Monday, August 29, 2011

Mysterious Hormones

When common complaints are being brought up, often the subject will be PMS or how hormonal women are. General western society is aware that womens' instability comes from hormones and hormonal changes each month, but not very many people know any more than that about those hormones. Why not? Why does it have to be some mystical unknown? Well that bugged me enough to start reading about hormones, etc, and to try to get a bit of education on the topic. After all, knowledge is power! It has been immensely satisfying to begin to understand the workings of my body, and bodies in general. Here is a list of the four basic hormones which are at work in a woman's body each month:

FSH: Folicle Stimulating Hormone:

  • Stimulates follicles in which eggs will grow.
  • Found in the Pituitary Gland, at the base of the brain.

LH: Luteinizing Hormone:

  • Stimulates and completes follicular growth (eggs).
  • Triggers ovulation.
  • Luteinizes the ruptured follicle (after ovulation of an egg), or, turns it into a corpus luteum.
  • Found in the Pituitary gland (also referred to as gonodotropin).


  • Estradiol: produced by maturing follicles.
  • Creates wet cervical fluid which enables fertilization.
  • Matures female sex organs.


  • Heat-producing.
  • Produced in the corpus luteum of the ovaries (the discarded eggshell of the ovulated egg).
  • Prevents more than one egg from releasing in one cycle.
  • Nurtures Endometrial lining (which ensures a safe environment for growth if an egg is fertilized).
  • Bleeding happens when: no egg was fertilized and the corpus luteum disintegrates: triggers cessation of progesterone. (Endometrial lining deteriorates without the progesterone).

The following chart is a simplistic way to understand a woman's cycle. Up until ovulation, FSH, LH and estrogen are at work, preparing the egg to ovulate. After ovulation, progesterone is at work to create the right environment should that egg be fertilized:

Follicular/Estrogenic Phase Luteal or Progestational Phase


Day 1 Ovulation

(Prepping eggs/follicles) (Prepping Endometrial lining)

Here are 2 charts of the four hormone levels:

(I think this one is funny. Though I'm fairly certain it is supposed to be an egg, it looks like a full moon--connected in some cultures with the mysteries of women's emotional instability. .)

There is something I don't understand. It appears that the major (crazy) hormonal shifts are in the middle of the cycle, not during the menstruation. So why are the PMS symptoms and 'hormonal imbalances' at the end, not in the middle? Perhaps the 'hormonal imbalance' is due to a LACK of hormones?

Friday, August 26, 2011


One of the things "The Happiness Project" suggests is to have FUN.

Ok ... duh?

But then I got thinking about it and it seems like I sort of left all the crazy fun back in college... So what is fun for me? I tried to make a list, and sort of succeeded. Then I thought about what was fun as a kid, and got a much bigger list:

Doll Houses, Barbies
trees... fences... tops of playgrounds...
block castles, gingerbread houses, snow forts, tree forts, blanket forts, cake castles
Treasure hunts
(where we make the maps, complete with red X's and burning the edges)
Ice Dancing
Doing updoos
Planning tea parties

Just thinking about those things is exciting to me! But, how many of those things do I still do? I decided there are a couple: I love planning and having dinner parties. Dressing people up and doing their hair is a professional expertise, and I still thoroughly enjoy it. But those things both involve stress in varying quantities, and I think there ought to be some stress-free fun allowed.

Commitments? Maybe I should find some neighborhood kids to play with, lol. But in case I don't, I committed to build a Halloween gingerbread house this year, and find a good climbing tree in the neighborhood. And you know what? I'm a bit giddy with happiness just thinking about it! :D

P.S. I think just thinking about happiness all the time is a huge happiness-booster. I highly recommend the book! "The Happiness Project" --Gretchen Rubin


So as you know I've been reading about happiness. Who knew there are four stages of happiness? (like the 5 stages of grief, if you've heard of that). Gretchen Rubin does, and here's her list:

4 Stages of Happiness
Anticipate it
Savor it
Express it
Recall it

We all have heard the story about the kids who took all summer building their treehouse, and once it was done never played in it again, right? Well that's exactly what 'Anticipate it' means: Life is full of happiness along the journey, don't wait for the end to find joy in what you're doing!
Savor it: First, stop to recognize the beauty of day to day moments. Only then will you realize how great they are, savor them, and let that help you feel happy.
Expressing our happiness makes us happier, and spreads it around to others. Sometimes it even helps us with self-discovery: realizing we are happy.
Reminiscing... Do it! Reminiscing is a great way to be happy, by bringing up, sharing, and reliving those happy moments, and it is best done with other---share the joy. So I tried it with a group of friends from freshman year college. We're planning a reunion, and I mentioned the beloved brown couch we got for our apartment from the Thrift Store. No surprise that all of them have written back about our dear old brown couch, and laughing about it I'm sure!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happiness and Money

It has been a few months of sparse blogging but I have been learning so much! I realized the other day that I might retain more if I write about what I'm learning. So, we're starting right in the middle of "The Happiness Project", a fantastic book by Gretchin Rubin. I learned two very insightful principles on people's relationship with money, especially how they spend it.

First, people are generally either "underbuyers" or "overbuyers".

I am an underbuyer. I buy what is necessary for right now, and talk myself out of purchases for things like food storage thinking, "well, that can wait until next week". I have myself believing that I save money that way, even if I end up making more trips. Also, I often try to find the cheapest deal, which is usually comes back to bite.
Overbuyers, on the otherhand, have extras and replacements and backups of everything, knowing that one day they'll need that thing. They buy many things leading up to vacations or parties, they buy things thinking they would be a gift, though not sure who for.
Underbuyers are often stressed because they don't have something they need (aka, run out of toilet paper, lol). Overbuyers are often stressed because they have clutter or can't find that gift item they bought a few months ago.
So what's the fix? I'll try and focus on what I actually use, and keep it in stock!

Second, there are satisficers and maximizers.

(Yes, satisficer. A mix of satisfy and suffice). Satisficers look for what they want until their criteria have been met. When they find that thing, the hunt is over. Even if they may have found a better deal or price or brand or ... at some other store. Maximizers compare every possible option before making a purchase.
When I think of maximizers, or worse, have to go along with one to the store, my mind screams 'What a waste of time!' Yet I realized that even I am a maximizer at times, just for fun. For example, which flavor of ice-cream do I want? Well, I can be at the store or ice-cream parlor for an awfully long time before making my choice, and the time involved is fun to me! Looking at all those yummy choices and imagining how delicious each would be, and then, there are the combination cones to think about! Yes, I am, at times, a maximizer. HOWEVER, I realized when reading this book that maximizers bug me, and maybe I should just lay off.

(Check out the book or her blog!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

miserable god

Sometimes people, the human race, get me down. Sometimes they can be pretty lousy.

And then I wonder why a god would want to be the god of such beings anyway? Can’t be much fun.

It would be incredible to create worlds, nature, beautiful sunsets, delightfully intricate flowers and seeds… all so beautiful. But then humans? Even I glean immense joy from nature, as I imagine the god of creation does, but humans can be so cruel, so low, so selfish and unfeeling. Why would anyone WANT to be the god of such despicable beings?

They were supposed to be the god’s crowning creation. After making animals, which are beautiful in their own way but kill and eat each other to survive, he made humans, and gave them intelligence. They were supposed to be a step above animals, right?

Step above is right, I guess. Instead of just being able to kill physically, they figured out how to kill hearts and souls, too.

Wretched beings.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Big Blue Sky

When I came to North America after living on the Normandy coast in France, I made a comment to my sister about how much bigger the sky is here in North America. She wondered how that could be, especially since I had been living on the coast and the ocean stretches for as far as the eye can see. So I puzzled about that for a while, trying to decide what makes the sky bigger, taller, and more vast here in North America.


Well the sky was beautiful in Normandy, and I loved the ocean front. I took early morning runs along the beach, and walked out of my way on the way home from teaching in order to feast my eyes on that beautiful earth-scape that is the ocean. The sunsets over the ocean could be so immensely breathtaking, with the colors reflecting back off the ocean, turning that whole end of the world into a Kaleidoscope. Those were the really special nights, like a gift from heaven to add a little more wonder and delight into my life. But the sea is moody. Its mood swings can be more severe and more frequent than the most desperate of women. The fog and mists that would rise off the sea could roll in at any time of day. Sunny weather often didn’t last more than a half an hour at a time, interspersed by the feathery snake-like wafts thickly clouding out the sun, low enough to seem like a ceiling, rather than a sky-scape. I think people from the “Wild West” could feel claustrophobic in Normandy, because the sky is often so low, and there are rarely, perhaps never, the big puffy clouds that make shapes in the sky. No, the clouds on the Normandy coast were always the feathery wafting type, and very often a thick layer of them.

Low-lying fog and clouds, added to the long narrow streets lined by tall walls of buildings means that the sunlight doesn’t breakthrough very often, and even when it does it is not very likely to brighten up your street. Out by the ocean the sunlight will reach you, away from the tall buildings, but then there is the wall of the sea.

What do I mean by the ‘wall of the sea’? My sister assumed that looking off into the horizon of the ocean would be a vast view, stretching on and on ‘as far as the eye could see’. And on very clear days, that is true. On clear, calm days the ocean does seem to stretch on and on, and the world felt bigger for it. Most days though, the clouds cut into that immensity that is the sky, creating a make-shift ceiling which not only lowered the sky but brought the line of the horizon much, much closer. Most places, the clouds stay in the sky, and so the only barrier they create is above you. On the coast it is another story, because the ocean and the clouds seem to immensely enjoy each other’s company. So now on cloudy days, you have a low ceiling on that sky, and a wall of clouds where vast expanse of ocean should be, creating a barrier on two sides, beginning to box you in. That is the ‘wall of the sea’, that rolling in of the clouds off the ocean. Sometimes it is farther out, so the box seems a bit larger, other times it is suffocatingly close. Only suffocating if you think about it that way though. It is just as easy to think of it as a big warm snugly blanket, the kind your mother would used to wrap you up in on stormy nights to keep you safe and lull you to sleep. The clouds can have the same effect, moving in around your little village, wrapping it up in their folds, tucking you away for the night.

Western N. America

And then we came to North America, and everything is ENORMOUS! It took an hour to get to town from the airport, which I suppose isn’t so strange, but then it took another hour to drive across the city—the city I am supposed to live in. Monstrous! But that’s another blog post… For the purpose of this post, we will return to the sky. The sky is also monstrous! Enormous, stretching forever and ever up, and out the sides. What makes the sky so big, here? I asked my love and we puzzled for a while. Here’s what we came up with:

I think the most obvious reason the sky is tall in North America is that we build cities out, not up, which is opposite of Europe. European cities are small in area and compact. We lived in a regular neighbourhood and the buildings were 5-6 stories tall, which means you see less sky from the street. Living in a thick forest can give the same illusion of a small sky. Another reason may be because in North America many cities are built on a grid, or have long avenues, which mean that at the end of the street you see sky. In Europe the streets are short and criss-cross all over the place, so your line of sight is -never very long before being blocked by buildings in all directions.

After much sky-watching and sky-pondering, we also came up with this most enlightening discovery: It’s all in the clouds! The clouds here are often that big-fluffy-marshmallow type which float happily across the sky, but never are soupy and blanket-like. The biggest reason for the TALL-sky illusion is that there are multiple layers of clouds in the sky. Above that first layer of puffy clouds, there is another layer of clouds, sometimes puffy, sometimes more wispy. Most often there are two layers, but sometimes there are three or more layers of clouds. The trick is that these multi-level cloud formations create vertical space up into the sky, thus extending the space that our minds process and create the effect of a very TALL sky. Pretty Amazing, I thought. And I was very grateful for the thought-provoking question which led to much time absorbing admiration of the beautiful creations in this world.