where the "pull" was. The pain would one day be in my leg, another day in my butt, another day in my back. Some days it hurt so much just to walk. Not debilitating, but certainly noticeable, and that's saying something for me who usually lives by the "Suck it up!" principle.

Finally this week I decided to seek out a chiropractor. You can tell that I was concerned about the pain - concerned enough to override all my reservations about chiropractors! And I was lucky enough to have one suggested by a coworker, and the office is just down the road from work. On Tuesday, after I had made my appointment, the pain wasn't as bad as some days, but I got these incredibly frightening "tingling" sensations across my abdomen while riding the bus! I was kind of afraid that I was going to drop dead at any moment. I was just sitting there, not doing anything, and all of a sudden - OWWWWW! It felt like how I think it would feel to get electrocuted. That happened again on Wednesday. And on Wednesday I went to the chiropractor.

I must admit that I have been very pleasantly surprised. I can understand now why people enjoy going to the chiropractor! I went on Wednesday and again today, and when I walk out of there I much better. My chiropractor uses a technique based on "trigger points" so basically just massages certain parts of my muscles. I was really astounded that after I told him what hurt, he knew exactly where to apply pressure - and OW did it hurt when he found the spots (but it felt better afterwards).

I'm already feeling better, and I haven't had any more scary abdominal spasms - and that alone is worth it! My health insurance covers a certain number of visits with a co-pay, but I can definitely see now where people would religiously go to their chiropractor even if it cost a substantial amount of money. I am hoping I get better really fast and don't have to make the choice about paying full-price. Regardless, I will enjoy the moment: having just arrived back from the chiropractor 20 minutes ago, I feel quite...blissful.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

coffee part 2: the coffee conundrum

It seems that nothing in life is simple. With my growing love of coffee over the past few years came a growing concern for responsible coffee-purchasing practices. I am acutely aware that the way I spend my money has an effect on commerce around the world, particularly with food. If I buy organic, I support organic farming. If I buy local, I support local farming. If I buy fair trade, I support fair trade farming. That "fair trade" thing is a bit if a buzz-word, particularly in reference to coffee. And, like most environmentally-and-socially "responsible" people, I tend to want to support it. It is, wouldn't you agree, the responsible thing to do! Support farming where people get paid good wages and growing and work practices are "good." However, it turns out that it's not that simple.

There are potentially a variety of reasons why the fair trade choice isn't "that simple," but the one I'm going with today springs from a conversation I had with a friend's dad not long after he returned from a medical mission trip to Nicaragua last year. His group spent time tending to the medical needs of people and livestock in the "villages" surrounding a large coffee plantation. Basically everyone there works at the plantation. In fact, the villages are technically located within the confines of the plantation itself (e.g. the land was owned by the plantation owner). The people work from sun-up to sun-down (which, when you're in Nicaragua, is a long period of time thanks to its proximity to the equator) doing the hard labor of tending to the coffee crop. In exchange, they get to live in mud huts and eek out a living. Truly, there's not much opportunity to get away from this lifestyle, so they're rather stuck.

And that's the thing. Yes, the work conditions are awful. Yes, these people are poverty-stricken. Yes, it seems I should stop buying the coffee this plantation forces the people so painfully to produce. But...if I stopped buying the coffee...the people wouldn't have any income. Not only that, they wouldn't even have a place to live! If their plantation gets shut down, these people have absolutely nowhere else to go, no other job to get into, no way of getting to a city to find a new job even if there was a job to get, and no savings to make ends meet in the meantime!

I asked my friend's dad what he thought I should do. He didn't know. I don't know. I suppose the answer is to force all the plantations to stop being so harsh. But is that really possible to accomplish without economic pressure and follow-through - saying, "If you don't change, I won't buy" and then acting upon that promise when change is not made. If that's the solution, then I am responsible for the worsening of living conditions for all the people whom I was attempting to help in the first place with my noble goal! It's a tough situation; it's a coffee conundrum.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

coffee part 1

Tuesdays are supposed to be for knitting here on the blog, but being that I feel like I'm taking one step forward and three back with that pink lace thing, I'm going to dedicate today do something else. Actually, the pink lace isn't going that awfully. If I work on it at home, all goes smoothly. I got several rows done over the weekend with nary a mis-stitch. But when I pull it out on the bus, something very wrong happens. I knit, knit, knit and get about two rows done on the way into work...and then on the way back home I knit, knit, knit - then realize I have the wrong number of stitches, and that means I messed up two rows ago, so I tink, tink, tink back to where I had started earlier in the morning... Hm... Not too fulfilling.

Yesterday in between my knitting and tinking, I stopped by the grocery store after work because I was utterly out of coffee. Correction: I was utterly out of decaffeinated and/or drinkable coffee. I have a canister of some sort of coffee grounds in the cupboard. The grounds smell pretty good - it's French vanilla, I believe. But man oh man is the coffee that drips from those grounds BAD. Not bad like "I must puke, this stuff is bitter and nasty" - it's just...not good. In fact, as much as I adore the pleasant aroma of vanilla wafting from the coffee pot or mug - the smell of this coffee now turns me completely off. (And yet I drink it...but often with much sugar and/or milk).

Perhaps the culprit is that I am becoming a coffee snob. I am not sure I believe this to be even possible, because I don't really drink all that much coffee. Maybe 3 or 4 cups a week. Certainly not even a daily habit. I have, however, progressed from where I was four years ago, when I enjoyed only the smell of the coffee but never the taste. Now...I actually like the taste (except for that bad coffee in the cupboard)! I can thank my roommates for this transformation over the course of three years. Lori used to buy the most aromatic coffees ever, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings she's brew a pot and the whole house would have that "the best part of waking up" smell that gets the people in the commercials out of bed. For the first year or so I would rush to the pot, pour out a cup, and savor the aroma. Then I'd take a sip and realize, "Oh. It doesn't taste like it smells." It was always disappointing. But I suppose I thought maybe if I drank enough of it, the taste would catch up with the aroma...because I'd drink it! Again, milk and sugar really helped. For many, many months this went on - I'd force down a cup once or twice a week in hopes that some day the taste would improve.

One day Lori bought a coffee grinder, and my life would forever be changed. I cannot be 100% sure that it was the grinder or the beans themselves, but once Lori started freshly grinding the coffee before it went into the coffeemaker basket, the coffee became a different beast altogether. I recall drinking my first cup of this stuff and thinking, "This is SMOOTH." I had really no concept of what people meant by "smooth coffee" other than hints of it from the first pot made from a freshly opened bag of grounds. I don't know if I can accurately describe the difference, either. It's not that the aroma matches up with the taste, it's just doesn't MATTER. The coffee is that good.

When the roommates and I parted ways, I settled into my own apartment and acquired a coffeemaker that someone was getting rid of down the hall at work. But I did not have a grinder. I thought about getting one time and time again, but I thought, "This is ridiculous! The grinder can't be the difference. We probably were just getting better coffee, and I'm more used to coffee now." So I bought grounds. I found that the coffee I bought from the cafes and specialty stores, which they ground at check-out, were much better than the grounds I bought from the grocery store. But was it really worth spending waaaay more money on those "snobby" coffees? Certainly not.

However. Yesterday I found myself with absolutely no options but the gross-tasting grounds in the cupboard. I had scraped the very last grounds from all the premium coffees into the basket a few days earlier. I made a cup of the bad stuff, drank it contemplatively while waiting for the bus, and then resolved after a long day at work that I would just go buy some of the semi-good stuff. Something flavored, maybe Starbucks or the local grocery "good stuff" from Market District. But when I arrived at the store, I couldn't find anything that suited my fancy. Nothing was flavored (I do so love the flavored coffee... The smell, even if it does not match the taste, gets me every time), nothing was decaffeinated. A couple bags of stuff met my requirements, but they were whole bean, and having no grinder, that was useless. I walked up and down the coffee aisle and stopped at the "special coffee" section...sigh...the expensive stuff. My eye was caught by a picture of the Michigan mitten on the front of one bag. "Michigan Sweet Cherry" is what it read.

In all honesty, cherry-flavored coffee does absolutely nothing for me. However, I was entranced by the Michigan reference, and I investigated further. When I read "Mackinac Island Fudge," I was taken. Ahhh...Michigan... I had no idea what that sort of coffee would taste like (but I was pretty sure it would not, in fact, taste like real Mackinac Island fudge!), but simply thinking about Mackinac Island, that motorize-vehicularless summer resort in the middle of the lake between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, the destination all middle-school children of Kentwood Public Schools waited and waited and waited for until the last few months of eighth grade...I was pretty sure that would make a good cup of coffee.

But. It was whole bean. said MICHIGAN!'s whole bean.

But - it's made in Grand Rapids! What we had here was Schuil Coffee (nice Dutch name, wouldn't you say?), which, I regret to admit, I hadn't really been familiar with while I lived in Grand Rapids. ...That is, of course, the way it is usually, isn't it? Don't know what your own city has to offer until you leave!

So. I bought the coffee. And a grinder.

This morning I near scared Joelle out of her fur as I ground up a couple scoops. After a few minutes through the was ready. I finished my toast and sat down to see what I would get.

It was smooth. It did not taste like Mackinac Island fudge, but it was smooth.

That's one good cup of coffee.

...If anyone would like the remainder of a canister of mediocre coffee grounds that is supposed to taste like French vanilla, I have one for the taking...

Monday, March 05, 2007

funny bunnies

Having the Boy Bunny at the apartment has convinced me that I will not get a second rabbit unless he/she can live with Joelle in the same cage and they are best buddies. Double the work is just not working for me! But, it's been a real treat to have Boy Bunny be around and get some not-in-the-shelter time. He's going back to the shelter tomorrow.

Both Boy Bunny and Joelle were very effective at amusing me over the weekend. I admit that I tricked him into this the first time by putting a treat inside the empty tissue box, but Boy Bunny kept going back for more, even when there wasn't a treat awaiting him.
note the box in the background, indicating how boy bunny must have felt.
Joelle has certainly been known to get her head stuck in a box or two, also, but this weekend she mastered another type of packaging. I was putting some things away in the kitchen and listening to what she was up to in the living room, and all sounded fine. But as I continued to listen and thought about what I was hearing, the sound of plastic being nudged was going on for far too long for Joelle to really be just pushing around a plastic bag as I had assumed. Thus I investigated and found...Joelle has this thing for apples. (Don't ask why there was a bag of apples sitting in the middle of the living room... The bag of oranges sat there for a week and were fine!) Having eaten through the plastic bag and chewed up at least 1/8 of the apple, Joelle certain staked a claim to that particular apple...

What funny bunnies!