In spring I come alive again. Like many Finns. The energy and mood boost, which the sun gives after dark and cold winter, feel head to toe. In just a couple of months the white winter wonderland little by little first gets more brown colors, and soon after it, beautiful greenness fills all gardens and forests. Every year it feels like a miracle of life.
Many rays of light included also SaimaaLife spring 2018. Peace and silent moments too, but also many heavy ones and days full of too much speed and haste.
Take my hand – let’s walk through together my life in Saimaa last April and May.
As the open water swimming season starts I feel that I get always younger, a small joyful girl inside me comes visible. I just love the first swim in the lake in spring! You feel so reborn after being in the freezing water. It’s cold therapy for your body and mind as its best!
However, before open water season begins in May, there is April which is wet in a different way. Every year we have almost lost our home road when the melting water has run from the forest to the lake. Spring 2018 was no exception. Here’s a small evening project of me and the kids last April. I was so proud of how the girls did their best to help me with the road.
This evening I felt actually very happy. I’ve always loved physical work. It feels so great in your body and mind. Mentally I was also able to forget my sorrows and worries for a moment since I needed to concentrate on the road. But I wouldn’t have enjoyed this evening so much if the kids had not been with me. Being and doing together made all so much more meaningful. Not to mention that we were able to rejoice together with the good results of our work.
On Easter 2018 almost our whole family -all my 5 siblings with their families- gathered at the grandma’s. It has always been an enjoyable event but now it was more meaningful since we could have spent it without my father if the stem cell transplantation would not have been done to him in winter. Because of work, I was able to spend only one day Easter Holiday – it annoyed me but that one day I definitely wanted to spend at my childhood home.
Right before Easter, our 34-year friend died after long long cancer fight. It made me to seize the moment even more. Read more about my thoughts last year from my story Easter Moments.
As the snow was melting away I started to think about ALL the things I should do at home and in the garden to make a nice summer for us. Already thought about all work made me feel anxious so I made a list that included TOP3 things and decided to do only them. The first and most important one was our boat garden.
Everyday life in spring 2018 was busy. Here I’m eating my lunch while standing in our kitchen, outdoor clothes on, almost late already from my work meeting. Yes, rye bread, butter, and Lake Saimaa vendace are one of my favorite snacks but I would NOT like to eat it this way, thinking about all the things that should get done before kids’ school and daycare day was ended.
In April 2018, I felt lost. I knew that I would have needed a long holiday full of totally empty weeks, but our family’s bank accounts said that no way I could afford to do it. On the contrary, I needed to earn more money. I had also commitments to projects that didn’t bring money (yet) but where other people were involved and the processes were going on. I just couldn’t finish my part or delay them straight away. Feelings of helplessness came also from the grief that a million kilometers of distance between me and my husband caused. We both had felt very lonely at home already for long, and month after month the loneliness felt more painful. As my feelings of lost hope grew, “a perfect husband” came visible on him. Inside me I was happy, but in that situation it made me feel even worse since I felt that I should have been able to do the same. I should have been able to find the hope and energy to reach out on him, but just I couldn’t. I wanted but couldn’t -anymore. We had too many trials and errors behind us. Our friend had in the past said, that “maybe sometimes the history of the couple is just so heavy that it is impossible to build a good future together”. For years I disagreed with him. Now, the acceptance had started to grow in me, that maybe sometimes the situation is that. The grief over our marriage, our family, our kids, me personally and my husband personally felt unbearable. The pain was something that I had never before experienced.
“There were phases when we strongly felt that we just can’t understand each other. Phases we almost got stuck in. But we didn´t. There was a strong will in both of us to make our relationship work.
With the help of others, with the help of endless conversations and arguments together and by working separately for ourselves we finally found the way out. Together.”
How I wish that at some point in the future I could say the same thing about me and my husband. And how strongly I felt in spring 2018, that it’s not gonna happen this time. We both were just too exhausted and the burden of our common history too heavy.
At the end of 2017, after so much free work and rejections, other companies and organizations in Saimaa started to get interested in SaimaaLife. It felt good and I was grateful about all contacts but at the same time, I noticed that I had come to the point with myself and my company, where I needed to think very carefully where to put time and energy resources and what was the revenue of every decision -financial or other revenue. In winter 2018 I had made already a big decision to put developing SaimaaLife 360°/VR Nature Relaxation product on pause. In spring, the Active Life Lab that is a research and development unit of the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences contacted me. They wanted to start a collaboration project where we could have studied the physical wellbeing and health effects of SaimaaLife 360°/VR nature videos. The idea was so exciting that I and my husband traveled to Mikkeli to have a meeting about it. The meeting was inspiring and I could already see how valuable it would have been to get real quantitative test results of our product. Qualitative ones we already had and they had been very encouraging. However, while we were driving back home I realized that THIS is a point where I need to be able to say again “No, thank you”. The reality was that even though the Active Life Lab would have done a lot of work, the whole project had needed time and energy from us too – resources that we didn’t have and/or need to use elsewhere. Plus I had made already my decision and I needed also to practice to keep my decision (that I still felt was to right one). So, in the end, I said no thank you to Active Life Lab. It was petty but still, I feel that was the right thing to do. Let the time will tell whether this project will realize one day. I know it will IF it is meant to happen so.
SaimaaLife Travel was the business area that I wanted to build the basis in 2018. As one thing, I would have wanted to visit and make more content elsewhere in Saimaa. Already in 2017, I had felt that my home region, Punkaharju and Savonlinna area, was represented more than enough at the blog. I wanted to offer new to my followers -and to have new to me too. It was frustrating to realize in spring that I didn’t have basically any possibilities to do that either. The profit margin, in the end, would not have been high enough when I calculated how much I can invoice other companies based on how wide and encompassing visibility I can offer to them through my site and its channels. Another challenge was also the size of the companies and their marketing budgets -that I knew are very small in Saimaa. So, after some thinking I dealt my frustration and decided that OK, I cannot realize this part of my vision (either) now – I focus on getting income financing in other -more profitable ways- and get back to this later. The decision was not easy, but on the other hand, it brought me joy since I acknowledged via it that my skills as an entrepreneur had developed again one step further.
Talking about finance and support. Based on one of my (crazy) ideas, in winter 2018 I and my husband had applied for a concept development support from AVEK. AVEK is The Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture and it funds the creation of new documentary films, animations, short films and media art in Finland. The product idea was 360°/VR mini document series called “From Past to the Present”. They said YES to our application and that was naturally a HUGE positive thing and gave a LOT of encouragement and belief on what we were doing. An even bigger source of excitement for me was that I had heard that if AVEK starts to support some idea, the idea will probably get also the next of their funding -where the maximum sum was 30 000 euros. Our plan naturally was to target on that and with the help of it to make the first document movie ready from Saimaa. BUT. With my husband, we talked about using the 3000 euro support and decided that he would be the one to make that work, and I would concentrate on getting more income elsewhere. It was a good decision – grief came into the picture only later when it became clear that there are no chances in autumn 2018 to apply for the bigger funding partly because of our judicial separation, partly because of financial facts. So, this BIG project was also something to put on hold too. My sigh was deep when I made the decision, but at the same time, I did feel proud too that we had this diamond in our SaimaaLife pocket for the future.
I ran in the rain and thought how far I and my husband had come from the moment when we sat together for the first time on the steps of our cottage -living still then in the city but planning of moving to the countryside. I felt sad that in concrete our life in the countryside had included a lot less happy moments than we both expected. I felt that it was my -and my work’s- fault. Yes, the decision had been made together to continue developing SaimaaLife but the fact was also that if I had been less-work oriented person, our life in the countryside had been much more peaceful and idyllic. I saw how my husband was suffering and I started to have felt that the best decision I could do was to let him go. I felt that I loved him so much that I was ready to accept that he would find happiness with someone else -someone more suitable, more “normal” one. We had gone through so hard times together for so long, so I started to just hope that both my husband’s and also my own life would get lighter and a chance would open for us to feel good and happy again. If that meant the end of our marriage, then it would be so.
Besides my husband and myself, I felt bad for our kids. I felt that I was a bad mother and it was my fault -my workaholism and selfishness fault- that they didn’t have fancy new clothes and that our family didn’t have money to travel and offer them new experiences. I knew that the love, things and surroundings I -and my husband- were able to offer to our girls was more than good in many ways. But still, there is a limit after which you just start to feel lousy, when you need to say to your child, “Sorry Dear, we don’t have money for that now.” In my worst days last year I felt that it would be better if our children had another mother.
This is a view from Savonlinna city hospital. I had gone through psychotherapy during my first depression. In December 2016 I activated my therapy again since I felt that in the middle of marriage challenges, entrepreneurship challenges, motherhood challenges and my own mental and physical pains I just don’t survive. After that, I have visited the psychologist once in about two-three months. It has been a valuable thing and I’m so grateful that I’ve had a chance to do it. Earlier -when our youngest one was a baby- I and my husband had also gone a couple’s therapy. In autumn 2017 we activated that too. Partly we were able to have better communication this time at the therapy. However, mostly we felt that the therapy didn’t take us forward at all. We were just more exhausted after it. Even the therapist said at some point that “Unlike before, it feels that there is just not a connection between you anymore”. However, in another session she also said, that “Could it be that you are still there sitting and trying to reach for each other after all you’ve gone through together, that there is just deep love at the bottom?” Well, time will tell that. Anyhow in spring 2018, we decided to end our couple’s therapy.
One of the reasons why I wanted to end the therapy was that I desperately wanted to use that time and energy to our kids. I felt that too many times over the years, they had needed to be alone when their parents had dealt with their relationship and its challenges. I also desperately needed all kinds of lighter and more positive experiences to my life to survive day after day, and I knew that the time with the kids would give me that.
I had also noticed that “new me”; more lively, spontaneous, empathic and confident me had started to come out with the kids. It felt good and gave me hope for a better future. I wanted my kids to see more that side of their mother since after all they learn their womanhood and motherhood model from their own mother. I also wanted to deepen my relationship with both of our daughters. This moment, when I and our firstborn last spring had a walk together and sat on the stone making funny faces and talking together, was very meaningful. Then I realized how big our kids already were and how amazing personalities with their own thoughts and feelings, they had become.
As my exhaustion had deepened, my ability to do half of all work at home had weakened. I wanted to fix the situation so, in spring 2018, I learned to do things that normally he had done. I did it for him, but also for me; it was one of my ways to continue my personal “rebuilding self-esteem” project.
Plus I did firewood. A familiar thing that I knew how to do, and a thing that gave me great physical and mental pleasure.
All of those were good small decisions, and gave me feelings and thoughts that”Damn, I’m gonna survive through all this and eventually all will be good in my life”.
Snow melted and May arrived. The more I had needed to use my time and energy at work to build the business side, I felt that my creativity side withered. That’s why it felt so wonderful to have a meeting in May at Art Manor Johanna Oras; talk with the inspiring artist herself Johanna Oras and sense the creative atmosphere in her old wooden atelier.
Hotelli Punkaharju continued to be one of my company’s customers and there I got to know more artists. One of the most memorable encounter there was when I met Paavo Halonen, the Finnish contemporary artist and freelance print designer of Marimekko for the first time. He was having breakfast at the Hotelli Punkaharju lounge with his dog. I arrived there, we started to talk and ended up talking about, creativity, Japan, culture, artist’s work, and its challenges and joys. When I had visited in Japan, I remember how there people had called me as “an artist”. I had never ever heard that word said about me. Suddenly, with Paavo, I realized that at that morning -1,5 half year after myJapan visit-, there were actually two artists talking about creative work at Hotelli Punkaharju lounge. That was a big thing to me in spring 2018 and made me realize that at the bottom, really, I had the heart of an artist and not the businesswoman.
In 2018 Paavo Halonen had one of his art exhibition in the Forest Museum Lusto in Punkaharju. In this blog story “Remember Two Words; Lusto and Nila” you see some photos of the exhibition. In the story, I also introduce Lusto museum and Hotelli Punkaharju’s other restaurant called Nila.
Memorable were also the talks that I and the hotel owner, Saimi Hoyer had together. At the end of every discussion, we said that we should go some for an overnight trip to talk about life and our visions about promoting Punkaharju and Lake Saimaa and developing our cooperation but it was easier said than done to two mompreneurs. Maybe one day we will do it. We’ll see. However, these talks between me and Saimi were meaningful since they made me feel that there was another woman, mother, and entrepreneur who understood a lot the situation where I was. Peer support is so important!
In spring 2018, I could say that I found in general the support of other strong women to my life. Beside Saimi, Inka became me an important person and our friendship deepened. Here we are in Helsinki carrying old recycled armchairs that we found on the street to Inka’s home so that she could restore them. It was so much fun and I was happy that Inka gave a new life to two old beauties.
Someone might remember that I collaborated many years with Finnish company Globe Hope which makes fashion our of recycled materials. In the past, Inka actually worked there and that was the place where we got to know each other. Click to see some photos of us two from my story: Arrange Special Events to Your Year.
Talking about inspiring and meaningful women in my life. In 2018 I was happy to get to know Hanna Partanen, who is living in Savonlinna and is also a mother of two and a startup founder (beside being a writer, director, and producer). With Hanna, we started to share our worries and challenges of startup entrepreneur, financial stress, motherhood pressures, relationship stuff and many more with each other. I gave my help and comments to Hanna’s work, and Hanna, for example, helped me to get the funding application done about SaimaaLife 360°/VR mini document series. Here we are driving to Kuopio to have a theatre visit to see staging where they used 360° and Virtual Reality technology. It was a short visit but so valuable and refreshing for both of us.
Hanna’s startup is called Peace Invadors. It is a new multi-disciplinary peace organization, that aims to harness the power of technology, media, and art to be used in conflict transformation and develop new kinds of peace-building tools. Pretty cool, or what? I respect her organization’s work so much!
Talking about family life highlights then. Our 5-year-old cycled with her sister and me in May 2018 altogether 10 km to visit at the grandmas. 10 km!! An amazing girl and an amazing cycling trip in fresh spring air that made me smile BIG.
Hotelli Punkaharju’s Ala Carte food. What a privilege it was to enjoy it in spring 2018 since my work with the hotel had extended and we had made a contract that I’m responsible for developing their international tour operator relationships, sales, and marketing till autumn 2018. Here we are having dinner with one of the tour operator groups after Saimi’s and me hotel tour and introduction.
First time outdoors barefoot. Feels as good and liberating every spring. Small, but so very big thing to me. My plan is to write you more about the value and benefits of walking naturally barefoot in the future.
“Can you take a photo of us?”, my husband asked when we were shooting 360° / VR video to GoSaimaa in Lappeenranta. I got positively surprised about his request since I hadn’t heard it before. Don’t blame him though – when two strong and stubborn personalities (and married couple) have tried to learn to work together, you can imagine that often there hasn’t been the mood to take a couple selfie -not at home or at work. However, good that we captured this day since this time our collaboration went really well, and we both were really proud of ourselves separately and together.
I think I have not told you that without my husband, there would not be 360°/VR content at SaimaaLife. He has always been more the technology specialist, and I have been the content specialist at heart. After I had started to get more and more feedback around the world that my followers found SaimaaLife nature-filled photos and authentic stories inspiring and something that helped them to feel better, we thought how to deepen the effect of our content. Well, at that time my husband had got to know 360°/VR technology and got excited about it. His excitement caught me too so a new chapter started in SaimaaLife history.
Planning the idea, story, feeling, clips and shooting is one thing – actual shooting with camera, placing it right, recording the sounds and editing the video is another. All phases take damn a lot time and require special skills to do and ability to take hundreds of small details into account. Let me just say, that over the years, we have taken SO many steps of lessons, that what works and what not.
My husband has a musician background and it has helped us a lot that he knows how to make sound recording well and how to combine the sound with the video picture. I on the other hand have learned that there’s something special in my voice. From people in different countries I have got feedback that my voice is so calming and soft that they would be even willing to pay to just be able too hear me speaking or reading. Feedback has felt funny, but let’s see -maybe in the future, you may be able to hear my voice more.
But frankly, I didn’t mind since I felt that the important than using my time for keeping our house clean and tidy, was that I used my extra time to our kids and other things that helped me to keep my mood up.
In May 2018, I was invited to Punkaharju school to talk about entrepreneurship from 7th to 9th graders. It was a meaningful thing to me and I was so happy to talk with the principal Saila Heikkinen after my presentation and hear that they had found my story inspiring to schoolchildren.
Tears of happiness came when I saw the first add on Facebook where my Japanese partner had started to market our first SaimaaLife Travel Package to Japanese. It felt unreal to think that soon there would be people who had bought Finland travel so that they could come to experience something that was my everyday life and surroundings.
Till spring 2018, I had found the “fighter” inside me at working life and managed to get support so that I and my business partner Asaka were able to bring Japanese Tour operator Finntour to get to know the Saimaa area. With Asaka and Mr. Muraoka came Kumi too since we were planning to make Nordic Walking travel package for the year 2019. I traveled to Helsinki so that together we were able to take a train to Saimaa and I could hear their opinions about the train journey from Helsinki to Punkaharju. Here we are at the restaurant carriage enjoying the green sceneries around us and getting to know each other. It was very good news to me to hear that they found the 4 hour train journey comfortable and enjoyable.
I had planned 4 day programme to my Japanese visitors around my home region. Tiisanmäki sheep farm was one of the first ones, and there my guests were able to try to make Finnish traditional crafts too guided by Päivikki Liukkonen.
Green care and animal therapy is one of the topics I’d like to get to write and show you more in the future. Recently I’ve personally found the power of it as a way to take care of my mental health. Here’s the story I wrote last year about the topic: Green Care (and Delicious Food) from Tiisanmäki.
I have a vision what kind of companies I want to include to SaimaaLife travels. There’s no doubt Tynkkylän Lomaniemi belongs to them for many different reasons.
Hepokatti farm is another amazing place located in Punkaharju ridge area. The entrepreneur is the family’s daughter Maria. Her father gave my guests a farm tour. During it they were, for example, able to keep warm, fresh eggs in their hands. That kind of experiences is so valuable in the modern world.
Having sauna, swimming in the lake and enjoying the feeling afterward looking at the beauty of Lake Saimaa and listening to the silence of nature. That is THE reason to travel to my home region. It makes your soul sing. See the following video. There you can sense my enthusiasm after being able to offer this experience to my guests..
At the bottom, I have University degree of the regional developer. That side of me came visible at the latest during this visit. -I felt so happy when I was able to introduce Saimaa companies to Finntour and help them to get more international customers in the future. Here local bus company entrepreneur Jyrki Kosonen came to meet Mr. Muraoka at the Hotelli Punkaharju.
I was also happy that we could give some local Saimaa products to our guests to take to Japan. More there are the ways and chalnnels to spread the good that Saimaa lake nature offers, the better.
This photo makes me so emotional. Two mompreneurs. Dear Asaka, my business partner in Tokyo. In 2017 we were able to see each other once, in 2018 also once. These moments when we are able to talk face-to-face are so precious. In 2019, we are going to meet again in September in Punkaharju. I feel so grateful to share this crazy journey with her!
I had taken my guests to eat sweet blueberry flowers with me, and I did the same alone after they had left. Deep gratitude filled me.
At home, I took a pile of SaimaaLife papers into my hands and looked at all plans and figures that I had made about business concept over the years. I laughed but at the same time felt excitement over noticing how my thoughts and vision had developed over time. There were also new elements came to my figures and I felt a bit sad when I realized that the fact was that neither in spring 2018 or any time during the next year or so I had energy and financial possibilities to make them visible. But at the same time, I noticed that new kind of patience and foresight had strengthened in me as an entrepreneur. I was able to accept that I just needed to work step-by-step forward – all would come true when the time would be right.
Technical problems that I and my husband had had during our journey with 360° / VR technology had almost driven us grazy. Every time they felt so frustrating! Till the end of May 2018, luckily I was able to find peace with them. Of course, also in this LIVE360° broadcast, it was annoying that the Internet connection was lost and that’s why you can only see part of this video too that I sent from Linnansaari national park. However, rather than focusing on that, I concentrated on noticing how much development there had happened in our video content. For me personally, it was a warm ray of light to notice during spring 2018 and in all 360LIVE broadcasts, I sent then, that how much I had developed in front of the camera. My goal was to be able to be as natural as possible to my viewers -and I noticed that all the time I was getting closer to that goal. It felt so good!
May was in the end and the school summer holiday started. Our firstborn graduated from the 1st grade. All kinds of emotions went through me. I was so proud and happy for her but inside me, there was sorrow. I would have wanted our beautiful daughters to have a happy family and parents as their safety net.
Summertime had arrived and nature looked amazingly fresh. Still, I felt anything else but fresh. I just wanted to sleep and meet no one. I went to visit a forest cottage. The evening before I had said to my husband that it doesn’t matter what kind of spring we have in 2019, the main thing is that our situation is not the same then, what it was now, or a year before, or two years before. Basically, we had decided that during the summer I would move to the forest cottage. Still, actually doing it felt unreal. My feelings were mixed and on top, I felt really afraid about the future. How I would survive all alone when I was so exhausted and depressed myself? I was also sad that the spring had been really beautiful but again way too little time and space I had had to be in nature and just be in general without doing anything. That I wanted to change in my future for good.
At the end of May, I still did the boat garden at our family’s home. I looked at our boat home and looked back to the summers that our family had lived in that boat. There our family had spent the happiest time but in spring 2018 I was able to remember only all arguments that I and my husband had had there. It was so sad. Sad was also to acknowledge that if I should have made a choice between SaimaaLife and my marriage, I would have chosen the first one. Despite all exhaustion, it had become clear till spring 2018 that I breathed through my work. It was a way to express myself and felt my life meaningful when I was able to do my work. Still, I would have wanted to have the marriage too -not the same that we had had, but better one, but with the same spouse. A life together here at this house, by the Lake Puruvesi – the place that I had written to be “a soulscape. A symbol of a simply good life. A symbol of our dream.”
I wished that in the past we would have had better skills to live according to this quote:
Here’s also one video from the time before 360° / VR technology. This evening in summer 2015 was so beautiful on the island, salmon tasted delicious on top of the rye bread and we had a good time together as a family. How grateful I am and how wonderful it feels to have these kind memories – even though they include now also an element of pain and sorrow.
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