Archive for March, 2015

How Rural is My Maine Town?

This past Tuesday I spent the day in Portland at the University of Southern Maine library doing some research.  On the 90-minute drive back to my home, when I was within 10 miles of my home, I realized I needed to use a bathroom.

The last ten miles are really rural.  There are no convenience stores, no gas stations,  or any other kind of store where I could stop in and use a bathroom – – just windy, narrow blacktop along a forested backdrop.  For those desperate enough, there is always the side of the road (cars pass very infrequently) but there were howling, gusting winds of 25 mph and the temperature was below zero, not exactly ideal weather for desperate bladders that can’t wait.

Then I remembered our local library.  Not the beautiful modern one that was still another 20 miles down the road.  But just up ahead, a small, rural library happened to be open, an amazing bit of providence since it’s open only 4 hours a week in total, and this was one of those hours.  That library used to be a one-room schoolhouse from the 1890s until the 1960s, and other than the addition of some shelves to hold the library’s small collection of books, it doesn’t appear much different from how it looked 100+ years ago.

The librarian was most gracious concerning my request.

“You are welcome to use the bathroom, but I have to warn you, it might not be what you’re expecting.”

Indeed.  Inside a supply closet was a medical commode – – the kind ill or elderly people use parked next to their beds when they can’t walk far enough to get to a bathroom.

I looked at the commode.  I looked at the librarian.  I looked back at the commode.  I really had to go!  But not, apparently,  as much as I originally thought.

“Thanks,” I said to the librarian, “but I’m not going to make you clean up after my pee in that pot!”

The reason the library doesn’t have indoor plumbing during the winter is that they can’t justify the expense of keeping the library heated 24/7 when it’s only open 4 hours a week.  Without heat, the pipes freeze, so they need to turn off the water supply to avoid bursting pipes.  Hence the commode for emergency use.

I quickly jumped in the car and raced the last few miles home, where I happily emptied my bladder . . . in my good ol’ flush toilet.


How Small Is My Town?

How small is my town in rural Maine?

Today I called my local post office because I haven’t had mail delivery in 4 days.  The postal clerk said, “Funny you should call. I was JUST discussing with the mail carrier how strange it was that you haven’t gotten any mail in 4 days!”


Just down the road from me is the Greater Lovell Land Trust (GLLT), a non-profit conservation organization.  Their aim is to buy large parcels of the raw land in the area from private owners to prevent further development; to conserve essential resources; protect plants, wildlife, and watershed; to open these areas of conservation for public enjoyment via hiking trails, guided or not; and to provide education in the form of lectures on a variety of topics including history of the area, geology and geography, and nature.  Much of the work is done by volunteers, who do everything from trail building to acting as naturalist docents and guides.

I came across an article written by one such docent in an older newsletter published by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardener’s Association which I think you might enjoy.  I have taken advantage of many of the GLLT’s programs which run throughout the year, most recently a presentation about Barred Owls.  It’s fun to be able to identify what you are seeing and hearing in the woods whether it’s the call of the owls, or knowing just how fresh that bear scat is on the trail!  When I convey the many factoids I’ve learned over the years to my grandchildren when they visit, they are fascinated, and as a result, they too have become lovers of nature to varying degrees, whether hiking or camping or kayaking or quietly observing wildlife.  There is an abundance of free educational opportunities provided by local non-profit wilderness organizations, as well as the Forest Service.  Ultimately, it transforms us from vicarious admirers of nature to stewards of the land.


Organizations that offer natural wilderness education, hikes, etc. in the White Mountains of Maine and New Hampshire:




I just put an ad on Craigslist and someone phoned about an item I have for sale.  The caller made an appointment to come and see my furniture, to which he responded, “Awesome!”

This got me to thinking.  Call me a curmudgeon, but coming to an agreement about a time and day to meet is hardly deserving of “awesome.”  By using a word that defines wow – – when an  experience or person or thing reaches to your inner being with a depth that shakes your very soul or puts in you the fear of G-d – – as an everyday expression, it not only diminishes that word and its meaning; it leaves the truly awesome moments sans mot.

“Awesome” gets my vote as the most overused and abused word in the English language.

Readers, what mis- and over-used word gets your goat?

Sleepless in Everyplace

I have suffered from insomnia for years with no relief in sight.

I think many women suffer from interrupted sleep from the time they are teenagers.  When they are teenagers, they’re out all night and sleep all day.

Then women get married, and they must get used to the body in bed next to them, shifting position and tossing and turning and stealing the blankets.

From there it segues into when women are pregnant, and they wake up several times during the night to empty their bladders.

When they are young mothers, women’s sleep is interrupted from middle-of-the-night feedings with their infants and by nightmares and bedwetting accidents when the kids are toddlers.

When the kids are teenagers, moms are up all night worrying about where their kids are (and remembering where they went when they were teenagers themselves).

Then menopause sets in and women are awakened by night sweats and hot flashes.

My mom, who had Alzheimers, came to live with me.  Taking care of her at night left me with an average of 2 – 4 hours a night of interrupted sleep.

By the time the kids are out of the nest and the menopause symptoms have abated and one’s elderly parents have passed from this world, women like me have been victims of interrupted sleep for almost 50 years!  So it’s not hard to understand why a “normal” sleep pattern is nearly impossible to obtain, because “normal” until now has meant something totally different from getting a good night’s sleep.

I also think it is a personality thing.  I am always “on.”  I am someone who is very observant of my surroundings, and conscious of even the minutest details.  I am easily overstimulated by sights and sounds and events.  My brain is always filled with “chatter,” even in the middle of the night, and I need to learn to turn off the “chatter.”  But this could take years of expensive therapy.

Here are some of the insomnia remedies suggested to me:

  • Melatonin:  works if your body has trouble transitioning from day to night.  Not my problem, which explains why this hormone was not helpful for me.
  • Ambien: my doctor refused to prescribe this for me, so I can’t say if it would work.  But after hearing about people who did some major sleepwalking across state lines and when they “woke up” had no idea how they got there, I realized that Ambien was probably not a good idea for me after all.
  • Benadryl:  about a 50% success rate, but leaves me very drowsy the next day.
  • Nyquil:  oh bliss – yes it works – but you are left in a complete fog for several hours the next morning, and it is loaded with alcohol, so probably not a good idea on a regular basis unless you can foresee joining Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Recorded tapes:  I think I’d rather die of insomnia than die of boredom from listening to these monotone actors.
  • Husband:  It’s true.  He can talk me to sleep.  Especially when he starts talking tech-speak about computers and ham radios.  But I started to really hate him, so this was not a long-term solution.
  • Exercise:  I tried increasing the amount I exercise, but instead of making me sleepy, it got my adrenalin rolling.  Moral of the story:  couch potatoes rule!
  • Food: Tried warm milk at bedtime,  protein with fruit for a late night snack, meat and wine, and not eating after 6 pm.  None of them worked.
  • Herbal Tea: Various flavors are soothing and relaxing, especially lemon verbena, but didn’t prevent wakefulness.
  • Sleep study:  I learned that I do not have sleep apnea, nor any physical cause that keeps me awake.
  • Dark room:  Went through several pair of eye shades until I found a great fuzzy padded one made by Brookstone  – these were the only comfortable ones that I could wear.  Alas, they proved great for naps but not for sleeping through the entire night.
  • White noise:  Didn’t work, despite trying the sound of  running water and rain (made me get up even more, to use the bathroom), birds, wind, etc.
  • Self-hypnosis:  Didn’t work.
  • Mattress:  At great expense, I’ve tried soft mattresses, I’ve tried hard mattresses, but unlike Goldilocks, I have yet to find the one that was “just right.”  I guess I relate better to the Princess and the Pea.
  • Aromatherapy:  lavender smells great, and it may help with relaxation, but it just doesn’t work for insomnia.
  • Breathing exercises:  helped my lungs but not my insomnia.

But then . . . MAGIC!


I started taking 2 capsules of Reishi Mushroom supplements an hour before bedtime.  And, after 2 tries:  I SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT!!!!  I have now been taking the Reishi Mushroom supplements for 3 weeks.  On the rare occasion that I have awoken during the night, I was able to get RIGHT BACK TO SLEEP!!!!  This is nothing short of miraculous.  It has absolutely no side effects, it is not addictive, and not overly expensive (a 2-month supply is $45).  It is produced by one of the leading micologists (mushroom experts) in the US, Paul Stamets, through his company, Host Defense.  Paul has been doing some major mushroom research, and created different supplements based on the properties of individual types of mushrooms.

I also gave it to my skeptical 14-year-old grandson, who often wakes during the night (I guess it runs in the family).  After 2 tries, he too is a Reishi mushroom convert!

(Full disclosure:  I am familiar and have used other Host Defense mushroom products.  I give Turkey Tail mushrooms to my dog, who is now in remission from his cancer.  Turkey Tail mushrooms are a great immunity booster, and have demonstrably helped human subjects who are undergoing chemotherapy from being immune-compromised and greatly reducing/relieving side effects of chemo.  It appears also to help achieve remission from the disease, though no one is claiming a cure.  From the personal experience of myself and my husband, it definitely works to prevent common illness.  When we feel a cold or virus coming on, we take Turkey Tail mushroom and the symptoms disappear within hours.  I’ve heard from people who take it prophylactically on a daily basis that they haven’t been sick from cold or flu in years.)


So if you are a fellow insomniac, I highly recommend Reishi mushroom supplements.

Here is a link about the different mushroom products the Host Defense Company offers:

Click to access HD_ProductGuide_2015-web.pdf