Mundane Poetry and thoughts on Pandemics

April is National Poetry Month, in the U.S. Inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), the Academy of American Poets established National Poetry Month in 1996.

I have been writing poetry for a very long time and only recently during quarantine had a bit more time in my plethora of life and work matters, to pick up some poetry books to read, and of course write more. Why not published….. hmm? Too busy reading articles. Part of inspiring hope is through literature and poetry. Poetry can take many forms, it can describe a mood, reflect on subconscious or conscious thoughts, history, fantasy or reality. Quotes and poetry add great depth to our lives, to inspire, to make a difference, so dream and think like a poet!

Robert Frost, and many of his writings are classics, one of my favorites, as also the metaphysical poet John Donne. Andrew Spacey in Owlcation poetry analysis of Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (written in 1922) provides a great analysis by stanza (group of lines divided into groups and separated by lines in a poem). Indeed some of Frost’s lines are “dark” but then, a lot of music and poetry is. It describes our mood, subconscious thoughts or simply a state of mind. Frost has that ‘hunky sensitivity’ — endearing to many of us romantic types — this poem is indeed reflective of isolation, and if anyone travels to Vermont or New Hampshire during the long winter months, they can understand the context of a seemingly mundane world.

This may be how some people even view the current pandemic. Mundane and isolationist.

Diseases categorized as ‘pandemics’ used to travel very slowly, in older days. So slowly that it took decades and even hundreds of years for these to reach continental Europe from places like Asia. Although it has been documented that quarantines helped control disease spread in the Middle Ages, we as human beings cannot live very long in isolation. We do not travel solely on ships anymore, we are ‘airborne’ — and this is the issue of the current COVID-19 and related SARS family of diseases. COVID continues to get the reputation of being a ‘clotting disease‘ and unfortunately damages multiple organs. We keep losing people, the medical community is overburdened and fatigued.

One of my students recently lost his wife, mother of two, ages 13 and 9, may she rest in peace. Others we know had been hospitalized, some ‘survived’ but still report extreme exhaustion and having ‘fuzzy’ unclear thinking processes.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) another American favorite wrote more than 800 poems found in her family home in Amherst, MA. Influenced by her context, a strict father, a mother who was crippled from a stroke.

It takes time. We want to believe that self-tests will shed light on the “Typhoid Mary” types of of our communities, the Spreaders and potential Carriers. We hope that having a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated will help humans move forward so it is not as in ‘the end of days’ or some version of the Apocalypse. We need to go back to the basics of trace data, inform close-nit groups, and train community health aides.

There is confusion, an anti-vax movement, and for sure no perfect solution. As with everything, we need to take action, to educate, and to empower. A recent March correspondence article “Covid-19, cults and the antivax-movement” in The Lancet, I am aligned with this: “Burgess and colleagues drew attention to how people who might have suffered disproportionate economic and health consequences from COVID-19 are now being asked to trust the same structures that failed to provide adequate resources and social protection during the pandemic…..However, Burgess and colleagues make a distinction between ‘people wholly opposed to vaccinations (anti-vaxxers) and…vaccine hesitancy.’

MUNDANE

War, Blood,

the tears of pain,

of victory, of power,

the story of greed.

Walk, journey,

the birth of life,

of growth, of courage,

the story of survival.

Hope, fear,

the light of truth,

of freedom, of serenity,

the story of peace.

(B. Kondilis, 1991)

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

We start with a few, and keep adding…. this is how preventive education starts. Individual is good but population-based even better. Meaning the “biggest bang for your buck.” No one knows it better than people trained by the CDC or similar entities. As it seems, it makes no difference if we were trained 20 years ago or 40 years ago. Whether it was the AIDS epidemic or the Covid Pandemic, increasing health literacy remains a consistent goal.

We are trained to give information, to work with teams and media (radio, TV, internet, magazine, newspaper, you name it), for any type of disease (chronic or infectious/ communicable). Mental health trained clinicians deal with loss, help people better understand their strength and resilience, to ‘have a chance’ and make the world a better place to live. We know there is mistrust, but we also know how important trust-building is to the patient-provider relationship. Healthcare professionals, allied health professionals, mental health professionals all bring their ‘arms’ to the “Round-Table” if there ever was a health communication ideal of ‘Camelot’….

Barbara Kondilis & MaryLee Behrens, lifelong health educators
during an online session with health psychology students

Go Fly a Kite 🪁

I always loved the phrase “Go fly a kite!” When one is angry 😡…. to give time to relax the intense emotions, breathe some oxygen and get some healthy sunshine 🌞

In Greece this Monday it’s a cultural tradition to fly a kite 🪁 symbolic of the soul flying high as the majority are Eastern Orthodox Christians and it’s a “clean Monday” no meat, subdued and happy moments with family and the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. In light of recent city clashes with police 👮‍♀️ as well as anarchistic rallies in this part of the world of civil unrest, we need to think 🤔 and take some time to personally contribute to a better world starting with us … manage our systems and manage our anger in healthier ways…. and yes it’s not as easy as it looks (your kite flying I mean 😏)

Go FLY a Kite!

Ms. “Sarakosti” keeps time with her legs ! 7 weeks ….

And of course who would forget Ms. Sarakosti her 7 feet symbolize each week of Lent. She humbly reminds us to turn within and add our family members names (optional) to keep us on path for our detoxification and spiritual growth.

The hope is that we learn to soar and the “growth mindset” takes some time ….

  1. Manage yourself first ….including rethinking about what you do and say. No one is perfect.
  2. Sit with it — Extreme emotions may be warranted but not to the detriment of your relationships. Start counting ….it takes about 10 seconds to realize how you’re feeling and a quick body scan, 🛑 reflect and then act!
  3. Listen — Can you really “hear” truth or simply perceive criticism ? Good friends and family often want what’s best for us, so tease out what is valuable.
  4. Clean house — inner and outer, literally and figuratively. A bit of fasting and reflecting is healthy. Decluttering also makes you feel great and the KonMarie method is one to follow!

Teaching kids to appreciate science 🧬

A social scientist recently said that the pandemic may have given many parents the chance to slow down and really talk. Talk about what we “take in” from the online world from what we watch or play.

Every day we have chances to teach children, but seem to compete with online gaming and other such popular distractions. In our family the “game night” did not last long. We tried at least once a week 😆 (Checkers vs. Fortnite) but at least we TRIED!

This week school assigned a biology experiment which helped us better understand that what we take in — physically and psychologically — affects us; much like the celery which is now “becoming” blue (that’s food color in the water 💧that the celery is drinking) … to better understand osmosis. Yes 👍

No lava lamps for us this time. One site by Good Housekeeping even has over 20 experiments one can do at home ! Additionally “try” three (3) things 🏡 with a discussion and a “debriefing” afterwards of how your body feels and tension/stress is released. A great way to get them started to appreciate Psychology! Yes 👍

  1. Body scan and emotional “state” before and then after your 20 minute walk or bike ride
  2. Guided meditation or yoga poses with music 10 minutes
  3. Coloring books for relaxing the brain

And who knows …what the kids will become ! Keep sharing and keep caring.

The “forced” snow day

It’s snowing ❄️ in Greece

Today I choose “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven and I did not realize the cartoon Angry Birds had satirized “Ode to Snow” as there are many poems dedicated to the beautiful crystallized water. A friend sent me this image of the stones on her balcony which had formed a beautiful heart …. it’s a reminder I said of God’s love.

Epidemiologists are happy today because people have been forced to stay inside due to the snow ❄️ In warn climates people find it hard to stay indoors. Much to our distress we often find worse crowds on the street, “walking their dog”or loading up on toilet paper in the supermarket (the Purple Heart !) . Hearts go out to families in locations with power outages in cold, the homeless, and strays ….may you find warmth soon

Love ❤️ and virtual hugs 🤗

People do not seem to understand that getting a vaccine is not full proof. It will take TIME and maintaining some sense of physical distancing is continuing to be important (official wording see January Global Health Promotion Sage Publications here) as well as wearing your mask 😷.

Adults made snowmen/women for the first time ! Children found it hard to resist making snow angels and why not? They increase their physical activity, and joy for all, as it is the elixir to good health !

One last note 📝 we all need some snow literacy …I hear crazy demands on the government to clean front doors, people ask “why do we need salt?” “What are snow tires?” The list goes on ….meanwhile enjoy the winter wonderland for a few days. Be happy and sing your own “Ode to Snow” ⛄️ today !

February winter

They deserve the Purple Heart 💜 today

Valentine’s Day 2021 quarantines, lockdowns, economic destruction, the importance of “bubbles” to keep safe, people being afraid 😱 of their neighbor — “have they done a rapid test?”, “What if they’re positive?” We “run” to the florist as it’s one of the few open businesses (thankfully) to buy a flower 🌹 or a stuffed animal …this year those “eyes” got me 💕 as well as that nice morning surprise of cake 🧁 heart-shaped fruit 🍎

Catching your breath under the 3 layer mask, lack of oxygen likely affecting our brain, for the “nth” time a trip to the supermarket. This time, to buy extra rice and mushrooms for the risotto, a bit of chocolate 🍫 for the marketed occasion, supplies for a celebratory glass of red wine 🍷 for those flavonoids — good for the adult heart. Speaking of which ….this year one bakery (Veneti) had a great Valentine’s bread 🍞 idea in the shape of a heart. St. Valentine was Roman Catholic of Italian decent — his relics are dispersed and displayed around the world (Rome, Italy 🇮🇹 and Dublin, Ireland 🇮🇪) for those “seeking” love 💗 with one relic buried on the island of Lesvos (Lesbos) Greece 🇬🇷. This island has been in the news quite a bit these last years due to the Mediterranean migration crisis with local populations opening their hearts but also suffering immense pressure and economic disasters of their own. “Let them have bread” might be a phrase that comes to mind here.

The Purple Heart 💜 is a U.S. military decoration given to those courageous wounded soldiers, or those killed in battle. Today, we dedicate thanks 🙏 to those workers who help us daily, who put up with customer rudeness, stock the shelves and risk their own health are exhausted and stressed, ‘forgotten key workers‘ — working in supermarkets, factories, pharmacies, flower shops, street cleaners, garbage collectors, to name a few …. so many songs that could be dedicated here. Today it’s Sting “The Shape of My Heart” 💗❤️

Leftover plants 🪴transforming thoughts

Dolly Parton, is a force of positive energy and humour. She once said “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.” Last year, several posts were written about rainbows 🌈 as we sometimes are burdened by over-thinking or over-working. Some “drown” from all the rain 🌧 of exhaustion and negativity. However, we need to remember our umbrella ☔️ of health literacy. Self-talk, self-care, social support and transformation of our surroundings. There is always a way…. to untwist your thinking 🤔 change your path, get the support to make it through… Even the little fun-loving grasshopper was “taken in” by the hardworking ants 🐜 he made fun of if you remember the one from Aesop’s fables.

One of my good friends “took in” a baby turtle 🐢 she almost ran over on the road. Asian cultures say turtles are good luck. He/she now lives near her plants 🪴 next to her tree 🌲 which she has also nurtured since it’s growth/birth. Caring people nurture growth in all of us. My hope is for you to be as lucky to have some good people in your life like this. People who can help you with the “shelter” of sharing a cup of tea or a bowl of soup, take a walk with, and give you a pep talk. Like her turtle we all need a little protection once in a while. Particularly in winter months, times when real or experienced mental “darkness” may attempt to take over. Do something for your physical, mental, and spiritual life —don’t forget the light — one lucky turtle !

Add color to your life with good words, deeds, changes, think of transformers. More color to your life in the form of plants can increase your oxygen levels helping any home in bleak winter months be happier and healthier ….and maybe a good bowl of soup 🥣 akin to the series “Chicken Soup for the Soul”!

Featured plants: Holly, spider plant, poinsettia

Many plant species have “migrated” from international sea travel and it turns out that the well-known Xmas plant poinsettia (in Greek called Αλεξανδρινό) has come from parts of South America. Certain species can grow several meters high and I’ve seen white, red, pink versions in many places. What a great idea to add to your home 🏡.

Why not keep those leftover plants 🪴? Add some pressed flowers 🌸 in your journal pages that you can find years later to remind you and reflect fondly on those beloved memories? Many young people don’t keep hard cover journals anymore, but I say bring it back… there is proof that writing has a specific connection to your neurological system as some claim that by changing some writing you can even affect behaviors (anger and disorganization for example). Remember to share new and old books — Let them have books 📚 and cheesecake! 📚

“These are a few of my favourite things …and then I don’t feel so bad …” Sing 🎶 it Julie! She “transformed” the von Trapp family in the Sound of Music 🎼 movie! The real story about the Austrian family may surprise you (real Trapp family) 😲

Think of your “favourite things” to help you over a tough period and take a walk to “healing” nature!

Planning meals, the Idaho Plate Method, Families, traditions and lockdowns

There are many different families — singles, couples, big and small. Eating right and making it easy, while not over-worrying about “proper nutrition” is a constant concern I hear. The lockdown has helped some people “learn” more and discover hidden talents, while others are struggling with their own melancholic tendencies or even “Zoom fatigue” (I’m sure this will be added in a future Diagnostic manual!) . This post is about food 🥘 mix-and-match ideas and tips, with some traditional recipe ideas!

Start off thinking slow cooking …. and healthy “fast” foods going back to ancient times. Anyone see the recent post on the Ancient Pompeii food stand? Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus’ noted simple healthy combinations leading to the “basis” of modern diets with his writings about Mediterranean food, herbs and cooking. Do you know why bitter Oregano is added to Greek salad? It has antiseptic qualities and wards off bacteria which get worse in the hot 🥵 Mediterranean sun 🌞.

If one is lucky to come from a family whose roots are based in gardening, farming, and Mediterranean cooking — one of the healthiest diets in the world — it adds to one’s “food literacy” an important part of health literacy, increasing the value of seasonal foods\eating. This all might seem easy, but it’s not to everyone. In times of financial imbalance, food scarcity, disinterest, or lacking access (e.g. urban poor neighborhoods complain about food “deserts” lacking produce or markets); thus, challenges will ensue. However we live in the digital age and we can learn. Current efforts of sustainable urban gardens and food collaboratives contribute positively globally !

There are always things to learn and share. Asking amazing cooks and “superwomen” (or men) helps one gather excellent recipes and ideas. Remember, it’s important to have the ‘rainbow colors’ fruits (fresh or dried) and vegetables (fresh or frozen) in our daily diets as much as we can. Eat mindfully
🧡 checkout some tips for various physical conditions by an amazing doctor, triathlete and longtime friend ChefMD Kathy💙

Here are some images of recent favorites 🏡 from quince with pork and salad, bean soup, rice with avocado and shrimp, mozzarella tomato with fresh (or dried) basil, traditional “trahana” and Covid immunity building supplements (vitamins and teas) with some room for a cinnamon-apple 🍎 tart…. and yes cinnamon is great to help us lose weight and ‘heat’ the system in the winter months!

One has to “think ahead” to pass on their “skills” to future generations especially help teens and young adults find a “purpose” and build life skills. There are fabulous food shows, we like Akis’ food lab. We also encourage young people to learn about sustainability and such things as urban gardens are great! During winter months, we need to give ourselves an OK ✅ to eat more comfort foods and not over stress about calories. Sparingly 1 Wine 🍷 or 🍺 1 glass is fine for adults, but we aware of extra calories and of course we never drink and drive (think designated driver!).

NOTE 📝 We are not nutritionists here! No need for you to be wealthy to afford food “supplies”, just food smart. If you’re told you’re a great cook and meal host, share your knowledge! Sharing is indeed caring.

Having worked over five years with people who have diabetes, some work with anorexia and obesity recovery from eating disorders, being in tune with the “science” of diets and food resources, having family working in eating establishments (from restaurants to schools), and experiencing the lockdown — including sometimes working and eating too late, meeting and cooking with a ‘master chef’ years ago, many things “rubbed off.” What works and what doesn’t, reality of time and money, cultural issues (e.g. no lard for me despite having had some good fried chicken in the southern U.S.!). Here are a few good tips:

❤️ 6-8 glasses of water 💧 daily including tea (morning or midday) or 1 cup black coffee — with an extra glass of water, are a great way to retain your necessary body fluids. Summer months +2-3 glasses and more fruit!

❤️ Always eat breakfast, be a good role model to your children. Your body is like a 🚗 car, it cannot run on “fumes” (water and coffee are nice but EAT some protein!). If your kids like the sugary cereals mix all up with bran or cornflakes, add some fresh or dried fruit inside or on the side — you’ll feel better about it, and in the long-run they will too.

Choco balls and corn flakes

❤️ The Idaho plate http://platemethod.com/ method is easy to “visualize”— think half your plate of veggies (keep olive oil and lemon 🍋 nearby as it’s better than high calorie sweet sauces) use during lunch and dinner, you’re ahead of the “keeping healthy” game!

❤️ Learn about family food traditions — it’s ok to binge on the heavier calorie ones in the winter just take an extra walk (some smart phones even tell you how many steps you’ve done — aim between 8-10,000 steps daily). This year I learned about curing olives. We made some good meals like quince with pork chops; chestnuts 🌰 with walnuts and raisins stuffed in small to medium-sized turkey; a bean soup combination for Fall-Winter. Did you know that eating about six olives is equivalent to a small piece of meat for protein? 🧑‍🍳 A recent Epicurious food post had wonderful Dutch oven recipes, which one can easily use crock pots as well ….slow, easy, good for you, and your family, and of course delicious.

Despite mom’s chronic arthritis she still makes her traditional and awesome Christmas-New Year aromatic orange, cinnamon, cloves in fried dough recipe “tiganides” or “lalaggia” (they’re made in 2-3 different ways depending what part of the Southern Peloponnese) are a favorite to eat warm, plain or with aged cheese, as a breakfast alternative 😋 … families loved this during cold January. More traditional holiday foods are pictured in this article by Protothema.

❤️ Healthy snacks including protein shakes or bars between meals (XS bars and Body Key by Nutrilite / Amway are some favorites) for busy people, a small piece of dark chocolate every other day as a pick-me-up, accompanied with black coffee/espresso (kids need more calories so don’t be afraid of giving cookies) they also love apple 🍎 or peach 🍑 pie!

Whether you’re making browniesHome for the holidays w/ coconut 🥥 oil for winter or a peach tart for summer, they’re simply good !

I’d like to do an entire post on quince — it has a tangy flavor (wear gloves 🧤 when cutting up because it colors the skin) and is great with regular potatoes and meats like chicken or pork, oven-baked. It’s also amazing as a sweet preserve; eat plain or w/ strained yogurt. It’s high on selenium and kids like it too!

pre-cut quince and quince sweet preserves


❤️ Keep to a planned mealtime schedule as much as possible — lunch between 1-2 pm and dinner about 7 hours later (with a snack in between) is ok. There is a lot of talk lately about “metabolic types” and fasting periods. Note 📝 if you eat a bigger lunch, eat LESS for dinner. Dinner before 8(ish) is best. It’s simple, but not obvious. Think smart prep, some extra meals can be kept frozen, pre-cut salad kept in Tupperware-type containers (that can last up to a week!). Active kids need more snacks so keep yogurt, protein bars/shakes, and fresh or dried fruit close at hand!

We aspire to ‘mix-and-match’ foods, store and reuse for future meals and an ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ philosophy!

❤️ Aspire to an Eat, Pray, Love philosophy as our times make things difficult and it is vitally important to keep the faith in times of uncertainty. This means appreciating what you have, mindful eating, forgiving and loving those dear to you, lending a hand to a neighbor and your community (via donations or in-kind goods). Do what you can, you will feel better in the end! And yes, when you are creative and DO more, especially good cooking and baking you become stronger and more resilient to our difficult times. Remember it is not just about YOU, it is about all of us, big and small, all creatures, a new philosophy for a healthier life.

“So many things are possible, just as long as you don’t know they are impossible.”

–Norton Juster

Smile 😊 it’s a NEW Year!

We are turning the “chapters” of our life pages, renewal and moving ahead. Smile it’s a new year 2021 — 365 new days for ideas and renewed hope and life chances!

One of the best “calendars” I have received and a great message “Smile” 😊 try new things and develop gratitude …. what 3 new things will you try? I’ve outlined a few ideas 💡 ….

Let’s shed light on things we’ve neglected
  1. Enrol in online classes with 365 quotes by Persian poet Rumi? OR some belly dance classes to shed pounds\kilos? There are many courses like DailyOm or sites like MindValley that are certainly interesting!
  2. Clean house, clean out old habits, particularly those bad ones that affect your health (body, mind, spirit), as well as your community’s well-being. (Respect your own body and build immunity, think about your ‘cave’ be less selfish, respect others & refresh cities).
  3. The calendar 📅 of happiness ? Check out this link (actionforhappiness).
Begin 2021 with new ideas & new energy
Some guided meditations are useful instead of only passive breathing, tap into your active mind !

Home for the holidays

Hot beverages, home cooking, turning inward, online burnout, family matters. This is what many people described as key themes from this year’s holidays. Perhaps a slowing down is what that “little bugger” Covid intended, for sure we still have much to learn.

Many of us want to look ahead to a brighter year, thinking of New Year’s resolutions…cook more, quality time with family and friends, reading, music, art, inner work…and yes more hot chocolate and the Eat, Pray, Love philosophy. And, a recent gifted book I’m reading by Haemin Sunim, The Things You can See Only When you Slow Down (c) 2012. One thing is for sure it’s great to make comfort food. The leftover candy canes this year went into some fabulous chewy, coconut oil based brownies ! Yummy 😋

We have responsibility to ourselves and our communities in slowing down the transmission of all communicable disease 🦠 so we can give our health professionals and healthcare facilities a “break.” This WHO social marketing campaign makes it clear. Burnout and risk are also clear.

We are amidst a global pandemic. The latest stats show us that there is a big Pharma “war” for the most COVID vaccines as seen by this very interesting site called “Visual Capitalist” (global maps vaccines ), and of course the gaming industry gains (much to the dismay of parents) , and the “Top 20 visuals from 2020” — missing some additional losses (actors Sean Connery [007] Kirk Douglas [Spartacus], David Prose [Darth Vader], Kelly Preston [Travolta’s spouse] & Nick Cordero [A Bronx Tale] , soccer player Diego Maradona, basketball player Kobe Bryant, rockstar Eddie Van Halen, country singer Kenny Rogers and comedian-singer Little Richard, Maestro Ennio Morricone, to name a few in tribute.😕😢 some of whom had COVID related complications.

No, it’s not just “another flu” …it’s likely as complicated as HIV-AIDS once was. It’s also fast forwarding us to what people call “futurism” and there is certainly a lot of mistrust in governments, the global “network” of economic and media gurus… full conspiracy theories. My friend’s card reminder should help all of us cognitively reshift …..

When life gives you lemons 🍋 ….make lemonade! Indeed

….and of course some good tea!