We need some ‘snow literacy’

Perhaps it is due to ‘chance’ or is it related to climate changes, but many parts of the world are having some unusual weather.  Take snow in greater Athens.  Unexpected yet so perfect ‘powder snow’ as the image below from Kifissia (Northern suburb of Athens).  In most places it was about 1 foot of snow (0.30 cm.) but in other places over 4 feet (1.22 meters). From the perspective of our individual and community knowledge and what I’ve been seeing in the local news here in Greece, our ‘snow literacy’ is lacking. Then again, some other crazy stories from snow-familiar places like New England (U.S.) who put out calls for snow emergencies are similar — this includes the guy who went jogging during a snow emergency and was accidentally plowed over because the snow plower worker did not see him (understandable due to low light or snow flurries)… or people driving fast in dangerous snow conditions.

There are many types of snow that one can find from places like the ‘National Snow and Ice Data Center’ (Types of Snow, NSIDC). We all can remember at least once making those wonderful snow angels so why ruin that pleasantry with a tragedy film of small-town America which received low reviews this past decade (Snow Angels from the New York Times Review).

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Snow melts, hence ice, hence slippage and likely injury.  You need to sweep and shovel the snow, throw sand or salt on it as it melts, and at night when it is colder tread carefully (including appropriate shoes, and car tires) or not at all.  Avoid slipping, sliding, to prevent injury. Of course on the other hand, some physical therapists, orthopedics and sports doctors will have some extra work!

Question #1 — why go running in your school courtyard if your principal told you not to go out?  This happened to a school today in Northern Greece and the young man (anonymous) at about age 15 (the highest age of ‘sensation-seeking behaviors’ as described by developmentalists) fell and broke his leg.  His parents are now going to sue.

Question #2 — can parents afford to not go to work because their kids’ schools are declared closed?  This is because the municipality does not have appropriate snow plowing machines, no basic shoveling done, and worse no salt to throw on the ice.

Question #3 — unrealistic expectations from some people expecting the government to actually plow their front door or worse, beating up the slow plower person because they did ‘not do a good job’ with the street? This is another unrealistic expectation.

Question #4 — why can’t people be responsible to take care of ploughing their front sidewalk as they do in other parts of the world, else be fined?  This could include cleaning up waste or unwanted tagging graffiti (some of it is done because the thieves want to ‘mark’ their target territory). Since we also want to respect cities I must emphasize the recent ‘fines’ placed on a 15-year-old Greek girl who thought it would be ‘cute’ to write her name and ‘was here’ on a historical bridge in Florence, Italy. She got caught, fined, and could have faced imprisonment.  My final question — why are we not following suit in common sense policies and procedures?

Yes indeed, snow literacy should be one of the fundamentals of survival and overall health literacy.

In with the new…. “cutting” the year ahead

IMG_1835This year started on the right foot …friends, family and rethinking modern time challenges. Traveling across continents helps one understand what younger and older people are influenced by and what brings the integenerations together! On New Year’s Eve I attended a smoke-free event, on New Year’s Day I read two popular magazines — one local and one national — a renowned national newspaper, learned about an odd game of “Cards Against Humanity”, and partook in some sing-a-long activities.

imageStarting with the last most unpolitically correct game I suppose the linguistic humorists make the “cut” here ….. personally not sure I like it but it got people off their mobile smartphones!

Regarding language, reading a great article in the local New England Magazine December 2018 issue (photo above) by clinical social worker Andrew Aaron I read a great term “emotional hibernation”. The focus was about how much people  don’t communicate and “in-pain partners look for a sign to be valued waiting for the cold winter of insensitivity to pass in the warm spring of love to arrive” (p. 55). Openess is indeed an essential aspect of love and what’s needed in the new year! And what about our over-indulgence and need for “likes” in social media creating anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out)?!

We took about 45 minutes with the older generation singing around “Kostas” the bouzouki player giving me hope in inter-generation of community involvement with the power of music. It got the kids off their tablets and slowly young adults coming in. This should be a requirement of community health literacy.imageSpeaking of community living, many of us around the globe take for granted our hair and clothes not stinking from smoke as others abuse our rights for clean air.  Such a logical and simple thing! To think that many of us in the 1980s and 1990s lived the Big Tobacco fights to witnesss their ever ending expansion into the rest of the unsuspecting world.

What resolutions and good habits do you want to start in the new year ahead!? Food for thought no matter how you cut your New Year’s cake, well wishes & happy 2019 to all.

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Silent nights and peppermint dreams…

How many of us have read the now classic American story  “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” which is actually a poem written in the 1800s whose message has been carried through to us today? We all seek the goodness of this holiday regardless of our religious backgrounds. We can feel the quiet anticipation from the  lines “…not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” or “children were nestled all snug in their beds dreaming of sugar plums which danced in their heads”.

Emphasis on the NEED for quiet and sleep, especially our young ones who need at least 9 -11 hours nightly for healthy brain development (younger babies up to 14 hours) and for us older types at least 6-8 hours are needed for full rest and necessary “beauty sleep”. As a matter of fact our skin does better with more hours of sleep and the need for darkness for melatonin to be released to experience full rest which is one reason for people to get help with insomnia or even sleep lab tests for cases like sleep apnea !

When we travel away from the craziness of the city’s busy sidewalks even though they may be “dressed in holiday style” we may realize (mindfully or not) the necessity of stillness and quiet. Is it any coincidence that many people go to places where they don’t need to talk much or at all? From mountains to yoga retreats, or walking (driving) in chilly evenings to get those night views of fabulous extreme or minimally decorated homes.  Some of us may wish for a white Christmas but for many it is that necessary quiet space that is needed at the end of a busy day of visiting family and friends, or finishing that last minute shopping for a gift or making that fabulous dessert that will cost us our daily caloric intake!

Speaking of which, how many of you feel nostalgic about candy canes or peppermint chocolate/ icecream ? A particular favorite sold only in old time ice cream parlors is popular in certain regions of the US! I particularly loved this recipe made with Greek yogurt by Dannette May for peppermint ice cream (see here) for that extra protein. Also many of us don’t call know that peppermint oil is great for body destressing as it has great healing properties ….

Thus holiday wishes to all and to all a good, quiet, night with a nice peppermint inspired accompaniment!IMG_1666

Be Thankful and Respect Cities…lessons from Venice

I’m thankful for beautiful and clean cities. Venice (Venezia) Italy is a land of rich history and worthy of “respect”.  This is the social marketing message I got from the people working, living, or visiting there in my short visit,  as they also have a more visible campaign #RESPECT ENJOY VENICE . I was thankful to see the main square area as in a few days it completely flooded likely due to the rain and the Cruise ships allowed in which change the water volume in the old city canals — we made it through the forthcoming flood but several did not ironically the week we left.  It was certainly an “experience” and the children had fun as all in rainbow colored plastic galoshes patiently lined up to ‘walk the plank’ across San Marco square.

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As we also took a different direction to less water filled stores and restaurants it occured to me how civilized everyone was. I also observed very little trash and no huge problem with vandalistic graffiti like tagging which plagues most cities today.

We cannot deal with more vandalism, especially ‘dirty tagging’ as this contributes to our uneasiness, there is proof that once one negative event happens another one is right behind hence the Broken Window Syndrome (see theory). So why are so many people doing this in other cities and countries where they are visiting? Is it due to lack of empathy or intended damage (due to jealousy of the respected city or town history)?  Perhaps all graffiti artists need to ban together to develop a new ‘ethos’ of informing and discussing with younger generations to come.

Would people like the Colosseum full of multi-colored tags?  The White House and surroundings monuments? How about St. Petersburg? The Greek isles, or on the off-white color of the Acropolis (it was bad enough that pieces of it were taken away by Lord Elgen himself to ‘whiten’ the stone thus ruining the natural color of the rock and marble)?!

Do people have any idea of how many months and years of hard labor (albeit most was indeed ‘slave’ labor) it took to create these masterpieces?  Do people know the true reasons why  “Venice” was created in the first place? Basically to avoid being sacked and completely vandalized/destroyed as their mainland was during the barbarian invasions. Can and should continents like Europe do something about the issue and ban together?  Maybe create a good social marketing campaign or practically a type of coding of spray cans (similar to gun monitoring “aimed” to better control) so that we can trace back vandals….. People are poor enough, have hardships enough, they cannot bear to pay taxes to ‘fix’ their personal property let alone public property, especially to clean up streets and monuments. This is part of our community health literacy to be responsible citizens and visitors.

Let’s ask for RESPECT of all cities and great historical monuments around the globe. Let’s be THANKFUL for their existence, and for those who maintain them including taxpayers, city planners, cleaners and artisans everywhere!

Seeing the beauty and reading up on history was the basic inspiration of this poem:

Venezia (Venice)

Vivaldi played his seasons four
Now Gondoliers paddle to shore
San Marco, Giorgio, and Theodore
So many in Venezia.

For all her glory and her pain
Of wondrous knights for faith doth slain
The mists remain on stones of goth
She sinks inside, the days of sloth
The city of Venezia.

(Barbara K.)

 

Seeing red signs? color, nature, and signs

One of my students was interested in seeing what adjectives we associate with colors and how our mood is potentially are affected by color in the short or long-term. Her project truly reflects both nature (certain colors calm while others excite us neurologically) and nurture (what we see, hear in our culture reflects our perceptions).

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Red Moon — photo by Bill Coast (c) 2018

There is an entire ‘color psychology’ out there and many articles written like this one : Color Psychology: Does It Affect How You Feel? (VeryWellMind, September 2018). A while ago I had posted about the “Dark Moon….” and last summer there was a “Red Moon” citing starting late July through more recent weeks in August.

As leaves and seasons change to Fall-Winter our vegetables and fruits become deeper oranges and reds like vitamin C- rich pomegranates, cranberries, or Beta-carotene pumpkin pickings from the fields.  We eventually have these part of our Thanksgiving tables (if you are American) or your pumpkin soup like this great pumpkin-ginger recipe by my favorite ‘food revolutionist‘ and British chef, Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s TedEx talk about obesity in America and dietary changes around the world is still current today in our attempt to curb over-eating and eating food that is neither good for us or our communities. We love comfort foods to pep up our moods but let’s consider what we put inside our body today.

The month of November starts with health issues including Alzheimer’s Awareness, Diabetes Awareness, Tobacco Awareness and COPD month, and we end up thinking about all our extra calories after eating our turkey dinner. Perhaps our need for extra food is part of our packing up for our natural winter ‘hibernation’ as some may also suffer from seasonal affective disorders? There is a SAD test you can take today to determine if you indeed suffer from this disorder, consider environmental changes like diet and ‘light treatment’… again on the issue of colors — yellow, blue, red… ergonomics research on firetrucks has proved that lime yellow is a safer color than red, yet we seem to be stuck on the former as our preferred color of firetrucks around the world. Old habits die hard, including our own health literacy habits. Red is an ‘excitable’ color it makes sense that fire alarms are still red, and the red ‘do not smoke sign’ is just as common. I personally think Starbucks has the best line on its “thank you for not smoking” sign reminding people about maintaining the coffee’s smell and taste —  simply brilliant!

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Post Rafina fires … “I saved my family and property” one family’s story

October 10th is annual World Mental Health day (WHO-MentalHlth) and all that Falls upon us may include recent or past traumatic events, including the Rafina “Mati” fire of July 2018 (see past post ‘Ashes to Ashes‘). As psychosocial and public health professionals we refer to post-symptoms including anxiety and depression, loss of sleep etc. which may be indicative of a post-traumatic stress disorder after a shocking or life-threatening event. Last September I interviewed and photographed one woman and her property in Rafina, 10 minutes away from “Mati” where approximately 100 people lost their lives in July 2018.

Fire moves fast, mostly passing on the ground or heat melting  leaves from trees and plants, or parts of homes.  We heard so many stories of ‘survival’ of people jumping into the sea and swimming for hours to be rescued by the Hellenic Coast Guard, or running down stone pathways away from the fire. Just a few hours…. that was the time it took for utter devastation. This post focuses on survival. How one woman’s story of saving her home and property with her family.   Eleftheria (her name means ‘freedom’ in Greek) is in her 70’s and she made it through using prevention smarts, quick courageous actions during the event, and likely one who has high health literacy.

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This close….I saved my family and property.

Traveling to their home I did not know what to expect.  Realizing the last time I visited the area was the beginning of July, coming ‘this close’ to the now tragically famed “Mati” fire where many people died, many lost their property.  What I encountered left me open-mouthed.  This family’s home was completely surrounded by ashes — several homes and surrounding land were burned to the ground. A few streets down there were blackened charcoal regions, houses with burned windows in a corner part near one of the small ports nearby — there an elderly couple died of smoke inhalation.  They did not know each other — but it came this close — it could have been them….

To my amazement, as we walked around their four-acre land only a few trees were burned, though clearly evidence of heat-fire having passed as if on the surface of the earth’s skin… Now only happy animals play or search for food in this family’s fields.  This includes 40 chickens (only one was lost in the fire because it got scared and wandered off), two dogs — a shepherd and a hound, almost all bee hives were untethered.  I sat down with Eleftheria to hear her family’s story, what they did and how…. in hindsight they took risks but they managed to stay out of harm’s way near cemented parts of the home (like their basement) — we now understand for the area there was no clear evacuation plan of the region by the local municipality or media. As a matter of fact most families watching the news that day thought that the fires were only happening in the Peloponnese in Kineta, and from Pendeli (in Attica) fires moved quick as if in a large downward ski slope all the way trough Rafina, to the Mati area.

“It took two hours”, “I thought it was the end of my parents” said her daughter, “I thought it was the end…” said her husband who is now over 95 years old.  But Eleftheria kept moving fast, protecting the animals, using water, throwing dirt or using large branches and wool type blankets to put out fires.  As she says, the primary reason they survived was due to prevention.  Some neighbors who do not maintain their field or surrounding areas to their home had much damage done. In thinking of around the-year prevention, she shared these tips and actions:

  1. clear bushes and surrounding trash, tall grasses, cut down trees year-round, especially during the fire season (summer, dry months)
  2. some plants/trees like cactus fruit, fig trees, aloe vera prevent fire from spreading due to their deep roots which keep moisture in — maintain and plant more of them!
  3. bee hives should have a solid type foundation away from tall grasses if possible
  4. glass windows closed — wooden or plastic panels pulled away so that fire does not pass, and any melting doesn’t prevent doors from opening (for quick escapes)
  5. water storage areas (wells, containers) replenishing and cleaning fire equipment and extinguishers once a year as maintenance
  6. evacuation route pre-planned if possible (knowing the area, clear road/route signs)

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Eleftheria gives me a jar of honey taking a pose for a photograph. I am happy that she, her family, and all the animals she cares for and loves, made it through this tragedy safe and sound….. may we continue sharing lessons for locals as well as our governments to look at “lessons learned” towards improving communication and better planning efforts.

We deserve better.

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Peaches oh 🍑 peaches!

61ED0575-A0CD-4AD8-ACC2-0ED00F7C2AB8I’ve never met a peach I didn’t like. Can you tell the difference among white or yellow flesh type peaches, nectarines and other local varieties? I used to live in the southern U.S. “Peach State” Georgia which first got me thinking and making wonderful peach tart-pies. I also got to appreciate the rich character and identity of each place I’ve lived in. We often overlook symbols and sayings but these add value to our historical knowledge as well as likely contributing to our health literacy. Phrases like “how peachy” can be positive while saying “oh, peaches!” could be a softer more comical way to express one’s frustration. So yes, we sometimes use “fruit language” when we speak.

Not only are peaches an attractive looking fruit, they taste great, are low calorie and have necessary fiber and carbohydrates and vitamins, including potassium and Vitamins A through E to help us function better during our day — particularly good for our skin fighting against the stress of everyday pollution. Furthermore, peaches are supposedly good for those with high blood pressure but as with everything please eat in moderation…yes, if fresh peaches are not an option, eating canned peaches with strained Greek-style yogurt is a low calorie meal especially at the start of your day. If you can afford the extra calories try “peaches and cream”, another southern U.S. tradition which is especially delicious. I particularly like one variety which comes from the region of Naoussa in Northern Greece where it looks like a squished flat peach but it’s sweeter than other varieties.

Here’s a secret for a great peach tart — bake the crust for about 15 minutes before then add your peach mixture and if your peaches are tart just add some more brown sugar! Yummy…