Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Are you an Early Bird or a Night Owl?

This re-post from a National Geographic article for today might explain a newly discovered reason WHY you like to rise early or stay up all night long... and it's hopeful that this discovery could lead to assisting with some form of resolution for those with sleep disorders in near future:

Early Birds, Night Owls: Blame Your Genes

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James Owen
for National Geographic News

January 28, 2008

Those who struggle to get out of bed in the morning may be able to hold their genes responsible, new research suggests.

Scientists have discovered that a person's waking habits are mirrored by body cells that are equipped with their own daily alarm clocks.

The work represents the first internal look at the biological clocks of those suffering from sleeping disorders, said study leader Steven A. Brown of the Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

"One of the big surprises was that so much of our daily behavior was genetically encoded," Brown said.

"The idea that skin cells are telling us anything about our behavior was, for me, quite fascinating," he added.

The study investigated the circadian rhythm—the brain-controlled phenomenon that governs various body functions over a 24-hour period—of extreme late and early risers.

Larks and Night Owls

Suitable volunteers were recruited by the study team using TV advertisements shown between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

"We got both our early types and our late types that way," Brown said. "Some had not yet gone to bed, while others were already up."

Skin cells taken from the volunteers were cultured in the lab and injected with a bioluminescence gene found in fireflies.

These altered cells lit up or dimmed according to an individuals sleeping patterns, according to the study, which appears in today's online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cells belonging to habitual larks glowed for the shortest period, while those of night owls glowed the longest, the study found.

Brown likens the effect seen in late risers to that of someone keeping time with a slow wristwatch. "You end up being late for everything," he said.

"Now imagine your watch was fast, meaning that it had a time period of less than 24 hours. Then you'd be early for everything," Brown added.

"The study reveals that genes, not just environmental factors such as day length, have a major influence on our circadian clock," he said.

(Related news: "Early Risers Have Mutated Gene, Study Says" [March 30, 2005].)

Brain Link

"Human daily body rhythms are a complex, brain-related phenomenon," Brown said, "but it's directed by the same molecules that are present in your skin."

"These cells give an accurate picture of an individual's daily body clock," he said.

"The findings provide the first insight into the molecular workings of the central clock in your brain," he added.

"By looking at slave clocks in the skin, we can get a better understanding of the way the [master] clock in the brain is working."

The research may lead to new treatments for people suffering from sleep disorders, the researchers said.

"Such treatments could potentially be used to reset a patient's 24-hour cycle to more sociable hours, so they wouldn't find themselves awake watching TV in the wee hours."

This would probably be done with drugs that target the circadian clock pathway, Brown said.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008


The GREATEST beauty

can be found

in even the simplest of things.

You need only

be looking

in the right direction.

Free your mind...

... open your heart.

Whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely... think on these things.
Phil. 4:8

Wednesday, January 23, 2008



This morning as I awoke, I was considering “kindness”; what it consists of, ways to express it, etc. During my pondering, I came to the realization that although I am not any kind of super human being or Wonder Woman that can alter the state of the universe, I do possess within my being the potential for ‘greatness’ by exhibiting basic human kindness to those that I come into contact with on a daily basis. I mean, I realize that a feeble ‘me’ can’t singlehandedly wipe out hunger in the world, put an end to sickness and disease, nor rid the world of all its perils and evils; but there are some simple things that I CAN do that just might make a change in the lives of the limited people whose paths cross my own.

As I considered this concept, I realized that generally what EVERY person in the world today needs is: love, attention, acceptance, and kindness- no matter what their station in life may be. Although we all vary from person-to-person as far as appearances and personalities are concerned, deep down on the inside (where it really counts) we all still harbor those very basic “needs” to one extent or another, as mentioned. So I thought…what could “I” do during the course of my day (on a regular basis, of course) that actually might influence those around me in a positive manner?

The answer, I feel, is really quite simple…

It doesn’t take a grand plan to make a difference in the world today. It doesn’t take a lot of money, or even a lot of time. It just takes the internal desire to WANT to make a difference in the world. Am I prepared to try to do that? Yes, I think I am.

It’s the simplest, littlest things we can do, like making brief eye contact and smiling toward the pharmacist who fills your prescription, despite the fact that she is tired and feels ill herself while on the job. It’s exercising an attitude of gratefulness by saying “thank you” to the bus driver who transports your kids to and from school safely regularly. It may be complimenting a co-worker on what an excellent job they’ve done on a project they’ve completed recently, or even complimenting them on their physical appearance- “I think that outfit you’re wearing today is sharp!” It could be lending a helping hand to the little old lady who’s attempting to push her grocery cart to her car through the slushy parking lot. Maybe all the kindness that’s needed is holding a door open for a woman and her four kids as they pass through out of the cold; or wishing “Good Morning” or "Have a nice day" to a neighbor you rarely speak with during the busy-ness of life.

What I realized was that it doesn’t take much to be kind, to be caring, to be sincere. In the cold, hard world of today, I believe that people respond positively to the simplest generosity when somebody just takes the time to reach out to them, even if only in some small way. It really doesn’t take much to brighten a person’s day and make them feel better about themselves and this world in which we all live together.

So… send that smile! Lend a helping hand! Give that kind word or gesture! It only takes a moment to do so, don’t you think? Perhaps if we all begin to take spontaneous moments throughout the day in our own lives, it could start to bring about change in the world…one person at a time…one day at a time… who knows?! It’s a start, at least.

Kindness is Contagious- Pass it on!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Walking in a Winter Wonderland... literally!

Talk about a real, live Winter Wonderland?!

If anyone is interested in a glorious winter getaway in Michigan, there is an awesome place in northern lower Michigan called “Garland Resort”. It’s just outside of the town of Lewiston, which is not far from the city of Gaylord; amidst huge, picturesque mature conifer trees (basically in the middle of nowhere) which happen to be spruce and pine forests, for those who were unsure. Although I am definitely NOT a “winter person” per se, I must admit that even I was tempted by the beauty of this log-style lodge to endure the great white snow covered fields, glistening icy lakes and streams, and all the groomed trails a snowmobiler or cross-country skier could ever ask for! Lots of whitetail deer, too!

The resort itself is rather large in size and cozy in style with a variety of types of accommodations available to choose from, ranging from the basic hotel-style room to spacious fireplace and jacuzzi suites, cabins, or condo rentals for the whole family. It’s an all-season resort that is located on a golf course for summer fun, but during the winter months the area becomes a different type of playground altogether, enticing all sorts of winter sports fanatics; and it’s still very family friendly. You can rent snowmobiles or cross country skis right onsite and peruse the hundreds of miles of groomed trails which are all neatly labeled for the novice (like me) for a day or for a weekend. It’s all very convenient. They have horse drawn sleigh rides if you’re looking for more of a romantic getaway, plus there are other ‘couples’ style packages available for purchase including a “Dr. Zhivago” weekend. You can rent ice skates and glide across the frozen pond, take quiet walks on their tranquil grounds, or attend the huge outdoor bonfires at night, which is fun for the whole family! Of course, you’re free to bring all your own gear and equipment, too, if you have it (which is a money saver)!

For the night life, there are a variety of small-town taverns open in nearby cities and some have live entertainment; or there’s a GREAT restaurant on-site called “Herman’s” which also has good live entertainment on the weekends. The all-you-can-eat dinner buffet there was scrumpdeli-icious (my term for scrumptious and delicious combined!) and included foods like prime rib, crab legs, smoked salmon, chicken, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and a ton of stuff I can’t even remember - desserts included; ALL very tasty and for a reasonable price. I was impressed with the value dollar-for-dollaras well as the high quality of everything ranging from the food to activities to accommodations. My husband and I will definitely be going back there again next winter!

So if you’re ever planning to be in the area, give them a try- you won’t be disappointed! Check out their site!


Friday, January 11, 2008

Elvis, My Dad, and I...

A few nights ago, while I was relaxing in the family room flipping through the TV channels, I came across an old documentary-style film about Elvis Presley. Being that my own father has always reminded me of Elvis, and I miss him dearly (he passed away almost 17 years ago from a congenital heart abnormality) I paused to tune in for a bit; that and the fact that of course, I adore Elvis, too!

The show was basically covering his early years in the entertainment industry, the days up to and immediately after he broke into music on a national level; the mid 1950’s. The narrator was giving some background information on the difficulties Elvis faced in the music business with a changing society that was on the brink of the rock era. Much to my surprise, it appears that Elvis was not very well received in his origins. The generation of folks ruling the airwaves at that time who had the power to determine what we the people would see on TV (the FCC and the networks) were very conservative-minded, family-focused, and “square”. They didn’t like his rockabilly style or the fact that he couldn’t seem to stand still while singing to an audience. Further, they were greatly disturbed by his “lewd and suggestive movements” on stage; they felt them to be inappropriate for family viewing (gyrate that pelvis, Elvis!) They predetermined that Elvis was loved by the teenagers of the day, but not the mature people (who held the money, as well as power and control) and those adults attempted on numerous occasions to censor Elvis’s performances; and in some cases even blackballed him in an effort to shut him down completely. NBC, for example, even insisted Elvis dress up in a tuxedo and sing “Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog” to a real, live Bassett Hound if he was to broadcast on their network at all. Elvis later stated that was the most ridiculous and embarrassing performance of his lifetime. Of course, that did happen right after a rather spicy performance on the Milton Berle show, where Elvis really showed his stuff!

I’m not sure who this documentary was authored by, but it had me feeling rather sympathetically towards the King’s humble beginnings. Several of the shots that were taken of him backstage and during his time outside of the limelight clearly conveyed his stressful demeanor, his troubles, and his overall loneliness in life. I think that no matter how successful Elvis eventually became after this point in time (from a monetary and popularity aspect) that he must still have continued to carry those same stressors, insecurities, concerns, and inner loneliness, because I have seen them all on his facial expressions during performances of his that I’ve viewed as well as looking back at the still photography of him; expressions of confusion, longing, loneliness, despair, fatigue. Plus, considering his later drug and/or alcohol abuse that led up to his early demise, one would assume that what those pictures portrayed were in fact true. What a sad thing that he was gone so soon. He truly was the King of Rock-n-Roll!

And that thought brings me back to my own dad – how much he always reminded me of Elvis; and how much I miss him still. In another month, it will be 17 years since my dad left us. His departure wasn’t “sudden”, as he had struggled with congenital heart problems from early on; but it was definitely unexpected. I still remember to this day exactly what I was doing when I heard the news. The call came while I was working in the hospital. It was my cousin on the phone. She said, “Kim, are you sitting down?” Anyone who has ever received a call like that knows the shock I felt upon hearing those words. My dad had died while home alone, peacefully relaxing in his Lazy Boy recliner (which was determined by my mom upon viewing his posture). The dog, Fluffy, was still sitting on his lap when my mom returned home from the store. It saddens me immensely when I think of how my children have endured growing up without the joy and presence of this wonderful man in their lives – my father. It has been such a great loss to them; to me. Although he wasn’t perfect, he was my pride, my hero, my knight in shining armor, my daddy…

My dad was definitely NOT a great singer like Elvis, and his dancing left much to be desired, too. But that never stopped him, nope. He’d still tell me to climb right up onto his feet, grab hold of his hands, and whirl me around the floor to the beat of the music, when I was a young child. I owe much of my musical aptitude to my loving father, who fostered that environment while I was growing up. Yes, he certainly loved music. And I loved (still love) him.

Anyway, since I’m thinking of him now, I thought I’d post an old picture of him in my blog for today as a sort of tribute to him, to his life. I’ll post Elvis’s, too. Don’t you think they sort of resemble each other?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Comic Books & Rubber Bands

Comic Books and Rubber Bands...

Driving down the road in my car is more often than not the only “free” time that I get on a regular basis these days. That being true, I have majorly come to appreciate the long drives down winding country roads that are necessary for me to get from here to there, even for the simplest of things like grocery items. My vehicle has evolved into my own private sanctuary, the inner sanctum wherein I am granted the opportunity to meditate upon and ponder many-a-thing about life’s issues that the busy-ness and day-to-day activities of being a working mom don’t routinely allow. It’s my quiet time. It’s my private place. It’s true that recently I have had many serious issues to consider while in the stillness of my own space; everything ranging from finances to education to marital issues. But today…today, that was not the case at all.

Today my heart was light and my mood was jovial. I actually was able to relax and enjoy the beauty of the autumn scenery before my eyes that the countryside has to offer adorned in its reds, golds, and oranges of the season. This is, after all, one of the reasons why I continue to choose to live in the “sticks”, as my family members prefer to refer to it; this “God-forsaken place” where no pavement or streetlights exist, according to them. To me though, it’s become home in every sense of the word, and the beauty of my surroundings far outweighs any inconveniences in geographic distance from man’s modern life. 13 years in the country… time sure flies by. I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for a thing.

As I was saying, my private time today was actually quite relaxing and pleasant. I found my thoughts drifting off to another time though, another place than what the world of today has become. I wound up in an era- a realm, if you will, that was much simpler than that which we presently live in; a figurative “realm”, of course. It was a time from my youth. I imagine that every adult treasures their youthful thoughts and memories, and I am no different in that capacity. As I rolled along in my vehicle enveloped in the mist, drizzle, and grey skies, a song came wafting up from days gone by, thrusting words and melody alike into the forefront of my mind. I can’t remember when the last time I had heard this song was…possibly when I was nine or 10 years old, perhaps? Who would’ve guessed that the little jingle had been so effectually ingrained within the memory compartments of my brain that it would one day resurface to bring me a little smile and much joy at the mature age of 41? Not me, I say.

So what is the song, you ask? Well, it’s probably not one that the average person would likely know, let alone remember from their childhood. However, anybody who knows me would definitely confirm that I am far from average when it comes to certain things- musical aptitude being one of them. I’m afraid I’m a bit eccentric with my taste in lyrics and rhythms. This song evokes more than just the musical memory within my being though. The music, along with the inner visualization of the TV commercial scenario that accompanied it back in the day, actually imparts peacefulness and joy from the inside-out.

Picture this: There was this big old boat; I believe it was a white paddle-wheel style boat with a red wheel, cruising down a wide, peaceful river. The scene shows a large group of people- vacationers perhaps, hovering about on the large, open-aired space of the deck facing the wheel. In the midst of the smiling people proudly stands the “captain” of the boat, adorned in typical skipper garb. He reminds me of Captain Kangaroo, but has hair that is more salt and pepper in color than the Captain’s pale white. His smile is just as friendly though. He is socializing, laughing, and chatting in a care-free, friendly manner with the passengers of the boat. The sky is blue, the weather is warm, and life is good for this group of folks who range in age from toddler through their golden years. Suddenly, you hear the gentle, flowing sound of music begin in the background and the captain begins to sing…

Comic books and rubber bands Climbing to the tree tops. Falling down and holding hands Bicycles and red pop. Remember when you were a kid? Well part of you still is… And that’s why we make FAYGO!

Yep, you guessed it! It was the Faygo pop commercial. I have the strangest of memories sometimes, I amaze even myself! Needless to say though, it was a wonderful diversion from the typical adult thoughts that I am forced with juggling routinely. Thanks for the memories, Faygo!

Afterthought: Faygo pop is STILL widely available in the region in which I live. I wonder whatever happened to Towne Club pop? Does anybody remember that one?