Winter solstice

Winter Solstice, the old and the new. The morning of December 13th, one could enjoy the Swedish site of the “light” festivities for Santa Lucia. Jewish friends celebrate Chanukah 🕎 with the lighting of seven candles and the 12 days before Christmas we can start with truly listening to the “Twelve days of Christmas” (c. 1780) song 🎵 to the mindset of giving.

Pull out your Farmer’s Almanac. This year, winter solstice happens on Monday, December 21, 2020. The word solstice comes from Latin sol “sun” and sistere “to stand still” implying that the sun’s path across the sky will stand still. This is the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest day of the year. Turns out our ancestors were brilliant about using special stone techniques to track the seasons including Stonehenge (England) and Macchu Picchu (Peru) to name a few, and several calendars merged from pagan to Christian to allow for some festivities in winter.

Even the crescent moon 🌙 found in many Muslim countries is based on astronomical and mythical symbols pre-Islam of the moon goddess transformed later into religious symbolism. Specifically for West Asian peoples since pre-Islamic times, it was associated with the worship of the Moon Goddess, who was given the names Ishtar, Astarte, Alilat, or Mylitta, while some eve associate it with the Greek goddess Aphrodite (Venus).

Emma Shaplin


Perhaps we could be inspired about the moon and stars from Emma Shapplin’s Spente le Stelle or explore the more interconnected cultural histories. This year on Dec. 21st we expect to see a “Christmas star” whereby the planets Jupiter and Saturn will be very close to each other. Supposedly, this bright phenomenon has not been seen since 800 years ago (story Cambridge Independent). The year some people call the “worst ever” actually has this special astronomical surprise… 🪐💫

If you’ve been privileged to explore the magnificent Aurora Northern or Southern Lights, or partake in Shamanistic drumming to “heal the soul of unhealthy spirits”, there is an aspect of ecological balance that many traditions continue from pagan times onward. Wise people understand these rituals highlight the importance of both self-care and community care as needed to thrive and human survival.

Each day is a gift if you seek to take care, recognising healthy and unhealthy habits, and access appropriate care — all part of building individual and community health literacy.

Feeling a bit “down” are you? The word “melancholia” [root Greek words melanin (μελανίνη) and choli (χολή), the former if lacking makes the person feel acutely sad/ depressive, more “choleric” or bad-tempered and moody. Many crave carbohydrates, generally more fatty foods which some are necessary for “making it through” the winter cold. These real-body experiences add up for many in the form of body fat and cellulite and some experience this annually as S.A.D.D. (Fall-winter or even Spring). More on dealing with this in a future post!

Last Spring the post on “the importance of light” highlighted the need for vitamin D, increasing melatonin function for better mental and physical health, as well as the spiritual “good” which holistic approaches aspire to be. If you’re working with a coach or therapist hopefully they are attune to these issues giving you the proper guidance you need.

Add more hot drinks in “heating” your system, healthy foods in your diet to help increase the much needed melanin-melatonin hormone levels; vitamin B complex for better functioning of muscle and cardiac system, neurological building brain food (top foods include: walnuts, chestnuts, asparagus, oatmeal, pineapple, cherries, oatmeal, brown rice to name a few. For kids, in the evening try adding a potassium rich banana with milk making for a great smoothie to help them fall asleep 😴 faster.

Need to lose some weight? Increase your protein and trick your metabolism. Why not add more mushrooms to salads or rice dishes? check out fellow blogger all about mushrooms 🍄 — makes one realize that nature indeed provides all we need if we “seek it” out. I

Consider buying gifts for healthier eating this holiday lockdown season and whatever you do, keep seeking the light in the darkness! Paulo Coelho author of the “Goodread book” Warrior of the Light would be proud.

Deliver healthy gift options to friends this year!

It’s the little things…. this holiday season

Nostalgia over melancholia (be nostalgic but fight off being melancholic 😔) you can do it! The newest trend is 21 days of daily meditation — affirmations and guided versions are great 👍 — to help one change their subconscious mindset. It works.

As a kid we watched a lot of common Christmas movies, like Scrooge which taught us not to hoard wealth, the Little Donkey or Rudolph about how differences make us unique. Somehow Coca Cola red and white colors has now overtaken any idea of the “giving” Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nick 🎅🏻 I hear is taking precautions this year as the word spreads. Someone sent me this image, a welcome reminder of capitalism at best 😆 ….

Currently, “Happy Holidays” is the politically correct terminology for the new world order but nevertheless it’s the little things that feed our subconscious that make this season great.
The other day my good friends surprised me with a beautiful plant 🪴 for celebrating my Saints day, how special that felt. Yes 👍

Each item we choose to display may remind us of a trip, a friend, an accomplishment — like our last year’s making a wooden “Rudolph” with the help of Lions Club & Black and Decker (corporate social responsibility as all money made went to local charities).

Let’s be “rebellious” and stop destroying the little things that give us hope and positivity — even in our part of the world where Dec. 6th marked a tragic event — a big mistake — by one police officer who accidentally took the life of a teen boy who was with his friends bad mouthing the local cops the “ACAB” mentality (not a race issue but definitely a local community gone amuck), 12 years later the trauma keeps being politicised — this community needs healing not more trouble! It is time to refuse focusing attention on the anarchy of youth who resort to burning, looting, destroying our cities — no more PR by media (where is their responsibility not to focus on this?) Can we re-shift our thinking? Yes “Imagine” with the Swoosh effect and also neurolinguistic NLP techniques !

‘Tis the season then! Perhaps you can:

  • drop off a gift 🎁 to someone not expecting it like a “care package” of goodies, a plant, or send flowers 💐
  • make some soup or shovel the snow for your elderly neighbor without them asking (or paying for ….social security checks are low now, and people are suffering enough)
  • send cards with a note 📝 about your news….so much nicer than email which can be “deleted” and forgotten more easily. Thanks 🙏 dear ones who still do this!
  • say “hello” or a nice compliment ….it’s amazing what it does!
  • revamp or redecorate a family heirloom to keep fond memories and share stories
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

We miss being able to give, and of course we should be open to receiving. Several years ago students moved to give hope to others with programs like “Make-a-Wish” foundation. What comes around goes around, and specifically giving and volunteering also contributes strongly to our own happiness and well-being. Thus, add this to your “health literacy” matrix.

Loving the “we serve” purpose

A recent YouTube video was circulating pre-Covid days by GENTRI that took the “Little Drummer Boy” to a new level giving meaning for children fighting cancer….. 💕🙏

Living and walking the “talk” of the Christmas spitit

Toasting to health & support

15 years ago a girl had a dream of bringing a club to oral history roots. A club that started in the “new world” with techniques familiar to the “old world” of Athens Greece, but with more emphasis on evaluating, self improvement as well as community outreach. Thus, the first Toastmasters club of what would eventually be a part of Toastmasters Greece was started. It’s not just about “toasting” (though that gets better in time too) it’s about learning to “R.I.S.E.” above personal hardships and move to gaining strengths and leadership skills in growing beyond our comfort zone. The virtual meetings in lockdown modes are a pleasant 2 hour alternative, twice every month.

  • R — Respect
  • I — Integrity
  • S — Service
  • E — Excellence

The man who started the clubs in 1925 Ralph Smedley was a dreamer too, to make contributions for the young men of the then YMCA. We need to continue efforts for our young people today. They cannot learn through a screen alone. Toastmasters Youth Leadership is one of those examples as well as Speechcraft for teaching groups the gift of public speaking and positivity. In Covid quarantines we understand that human touch and human communication are necessary for our own survival.

“When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” ― Abraham Lincoln

With the internet at your fingertips it’s worth a try to join a club as a guest ! Look up Toastmasters International and find a club near you today — with over 16,000 clubs in 145 countries (and counting), they must be doing something right!

”We learn best in moments of enjoyment”

Ralph Smedley (1878-1965), Founder of Toastmasters

Minks, Covid-minks ?

I recently went to a “closed” Fall fashion show with a handful of people wearing our masks for a local fundraiser for poor families. It was also an opportunity for the designer to sell some of her work and for us in our way to support the art\design workers.

After our brief discussion, I realized how hard it is for both designers and fashion models to be making money during lockdowns and the whole coronavirus craziness ….. I can only imagine from what friends tell me and write about is happening in Milano, Italy and in New York City — complete tragedy for this industry .

Despite the fact of being sensitive to animal rights, by unneeded abuse, I can respect science and respect historical traditions that relate to the use of mink for keeping warm, particularly in those very cold northern climates. Notice — keep warm — because truth be told the use of artificial fur is even worse in terms of air toxins from production factories. What many people do not know is that the dander left over from this plastic stuff (really what fake fur is) can lead to allergies and more serious pulmonary conditions due to breathing in all that crap…does not make “faux fur” so great does it? But we love those animal prints as if an archetypal need for the “hunt” (fashionistas beware).

After a long discussion with the designer whose family history of using leather and mink, I respected what she said truly tried to listen, my own biases aside. Active and empathetic listening is a skill, while understanding peoples “needs” and how to work with them, is yet something else. She was saying that the newest designs gravitate towards more leather and less mink, but stated that even though the latter is on a downward spiral of popularity, mink coats are still considered a “status symbol.” Interesting. Personally, I wouldn’t attack someone by throwing red paint on their coat or belittling them — done by animal activists. However, I would discuss with fur owners why they need so many different coats (often in every color)? 🧐 Good leather wears better, and shows like Sex in the City which aired their last episode in 2004 made Italian leather shoes ever so popular (and yes, there were fur coats). So why should everyone feel guilty about preferring leather shoes and bags over plastic or ‘vegetable’ shoes (completely uncomfortable and they fall apart easily so then you have to buy more shoes….. counter productive) — one’s excess “need” to buy so many yet another story. Some of us had grandparents and distant relatives who lived off the land, hunting game (mainly rabbits, ducks, deer) for food for their family. We need to respect that. How, and why? In essence all of the animal is used for both food and shelter, home furniture, and even fashion, since caveman days. Little seems changed there. However, the over-consumerism in our days, is another story.

Back to those cute little furry ferret-family minks. The recent coronavirus outbreak 😷 story in the Netherlands forcing 100 Dutch farms to shut down, as the government is killing (culling) millions — because the workers didn’t wear protective gear (?!) and now those cute little fur balls have our illness …. humans destroy again! However this issue of the “Killing of the mink industry” has been happening since last June (see story) since due to lock-downs most people no longer buy this ‘luxury’ item. Perhaps mink farms in Northern Greece will follow suit, as positive Covid cases and fear of more keep spreading. Those poor things now suffer from pulmonary problems due to coronavirus…. so they say? Would it be an opportunity to try those new vaccines? Mink news and ethics? Hmmm.

Rabbit not mink... some people eat those you know?
Rabbit vs. mink or not at all? Some people eat the meat and simply use the leather and fur you know?

Some of us had grandparents and distant relatives who lived off the land, hunting game (mainly rabbits, ducks, deer) for food for their family. We need to respect that. How, and why? In essence all of the animal is used for both food and shelter, home furniture, and even fashion, since caveman days. Little seems changed there. However, the over-consumerism in our days, is another story.

Author, healthliteracyweb.com

Post U.S. election thoughts

46th U.S. President Joe Biden

Humans are not peaceful creatures by nature. Life circumstances, personal traumas, having low health literacy, and surrounding environmental influences — political figures and rhetoric can affect us usually in very negative ways. It takes a lot of work, maturity, mindfulness, to move towards healthier societies. Reading a recent post with Mr. Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) amidst many other angry posts (or even delusional posts) has prompted me to remind us of the necessity of “healing rainbows.”

Indeed Mr. Mandela, ….we cannot “build nations” on revenge. It is unfortunate for many recent historical happenings around the world (including modern South Africa) that Mandela’s message is not heeded. Unfortunately the human mind (that “amygdala hijack” of emotions like anger) needs a lot of mindfulness work to be controlled for doing and saying good. This video on overcoming amygdala hijacking is very useful.

As we move to “better” futures we are obligated to help our children learn to communicate with others, care for themselves, as well as to care for their communities. We need TRUTH to build TRUST as we also need RESPECT ✊🏾 But people’s truth is often their own perspective and they cannot see it globally. Keep talking and keep thinking logically …. for the good of public welfare and public health.

Post-election fish 🐟 and thinking back to good times (pre-lockdowns and absentee ballots)….

‘Catching cancer’ early, a Halloween reminder …

We can take time this Hallowed eve of “Halloween” to reflect on the good spirits of departed loved ones. There is a grief process and taking healthy actions to increase health literacy around health and mental health topics as what we do on this blog.

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

Beyond the fact that October was health literacy month, it was also Breast Cancer awareness month. Reminders for self-testing, getting necessary tests like annual blood tests, Pap tests (women) and mammograms for the over 35 group, colonoscopy, particularly those at high risk. This article by Medical News Today was very useful in understanding how and why we need to check our body’s “nodes” (axillary nymph nodes in this case) for any swelling and changes and get to a doctor!

Recently losing a friend to an up-and-down battle with cancer makes me think of all the people I’ve worked with (or was friends with) that got sick, some survive, some do not. There tend to be personality characteristics of people who tend to get sicker, but a big piece has to do with how their environmental stressors and even unhealthy living areas contribute to this. This is indeed the nature-nurture link. Fall is generally the season of pomegranates and thinking of loss as we head into the long winter period of darkness. Maya Angelou’s poem “When I think of death” helps in expressing grief but also a fact of life.

What is your grief? Poems
We grieve, remember, and remind others to self-care

There are several bloggers who write about cancer and many NGOs dedicated to “spreading the word” on such ailments as breast cancer — in the U.S. it is the Susan G. Komen Foundation (similar org called “Alma Zois” Άλμα Ζωής in Greece). This was the first year in a decade we didn’t do their annual fundraiser walk/run and so the necessary funding and advertising for these agencies is reduced. This makes it impossible for people to do the necessary work.

There are also reminders for getting to a doctor and the necessary treatment especially in Covid19 lockdowns ….. thus sharing this blogger’s content here —

“… knowing you are going to die makes clearing out the cupboards so much easier!” The sound of choked laughter came through the phone. “You should write that,” said my friend, once his calm was once more regained. The sentiment had, I think, taken him off guard, but it was a simple observation. Even in […]

First, catch your..?  #cancer — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

In closing a reminder for those interested in reading more about health literacy and aging, as well as the end of life issues (see post).

We never know we go when we are going — We jest and shut the Door — Fate-following-behind us bolts it — And we accost no more

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) born in Amherst, Massachusetts

Hats off for Teachers

Someone once said that we underestimate the hours and personal time that teachers and doctors put in to care for their students and patients. October is health literacy month and if we want to have healthy societies we start by having good and trusting relationships with our caretakers and teachers. Take the time to thank them for all that they do!

Burnout is a common symptom now with Covid19 and we need to recognize it and do more self care! WHO recognizes the burnout syndrome as “an occupational phenomenon” (site link). It is normal to have “low moments” as long as we see the long-term benefits.

A few years ago we presented under the auspices of Eimai leadership institute Peacejam Greece on community issues including health literacy, and community affects of vandalistic style graffiti. Indeed we start with one child, one student at a time.

Teaching has its benefits seeing students become more confident and grow, makes it all worth the stressful moments ! However I’ll agree with fellow blogger about digital fatigue, this is why we need to work on mindfulness (stop and move away) as well as our daily doses of vitamin D (sunlight preferred), vitamin C with careful attention to not “over supplement”, some exercise even walking, and sleep as much as possible even power naps ! In thinking of self-care we thank our “angels”for guiding our lives to better health and a bit of “healing music”.

Let’s keep talking how tech can HELP and how they do not….or how much TIME they take from learning to live? Some food for thought….

Fall, nuts vs. candy “corn”

Autumn or “Fall” is that time of year when leaves change color abandoning summer as we move to darker days and nights. The colors are simply brilliant and we may think of seasonal food like pumpkin 🎃 or nuts …lots of them! From the walnut, to the chestnut 🌰, as we recall a wonderful past excursion to the mountains of Arcadia in the Peloponnesus!

Beautiful Autumn

One of my favorite books that taught me about appreciation of good 🍷 wine, seasonal foods, exercising and keeping fit, all the while maintaining our chic scarves tied in multiple ways while enjoying a nice piece of dark chocolate is titled “Frenchwomen for all Seasons” by Mireille Giuliano (published in 2006).

As we transition to “packing on” those extra pounds (kilos) we need to remember that some are healthy for our winter “survival mode” as evidenced from theory of evolution. Indeed the healthy omega 3s are necessary for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and body. So why do we crave all those sugars? I’d say it’s not a bad thing ….in moderation. And of course taking some good supplements like vitamin C or Lecithin vitamin E by Nutrilite a good thing for those over 45 who tend to eat high fat foods and need some extra support building immunity — remember your sunlight or artificial light for good mental health! This is the time of year when we are always craving those extra carbs like sugar. That said here is my take on “nuts vs. candy corn”. You can always ask your doctor or nutritionist and decide! Hmmm….

Good for you”Good” for sharing
Omega 3s, can eat with honey 🍯 a bit of honey 🍯 but mainly sugar
Squirrels 🐿 love themSquirrels cannot eat them (!)
Earth colors Bright colors
Year round Halloween 🎃
Nuts 🆚 Candy corn 🌽

‘Blocked’ by anger….

Anger can be intentional, unintentional, as the root cause may be justified or due to social modeling. We mimic our families, our friends, our communities. Anger is also misinterpreted because people raise their vocal tone, thus sociolinguistics is an important field in the matter at hand. Some forms of anger have helped us revise laws and policies and bring to the table many issues for discussion.

Key words ‘bring to the table’ — communicate.

People are angry about the lockdowns, refuse to wear required facemasks, guidelines are not followed. Justified is anger for people who lose their jobs and may not be able to pay rent or put food on the table. But, does anyone know of any government that would ‘welcome’ riots, unless they are not in their right minds!? We see what is happening across the globe. A continual global crisis largely perpetuated by our current state of events due to COVID. People do not know what to believe, have lost trust in their governments.

Furthermore, there is anger about “rights of workers” — including cleaning personnel, service workers, transport, teachers — some realistic, some not. The individual “right” may be lost in the wake of a public health crisis as we are living now across the globe. But does your individual “right” get in the way of logic?

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com
  • Do 12-year-olds (younger and younger teens) truly understand or deserve to have their schools taken over by SOME interest (largely political) groups in ‘protest’ who don’t allow them their RIGHT to be educated? All have lost many school days from this past year, and their parents keep losing days work.
  • Bus drivers “can’t wear” a mask 😷 that is mandated by law because “they drive 5-7 hours daily”, yet the serving staff can all day? (this was a recent ‘statement’ by a local political union leader).
  • Why don’t we have those who say “there is no CoVid-19” meet and discuss with those who get sick 🤒 and have been hospitalized, hopefully get well (without identifiers for anonymity) better understand the permanent damage that may occur for some (seems mainly in their lungs from what we hear?!). Great that many ‘make it’ but please why do you say ‘they fake it’? Why make it political…..?
  • Young people don’t understand their “right to party” turns into possibility of being a “spreader” and historically there have been plenty of these examples — check out the story of “Typhoid Mary” (a.k.a. Mallon). This individual logical wish for developmentally appropriate behavior (socialization, rebellion) coming in contrast with public health.
  • Let’s keep TALKING about wants, needs and the availability of resources. One’s right cannot overcome another’s particularly in times like these.
  • Books like The Anger Trap can help us better understand our own and other’s patterns…. because we need to salvage what we have and BUILD relationships, not destroy due to anger….!

“ANYBODY can become angry, that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everybody’s power, that is not easy.” This is what the Greek philosopher Aristotle, stated more than 2,000 years ago, in his classic work The Art of Rhetoric.

See more about the ‘Upside of Anger’ on https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729032-700-do-get-mad-the-upside-of-anger/
Photo by Dominika Roseclay Pexels.com

Let them have books 📚 and cheesecake!

I recently joined an online group to review books that we’ve read for leisure, as it seems counter the trend to online everything (beyond Kindle). Due to environmental concerns or fears of virus spread this has also lead to decrease in publishing in physical format …. given some of the low quality books we sometimes come across (beyond content the actual paper and print cover are a waste of a good tree) maybe this is a good thing! But I can’t help but feel we live in a Fahrenheit 451 world.

Along reading there might be overeating —emotional eating at best — but hopefully still get your daily dose of sunlight and vitamin D for a stronger immune system. Do you recall the quote “let them eat cake” Marie Antoinette supposedly said to save herself from a frenzy of “les miserables” style mobs? This may be of interest as of late…. I’ll not convince you of the levity of ‘her’ statement but clearly we need to pay attention to discrepancy of power and how this may lead to violence and unfortunate tragedies across the globe. Some protests may be justified, some not, and certainly healing needs to take place.

This seemingly increase of violence is not just happening now, as historically man seems to “thirst for blood” as some form of evolutionary population control first encountered in the biblical story of Cain and Abel — jealousy or power driven, more real when people are struggling to survive. I hear people talking about another world war, since the recent Covid economic disasters have heated up some countries’ leaders to want “more”. These unpleasantries in turn are what public health then deals with in “picking up the pieces.”

All this excitement drove me to pick up all the leftover cookies from my shelves in an attempt to re-stack my Fall supply (more later) and make mini cheesecakes — baked American style are better, sour cherries 🍒 and thickening the cherry sauce is even better but the secret is in the crumbly style crust. This was made by leftover ‘ginger people’, oatmeal and stale butter cookies! Practical recycling…and a smile 😊

Back to books …. a disturbing statement from my electrician “my kids don’t read books” (daughter age 9, son age 7) lead me to ask what parents can do to help curb this trend? We need to keep building on information and fundamental literacy and of course our scientific and civic literacies all part of health literacy! Open to remarks please. Here are some recommendations to take home 🏠

  • Demonstrate it yourself …just read anything ! Show and tell is the best behavior modeling.
  • Monthly or seasonal goals — at least one book and talk about it in a group or in person (keep your physical distancing). Even write about it.
  • Act it out ! A bit of dramatic reading out loud helps kids become better readers and increases everyone’s vocabulary. Even in different languages!

    I even bought a recycled zipper type pencil or mask-holder …not very subliminal message but it worked , the interest in books even if only for fun (cartoon style booklets), continues.

Keep on walking and keep on reading!

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