Category Archives: Family

A Lucid Visit

Yesterday I had a lucid dream of visiting my grandparents.

That is, I had a dream of it, but I was aware that I was dreaming, so I could make the most of my time.

Lucid dreaming requires being in the hypnagogic state, where you possess consciousness without wakefulness. You can enter a hypnagogic state from wakefulness, or from dreamland. The problem in either case is maintaining consciousness, as it’s easy to lose in dreamland.

Yesterday, I entered the hypnagogic state by counting to myself while falling asleep. I first began counting sheep, but that was too cartoony, so then I imagined trying to count sheep in a pen, then cattle in a field, and that became cattle in my grandfather’s field. Soon I was counting the steps to his house. Then I was in a hypnagogic state.

I did not want to lose consciousness, so I then looked down while moving. In software terms, the human mind has a “known bug” in the graphics driver while sleeping: if you look down while you’re walking in a dream, you’re feet either will be invisible or else will look very, very strange. This is so noticeable that even in dreamland, it alerts your consciousness. So you can stay lucid dreaming even in dreamland by looking at your feet while walking.

In a lucid dream you can control your environment (instead of a normal dream, which is like watching a movie). You can also warp your environment if you want to, though this requires a noticeable act of will. Yesterday, I just controlled what I did and where I went, but I let dreamland unfold as it wanted to.

I visited the garage, saw the things inside vividly and individually. “There are things here I never asked about,” I thought. Outside the garage, saw the sod house flicker into and out of existence.

I entered the farmhouse through the front door. I saw the little entryway, and all the sounds inside, WNAX on the radio, my grandfather sitting down by the table, my grandma standing, my dad was there too. I heard them all. I felt the shadows of the living, but I only heard my grandpa, my grandma, and my dad.

The sounds and the textures were hyper-real, though visually everything was like a ‘progressive render,’ where it became noticeably clearer as I focused. I saw the little TV on the refrigerator. I walked from the kitchen to the dining room. I saw the old phone, the desk with the recorder that my idiot uncle gave my grandparents, the plants, and the cabinet with the radio. (I knew there was an Atari in there somewhere, though I did not look for it.)

I passed through the glass portico into the living room. I felt the tape on the large comfortable chairs. I felt the shadows of the living again. I saw the couch, the painting above the couch, and the chairs on each side. The old television (that I caused havoc with when I was young). The long table with the storage area underneath, I once hid in. The bull.

I saw the loveseat, the window, and walked to the back entry way. I was hopefully because there was a building set I loved, that belonged to my uncle when he was young, and I wanted to see the brand name, but I could not make it out. I could see the pieces vividly, see the army men and the home-made Parcheesi set set, but I could not make out the brand name.

Disappointed, I walked in the remaining rooms of the house. Each was vivid. The downstairs bathroom, my grandfathers room (in which I had a nightmarish flash back to reality, back after my grandfather died, going thru his things with my mom, then back to dreamland). Then the hall again, then up the stairs. I felt the texture, again hyperreal. I saw the old fire alarm / extinguisher / whatever it was — the least safe home-safety device ever created, seemingly constructed to explode glass outward during a fire. “I knew that would kill us all one day,” I thought.

Then I woke.


With my brother gone off to Iraq, I’m reminded of how much I love my family, and those around me. My wife is just wonderful,, and a workday apart from her feels like an eternity. My brother-in-law is graduating from a demanding program in Iowa next month, and we are invited to both the ceremony (and ensuing karaoke). My sister is a wonderful and successful person, and in nursing school (in spite of her fascinating with Twilight…. sigh)

And of course wonderful friends, who are now scattered all over, and some of whom will be back in South Dakota around the holidays.

I love you all.

My grandma

My grandmother died today.

She was able to bring delight to anyone she just met.

She was a living window to a world very different from mine. She had an uncle she could not speak to, because he knew only German and her only English. She remembered when nativist paramilitaries (the American Legion, I believe) harrased “German” farmers who were trying to organize relief supplies to their cousins back home after the Great War. She remembered the burning of German books. She learned to sing German songs in a church where men sat in one part, and women in another.

When my grandma was a girl, her family was what we would now call “low SES.” Her parents did not care about education. If one of their daughters was sick, none of them would attend school, because otherwise it was a waiste of time to go in to town that day. My grandmother supposeldy attended school to the 6th grade, though I do not how reliably or regularly.

I once asked her, “Is there any other thing you wished you could have done in our life, when you were young?” Yes, she answered. She always wanted to be a hair dresser, in town.

I never knew anyone with a quicker tongue, and she was in full control of it. She knew how to handle herself. She knew how to befriend people, and how to turn people against her enemies. If there was a Depression, she would make it through. If there was a war, she would live through it. She once held her daughter in a manger as a tornado destroyed the barn she was in. A small woman, she had the strength of an ox.

“They will never build a road here,” she once said, while riding in a car on the Needles Highway. “Adolf jewed them good,” I once heard her say, referring to a local farmer who struck a good bargain.

My grandmother always spoke well of “Germans” (that is, Americans of German ancestry as opposed to Bohemians, Swedes, Norgwegians, people from cities, etc.), Republicans, and the Missouri Synod. She was deeply suspicious of Democrats, Presbytarians, and people who were unfair to “Germans.”

My dad once said in heaven everyone will have to walk quietly past the Missouri Luthern section, “because they do not know that anyone else is there.”

I hope my dad stops in to see my grandma.

The Los Angeles of Dreams

My dad, my mom, my wife, and I had driven to Los Angeles. But there was a problem with the car, so we took a tour bus of the city.

We had heard that if you try to drive the bus by yourself there would be problems, but a driver was already in the seat. So we waited to start.

I sat in one seat. Across the isle and behind one row, my mom, and wife, and my dad sat. My dad was not wearing his shirt.

My mom quizzed me about the Crusades some. I was able to name the first few but not the last. We checked our answers on our laptops and laughed.

The bus took us around the famous sites of Los Angeles. It was not the real Los Angeles, but the “Los Angeles of Dreams.” The brown barren hills were so high, the half-cloudy skies were so bright and blue, the water that soaked us was so wet.

Sometime I said “I think Fei is scared,” but I heard the words in my dad’s voice. I helped Fei across the aisle and she came to sit with me.

Then I woke up.

About three minutes later I realized it was a dream of my father.

Some thoughts, minutes before sleep

When I was a kid, I was pretty sick. My body hurt a lot and I was not eating enough. On Saturday afternoons Mystery Science Theatre 3000 would come on. I would prepare for this sometimes my making cherry bars or something else high calories (and thus healthy), and lay on the couch with a blanket around me and watch the show. Sometimes, when I felt very tired I would wish that I could live in space with Mike and Servo and Crow and not be in pain. The show was such an escape.

I am so grateful for my family — my wife, my mother, my brother, my sister, &c — and so enjoy the work I do. But, like now, I am in the dark alone. I am in the dark, of course, because it is late and the lights are out, and alone except for my ipod mini. I listened to “Vito Ordination’s Song” by Sufjan Stevens and then the first track of (), by Sigur Ros. I would listen to Sigur Ros in the dark waiting room after company had gone and I waited for news on my father. Just now I only listened to one track. The rooms are too similar in the dark.

My family is a refuge and my work keeps my mind busy. Recently I took up my new favorite sport, badminton, and spend my free time either looking forward to the day’s matches or looking back at them with contented exhaustion.

But today I am traveling, so no badminton. I did chores and worked, mowed hte lawn and played PlayStation2 while on the treadmill, but no badminton wso the mind is more free.

I was listening to my ipod in the dark and saw the most recent episode of the Generally Speaking Lost podcast in the playlist. And I felt the same escape as with Mystery Science so many years ago.

Around a walk

Two big games today

#5 Michigan 32, Appalachian State 34
#20 Nebraska 52, Nevada 10

My dad always routed for the underdog (except when it was a good whupping), and had never voiced support for the trolls (those who live under the bridge in the lower pennensula of Michigan), so he would be pleased by the Wolverines losing in the greatest upset in college football history: the first time ever an 1-AA team defeated a ranked 1-A team.

However, dad also thought that Nebraska got by with a perennially weak schedule, so inspite of the good start of the season he would have mentioned that if things don’t click for Coach Callahan, this could be his last season.

After a delicious dinner meal in post-game celebration, I went for a walk.

I took my camera because the evening was beautiful. However, it wasn’t fully charged, so I didn’t even get to the stadium by the time the battery gave out.

I was ok until I got to the computer science building, which my father and I visited during our first trip to Lincoln. Here the sidewalk forked, and I could walk back to the union or go out of my way to the hotel we used to stay at. I decided to walk back to the union. My legs carried me to the hotel.

I walked inside for the first time since he last stayed there. I walked outside our old room. Around the lobby TV’s were turned to a football game and cheers would go up at appropriate moments. I went over the skywalk to the parking garage.

I walked back home. I thought of how I had promised to get a copy of the Boise State/Oklahoma game to my dad during his deep sleep at the hospital. (Immediately after the game, which he had missed, he looked up buying a DVD on his iMac. But the “commemorative DVD” was quite pricey, so he decided to wait until the charge came down.)

I had a waking dream that I was back in the hospital on the day my dad had surgery to have a ventilator. I walked on the paths of Lincoln but I could have navigated the hospital too.

Then I walked home.

Up and down

Within the past year, the best thing ever to happen to be happened to me. So did the worst thing.

So it’s no surprise that my mood varies from pretty high to pretty low. From day to day, and even moment to moment.

There is all the normal stress and anxiety of the school year, but also real honest happiness and real honest sadness. There are so many times I keep thinking of my dad’s letters or are phone calls. There are so many times I am so happy to be with my wife.

Sometimes I have this driving energy to get things done (I woke up at 4:30 and started working this morning, before going back to sleep) and other times I find it hard to click continue on a web form.

I am introspective enough to recognize how time changes things. The only reason I finished the spring semester at all was that I had gotten nearly all work done before my dad’s heart attack. This summer I accomplished a lot, including work ahead in class, deforestation, a visit to China, and, of course getting married.

Take that trees!

So I’m feeling more down that I was, at any given time, a year ago. But I’m also feeling more up.

If living means feeling emotions, then boy, am I living now!

May the joy always increase, the sadness become less intense, and US CIS stop losing our paperwork!