What Does Winter Solstice Mean to Me?

Winter Solstice occurs on Dec 21st. This is the shortest day of the year. In Minnesota, where I live, the sun will rise just before 8am and set by 4:30pm that afternoon, leaving us just over 8 and a half hours of sunlight.  This may seem like a strange thing to celebrate, but our ancestors did celebrate it. Just as they celebrated the Summer Solstice in June. Let me share with you what this day means to me.

Winter Solstice is the celebration of the return of the Sun. After this date, the days (amount of sunlight) will begin to grow in length. This is why Christians decided to celebrate Jesus’s birthday at this time of the year, the return of the Son. Back in a time when there were no electric lights, it must have been a great thing to know that the amount of daylight would soon increase in length.

For me Solstice means:

  • Hope: I realize that we have turned the corner and are heading for more light and the return of warmer days. If the cycles of life provide for improved daylight ratios, as well improved temperatures, why would I not believe that anything and everything else can improve too. For me Winter Solstice is a celebration of Hope.
  • Duality: There is also Summer Solstice that is the longest day of the year. Duality exists in all aspects of our life. There are times to cry and times to celebrate. Dark times and light times. Time to play and time to work, as well as a time to be young and a time to be old.
  • Patience: The seeds are laying dormant under the earth. They are patiently waiting for spring when they can stretch and start to grow. Everything has a season and this is a season of waiting.
  • Reflection: This is the time of year to go within and learn more deeply who we are, What can we change about ourselves and what should we embrace.
  • Strength: A strong will is required to survive the winters of old. To me, Solstice is also a celebration of the ‘force of will’ to persevere through the cold and dark winter months, knowing that in time, the sun will return.
  • Rest: The fields lay dormant. The work is done until the snow melts and the seeds are ready to be tended. Of course this is no longer the reality for most of us. We work just as hard in the winter, but the quiet dark days encourage us to rest.
  • Purity: The white blanket that covers the earth in the part of the world where I live, makes me think of purity. The white snow glistens when the sun shines on it. We are all pure. We are all worthy of love. We are good. We are enough.
  • Family: Because of all of the gatherings of family and friends (that feel like family) at this time of year, I feel Solstice also symbolizes this love. That warm feeling you get in the heart when you think of those you are bonded too.

Whatever this time of year means to you, I wish you a very Happy Winter Solstice. Look forward to the Sun returning and the daylight hours stretching in length. Be still within yourself and allow this time of year to reveal its personal meaning to you. It is a magical time of year.

Thank you for reading my blog today. I love you. May the cycles of life give you comfort, as if by magic.

*Photo was taken in Brentwood, TN.

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11 Ways to Improve Your Immune System

It is the season when people are coughing and sneezing around every turn. It seems inevitable that we will catch something. This is not necessarily true. You can protect yourself by ensuring that your immune system is in top working order. Here are some simple things you can do to pump up your bodies natural guard team.
1. Eat your leafy greens. Fill 2/3 of your plate with leafy greens, cook them into your eggs or wilt them into soups and stews.
2. Get your Zzzs. Getting your nightly rest helps your body put its energy toward the immune system. Everybody’s sweet spot for sleep is a little different. For me it is 7-8 hours.
3. Vitamin C. Vitamin C is such a great immune booster. Whether you get is naturally or as a supplement it can really help you power through this time of year untouched.
4. Echinacea. This pretty plant, when dried and taken as an herb, can really help support your immune system. It is part of the trifecta I take if I start to feel like I am coming down with something.
5. Zinc. Be careful with this one. With this mineral more is not better. But using zinc lozenges or taking a tablet a day for a short period of time can be effective in preventing the sniffles from taking hold.
6. Put down the soda! Trading your sugary or artificially sweetened soda for water can help your body too. If your body doesn’t have to process the chemicals it can work on battling the bugs.
7. Choose beneficial foods. Shiitake mushrooms, garlic, onions, broccoli are all helpful in combating attackers.
8. Chicken soup. If you are not a vegetarian like me this old wives tail is worth a shot. I have seen it be very beneficial in clearing up a stuffy head.
9. Hot tea with honey and lemon. This is one of my moms fixes for a sore throat. Honey has great healing properties and a nice hot cup of tea feels great on a cold day.
10. Move your body. Exercise not only feels great but it helps keep you body running like a well oiled machine. Even better if you can do it out in the sun to get some natural vitamin D.
11. Starve a fever, feed a cold. This may just be an old wives tale, but I find it beneficial to allow myself to take in lots of good healthy food to give my body plenty of fuel to make the germ fighting white blood cells it needs.
I hope you find these tricks helpful to pump up your immune system. Remember to check with your doctor prior to taking vitamins, minerals, and herbs if your health is complex or if you have questions.
What are your go to techniques to keep yourself healthy?

What do I Have To Learn From This?

Four days before Thanksgiving I fell and crushed my wrist. Friends and family from everywhere were about to descend upon my home in anticipation of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. It was my dominant wrist that I broke in the fall. What do I have to learn from this situation, other than watching where I step? How am I going to get through this? Should I just cancel the holiday? All of these questions and more were going through my head. Here’s how I managed to get through it.

  1. Go with the flow. The first thing I had to do was realize I had no control of the situation. All I could do was take a deep breath and realize that it was all going be OK and go with the flow. It may not be what I had originally envisioned but it would be OK.
  2. Ask for help. I had to call in the troops. I called my daughters who agreed to spend the night on Wednesday in order to help make the homemade buns. They also aided in getting all the side dishes and turkey properly prepared. A friend had to drive me to my doctors appointment. I also got help to go shopping for groceries.
  3. Examine my expectations. I have always been a person with very high expectations for myself and of others. I had to examine my expectations and realize that it was unrealistic for me to try and do this all alone. I had to allow for other ways to do things. My way might not be the only way.
  4. Slow down. Not only was my wrist broken, but also my hemoglobin (Iron) was 9.6. 12.5 is a normal result. I was feeling extremely fatigued. The pain and the effort to complete tasks with only my left hand was taking a toll on me. Which further increased my fatigue. I had to learn to take it slow and allow myself  time to rest. Anyone who knows me, knows that rest does not come easily to me. I am the type of person who will push through to get things completed.
  5. It’s not about me. Thanksgiving is about what there is to be thankful for. It is also about the coming together with friends and family. This misfortune did not change any of that. In fact it gave me more to be thankful for. I have gratitude for all of those who helped and offered to help. I am grateful because the kitchen was cleaned up without my interference. All of this help and other help that was offered made this gathering possible. My life is truly full of blessings.

So what are the lessons that a fractured radius and ulna have to bring me? It’s taught me a lot. I have learned to be grateful for all that I have, including the friends and family who rallied to support me. It’s taught me that there are other ways for things to be accomplished. It’s taught me that it’s OK to be weak sometimes. It’s taught me that perfection can be found in situations that are not ideal. Have you had situations like this? Have you had to learn things the hard way? Do you have any stories to share with us?

More Than Just Warm Milk – natural treatments for insomnia 

I read once that people used to sleep eight hours at night but not in one sitting. They would go to bed and sleep for about four hours or so and then they would need to get up and stoke the fire. They would get up and write letters and visit in the middle of the night and then go back to bed and sleep the last four hours of the night. I think there is a part of my being that remembers these old ways because to be awake in the middle of the night used to be an every night occurrence. It still happens to me on certain nights. I have a list of a dozen things that are worth a try if sleep seems elusive for you.

  1. Cool room –  I have always noticed that I slept better in a cool room but recently my Chiropractor was informing me that a cool room has been proven to improve sleep.
  2. Hot bath – A nice warm bath before bed will help relax muscles. Water is also very grounding. A warm bath before bed may be just what you need to get some serious Z’s.
  3. Essential oils – I can’t say enough about all the great things essential oils can do for you. Some great ones to help promote sleep are Lavender, Bergamot, and Geranium. I also like Frankincense. It is a great oil for a multitude of things and my personal favorite.
  4. Magnesium – Recently I have been hearing about a connection between Magnesium deficiencies and trouble sleeping. I have personally not tried a magnesium supplement for my insomnia, but I may consider it. If I give it a try I will let you know in a future blog how it works for me. Of course check with your doctor before taking a supplement to see if it is a safe choice for you.
  5. Notebook and pen – Keep a notebook and a pen next to your bed. Is a “to do” list of items keeping you awake? Jot those thoughts on the notebook. Then your brain can trust they will not be forgot and move on to dreaming.
  6. Left nostril – A trick from my Kundalini Yoga training is left nostril breathing. Holding your right nostril shut and just breathing through your left nostril will help to relax you. It will induce feelings of being tired.
  7. Mudras – Mudras are a yoga pose for your hands. One that I find helpful for sleep is to pull your thumb in against the palm of your hand and then wrap your other four fingers down over it. It is like you are making a fist with your thumb on the inside. Holding your hands in this position can help bring about slumber.
  8. Salt Lamps – Salt lamps have recently become very popular. They have all kinds of great healing properties. They are said to help reduce the contamination from all of our electronics. By reducing this contamination they allow us to get better sleep.
  9. Cup of tea – Chamomile, Valerian, and Kava Kava are three herbs that can be found in teas to aide with sleep. There are even teas with Lavender in the blend. A cup of one of these before bed can be a great way to drift off.
  10. White noise – White noise or soft relaxing music can be helpful. I personally like a fan on in the room but there are lots of choices. There are apps that play, white noise, fan noise, nature sounds, etc. I feel the fan helps me saw logs because I can’t hear the other noises the house makes.
  11. Rocks – The little girl in me loves rocks. Crystals that could aid in you finding your relaxed state are Amethyst, Labradorite, Jade, Moonstone, and Celestine.
  12. Meditation – Kundalini Yoga has several meditations that can help promote restful sleep. Any type of meditation can be effective in helping you achieve that Zen state to drift away.

Do you have other tricks that help make you sleep that you would like to share with others? Please share those that are effective for you. Sweet dreams. I hope you get plenty of dream time and rest.