Category Archives: SPring

Beware: This May Not Be Spring, But an Imposter!

non

There is nothing like two weeks of warm weather to call in Springtime. In California, we have been blessed compared to the rest of the country. I only hope we aren’t in for a chilly surprise at the end of this month, which is supposed to be one of the coldest of the year.

bu

Last time this year, the above photo was my view in Helsinki, Finland. This winter of 2011 in Roseville, CA, we now have birds singing, flowers blooming, a compost, two raised garden beds filled with organic soil, seeds and motivation from my daughter Sara.

True seasoned gardners will consult their Farmers Almanac before planting those seeds and seedlings.

I look forward to a future of eating those veggies and gardening with my grandson, Hudson who love tomatoes fresh from the garden. These photos are just ‘carrots’ of what’s to come.

 

vhv

chc

Happy Gardening whether it’s veggies or flowers! Please share your stories and photos too!

Granny Pants

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under #Finland, Gardening, Grandchildren, Grandparents, SPring, Weather

Sedentarianism: Disease or Addiction? The Dilemmas of a Sedentary Society

sed

                 The escalating rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. is just one example of  “the canary in the coal mine.” There is a much larger, more encompassing issue at hand of which childhood obesity is just one symptom. This issue is a growing disease/addiction I call “sedentarianism.” In my book published last November, 2009:  The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Solutions, I introduce the concept of sedentarianism because in order to fully address the problem of obesity, behavioral issues and an increasingly illiterate and unskilled labor force in the United States, we need to look at all of the connected and contributing factors to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, not just school lunch programs, high-fructose corn syrup or income disparities.

obesity

The terms sedentarianism and sedintarianism and sedentarism  have been used by others before in publications and posts, yet this post is not do dispute the word itself, but to understand the term itself and its implications in our global future.

The definition of a disease is:  1. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms. 2. A condition or tendency, as of society, regarded as abnormal and harmful.

The broad medical definition of an addiction is: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful..

I make my case below for a more conscious global plan to combat sedentarianism. You can decide whether or not it qualifies as a disease or an addiction. Regardless, I hope you will agree that it is worthy of escalated attention.

Sedentarianism is the abnormal daily way of life for a growing number of Americans, adults and children, evolving subtly and slowly over decades of cultural shifts, inventions, and failed policies. We are now in a moment where many of us don’t even realize that sedentarianism is an abnormal way of life, that it is extremely life-threatening and contrary to the physical, psychologial and social needs of every person it affects.  Shift-by-shift and invention-by-invention, we have been and still are, chipping away the amount of physical activity and outdoor activity that each American gets compared to life 50 years ago. With every next new technological invention or seemingly helpful new product or service, we are slipping deeper and deeper into a deceptive lifestyle that is literally killing us from a multitude of angles.

Sedentarianism is an individual problem, a family problem, a city, state, national and growing global problem. Everyone is effected and in order to address this global threat efficiently, we need everyone to be a part of the solution: parents, mayors, city planners, educators and policy makers. Investing in the preventives to sedentarianism with save billions in health care and crime while creating a stronger, healthier, more capable and productive country, whereas if we just focus on antidotes like prisons and pharmaceuticals, we will be drowning in debt with a lose-lose situation for all. So, let us take a closer look at preventives by looking at the subtle changes and symptoms that have led the U.S. to become a nation suffering from sedentarianism.

From The New Physics of Childhood, Chapter 6:

“Many homes in the U.S. today have yards which are surprisingly not even set up with growing kids in mind. Yards are filled with kid-prohibited landscaping like poisonous plants, sharp drop offs, pools without fences, and bare concrete, with no swing-set or jungle gyms or tree forts to play in. Or worse yet, there is no yard at all. There are even people who design new homes to cover an entire lot, foolishly omitting the yard for both children and adults to enjoy.”

couch potato 

 

From Chapter 15:

“Once again,  it is important we discuss “sedentarianism” and the role that city planners and developers have in this social disease. Sedentarianism is propagated by suburban sprawl, box stores, and zoning laws in suburban, rural, and urban communities. Fast food becomes the standard meal for working families when isolated communities are not offered convenient fresh food choices due to zoning laws that favor large chain stores over neighborhood grocers and/or farmer’s markets. Sedentarianism produces higher crime rates when urban communities have zoning laws that permit liquor stores on every corner, selling alcohol, cigarettes, soda and even guns. Sedentarianism increases diabetes rates when these same communities have grocery stores with fresh food on the average of a mile apart with fast food alternatives in closer proximity. Sedentarianism increases isolation when we build new housing tracts far from a city’s hub without connecting public transit. Sedentarianism increases addiction and obesity rates through isolation when we allow apartment buildings to exist without playgrounds, parks, and safe outdoor common areas and/or community centers. Communities forced indoors due to limited healthy opportunities to interact experience numerous negative consequences that impact the larger society.

If we replace six-foot high solid fences and walls that separate and force isolation, with short, and open white picket fences, we invite a smile or wave from a neighbor. If we create front porches with benches or swings that encourage neighbors to sit and greet passersby during morning and evening walks, we encourage familiarity and conversation with one another. If we design garages that do not dominate the front of a house, but are discreetly set in the back or to the side, observation and connectedness become priorities, replacing isolation. We remove the fear factor, “the fear of the unknown.” Lack of knowledge about our neighbors creates a climate of mistrust, fear, and secrecy. These emotions are breeding grounds for crime because unknown community members lack accountability. Isolation robs a person of the feeling of belonging or responsibility to a larger community.

A heightened sense of belonging and higher quality of  life is invaluable to every resident, regardless of age. Safety and inclusion result when grocery shopping is within walking distance, bicycling trails are within every housing tract and neighborhoods connect to every other neighborhood, and are continued to downtown areas in all residential and commercial zones—regardless of distance. This community model is not new; it has been the common European model for centuries; in fact, most of the world’s communities are designed like this and should be celebrated and maintained instead of being replaced with the highly problematic designs of the U.S. suburbs and urban areas.

Commercial facilities and factories with healthy outdoor environments also experience more indoor productivity by increasing employee satisfaction during breaks and lunches. Bicycle trail connectedness from residential communities to the workplace and shower/change facilities at work increase employee health and reduce sick days. Plain and simple: connectedness increases well-being and safety for all.

Communities designed with the citizenry walking and greeting each other have less crime and less problems with adolescents because again, all eyes are upon everyone: nature’s built-in—free of cost—security system.”

from The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies

I was in Finland this past winter. After only 1 week, I had already learned about the issues arising from the isolation Somalian immigrants were feeling in Helsinki. Racism and cultural differences are creating a situation that is causing many of these intimidated immigrants to remain indoors, escaping their pain through television.

This newly produced Finnish problem smelled awfully familiar to what I have seen evolving within the immigrant Latino communities I am familiar with in the U.S., specifically California. Disenfranchised populations will isolate themselves as a survival mechanism, yet the devastating effects of sedentarianism prevail in these situations such as obesity, insomnia, depression, aggression, and illness, among others. When immigration policies create fear in any community, sedentarianism increases with all of its by-products.

The education component of sedentarianism is just as important to consider in the future financial and economic health of our planet.  When children and adults are sitting in front of a television or video game or spending hours of useless time on cell-phones and computers (versus productive time), every community is losing this valuable time individuals used to be spending on reading, creating, training, and working. The long-term devastating iphone effects on our global culture are yet to be seen now that our current focus and mania has become the latest “App” or “Tweet” or “Wall Post” instead of the real, tangible activities that drive any healthy economy.

We know today, that children are under-educated, but they are also becoming socially and emotionally incapacitated with an increasingly sedentary culture if they are not getting the “optimum” physical and social face-to-face opportunity to develop these crucial communication and social skills with their own families, peers, and community members. Technology has created more opportunities for socialization on one hand, but on the other hand it has also created more isolation from the outer world, specifically the outdoor and in-person social world where instincts and a multitude of sensory skills are developed.

We have replaced productivity with hobbies, feeding this disease of sedentarianism until now it has become so interconnected into our daily life that it is accepted as normal, even with symptomatic abnormal behaviors like insomnia.  These time wasters of misplaced creativity and distractions are the pathogens, but what we don’t realize is that these pathogens are weakening our physical, psychological and social constitutions which are reducing our chances to transform into productive and prosperous societies. New technology, like a euphoric, fleeting cocaine buzz, has now become indispensible to our economic growth and to everyday life. The product pushers of our economy, who are also addicted, deny this dilemma because it feeds the larger monster: the global economy. Now, as a global culture, we are addicted to the products and behaviors that promote sedentarianism.  Country by country, those who adopt our American dysfunctional ways and seductive products are suffering the same symptoms such as obesity, behavioral problems, learning challenges, suicide, etc.  These results are all connected to this spreading addiction of  sedentary indoor activities that are replacing the vital physical needs of our bodies, minds and spirits.  Though, if we carefully examine this quandry that feeds our economy while killing our population, we can begin to design and promote a new era of productivity based on the real needs of the human being, not perceived, vacant, market driven products that feed the spread of this disease/addiction.

Personally, like the billions of others, I am enthralled with all of these social networking tools. I Twitter & have several Facebook pages  & blogs, but I have seen in my own life how addicting these activities can become. I made a vow this Spring to make the effort to start working more with my hands again and not just on a keyboard. I started a bit of gardening and made a blanket for my new granddaughter that will arrive in August. Last night, as I sewed all of the crocheted squares of her blanket together. I reveled in this very tangible act of  love that would last for many years, just as my latest grandson’s blanket has lasted for him.

At the end of the day, a tangible, creative and lasting measure of my efforts is the most rewarding, whether it be a weekend with my daughters and grandchildren, a published book or a blanket. For me, these are the measure of success. (Of course, I also feel accomplished when a blog post receives an abundant amount of hits and/or comments.)  We all have to find our own measure of success and go for it until we achieve it and then go for it again and again and again. It may be that part of that success does involve sitting at a computer, but at the end of the day, isn’t balance what we are striving for to ensure we are not suffering the effects of sedentarianism?  When we stop going for it is when we are more susceptible to the many addicting distractions of sedentarianism. The distractions that can take us further from ourselves and leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled at the end of every day. We all have physical, psychological and social needs to be fulfilled, regardless of where technology is leading us.

Of course, in my own life, I have found that by being honest with myself about my own vulnerability to succumb is the first step. Then, I know that I need to make sure I start my day physically with exercise, because if I have numerous tasks to accomplish on my laptop such as this blogpost, I know that I will get sucked into this seductive world and that my body will suffer if I don’t start with exercise first!  For me, insomnia and body aches are my clues that I have been too sedentary. We each have our own warning signs. I also know that those around me are observing and learning from my own choices, so I have to kick it up a notch, which becomes a motivator. I love it when my  1 1/2 year old grandson, Hudson comes to watch me exercise and joins in to do his squats. Hudson also gets me out of the house for walks more frequently than when I am by myself. I am just as prone to sedentarianism as the next person. It takes tremendous will power to counteract the everyday temptations like that closer parking spot, the elevator instead of the stairs, television all evening instead of a refreshing walk around the neighborhood, coffee before exercise (which will ruin everything for the day).

Sedentarianism is a preventable. Whether it is cultural disease or addiction, it is being fed in many forms throughout our days in blatant and oh so subtle ways. Even baby monitors today make it unnecessary for a parent to get up and walk to their child’s bedroom to see if they are okay! It seems like every latest invention is geared toward less physical activity, not more. Many of the newest children’s outdoor toys are now battery operated so kids don’t even need to use their legs to make their bike or razors move!

With honesty and awareness we can consciously insist and reward innovations for anyone responsible for city planning and/or new inventions make considerations to increase walking, movement and productivity, while boycotting products or community designs that promote the life-threatening, costly effects of sedentarianism. We are creative beings that are always searching for products or “Apps,” to make life easier, but if easier means less physical movement, perhaps we should consider passing! Maybe that is where the next phone “App” revolution should be: to increase physical activity. I am still waiting for this idea for every classroom in the U.S. : Energy Efficient Bicycle-Powered Classroom  Focusing on inventions like this will stamp out sedentarianism!

Granny Pants

Owner, Chamelea Productions

Author of The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies

1 Comment

Filed under #Finland, #Helsinki, #Suomi, babies, blogging, Books, children, culture, environment, Gardening, Grandchildren, Grandparents, Granny Pants, health care, insomnia, nature, nutrition, Parenting, prevention, SPring, Stay-At-Home-Dads, technology, teenagers, The New Physics of Childhood, Travel, twitter, Writing

KEN BURNS’ BEST IDEA

Yes! I am one of those reignited Americans.

After watching Ken Burns’ deeply resonating and extremely patriotic documentary on the history of America’s National Parks, “America’s Best Idea”, I have renewed passion for our National Treasures. Through tears and laughter and constant gratitude, I watched this indepth historical journey. I reflected on my own experiences with our National Parks and imagined those to come. As a child I grew up with memories of a very few, yet significant family camping trips. My grandparents were more equipped than us to do such a thing; their old family movies include reels and reels of family camping and fishing trips on lakes and campgrounds along the Pacific Coast. When I became a mother, I exposed my own children to the beautiful Colorado Rocky naturescapes and the Pacific Coastal wonders as much as I could. An innate feeling that nature is healing and necessary has always been a part of me. Perhaps my early park experiences helped to shape this idea.

After my children were grown, I made it a point to visit some of the National Parks I had never been able to visit before. The first time to Yosemite was an absolute epiphany.

The Breathtaking Yosemite Valley

The Breathtaking Yosemite Valley

I had traveled the world prior and frequently met other international travelers that asked me about Yosemite. Apologetically, I confessed I had never been.  One year, at the last minute on an unexpected free weekend, I decided to find out what all of the fuss was about. I also decided not to buy into Yosemite’s 6-month reservation calendar because my life could not accomodate long range plans like this. And as was my nature (a quality I hope to never lose), I just packed up a sleeping bag, some food, a flashlight, my journal, a knife and headed for the Yosemite Valley.

Half Dome

Half Dome

When I first entered the park, after gasping at the spectacular views, I found myself at the base of Half Dome, observing a mountain climber, along with about 50 other tourists. At this moment, still without a campsite for the night, I met a woman from New Zealand who was then living in Sedona. She, like me had also left for her Yosemite adventure without reservations. We buddied up and found a campsite right at dusk. This woman had come all the way to Yosemite to see a bear! She told me she had dreamt of coming to Yosemite to see a bear her entire life. I told her not to wish for that because it could mean trouble, though secretly, like all Yosemite or Yellowstone tourists, I wished to see a bear too!

 

Young Bear Yosemite- from Flickr Photo stream: StartAgain

Young Bear Yosemite- from Flickr Photo stream: StartAgain

While we were preparing the site for our dinner in the pitch black of the full-to-capacity campground, I suddenly heard this woman talking to someone. When I looked up, I saw her running through the campground with her flashlight after a young, adolescent sized black bear! As she ran after it, she was calling out for it to come to her like someone would call a dog. The bear must of thought this woman was as crazy as she was and it most assuredly escaped her madness with success. After he got away, we laughed at the story that we both knew would become a part of our individual Yosemite history. My other memories of Yosemite during that first visit were more introspective than the drama of a bear sighting so I will not recount them. There are just some things to keep to yourself. This Spring, I introduced the magic of Yosemite to my husband as well. It is a thrill to relive your own first time as you watch the eyes of a person seeing the Yosemite Valley for their first time. Yosemite was a birthday present with timeless value.

 

Tranquility

Tranquility

Most recently this past week, for the first time in years, I went camping at a small lake near Lake Tahoe with my daughter and my grandson. We camped for the better part of five days right next to the tranquil lakefront where we fished from our raft. We hiked to the top of a mountain where we saw a bald eagle protecting it’s young in a treetop nest; we roasted marshmallows; we gazed at the magnificent Milky Way Galaxy in awe of how miniscule our moments really are on this planet in the scheme of the life of the universe; we listened to nothing, to the stillness, to the birds and the chipmunks playing chase with our dog. We reveled in the gifts that nature offers us without asking anything in return, other than to protect it. We did this without cell phones or internet and we survived! Yes, after watching Ken Burns’ fabulous documentary following this most recent camping trip, I have a renewed commitment to ensure I do not deprive myself of these gifts of scenery and solitude I am so blessed to have-like every other American! Our state and national parks are ours only because of the tireless dedication of the many individuals that fought to preserve them during the last century. They fought to protect and maintain their beauty for us to enjoy.

Each park has it’s heroes and most importantly, the President of the era, who also understood the need to protect our National Treasures. I feel newly blessed to be able to live in the United States and to have the freedom to visit these glorious monuments of nature whenever I choose. I promise to always do my best to explore another park I haven’t seen, and to continue to share these parks with others who haven’t experienced the euphoria they offer.

We owe it to our children and grandchildren to share these blessings, whether we enjoyed them as children or not. In a down economy, or during a period of unemployment, what better gift to give our families than the peace, tranquility, and awesome magnificence that transcends momentary challenges. What better, economical gifts are there than those gifts that our natural world offers to us. Create your own stories, share these parks with your own children, Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. No matter what is going on in the planet, we still have our National Parks! Thank you Ken Burns for reminding us how absolutely blessed we all are as Americans, how reverent we owe ourselves to be for these gifts, and how those with persistence and vision beyond the moment have given us these timeless legacies. I wish every single American could watch this documentary from beginning to end. It is some of our most important national history to be learned and preserved. http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/

THANK YOU KEN BURNS! THIS DOCUMENTARY ON THE HISTORY OF OUR NATIONAL PARKS WAS YOUR BEST IDEA!

Most Gratefully,

Granny Pants

Leave a comment

Filed under 1, blogging, camping, environment, Gardening, Grandchildren, Granny Pants, Ken+Burns, nature, Parenting, SPring, Summer, Travel, Writing

The Secret Garden-Revisited

Every Garden is a Blessing!

Every Garden is a Blessing!

As Spring approached this year, I discovered myself devouring the colorful front yard gardens of downtown Palo Alto with a hunger I haven’t felt for some time. Every week, the longing for my own garden in Sacramento grew, the deep desire to compost, grow vegetables and plant more flowers. This seasonal hunger to garden has been with me for as long as I can remember, but more voracious than ever this Spring.

While strolling by well-established gardens—each filled with surprises—my own deep need for roots was awakened again; a need for a place where I know I will enjoy the fruits of my labor year after year, without the typical uprooting I have experienced throughout my life. Though no matter how much I myself have moved, nothing will stop me from enjoying the gardens of others.

Daily meanderings took me to a creek with a green strip of psuedo forest on one side and lovely, open, bountiful gardens on the other. One day I marveled at a huge black crow chasing a white cat into the bush, laughing at how comical nature can be.

Each weekend when I returned to Sacramento, I was curious though as to why people in my own Sacramento neighborhoods didn’t have gardens like these. Why did I feel such an affinity for the Palo Alto gardens? Why was I one of the few growing flowers in my own community?

Then came the evening while reading Virginia Woolf’s, The Common Reader, when a familiar title flashed by in one of her essays: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Like a knee-jerk reflex, a familiar magical flutter filled me as I recalled the tattered, dingy, green bound book with its gold-embossed title; the book I had read so, so long ago. Warm inside like always when remembering this story, I savored the feelings it brought me.

Sunny Spring days continued and Palo Alto’s gardens proliferated with boundless colors, intensifying my hunger, yet also the gratitude for this blessed environment I found myself in—this particular year. During an unlikely detour one afternoon, I passed a home surrounded not by welcome, but by mystery. Its high fence was covered with overgrown roses and bushes meant to keep curiousity like mine at bay. I peeked where tiny openings allowed, catching a view that was followed by a flash, this was a ‘Secret Garden’!

Once again, my mind wandered back to explore the past. There was an answer for me somewhere in this story, The Secret Garden. It had deeply effected my view and appreciation of nature as a child, an appreciation and a hunger that have stuck with me throughout my life; a hunger that hits me every Spring and everywhere there are reminders.

I had to understand how this came about. I would re-read the book, hopefully solving the mystery of my serious need for nature.

Reflecting to a few years back, I remembered buying my eleven year-old niece a set of classic books, books which she gobbled up in a few weeks—much like I did at her age. I remembered the envy and pleasure I felt when she told me she had finished, The Secret Garden. I knew she now had something magical that would stay with her forever. I wished I could have shared the enchantment of this story with my grandaughters too, but they were in a different world by then; I had missed my window of opportunity—before the obsessions of boys, friends, text messaging, and social networking sites.

So, giving myself permission to be a curious child again, off I steered towards Bell’s Books on Emerson Ave. in Palo Alto; one of the last holdouts in fine new and used books after 65 years! The co-owner who I usually talked to would understand my feelings about this story. When I entered and found her free, we shared thoughts of the book, her detailed memories being more vivid than my own. I could not remember when I had read it, but it must have been somewhere between nine and ten years old before my own obsession with mysteries started—about forty years ago!

As I perused the volumes of children’s classics, the familiar binding from my past was not to be found so I chose an inexpensive paperback version to get me started, one I could pass on to others. I couldn’t wait to begin; I opened the book and started reading it as I walked down the street, looking forward to my break so I could indulge myself completely.

While I began reading this classic book from my childhood I devised a theory about the difference between the downtown Palo Alto gardens and others. Since Stanford University is close and downtown Palo Alto is filled with Stanford faculty, who are of course educated in the classics, perhaps these homeowners were creating their own gardens in reminiscence of the magic they felt after reading The Secret Garden.

The Secret Garden DID answer the questions to my passion for nature. But I had not predicted that it would answer so many questions about who I am today.

How fortunate I was to have read this as a child, to understand how nature works, how receptive she is to us as humans, and how vital she is to our well-being, no matter our age. I bought a hardback copy for my six year-old grandson so he and my daughter could enjoy it as well. I didn’t want to miss another opportunity to share this vital message with my offspring.

Although it never dwindled, I am filled with renewed reverence for the wonderous feelings and hunger for all of nature, even as they come with a bittersweet accent this late Spring. Upon my return to Sacramento last week, I found out we are losing our home to the bank and once again, I will uproot myself to God knows where, still longing for my own romantic secret garden someday.  Until then, I will be enjoying the gorgeous gardens of others, always hungry, always searching, yet always grateful every time I hear the song of a bird or see the blossom of a flower. Nothing can take away the magic that nature has given me in my life, not even the bank!

7 Comments

Filed under 1, Banks, Books, foreclosure, Gardening, Literature, nature, SPring, Writing