Friday, February 28, 2014

Rays of Hope

A funny thing happened the other day when I was driving home.  It was about 5:30 p.m. and it was light outside.
There you have it people. The temperatures may not show it yet, but the light sure does.  Hang in there -- spring is definitely on the way. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ASMR = Ahhhh

Remember yourself as a child.  Now remember yourself falling asleep listening to something routine, simple, and fairly quiet – someone clipping hedges outside, the clinking sounds of dining and murmured conversation, someone taking a shower.

Remember yourself receiving a routine, enjoyable service in a quiet setting – a haircut, shoeshine, or pedicure.

Do you remember the feelings of calmness, even drowsiness?  Do you remember ever feeling a goose-bumpy tingle, for instance if the murmurs and clinks sounded just right, or if the stylist was snipping around your ear?

Calm, drowsy or tingling sensations are sometimes referred to as autonomous sensory meridian response(s), or ASMR, and are becoming a sought-after YouTube phenomenon.  In our stressed out, sleep-deprived culture, people need ways to soothe themselves in order to relax or fall asleep.  Apparently, more and more people are turning to ASMR videos for just such purposes. 
ASME sounds are different from white noise in that they are not flat or constant, and, of course ASMR often includes visuals as well as audios.  If you’ve never experienced ASMR “head tingles,” ASMR folks say you probably won’t experience them from ASMR videos.  But if you’ve gotten drowsy or calm, you likely can expect at least that response.  Common ASMR triggers include:  whispering/slow speech patterns/accents, lip smacking/eating sounds, scissor snipping, clicking/brushing/watery sounds, and painting/drawing/quiet instructional videos – which explains why students sometimes have ASMR responses in class – although not in my classes, EVER, of course.  J 
I tried out a couple of the videos – one about water marbles and one where a nice woman whispered about time travel.  I felt relaxed after these videos, but not drowsy.  I didn’t experience the head tingles that some people report, although I don’t usually get those from sounds.

Here’s just one site to try, if you’re interested:  soothetube

What do you think about ASMR?  Do you think you might try one of these videos during a bout of insomnia?  If you tried one of the videos, what was your experience? 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Say No to GMOs!

The Non-GMO seal
I must say that I am late getting on the non-GMO bandwagon, mainly because I didn’t really understand the issue. Maybe I still don’t. But, I’m learning. And the more I learn, the more concerned I am about the growing toxicity of our food supply and the growing environmental concerns GMOs seem to be causing.

What are GMOs? GMOs are genetically modified organisms – meaning they are plant or meat products that have had their DNA altered (genetically modified) in a laboratory by genes from other plants, animals, viruses or bacteria. Why? For crops, it is mostly to withstand the spraying of ever-more-toxic pesticides. As blogger Margie Kelly explains, in her recent Huffington Post blog, GMO crops are "‘Roundup Ready,’ meaning they can withstand spraying of Monsanto's Roundup pesticide and live, while weeds around them die.” Read Kelly's post here.

According to Kelly's sources, 93 percent of soy is genetically modified and 88 percent of corn is also genetically modified. Besides the humdingers of soy and corn, the most common GMOs are cotton, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, and alfalfa. Many of these items also appear as added ingredients in a large amount of the foods we eat, ingredients ingredients listed as: Amino Acids, Aspartame, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Ascorbate, Vitamin C, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Flavorings (“natural” and “artificial”), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Lactic Acid, Maltodextrins, Molasses, Monosodium Glutamate, Sucrose, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), Xanthan Gum, Vitamins, Yeast Products.

But, there’s hope for those of us who would like to avoid GMOs.

The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to "preserving and building the non-GMO food supply, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices." According to their website, the organization “believes that consumers in North America should have access to clearly-labeled non-GMO food and products, now and in the future. That conviction continues to guide the Non-GMO Project, as North America’s only independent verification for products made according to best practices for GMO avoidance.” For more information about the Non-GMO project, to get on their newsletter list, or even to order their cookbook, click here.  At the very least, you can start to look for their seal, pictured above, on products.

Although I am just beginning to wade through the piles of information debating GMOs’ health risks to humans (possible links to allergies, inflammation and other health issues), and the environmental risks of GMO farming practices (mainly cross-pollination of non-GMO crops, and transference to other products, like honey), my gut gives me a giant thumbs down response.

At the very least, I support the transparent labeling of all food products, despite a recent California proposal (Prop 37) that just barely missed passing (48.6% voted for it) . . . probably because companies like Monsanto, PepsiCo, Kraft, Dow and Coca-Cola (among others) pooled $46 million to oppose the proposal, compared to the $9 million gathered from companies like Amy’s Kitchen, and Natural Path Foods (among others) in support of the proposal.  But, that's a whole other post!

What about you?  Where do you stand on the GMO debate?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sudden Achy Arm Syndrome

For the last week or so, my left arm has been behaving strangely.  It has been sore and achy enough to wake me up some nights.  What in the world?  I was perplexed.  Had my daily writing stints included an abundance of asdf sequences?  Was I developing left-arm-itis?  I even went to my massage therapist and she, too, was baffled by this imbalance. 
Then, last night, as I was finishing the absolutely wonderful 771 page (2# 6oz.) novel, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, I finally understood my malady.  I had spent more than a little time lately with this hefty tome held aloft in my left hand, so as to better turn pages, sip beverages, and adjust my reading glasses with my right hand.
Definitely an ah-ha moment – one that tells you just how utterly engrossing this amazing book is.
So, although I highly highly highly recommend Tartt’s deliciously satisfying read (and thank my neighbor, Mary, for recommending it to me), I would suggest would-be readers of Tartt’s masterpiece to save themselves from sudden achy arm syndrome by periodically shifting their book from left to right hand, or, better yet, to read this one on an electronic device.  Take it from me, once you’re into it, you won’t notice your eyes getting crossed, your arms falling asleep, or your house burning down around you. 
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.