Monthly Archives: December 2009

GOOD-BYE JET LAG, INSOMNIA, & AMBIEN, I hope!

That was delicious…….a full night’s sleep without the need to drink myself into oblivion.  

After 11 straight days of insomnia, save one brief night of a 5 hr. stretch, I actually slept for almost 8 1/2 hrs. last night without waking. I silently celebrated when I finally opened my eyes this morning to discover it was 7:50am. Not 1:30am, or 3:30am, or 4am, but 7:50am!  

Then, with a bit of rebellion, I went back to sleep, because I could. My friend had recommended not to sleep-in but get up and take a siesta later because it was better. However, after 11 consecutive days of tossing and turning and waking and reading and writing and nonsense of all sorts, it was difficult to resist the temptation to doze off into the most wonderful dreaminess for two more hours, so I did.  Now it feels like a holiday!  

What was the secret to my successful slumber last night?  

I have to confess that I was on the verge of hunting down a sleeping pill if I experienced one more restless night. Me, the anti-pharma activist was actually considering a sleeping pill! Perhaps this experience was important to allow me to step into the shoes of the insomniacs I know. But I knew I wasn’t sleeping for a variety of reasons, which I addressed quite faithfully yesterday as a personal vow to try before I resorted to pharmaceuticals. (I already knew that alcohol didn’t work because I tried it without too much success.) Lack of the following factors contributed to my insomnia:  

  • Exercise- 2 times
  • Fresh Air and natural light
  • Sunshine

These are the three things I got yesterday that I had not had previously. The sun actually came up yesterday, even though it was 20 below zero in this Finnish heaven.  

I practically ran outside to seek the sunshine on my face last morning, after adding an additional 3rd. layer to my clothing.  

Due to the winter darkness here in the north, the sun rises ever so slightly above the horizon for what seems to be a brief moment. Knowing this urged me to rush to capture it, even if it meant stepping onto someone else’s property, which I did after crunching down the icy driveway and road.  

Seeing that glowing ball of light peaking through the dense forest was like the end of  

Here Comes the SUn

Here Comes the Sun!

  my treasure hunt. Naturally, the people who owned the property would understand if they found me. They would know exactly why I was standing in their driveway. I was an authentic sun worshipper.  

There I stood, eyes opened, with just the top half of my face peaking out from my thickly wrapped layers. From my studies and research, I knew that light into the iris stimulates the hormonal responses that regulate normal sleep cycles and I knew that I needed at least fifteen to twenty minutes of the sunlight to produce the changes I needed. I also needed more of the natural light, the reflective light from the snow to help me sleep better. Natural light is extremely important for sleeping as is sunlight and exercise.  

A gentleman I met on the plane over to Helsinki illuminated me about the importance of snow in the northern hemisphere. Rainy winters without snow are dark, whereas when you have snow, you have light reflection and brightness, which is necessary for well-being. (Could climate change affect our mental health as well?) And is this why everyone in Finland seems to be so happy about the snow this year after years of rainy winters due to global warming?* 

Is this also why the Finnish people do not care how cold it is; they are determined to get outside for as long as they can every day, even the children and the elderly. I have enjoyed their appreciation for fresh air and exercise. Just another affirmation regarding what I know we all need no matter our age. 

So, I had the three factors to kick-start once again, which has been my lifelong pattern of solid sleep regardless of my enviroment or conditions (minus the years of babydom, which don’t count). You can’t really separate these factors because all are important, though the actual sunlight had been the one missing link for me for way too many days. The below reference from just one of many studies proves that we do not need to be addicted to pharmaceuticals for restful sleep during winter months or any other time for that matter. This study in the Lancet on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) confirms what I knew to be true:  

“These findings support the use of morning light for treatment of SAD, and are in keeping with the “phase-shift hypothesis”, says Lewy. “People get depressed in winter at least in part because of a delay in their body clocks”, he proposes. In summer, exposure to bright light occurs on waking. In winter, dawn is later, “and since we cue mainly to dawn, our other circadian rhythms drift later, and get out of phase with sleep”. Morning light pushes the rhythms back into phase with sleep, reducing SAD by “removing the internal dysynchrony”. Alternatively, people could simply be more sensitive to light in the morning, he notes.” (Benefits of phototherapy on SAD illuminated by Marilynn Larkin. The Lancet, Volume 352, Issue 9136, Page 1289, 17 October 1998)  

With this morning’s cloudy sky, it gives me a thrill just thinking of that glorious feeling of sunshine on my face yesterday. I hope it was enough to carry over because sunshine does not look like an option today!  

In the past, if I ever find myself ruminating over my thoughts at night, unable to sleep, I can almost always attribute it to lack of exercise and/or natural light. Insomnia doesn’t have a place when the body is in balance. Unresolved issues can be resolved better in the morning after a good night’s sleep, though I have always felt that writing my thoughts down in a journal or on a list of “to-do’s” so I don’t forget them, also helps me release them before bed so I can sleep. Then, I have no excuse. But it almost always stems from lack of exercise first, which prevents my body from shutting down; it is as if there is a clock wound up inside that just can’t stop because it hasn’t wound out yet.  

Yesterday, I was able to get those three necessities to a good night’s sleep in one morning walk: exercise, sunshine, and natural light. How easy it actually was to cure my insomnia! I just wish it wasn’t so darn difficult to find the sunshine around here! 

Today, after posting this, I will bundle up again. It is a little warmer, yet the wind is blowing and I don’t want a chance of cold air sneaking into my bundle. I will head out for my ritual brisk morning walk and enjoy the natural light at least, while it is here because it will be gone in a few hours. 

Wish me luck and remember that natural light and sunshine are highly underrated! Generally in the U.S., we need more of it than we get and perhaps we can give big pharma a run for their money if we take the free stuff instead: sunshine, exercise, and natural light! If it works for me here in the dark winter north of Finland, couldn’t it also work for you.  Bye-Bye Ambien, hello Sun!  

SUNSHINE- EVERY LITTLE BIT COUNTS

Please leave your thoughts on this subject! I want to know there are more people out there that actually know that we have choices that are much healthier and necessary to our well-being without side effects. 

Oops! I forgot to credit the power of a good piece of literature, the fiction variety; books that take you away from your world so you can actually let go of your attachments enough to slumber!  absent-mindedly, I committed the cardinal sin while packing for my 2 1/2 month-long trip, forgetting to include a good story or two or three to read! I finally bought some books yesterday and will be using these as well to help me sleep better. 

Granny Pants 

*Naysayers on global warming can ruminate on this thought: With several warm winters and the escalation of icebergs falling into our oceans, isn’t this winter just an example similar to a piece of ice being dropped into a glass of warm water? It produces a chilling effect for a short time period and then warms up again. Doesn’t this hypothesis make sense and aren’t we just experiencing the effects of a briefly cooling ocean this winter from this “ice-cube” effect?

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Filed under #ClimateChange, #Finland, #Suomi, 1, environment, exercise, Global Warming, health care, insomnia, insomniacs, nature, prevention, Travel, winter

Part 1- A Finnish Christmas Dream Come True

I can’t stand it another minute! I cannot bear to wait to share the perfection of these moments with anyone and everyone. I am in the midst of the picture perfect Finnish Christmas that one could only dream of experiencing. With my own Finnish family roots, I feel as if I am capturing a slice of culture to pass on as I take in every precious moment.

A Finnish Christmas 2009

The beautiful view from the kitchen table

After a 5 hour train ride to the North East of Finland, we are staying in the family home where my dear friend’s Grandfather was born. It was once a very large estate, but now it is smaller, only about 42 hectares (1 hectare is about 2.471 acres).

I am surrounded by snowy, tree filled landscape, ancient outbuildings and the most endearing brick oven which we are going to bake our traditional Finnish Rye Bread today.

This bread is from a sourdough starter that has been kept alive in the family for three generations! We are following the very calculated three -day process to

Traditional Oven

Traditional Finnish stove and oven

 bake it.

With all of this and more, I am so overwhelmed by this perfect and blessed moment in my life that I cannot possibly recall everything. I am too busy enjoying it, which is what I should be doing.

Anyone who knows my history of bread baking knows this is absolute ecstasy for me to be a part of this experience! I will be posting the entire bread baking process with the recipe once we are finished, but until then, I just pray that we will be able to pull it off! Just for a taste of what we have taken on, here is a picture of the 5 gallon bucket we are using to mix the dough for 8 loaves:

finnish sourdough starter

The Ancient Family Sourdough Starter in the 5 gallon bucket

Just had to post a note and will continue to do so as the opportunity arises. Between sick babies, cooking, rearranging the house, preparing for Christmas, and baking this bread, I am in a place called Finnish Christmas Heaven! All I need is Santa Claus and my own loved ones to make this dream complete.

This is the only way to travel! How could you ever understand a culture otherwise than by living in the moments amidst the families that are a part of it?

The snow has started to fall quick thickly again and I have to get to work! Merry Christmas!!!!!

The view from my bedroom window

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CONFESSIONS OF A FIRST TIME AUTHOR

It has been made extremely clear by those who are closest to me that I need to share my process of writing, publishing, and promoting to people who share my obsession with these subjects. Though no one has actually said this to me directly, I can tell by the questions that have stopped being asked about “my book,” the quickness in the change of subject when I mention “my book,” and the relief we all feel when we are talking about something else other than “my book.”

Ahhhh!!!!!! Am I the only one who gets sick of conversations about “my book” at the same time I feel the satisfaction of self-indulgence?

This is a confession of sorts. I know I have neglected my own family in the process of publishing this first book, which I suppose is quite normal. I qualify this obsessive behavior because I realize a degree of tunnel vision and consuming behavior is necessary to produce any project, whether it is building a home, starting a business, or starting a family. Writing a book is similar and requires intense focus and dedication. It requires ignoring dusty corners, dirty laundry, and old leftovers in the refrigerator. I think a first book requires that one not get derailed by the lives of others, because as many writers have experienced, getting derailed is quite easy. How many years do people dream of writing a book or completing their first book, but never get there because we do get derailed by getting involved in the lives of our loved ones, by being there when people need us. There is always something pending that takes precedent over writing, editing, re-writing, and editing some more. Derailment is both the savior and saboteur of the unsuccessful writer.

But, now that my book is published, it is time to move on. Now it is time to talk to my family about more than “my book” after three years of devoted listening. Now is the time for me to be there for them when they need me, both physically and emotionally. I want to hear more about their lives and about what is important to them, even though I still do have the deep need to share my process with someone who will listen.

So, with this blog, I give my entire family an eternal break from the day-to-day mundane, exciting, and often gut-wrenching details involved in writing. I am grateful for their support and their indulgence while I incubated and finally birthed this new life for myself, the life I have always dreamed of and visualized.

However, the biggest confession I have to make about the experience of writing my first book is that while my husband has been the most patient and supportive throughout my entire process, admittedly, the events of the past years due to the economy and my obsession to complete my book has changed our relationship. After grieving these changes, I acknowledge the gratitude for him in my life and his support and our connection in life, no matter where our lives may lead in the future. This may sound callous to be so matter-of-fact about this subject but after a lifetime of traumatic events, I have had to learn to roll with the changes. This is the only way not to let them take over my life and fill it with daily suffering. Life is too important to wallow in what could have been. I have learned to accept what I have been given and love all of those in my life along the way, even though how we are connected may change.

Catharsis, the honest expression of what is real for me has become the essence of my inspiration. Being safe is boring. The most exhilarating moments I have experienced have been while speaking to groups of people, sharing the frank, somewhat provocative and inspiring reflections from my life experiences. These experiences somehow link us all together because I am not the only one who has suffered through the school of hard knocks and picked myself up again. We gain strength from being surrounded with resiliency.

Most recently, at my 2nd book signing at Underground Books in Sacramento, California, I found myself in front of a group of people, most of whom I did not know. I was so grateful for each person that turned out for this event because it was a cold, dreary, rainy day in a city where people really don’t really know me, not even when I was living there. The discussion format of the event was perfectly suited to my open nature and the exchange was a spontaneous dance, leaving us all satisfied when it was over. I knew I was in the right place doing the right thing; just another affirmation that all of my former steps in life had been perfectly placed to lead me to this moment.

After the fulfillment of that event, there is no going back for me now. If I had any thoughts that I should give up on this dream of mine and get a “real job”, I erased them that afternoon.

Writing is a way to create a lasting record of those conversations, even though it requires much more patience, perseverance, and perfection than I ever imagined! I hope to find a way to integrate the spontaneous exhilaration of those live exchanges into more of my future published products, which is probably why blogging satisfies me.

Blogging and posting to others blogs gives me the platform and satisfaction of spontaneous expression while encompassed in the grueling work of writing an entire book. I love living between the evolving ethos of cyberspace and the permanency of the printed page. It is time to embrace all that I have been given without apologies, for this is who I am!

As I deal with jet lag this week from Helsinki, I am finding that blogging is even a better 4am friend than I had ever realized, but I need to make sure that it doesn’t become another derailment to my next project. While I hunker down to start the research on my next book, I know I need to focus, but it still feels good to get out my thoughts of the day.

I sold my first book in Finland yesterday! Yes, it was to a friend, but a sale nevertheless! I consider each and every book I share with the world a fulfillment of my mission, whether I know the person or not. I have to admit though that I do want to know that they are actually reading the book! I don’t to sell, but to share information. There are much easier ways to make a living, but very few compare to the feeling of having a book in print to share with others.

I pray that the Finnish community, with their pragmatic sensibilities, will embrace the messages in this book, which also embrace the best of their own constant cultural influences, while cautioning against the take over of modern life as it relates to their infants, children and teenagers. No matter where we are on the planet today, children are influenced by technology, which has its wonderful advantages. However, we also need to ensure that technology maintains its proper place and does not replace the deeper needs of the community members, whether they exist in cyberspace or just around the corner.

6:45am…time to get some sleep. Are you a writer of books, blogs, etc.? Have you found that blogging spares your loved ones from obsessive thoughts and midnight musings? Is this is a universal experience or do other writers find it easier to refrain from self-absorbed conversations about their books, especially first books and just prior to the publishing process. Who do you talk to about all of these details without boring them to death?

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TIME TO MOVE FROM DIVIDE & CONQUER MANIPULATION TO COMMON GROUND FOR A WIN-WIN IN COPENHAGEN!!!

For passionate people like me, dangerous propoganda perfectly timed for sabotage is infuriating! As I listen to tidbits of media this week from NPR to Fox, I am appalled that the left has once againSarah Palin bought into this Divide and Conquer manipulation!

If there was ever a time to stop being sucked in to this manipulation and take the high road, the time is now. The time is now to REFOCUS on the COMMON GROUND we all share. We need to insist that our leaders and media spokespersons move away from expending energy on deflecting these distractions and that they insist on one direction only: strategizing towards WIN-WIN solutions!

Regardless of what anyone thinks about “Climate Change” or “Global Warming”, below are the talking points we should be focusing on during the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, because these points all effect the outcome that yes, does relate to the increase in global warming; but most importantly, these points Al Goreare the ones that are without a doubt, effecting our planet and need immediate attention:

* Overuse of plastics and non-recyclable plastics have produced oceanic waste in the magnitude of the infamous “plastic island” in the Pacific Ocean. This waste is not only threatening ocean species of all types, it is threatening humans through the food chain, increasing carcinogenic compounds in the fish we ingest. When plastic waste turns up in the carcasses of whales and other animals, fish, and birds, we need to start preventing this for everyone’s sake, no matter what a person’s country, political or religious preferences, we can all agree that a whale filled with plastic waste and oil sludge warrants regulation and preventive measures across the board. Plastic comes from oil, needs processing, produces pollution in the air, water, and land sources all throughout the life cycle. WE NEED REGULATION TO REDUCE  PRODUCTION OF PLASTICS AND NON-RECYCLABLE PLASTICS to PREVENT THE SPREAD OF TOXIC WASTE THROUGH LAND, WATER, SKY, AND FOOD SOURCES. If companies have not done this voluntarily up to now, we all know it won’t happen without regulation! CAP AND TRADE IS JUST A NIMBY SOLUTION THAT STILL EFFECTS THE WHOLE!

* When a company mines, or drills for oil or other natural resources anywhere in the world, regulations should be universal to prevent the poisoning of land, water, and air for the surrounding residents, workers, and the planet as clouds filled with toxins travel across the globe. WE NEED UNIVERSAL REGULATION OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES PRODUCED BY NATURAL RESOURCE EXTRACTION AND MANUFACTURING TO PREVENT THE HEALTH RISKS TO SO MANY POPULATIONS, WHICH USUALLY END UP BEING LOW-INCOME POPULATIONS THAT CANNOT ADVOCATE FOR THEMSELVES. We can all Earthshots pollution photoagree that this is not correct or good business in the eyes of any religious leader, God, or whomever. Coal ash, while regulated to reduce the effect of “global warming”, becomes another toxin through land and water sources. We need consistent regulation of toxins throughout the life cycle, not piecemeal shifting from one place to another.

* TRASH IN ALL FORMS NEEDS GLOBAL REGULATION SO WASTE, ELECTRONIC OR OTHERWISE, IS NOT HAULED OFF TO POLLUTE ANOTHER COUNTRY AND ITS CHILDREN.  (Sending carbon under the ocean to make it seemingly disappear will come back to haunt us somewhere down the road, perhaps through aquifirs.) Third world countries handling the waste from industrialized countries once again will continue to be the victims as long as a global criteria is not created. These countries often burn this hazardous waste, which travels through the sky, polluting each one of our bodies in time, regardless of what planetary warming effect it may have. It is toxic and needs regulation!

polluted earth NYCTHESE THREE TALKING POINTS, WE CAN ALL AGREE NEED REGULATION AND SOLUTIONS.

JOBS ARE NEEDED TO CLEAN UP ALL OF THESE TOXIC MINE FIELDS FROM THE RIVERS OF TENNESSEE TO AFRICA, LATIN AMERICA, AND INDONESIA. These jobs can replace the ones that are polluting the planet!

Regulations to address these toxic threats to humanity that we can ALL agree on will also have the effect of reducing global pollution.

NEW AND EXISTING ENERGY PRODUCTION NEEDS REGULATION TO PREVENT THE ABOVE PROBLEMS, whether it be PREVENTING ASTHMA for a CHILD LIVING CLOSE TO THE LOS ANGELES HARBOR or preventing contaminated DRINKING WATER IN APPALACHIA OR INDIA, UNIVERSAL REGULATION TO REDUCE ALL POLLUTION from ENERGY, NATURAL RESOURCES, AND MANUFACTURING PRACTICES WILL BE A WIN-WIN FOR ALL by LEVELING THE PLAYING FIELD. This will PREVENT THE systematic MIGRATION OF TOXINS TO ANY OTHER COUNTRY AND PREVENT ANY LOCAL ECONOMY from BECOMING A STATISTIC due to the CURRENT STATE of UNREGULATED GLOBAL INDUSTRIES! 

THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA IS THE NEXT COUNTRY POISED FOR RAMPANT POLLUTING INDUSTRY BY CHINA AND INDIA IF WE DO NOT STOP THIS NOW!

LET’S START WITH WHAT WE CAN ALL AGREE ON AND GO FROM THERE AND STOP BUYING INTO THE DIVIDE AND CONQUER TACTICS THAT A Family at the BeachARE JUST A DIVERSION FOR THESE DEEPER ISSUES THAT NEED GLOBAL SOLUTIONS AND REGULATIONS SIGNED BY ALL COUNTRIES NOW!

Me & Baby Manzanillo World Leaders, please take the high road! Our children are depending on you to do so!

Granny Pants

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