Category Archives: 1

STAY AT HOME DADS- UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?

Today, our fathers are more important than ever! We are grateful they are taking on these new roles in caregiving, providing our children with an awesome opportunity for the first time in American history! Yet, with these economic driven changes taking place, there are also some current considerations.

In my profession, I observe diverse family systems, the changes they go through, and the effects these changes have on children. It doesn’t matter whether the children are in the United States, Finland, Mexico, or an other country I have experienced.  Children all have the same basic needs and when these needs are not met, they communicate this imbalance to us in a variety of ways. Imbalance expresses itself differently for each child. It may look like withdrawal from the world in one child or acting out in another. It may show up in the form of insomnia in one or stomach aches in another. Because of all of these different “shouts for help” coming from our children, there is one new need that children will be suffering from in the future that we should all be aware of and work towards handling so we don’t see a new form of preventable childhood problems.

My focus has always been on the preventive. It is more cost-effective and harmonious for all concerned to prevent a problem rather than ending up with a host of problems that not only torture all involved, but also become very costly to treat.  I urge you to keep this in mind when I communicate the following:

bnbWith the new trend of Stay At Home Dads, largely in part due to our current economic downturn and high rates of unemployment, many Dads are embracing unemployment as a gifted opportunity they never had before. Children are also benefitting from having their fathers more present in their daily lives than any other previous generation in the U.S. (Though many European countries already recognize the importance of Paternal Leave.)

As we witness this beautiful evolution in our fathers, which I see on a daily basis, and most personally, with my own son-in-law right now, many fathers are showing themselves as capable caregivers, and in some respects, even better housekeepers than their wives. I say Hallelujah for this!  When the mother does not have the burden of working, cooking, shopping, caregiving, and housework entirely on her shoulders, she will be more balanced in her own life, and perhaps even more available emotionally and physically to her husband!

However,  just as unplanned suburban sprawl has created numerous unintended consequences to our culture and planet such as isolation, over-consumption of resources and energy, obesity, and addictions, we need to prevent unintended consequences from this current trend in Stay At Home Fathering. We need to have a plan and consider all ramifications before we have a spiraling out-of-control situation that we did not foresee or know how to stop.

There are two specific  issues I am bringing up with this post to consider, regarding this modern day phenomenon:

#1. When fathers are not trained as caregivers from birth as mothers are from generations of gender stereotyping, experience, and role-modeling, it is important they have had good role modeling, and/or training and support in basic healthy practices and effective child rearing methods in order to prevent the further deterioration of our children’s nutritional, emotional, and cognitive states, especially in the U.S. Granted, our children have a  host of problem these days, regardless of who their caregivers have been. However, since most fathers are not known for their focus on nutrition and vegetable consumption, we have the potential of a back slide from the current consciousness we need in this country to get our children back on track with the health, academic, and social skills they need for success in life. We need fathers to adopt and support a set of nutritional standards for their children so their daily care is actually strengthening our bnbj children’s physical health and immune systems.  How about: No foods purchased with sugar and high fructose corn syrup to start with. (Though nothing can replace the fun and satisfaction of a once in a while batch of homemade cookies.) How about focusing on more vegetables in meals. We all know that a large percentage of men, husbands, are not so keen on vegetables. In fact, it is usually a major issue of contention in many families and has affected the family’s nutritional state for generations. So, what will the effect be if our fathers today are the primary caregivers and meal makers, if they lower the vegetable intake of our households when we should be increasing this intake for our overall health.

Of course, there are many Dads who are doing a great job providing the best for their children, but aren’t they the minority? Prove me wrong please, and then I won’t take issue with this point. What I am saying is that if a father is now responsible for the nutritional standards and meals of a household, shouldn’t they be trained and committed to ensuring their children are getting their nutritional needs met? This is yet another case for a return to required Home Economics for all students in the U.S.!

The other consideration of point #1 is boundaries, limits, respect, emotional maturity, and physical exercise (instead of TV, movies, the internet, or video games). I know I am being very general about many things in this post and there are exceptions to every one of my points, but as a rule, we need to look at the majority of households, which will have the largest future impact to society, regardless of exceptions. When a father is caring for his own children all of the above considerations now become his responsibility to provide, along with the other daily needs of his children and household. To do it right, to ensure children have the best chance at success and happiness in life, all caregivers must be more, not less conscious of these aspects of caregiving.  Now is the time for all parents in America to step up; we cannot afford to push back the issues of our children’s physical, emotional, and cognitive health because life has thrown us changes!

Fathers bring many assets to provide our children with these needs. From my experiences, I have seen many fathers actually provide more hands-on opportunities and be more adamant about getting outdoor exercise than some mothers, which I personally believe comes from some genetic intuitiveness. The firmness (not cruelty) that some fathers bring to the table is probably a good thing for most of our children because they need a better foundation of respect for others and more limits to foster their emotional maturity. In this respect and numerous others, children need and benefit from more of their father’s influences, especially if it is firm, loving and infused with clear limits and consequences.

However, when some (not all) current popular father bloggers seek and succeed at high ratings from their witty, clever posts that boast poor parenting practices (Messed-Up Parenting Tips), we see the influences of popular internet culture becoming convoluted and potentially harmful to the future of our children and the idea of Stay At Home Dads, unless we have louder voices of common sense and consciousness prevailing, like the great father blogs like Natural Papa! Of course, I like my own Granny Pants’ Daily Parenting Tips, which always considers the present and future of the child over popular or market-driven trends.

We are stepping into new territory. Child rearing has not been very successful in the U.S. in the last several decades for a variety of reasons. Marketing pressures have influenced parents to choose convenience over what is best. Our current trend of kids raised on TV, DVD’s and video games has led to a country filled with hyperactive, physically unfit, obese, disrespectful, illiterate, depressed, and often violent children. Fathers who are at home with our children now have a new responsibility to embrace the preventive strategies to combat these challenges.

We cannot cvb afford to slip back into a nation of sheep, unconsciously allowing our children to self-medicate through TV, computers, movies and video games. We need fathers to take a stand and ensure they are not a part of the problem. We need fathers to disconnect those DVD players in your SUV! They are making our kids grow up illiterate and unable to communicate with their own parents or others! Their creativity is being extinguished because they have no time to listen to their own inner processes and expand their experience. They are constantly plugged into someone else’s creativity, not developing their own. We need all parents to kick them outside, teach them how to build, garden, paint, hike, explore, swim, care for animals, etc….

And, please teach them respect for others, all life, and compassion!

#2.  This next issue is something I have been pondering for a while. I am not really clear about what the solutions are, but I have some ideas, which are worth considering. Many of my approaches throughout the years, though seemingly radical at the time to others, have slowly become what are recognized as valid and proven preventives through numerous studies. I am heartened by knowing that common sense and pragmatism is seeping back into American culture, however slow it may be.

Have you ever had something you never knew you would like and then you had it, like a chocolate milkshake? (This reminds me of the story The Fonz told Richie when he was explaining to him how divorce’s were used to having sex all of the time because they had been married with easy access.)

This is the potential situation our kids will be in when fathers return to work. There are already fathers that have returned to work and already children dealing with this withdrawal feeling. They may not have been used to having Dad around, then they got used to it, then he left again!

So, how do we handle this emotional void for both Father and Child? We do it consciously. We do it by conversing with children about it, by carving out some very focused father/child time together every week, no matter how busy a schedule may get. With Skype, we can ensure regular communication during long absences, like military families and traveling business people have been using. We also do it by watching for the signs that our children are suffering these losses as in the ones I listed at the beginning of the post.

By all means, it is best for parents not to let guilt drive their responses to a child who is missing him/her.  Guilt is an unhealthy emotion that can lead to permissiveness, especially in inappropriate situations, where structure and limits are needed. Children pick up on and run with a parent’s guilt if they sense it, which can serve to drive even more symptomatic behavior and create a perspective of victimization.  Guilt and blame do not empower a child to deal with a situation. Whether it comes from the absent parent or the parent at home, what children need is adult maturity in these moments.

Honest conversations about changes and feelings are important, expressing that the adults too are missing their children. Working together as a family on healthy responses and solutions teaches a child emotional maturity and resiliency, not victimization.  Adults seeking solutions while expressing empathy are what children need to learn to deal with any loss, change or challenge.

Because a new position or career change can take off like a jet plane, leaving everything else behind, it is extremely important we acknowledge this reality while also acknowledging the need to maintain the investment in our children’s emotional security and maturity so we don’t lose the investments these fathers have already made if and when the family decides that the father take on an outside employment position!

Many baby boomer children and beyond look back and wish they could have had their own fathers more present and active in their lives. Today, so many fathers are realizing this awesome opportunity to do just that. Yet, because we have an unprecedented situation, we need to create a realistic and thoughtful plan. We need to go beyond market driven decisions and popular culture that throws fix-it remedies at parents like a pitcher to a batter. Most remedies strike out for the long haul because they are profit driven and do not consider the future of the child.

AND, many Dads already foresee their own heartache at returning to work and have considered the full-time stay at home alternative. We are at a precipice, a defining moment  in American family life. Let’s have the conversation on these important and valid points. When I see my whiny grandson missing his father, now that he is gone 3 weeks this last trip after months of being at home, when I remember a former employer and his son who used to act out frequently as a result of his father traveling, after seeing his Dad day after day and traveling with him for months, and when I have witnessed hundreds of fatherless children firsthand with their numerous behavioral and emotional problems, I can see the situation repeating from this completely different situation: The Stay At Home Dad Who Was Here Today & Gone Tomorrow

It really is all the same when a child is suffering loss. And toys and gifts and food and money thrown at a kid to soften this absence never fill the emotional void. It takes a conscious father to recognize the needs of his children and himself to make up that time by being present, even for 20 minutes a day or during a weekend excursion. Absolute 100% focused time with a child is 100% appreciated by every child!

What I am saying to all of the fathers out there is “Please don’t let life take over again, leaving your kids on the sidelines.”

And, for mothers and other caregivers, perhaps more hugs, more Mommy time, some male teachers, nannies, or relatives to fill that male void while Dad is gone, and maybe a little more tussle and outdoor play time is also in order!!!!!

For the Dads who choose to stay at home, please recognize this awesome responsibility and find support for making the best choices for your children! Recognize the powerful marketing influences of pop culture and steer clear for your kids sake as well as for your pocketbook! This 5 minute video is worth pondering: (Consuming Kids

Do you have any exemplary or despicable Stay At Home Dad stories to entertain us with? Please share them here with other readers in the comment section!

Are you a Stay At Home Dad by choice or necessity? Will choose to stay at home for a while or will you leave for a better paying position? Why do you enjoy staying home with your kids? 

Granny Pants

http://TheNewPhysicsofChildhood.com

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Filed under 1, babies, blogging, children, community, cooking, culture, environment, exercise, Fathers, health care, insomnia, mother, Myths, nutrition, Parenting, prevention, Stay-At-Home-Dads, teaching, teenagers, The New Physics of Childhood, Topics

10 Things You Need to Know But Probably Don’t Want to Hear!

OF COURSE YOU ARE TOO BUSY TO READ THIS WHOLE POST!   

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Empowering Healthy, Capable Kids Takes Conscious Parenting!

HOWEVER, whether you are expecting your first child, or have a child of any age, I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE THE TIME TO READ IT ANYWAY! At times, the truth can sting a little, or even a lot, but isn’t better to know when it comes to the future of our children?   

1. If you live in the U.S., your child probably needs at least 2 more hours of outdoor activity a day in order to function normally (physiologically, mentally, emotionally). Children of every age need physical activity for 4-6 hours a day and the OPTIMUM is to have most of that activity outside, even in the cold (with adequate clothing, of course). When a child starts school, their body does not automatically reduce its need for physical activity. In fact, many of the behavioral, physical, and emotional issues of children today are a direct result of this physical, outdoor deficit! Don’t even think about medicating a child for any behavioral or emotional issues until they have had these OPTIMUM needs met for several weeks. Dramatically increasing outdoor physical activity (in a safe environment) will almost always guarantee positive results with challenges such as insomnia, attention, lowered immune resistance, emotional outbursts, physical  fitness, strength, large motor skill development, and overall life satisfaction.   

2. If you have a baby from this point on, any investment you can make that allows the mother (or yourself) to exclusively breastfeed baby for the first 6 months (no water, food, or formula), is the No. 1 best investment for both a baby and mother’s health. Exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months is the recommendation for OPTIMUM infant health by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Pediatric Association, and other health organizations, YET, all over the world, this recommendation is not being followed, especially not in the U.S. where even though 73.9 mothers start out breastfeeding at birth, only 13.6% of babies are    

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No doubt about it: the best!

exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/report_card2.htm. This staggering statistic correlates with the rise in many childhood illnesses and allergies. Even mothers who breastfeed lower their own risk of breast cancer and diabetes, while also losing extra baby weight easily (as long as they are not consuming empty calories). http://grannypantsspeaks.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/excerpt-from-the-new-physics-of-childhood/ Instead of providing the minimum standards with processed, incomplete formula and heating it with a microwave oven, let’s start our children out with the OPTIMUM nourishment and disease prevention.    

3. Insisting that caregivers and/or you hover over your child to protect them is creating generations of wimpy kids! If you think giving your kids what you didn’t have for yourself is all good, you may be fooling yourself! Whenever an adult does something for an infant, child, or teenager that they can do for themselves, the underlying message is, “I know you can’t do this, so I will do it for you.” When these actions repeat throughout a child’s life, starting in infancy, children become dependent on others to make them happy. They do not experience the intrinsic motivation of autonomous accomplishment. They need the continual approval of others and they often have low-self esteem because they are not challenged to learn, to try, to fail, to adjust, to try again and to succeed!  Experiences of success with minimal interference by adults create confidence and independence. They develop with plenty of alone time to learn to play, to satisfy oneself and to accomplish difficult tasks. Infants learn these lessons, even as they sit in the yard or on a patio, observing nature by themselves, or by playing with a single toy by themselves. Attention and reinforcement are important components in parenting children that helps them feel loved. Equally, children need to experience their own ability to make themselves happy by increasing autonomous successes that allow them to become capable, confident, and self-motivated adults someday.   

4. If you feel that your household is out of control, your kids may be the ones in charge, not you! Children need parents who are leaders and mentors, not overly permissive best friends. Being a parent means running the family and training children to be functioning members of society. This is not the job of a child. Children are not supposed to choose their own schedules, pick out their own food from the grocery store, decide what and when to eat, when to go to sleep, or how much exercise or tv time they get, or whether or not they participate in the upkeep of the household they live in. The job of parents is to make sure children have the proper household routines for OPTIMUM sleep, hygiene, eating, exercise, homework & free time, proper, nourishing food,  proper respect for others, manners, accountability for behavior and age-appropriate contribution to the household. If a parent is not providing these needs for their children, the children will become disruptive to the household-plain and simple.   

5. Quick fix meals may actually be hurting you and your kids in ways you aren’t even aware of! Unfortunately, parents need to read the labels when they are shopping, no matter where they live because manufacturers are adding ingredients to foods continously. Sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners should not be a part of any baby or child’s dietary consumption, yet they are included in many foods for babies and children today. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM ) The escalating rates of diabetes and obesity around the planet are a clear example that more diligence is needed from parents everywhere. Microwave ovens are also a seriously questionable method for heating ANYTHING for a baby or child. On the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services website of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), this is the statement they have regarding the health risks of microwave ovens, “Much research is underway on microwaves and how they may affect the human body.” http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/ResourcesforYouRadiationEmittingProducts/Consumers/ucm142616.htm. Will microwave ovens be another BPA nightmare as the FDA sits back and does research to substantiate the risks AFTER products are already being manufactured and consumed? Don’t make your child’s health a scientific experiment. Read labels, buy more fresh foods, including fruits and vegetables. Don’t buy foods containing sugar, and choose proven, safe methods of heating food. (Keep a tea kettle filled with water that can be heated quickly and a deep bowl or measuring cup to heat any liquids or foods by adding hot water to the bottom and inserting either the bottle or bowl. This  3 minutes or so may save your child’s health!)   

6. Creating peace of mind today by allowing kids to tune-out with technology could be destroying your family and your children’s intuitive and sensory-based communication abilities. When parents make numerous choices and non-choices to allow ways for their children to be pacified by technology throughout the day–so they can have peace of mind–children are losing the valuable minutes, hours, and days they need to prepare themselves for life in other areas such as physical creative, intellectual, emotional, and social   

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Technology- A Blessing & A Curse

 development. See each moment a child or teen is glued to a television, video game, or computer as a minute robbed from their development. When children and teens are plugged into music devices or cell-phones at all times, they are not learning to develop or fully listen to their own instincts and guidance. They are losing their ability to relate to and be aware of the world around them. They are losing their ability to communicate face-to-face. When anyone in a family is plugged into a device or allowed to use a cell-phone/IPod at the dinner table, they are systematically digging a wide communication chasm between family members that may never recover if it is underdeveloped. Why not create a tech-free zone for meals, a significant portion of commuting to school and other activities, after school, weekends and/or traveling. Of course, the kids will rebel at first, but in the end, they will have YOU and your conversations to reflect upon, not just a blurry memory of text messages and images on screens of people they don’t even know.   

7. Children identified with an illness, condition or disorder like ADHD, diabetes, migraines, etc. are debilitated by labeling. A label or an attachments does not really get anyone off the hook! Labels exacerbate challenges by limiting a child’s perception that they can have control of the many things in their life, starting with their attitude. The language that we teach our children either empowers or weakens their perception of their ability to create their own happiness and life satisfaction. First of all, if your child faces any physical, mental, or emotional challenges, refrain from using language like this, “Your diabetes” “Your migraines”  Shouldn’t children identify themselves and get more attention from things other than illness? Internal language produces physiological changes in the body, which either deteriorate or improve health. http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Healing-Exploring-Frontiers-Medicine/dp/0553348698/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265880453&sr=1-18 Whatever the condition of a child’s physical or emotional state, he/she will still need adults in their life to emphasize that “They are not their body!” They are a bright and shining spirit that is meant to experience joy in many forms. It is up to parents to find these experience for a child and build on them, not on the culture of victimhood. Regardless of any situation, we always have the ability to change our internal attitude! Physical and emotional states will improve when they are nurtured by positive experiences and empowering perspectives!   

 8. Marketing shapes a child in ways you may not even be aware of!  Limiting a child’s exposure to technology will also limit their exposure to dangerous life altering influences. The cumulative effects of advertising and product placement promote a “me” driven, materialistic culture which discourages the development of a child’s intrinsic motivation, integrity and compassion for others.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maeXjey_FGA   

9. Children are learning more about how to be from what they observe you doing than from what you say! Although this is not revelation, isn’t it funny that we ignore this fact quite often? How many times have you done   

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IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO BECOME?

something inappropriate like using profanity, but then tell a child not to do it later on? These little hypocrisies throughout the day add up over a lifetime. The way we  feel about events and other people, especially any contemptible or fearful feelings,  are felt by infants, children, and teenagers, even if they do not say anything. These strong opinions and feelings, reactionary behaviors, and even disrespect towards others (even employers) is affecting how they too will view others someday.  If you would rather sit on the couch and watch TV all evening, they probably won’t want to go outside and exercise. They too, will become couch potatoes someday. Pretend a movie camera is filming you and outsiders are reviewing you on your own quality of daily life experience. This is what your children see. Then, adjust it so they see     

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OR THIS?

the movie you want them to watch!   

10. You may think putting off your own nutritional, exercise, or sleep needs are okay for now, but you are wrong! Not only are children learning how to take care of themselves by watching your example, your health and state of mind also effects your ability to care for your  children.  If you are exhausted, it is difficult to be consistent and firm. If you are tired, can you really be present for your children? If you are sick, how available are you for anyone? Perhaps this means limiting outside commitments, especially in the early years of your child’s life. Over time, the cumulative effects of neglecting your own health can also lead to many debilitating illnesses that will in turn, rob you of valuable, quality time with yourself and your family someday. This includes quality downtime for yourself with your partner and yourself to just do nothing, like taking a vacation. Who wants to spend their vacation time sick because they waited too long ot take on, or never be able to make it to enjoy retirement? Do it for your kids and you will also be doing it for yourself! When a parent is at their fittest and healthiest and rested, they are better equipped to care for their children and actually enjoy the experience!   

All of these preventive strategies among many others are contained in my book, The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies  You can purchase the book at http://TheNewPhysicsofChildhood.com, and follow me on    

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Author, Christina Ivazes (aka Granny Pants) w/ Grandchild # 7 Hudson Cooper

Facebook at “Granny Pants’ Daily Parenting Tips”   

I welcome your feedback and experiences with any of these issues! I am also available for Parent & Family consulting. Email me about the needs of your family @ christinaivazes@chameleaproductions.com   

Granny Pants

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Filed under 1, babies, Breastfeeding, children, cooking, exercise, insomnia, La Leche League, nutrition, Parenting, prevention, teaching

Leno? Conan? The Real Score is: Media-2 Other Corporations-1 & Everyone Else-0 !

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NBC Wars - Just another Weapon of Mass Distraction with Media Taking the Ultimate Prize!

Well, as an American citizen, I have just about had it! Between the Supreme Court decision to allow a Pandora’s Box of financing to flow into the hands of Television & Radio Moguls for Campaign ads to the Contrived Drama between Jay Leno & Conan O’Brien that made light of overspending millions of dollars on his last show, I have one question for Americans:  

Don’t we need Schools & Teachers & Health Care & Jobs & Infrastructure & Renewable Energy? Don’t we need high-speed rail and insulated homes? Don’t we need lowered tuition so low & middle-income students can actually attend college? Don’t we need representatives that are more focused on doing their job than in raising money against bigger corporate influences?  

WHY ARE WE ENCOURAGING ALL OF THE MONEY THAT CORPORATIONS COULD BE USING TO FINALLY BECOME A LARGER PART OF THE SOLUTION TO INSTEAD, FUNNEL THESE BILLIONS TOWARDS MORE SELF-SERVING CAMPAIGN FINANCING? Didn’t we learn anything in the last 2 years? How will this help California’s financial rating? How will this help states gain funding and support for job growth?  

IF YOU DOUBT ME, JUST WATCH THE STOCK MARKET AFTER THIS RULING! I’M SURE IT WILL SHOOT BACK UP AFTER YESTERDAY’S DROP FOLLOWING THE ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT OBAMA’S STIFFER BANK REGULATIONS. Now, investors can be comforted their interests will be maintained by “their” government representatives.

AT LEAST IT APPEARS THAT OBAMA IS BACK ON THE SIDE OF THE MASSES ONCE AGAIN & WE ARE WILLING TO SUPPORT HIM IF HE IS!

DOES THE AVERAGE AMERICAN REALLY HAVE ENOUGH TIME & MONEY TO TRY TO FIGHT & MATCH CORPORATE FINANCING JUST TO GET REPRESENTATIVES WITH THEIR INTERESTS IN OFFICE? I think not! This is an argument Newt Ginrich will lose in the long run! He is snowballing his followers once again for his own personal gain.  And don’t feed me that “Trickle-Down-Dung!” It hasn’t worked before and it will never work because most people with power get greedy and more self-serving the more privilege you give them! 

SHOULDN’T WE BE SPENDING OUR MONEY ON SOLUTIONS, NOT ON CAMPAIGNS?  

SHOULD UNIONS BE SPENDING MEMBER’S DOLLARS ON BUYING CANDIDATES? SHOULDN’T THESE MEMBER DUES BE DIRECTLY HELPING MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES INSTEAD?  

IS THIS WHY THE MEDIA DID NOT COVER THE LEAD UP AND THE DEBATE ON THIS ISSUE BEFORE IT WENT TO A VOTE?  IS THIS JUST ANOTHER WEAPON OF MASS DISTRACTION WITH THE NBC WARS & OVER-COVERAGE OF HAITI TO ALLOW THIS TRAVESTY?  

WHERE WAS NPR DURING ALL THE DEBATES ON THIS RULING? YES, NPR has also become subject to corporate interests and beating a dead horse with singular story distractions! I have been getting tired of the repetitive tunnel vision media coverage this past year and this takes the cake! My listener loyalty just shifted another place to the left and I don’t know if NPR is residing there! 

I AM SO FURIOUS AND DISTRAUGHT AND APATHETIC AND WORN OUT BY FIGHTING AGAINST THESE INFLUENCES AND NOW IT SEEMS THE GIANT JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT BIGGER AND BADDER TO FIGHT AGAINST!  This feels like the nightmares I used to have as a child where my mother and father would be fighting with pillows. His pillow would get bigger and bigger while hers would get smaller and smaller until poof! It was gone!  The voice of the voiceless just got smaller like those pillows. 

THANKS ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, FOX, TNT, & ALL OF THE OTHER TELEVISION AND RADIO NETWORKS WHO WILL BE THE ONLY ONES WHO TRULY PAD THEIR POCKETS WITH EVERY ELECTION AFTER THIS LATEST SUPREME COURT RULING . THOSE ADVERTISING DOLLARS JUST GOT THE ADRENALINE BOOST THEY NEEDED TO KEEP YOU IN BUSINESS!   Congratulations Rupert Murdoch! I am sure you and your peers are quite pleased with this ruling!  

NOW, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO MAKE SURE SCHOOL CHILDREN IN LOS ANGELES HAVE BREAKFAST AND LUNCH AND TEACHERS AND CLASSROOMS AND SUMMER SCHOOL TO KEEP THEM OFF OF THE STREETS?  

OR WILL YOU JUST INVEST YOUR PROFITS IN THE FUTURE OF PRIVATIZED PRISONS TO MAKE ALL OF THOSE PROBLEMS GO AWAY?  

As an American, I am so disgruntled with the warped priorities of popular culture that falls so gracefully into the hands of the manipulators, while ignoring the real important issues. The drama of the day seems to wipe the American conscience clean of all accountability or responsibility to insist we have a “fair and balanced” country. Shouldn’t we be heading in the other direction to make elections shorter, fairer and less expensive as they do in other countries like Australia?   Ahhhhh!!!!!!

Is There Anyone Out There That Can Help us??????http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKazKb5f79A

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Filed under #ClimateChange, 1, Barack Obama, children, environment, Granny Pants, health care, health+care+reform, prevention, social+networking

A True Cultural and Culinary Adventure

I am not the type of adventure traveler who dares to climb jagged mountaintops with ropes and harnesses or bungee jump from ominously tall bridges. Instead, when I travel, I brave the new territory within the families of other cultures and countries by living in their homes, participating in their celebrations,  and most importantly, by observing and participating in the preparation of meals in the kitchen–where much is revealed about a culture and its values. By following this adventure trail throughout my life, I have absorbed many amazing and valuable insights, including culinary and nutritional secrets. What follows is definitely a highlight in my cultural kitchen adventures, the making of traditional Finnish Rye Bread. (If you just want the recipe, skip to the CAPS; the rest of the text is the story.)

As I reflect on my experiences to date of this Finnish Adventure, I must acknowledge that this breadbaking process has to be the highlight. Many people live a lifetime in a country, or study its history—yet never experience what it was like for early citizens.

Of course, breadbaking and dark rye bread is not the sole experience of the Finnish culture, but actually, it was and still is in many respects, the sustainence of the culture, the people! I feel so grateful to have taken part in this vital practice and am so grateful to Ulla Engestrom and her family for providing it!

Coincidentally, it seems like this dense Finnish Rye Bread we spent 3 days making will also be the new vogue in the coming era of food trends according to a story on CNN this month: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/01/04/tips.eating.better/index.html. (I have to confess that I DO have a habit of being ahead of my time!) 

But CNN didn’t say anything about the value of sour, though there is sure to be a study coming out in 5 years that shows that bread made with sour dough starter has some kind of magical, medical quality too. And this was sour, dense rye bread, believe me. Wow! The taste comes from the 5+ generations this sourdough starter has been in the family of my dear friend Ulla-Maaria Engestrom, without “breaking the chain.” (Ulla was my cohort on this brazen culinary crusade. Neither of us would have even attempted it without the other.)

*A sourdough starter needs replenishing frequently to prevent it from dying. A fresh starter in the refrigerator needs new flour added about every 12 days. The longer a starter is alive, the more sour and flavorful it becomes. So imagine what kind of magic is brewing is in this sourdough starter after a few hundred years or longer!) These Finnish ancestors didn’t watch CNN or wait for a study to come out; they just knew what was good and they knew that the secret is in the starter! Due to the cold climate, the Finns have found an easier way to maintain starter (or what they call the “root”) by freezing it. This makes it less time intensive to maintain. 

Now, we get down to business. Where did I leave off? (If you missed Part 1-Please read first:  https://grannypants.wordpress.com/2009/12/23/a-finnish-christmas-dream-come-true/  

Next, I must qualify the inconsistency of what is to follow. Not only was this process stressful from the point of the pressure we were under to make 8 loaves of bread with a recipe we had never used before in an oven we had never used before, while being surrounded by little ones, a feverish baby, as well as my lack of knowledge of the language, I found out later a few things that make it veritably miraculous that we pulled this off! 

You see, I have been baking bread for over 35 years now. In fact, I used to bake and sell my homemade bread 25+ years ago in Loveland, Colorado. I had my own sourdough starter and rye bread recipe and prided myself on the taste of my bread. 

So, you can imagine the pressure I felt when my Ulla informed me well towards the end of the process that she was receiving the details of the recipe over the phone from two different grandmothers, sisters who were each over 85 years old, and who each disliked the other’s bread recipe! The comedy of this moment was all I could embrace because I found out about this at the point when it was too late to do anything; the bread was already in its final rising. I laughed and performed my third prayer that everything would work out. I had my doubts all along because it wasn’t looking like I knew it should, because I DID know how it should look, although I admit I even felt like a newbie bread baker in the wisdom and presence of over 5 generations from the homeland! 

How did we do it? I will post what we did and then I will post what I think we should have done in italics right after each step. I think these adjustments will yield a better, more edible product, even though we were actually able to eat the finished product. 

Dense Finnish Rye Bread 

Day 1 

  • TAKE 400 GRAMS (0.8 LBS.) OF STARTER DOUGH OUT OF FREEZER (If you don’t have this ancient starter, you can make your own with 1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, 1 packet of yeast, 1/4 cup of flour, and let sit for a day in a warm place, stirring occasionally. Then you would follow this recipe but consider and subtract the water content of your starter when measuring the water in day 2. Use the amount of yeast I recommend as well below  in the Day 2 step, which is in addition to your starter yeast.)  
  • LET IT MELT IN THE REFRIGERATOR (If it is frozen)
  • MEANWHILE BUY 5 KILOS (APPROX. 10 LBS.) FRESH RYE FLOUR- LIPERI GRAINERY, or grocery store, or buy rye berries and grind them yourself. (The Vitamix can do this, which is one of my very favorite, versatile and valuable kitchen tools.)

Day 2 

  • 8:30AM –TAKE UNWASHED/SALTED 5 GALLON BUCKET & RINSE SALT OUT QUICKLY (bucket comes from the grandmothers (Mummis)
  • TAKE STARTER DOUGH OUT OF REFRIGERATOR & PUT INTO
    Add 4 1/2 liters of lukewarm water

    Add 4 1/2 liters of lukewarm water

     BOTTOM OF BUCKET 

  • PUT 4.5 LITERS OF LUKEWARM WATER & 1 square of yeast (this is the equivalent of about 2 packets of dry yeast)  & MIX WITH ENOUGH FLOUR TO MAKE IT THE CONSISTENCY OF THICK SOUP (Okay, this is where we made the biggest mistake right off the bat! I didn’t have the full information at the time of Day 2. From my experience, I never put all of the yeast in the starter mix at this time. I usually put 1/3 of it or so and let that sour for the day before actual baking and then I add the rest of the yeast in the next day just before adding the remainder of the flour. But, I think the ancestors know best, so I would also add all of the yeast in this  step.  However, considering how absolutely dense the final product was, I would double the yeast. This is for 8 loaves, so I would add 2 squares of yeast or 4-5 packets of dry yeast. We actually did NOT add any yeast at this time and found out much later that we needed to add all of it. 
Eliel stirring 1st. mixture

Eliel stirring 1st. mixture

  • STIR PERIODICALLY THROUGHOUT THE DAY- SET IN A WARM PLACE- COVERED YET WITH A PLACE FOR THE AIR TO ESCAPE  Just a little background here. The stick I am holding to the left may
  • ella

    Ella, Granny Pants, and the Amazing, Ancient, Wooden Whisk

    resemble something a caveman used, and probably could have been! Today, it is actually being used as a powerful whisk, which is necessary when you are mixing what we were mixing in a 5 gallon bucket. I don’t know what type of wood it is, but it is very strong. 

  •    BY 3PM, IT SHOULD BE LIKE PORRIDGE (Now this is another place
    Sourdough Starter with Yeast, Warm Water & Enough Flour to Be Soupy like Porridge

    Sourdough Starter with Yeast, Warm Water & Enough Flour to Be Soupy like Porridge-Notice the Fine Mixing Tool!

     where cultural differences can really create confusion. What I thought was “porridge” was not what the Finnish know as “porridge.” In a comical revelation, I went to stir the mix later that morning and found it to be much thicker. Ulla and her father had added more rye flour because it hadn’t been like porridge–as they know it. You see porridge is oatmeal and the way my friends prepare porridge (purro) in Finland is much thicker than my own reference. When I heard “porridge” I thought of my own idea of a more viscous substance. Ulla’s father, Pekka was the only real witness to this process that we had available. We were in the house he was born and raised in. Who knows how many times he saw that bread being baked throughout his life. We hailed to his wisdom! Do not question authority!  Due to the science this bread baking and the fact that there is no additional sweetener for the yeast to feed off of, I assume this is the reason the mixture needs more flour added than I have added to my own mixture in the past. I usually add a little molasses to help darken and feed the yeast, but this would still interfere with the sour quality, so I guess I have learned something here. The yeast needs more flour in this bubbly, first sitting, which it will feed off of instead of any added sweetener.

  •  Day 3

  

  • MORNING- ADD (3 Tbsp.) SALT & ENOUGH FLOUR TO BE STIFF. LET   SIT FOR 2 HOURS- COVERED WITH CLOTH (This begins the process when you really value the strength of this wooden whisk. Actually, Jyri-Eliel’s father had to step in and help with this mixing while I held onto the bucket. The grandmothers had been concerned with our ability to handle this process and at that moment, I understood why!) 

    3rd. Day after adding more flour

    3rd. day after adding more flour

  • ABOUT 1 1/2 HOURS AFTER THIS LAST STEP, IF YOU ARE USING A BRICK OVEN, START
    Eliel

    Eliel helping mix the flour on 3rd. day before mixing required 2 adults

    HEATING THE OVEN WITH A LOT OF WOOD-BIRCH IS HOTTEST 

  • TWO HOURS AFTER SITTING. THEN, TURN OUT ONTO FLOURED BOARD. This was not as easy as one would think.
  • TAKE OUT A ½ LITER approx.(1 1/2 c.) OF THE DOUGH & PUT IN FREEZER TO SAVE FOR NEXT BATCH
  •  KNEAD THE BREAD UNTIL IT IS BOUNCY (This is kind of a joke because rye flour doesn’t really have as much gluten as some other flours and because our dough was so dense, it never really got bouncy, though we tried. It takes about 15 minutes. Maybe this is another reason that rye bread is so good for you because it doesn’t contains a lot of the gluten that seems to irritate the bowels of so many people these days. (However, if you want a bread that is a bit bouncier and lighter, use some white flour at the time of kneading, but not too much; maybe 2 cups. This will produce a lighter bread as well, though not as original.)

  

Kneading

I really upped my game with this ball of dough! This is how women used to keep their guns packed!

img

Someone had the brilliant idea to split the work in 2. Partners in crime while Ella supervises.

  • FORM LOAVES AND SET ONTO PARCHMENT, COVER AND SET TO RISE IN WARM PLACE-NO DRAFTS (Divide dough into 8 equal parts and make each loaf a similar shape for even cooking.)  I was so nervous about this step and just praying that the loaves rose properly. I didn’t feel as if there was nearly enough yeast to do the trick. 

    img

    Rising loaves on parchment

  • ABOUT 15 MINUTES AFTER LOAVES HAVE SAT, CLEAN-OUT THE OVEN TO PREPARE FOR COOKING LOAVES. (The brick oven retains the heat in the bricks, which eventually bakes the bread. This was a very interesting process I had never experienced. In fact, when the larger oven was stocked properly, it kept the house warm for about 3
    coals

    Scoop coals into bottom compartment of oven to retain heat and make room for loaf pans. P.S. I am not THAT heavy, just layered with winter clothing!!

    days, even in the 20 below temps we were experiencing at the time! Of course, this also has to do with how incredibly insulated these homes are to keep this heat in. How’s that for saving energy!!!! Once again, the wisdom of the ancestors is worth learning from.) 

  • WHEN LOAVES HAVE RISEN, PRICK EACH LOAF SEVERAL TIMES
    beautiful

    The loaves actually rose with that familiar crackly look!

     WITH A FORK TO ALLOW AIR TO ESCAPE WHILE BAKING. (Okay, this is where we really messed up once again! We forgot to prick the loaves before we put them in the oven. Because the heating of the brick oven is so 

    ulla

    Ulla carefully picks up the loaf pans with the traditional woden paddles

    choreographed with an exact temperature needed to form the hard crust and cook the inside slowly, we ruined our heating mechanism when we pulled the loaves out of the oven to prick them properly with the fork. When we checked the temperature after returning them to the oven, it had dropped significantly. (Because I was not raised with this brick oven method of baking bread that obviously dictates much of the breads wonderful, chewy, crustiness, I was taught to spray or lightly brush water onto the crust of the loaves a couple of times throughout baking after the crust has formed, which gives the bread a thicker, chewier crust as well. This is recommended if you don’t use a brick oven like this. I would also add a little salt to the water for a salty crust if you like that.) 

    img

    Properly pricked rye bread

  • PUT LOAVES IN OVEN AND COOK BEFORE OVEN COOLS, ROTATING AS NEEDED. Thank goodness for the modern oven! We actually used the small electric oven in the house for the 2 loaves that couldn’t fit–just in case we really messed up the others.
    img

    Not decorations, but useful wooden paddles for moving objects in the oven

    It turned out we had to use this electric oven for all of the loaves eventually, as we rotated them between the two ovens to get the brown effect of the bricks too. 

    loaves

    Loaves cooling

    That was the stressful part for me, to make sure all of the loaves were cooking evenly and thouroughly without burning completely. While Ulla cared for little Ella, who was sick with a fever, I diligently focused on this rotation process. 

  • AFTER THE BREAD HAS A HOLLOW SOUND WHEN TAPPED, IT IS READY TO REMOVE FROM THE OVEN. TAKE CARE TO CHECK BOTH BOTTOMS AND TOPS THROUGHOUT BAKING TO ENSURE EVEN COOKING OF ALL LOAVES. The brick oven as we found out has many hot spots that produce a dark bottom crust, which is good, as long as it is not to burnt.
  • AFTER THE BREAD COMES OUT AND THE TANTALIZING SMELL OF BAKING BREAD HAS INCREASED EVERYONE’S APPETITE, ABOUT 5 MINUTES OF COOLING ON A RACK IS NECESSARY TO PREVENT THE BREAD FROM BINDING UP INSIDE WHILE CUTTING, even though no one will want to wait.
  • TIME TO SLICE & ENJOY!!!!

    img

    After about 5 minutes of cooling, slice & enjoy!

img

Enjoy your fresh-baked Finnish Rye Bread with real butter, of course

Eliel

Eliel is the first taste tester!

  • HAPPILY, THIS BREAD CAN NOW BECOME THE MAIN PART OF THE CHRISTMAS EVE FEAST- which it did! We found that due its sourness, it is best savored by cutting the sourdough rye bread very thin. Wonderful with freshly churned butter or salmon roe & cream!!!!! Yummmm…..

For me personally (after breastfeeding), breadbaking has become one of the most endearing ways of nurturing my loved ones. I suppose it does stem from these ancient Finnish roots of mine. There is no other comfort food quite like freshly baked bread; especially after it has taken 3 days to make! Making the sweet cardamom bread (pulla) has been a tradition in my family that I learned from my own grandmother and mother. Now, I have another Finnish breadbaking tradition to pass on to my family. (Psst. Wish me luck getting some of that ancient starter back to my home in the states!) 

This experience would not have been possible without the wonderful support, partnership and encouragement of Ulla, Jyri, and Ulla’s dear family, and her father Pekka, who helped us retrieve the starter, the salt, the famous bucket and whisk, and who kept the coals going in the oven. Also, I personally want to thank the grandmothers (Mummis) who gave us the use of their starter and their recipe/recipes! It was funny that in the middle of the rising, we actually had to heat the oven some more and one of the Mummis showed up to help us out with advice. She was so sweet and I only wished I could have understood her, but I was there listening and watching, and questioning everything she said afterwards like a curious child. Her warm and supportive eyes and smile are a priceless memory I will always cherish. 

After the baking was all said and done, we shared a loaf with each of these Mummis. And of course, the one who likes a denser loaf said the bread turned out perfect, while the one with a different recipe said the loaf was too dense! This was worth a chuckle, now that the stress of making sure it turned out at all was over. What an incredible experience immersed into the culture of people who are not my blood relatives, but from the country of my blood relatives.  I highly recommend it for anyone who really wants to understand the Finnish winter culture!

  • OOOPS!!! FORGOT THE LAST STEP. WHEN THE MIXING BUCKET IS EMPTIED OUT, SPRINKLE IT WITH SALT AND LET IT DRY. DO NOT WASH THE WOODEN WHISK EITHER. WIPE IT OFF, DRY IT, AND COVER BOTH THE BUCKET AND WHISK AFTER THEY HAVE DRIED TO KEEP THEM CLEAN. Evidently there are some magical ingredients to be maintained in these items that magnify the savory qualities of the bread. (This is my favorite part!!!!)
  • PLEASE COMMENT ON THIS POST!!!!!!!

Thank you!!!!!!!

Granny Pants

P.S. If you are interested, please sign up to receive regular posts on the adventures of my life, both in thought and form.  You can also visit my book website to learn more about my book about children: http://TheNewPhysicsofChildhood.com

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Filed under #Finland, #Suomi, 1, babies, Bread+Baking, Breastfeeding, children, cooking, culinary, culture, environment, Grandchildren, Grandparents, Granny Pants, mother, The New Physics of Childhood, Travel, winter

A New Year’s Eve Surprise a la “Tina”

Tina; who is it? What is it? Why am I writing about Tina on New Year’s Day? Tina means “tin” in Finnish, plain and simple. However, the event I experienced last night was far from plain and simple.  

Blue moon

A Blue Moon New Year's Eve over Koivula 2010

It happened on Koivula, a farm outside of the town of Kontiolahti in the Northeast Center of Finland, about 50 miles from the Russian border. By 10:00pm the kids were finally asleep, though this didn’t happen without a group effort.  While we were waiting for the last one to drop-off, someone cleverly dismantled the “tic-toc” clock so her one-year old awareness would not jump up at the next “tic-toc”.  As I anticipated what was about to happen in this traditional Finnish New Year’s Eve ritual, I relieved myself by producing a deck of cards to pass the time before the little ones slumber was secure. However, my efforts to play cards with my primarily Finnish speaking friends did not work.  Wanting to keep things lively as we guarded our champagne taking sip-by-sip to make it last,  I volunteered to have my fortune read by the one person who spoke fairly good English.  

This helped time fly by with fascination as I watched my past, present, and future unfold, fairly accurately, in fact. Then, the moment came for the real divination! It was time to do the “Tina”. I was completely in the dark about what we were about to do. I had never heard of this ritual before.  

The only ritual I knew that had to do with the future and The New Year was the one that my family does where we create our year the way we want it to be by making a poster of what we want to accomplish. (BTW-I still need to do this.) But, this Finnish ritual was very different, as I would soon find out.  

It starts with a little tin horseshoe about 2×2 inches.   

The "Tina" Horseshoe

You start with the "Tina" Horseshoe

Already we have a promising start because we are using a horseshoe, the symbol of good luck.  

Next, you need to make sure you have a metal bucket of cold water with paper underneath that is close to the heat source for melting the horseshoe.  

New Year's Tina Ritual

The bucket for cooling & shaping the tin

New year's

Melting the tin horseshoe on an electric burner

Then, pipe up the heat source and put 1 horseshoe in the heat-resistant, flat-bottomed metal spoon.  

Melting happens fairly quickly, so be careful and pay attention. The tin will become a scorching, thin liquid.  

At the time the tin turns to liquid, THE FUN STARTS!  

New Year's

In My Finest Duds, I am pouring the tin into the bucket of cold water

 This is when, with great precision and the power of intention, you basically thrust the melted tin into the bucket of cold water, taking care that it makes it into the bucket while shooting the liquid to the bottom for the best effect.  

new years

Pull your unique cold water sculpted object out of the bucket & discover the coming year

Voila!!!!!! What have the ethereal powers created to symbolize your coming year? This is now the mystery to unfold with those around you, but it isn’t as simple as just looking at what you pulled out of the bucket in the palm of your hand.  

Everyone’s object foretelling their future New Year is completely different from the next. It is said that if you have a lot of pieces, that means a lot of money in the coming year. (I hope that 3 pieces qualifies for this prediction, because mine is actually in 3 pieces I have kept together for the sake of the overall design integrity.)  

New year

We're not done yet! This is my object

Looking at your object, your “Tina”  from all angles doesn’t quite hold the same divination of the future as the next step.  In this next and final step of the ritual, you find a blank space on a wall and a lamp or candle that can be used to focus on the object.  

Each person now takes a turn holding their “Tina” up to the wall, allowing a shadow to emerge, which is when the real fortune-telling takes place. Those gathered around share their ideas about what the object symbolizes.  

tina with shadow

Interpret your future in the New Year with the shadow of the "Tina" & the perspectives of others

 The process of interpreting the shadow of the “Tina” is so fascinating. It becomes a collective interpretation with a clear meaning that quickly evolves into a consensus at the end. And of course, the interpretation of the shadow is always positive because who wants to have a bad new year.  

Each person keeps their “Tina” in a safe place through the year until the next year’s ritual. Here are some of the other “Tinas.” I did not want to spend too much time snapping photos of the shadow interpretation process that needed focus, in order to respect the future of the person involved, not a photographer trying to get the best shot.  

shadow

Another shadow left to interpretation

new year

Although unfocused, the "tina" beauty still comes through

tina

Sometimes you get more than one future!

This last photo shows how utterly unpredictable the “Tina” magic can be. These two completely differently shaped pieces came from the same throwing of the liquid metal and the receiver was more than happy with the results, as you can only imagine!  

In Japan it is tea leaves, in some circles it is cards or Tarot, and in Finland, it is “Tina.” Even with the subjectivity of this ritual, you cannot help but to become immersed in the power it holds to produce the possibility of an interesting new year ahead! We are all hoping for brighter futures and this is just one more example of whether you are in one of the coldest and most isolated areas of the planet, or in the middle of Times Square New York City, a new year always brings new possibilities.  

The real final step is to toast the bright future of each participant as they say in Finland, Happy New Year or Hyvää uuttavuotta!! (Which actually gets easier to say with every subsequent glass of champagne!)  

After we completed this “Tina” ritual, we headed outside just in time to toast the New Year, 2010 and watch the brilliant display of fireworks in the crisp, cold snow along with the Blue Moon that brought an end to the last decade and the beginning of the next! Yeah!!!!!!  I have to say that even though I missed my loved ones, this was a most spectacular and unexpectedly wonderful way to start 2010!  

blue moon

The Lucky Blue Moon of New Year's Eve 2010

What are your dreams and intentions for 2010???? Do you have a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day ritual? For any Finns out there, please correct me if I made any errors or add more history and insight to this post!  

Granny Pants

*BTW- Here is another blog that describes the “Tina” http://tin-mhjk.blogspot.com/2009/01/blog-post.html  

*FYI- You are invited to explore the website for my book, The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies at http://TheNewPhysicsofChildhood.com  Author discount still applies!

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Filed under #Finland, #Suomi, 1, 2010, Granny Pants, New Year's Day, New+Years+Rituals, winter, Writing

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

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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Filed under #Finland, #Helsinki, 1, blogging, Books, children, community, teaching, Writing