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 451world.
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.
Put on our 😷 masks and headed for a few days in the Cyclades, a dense collection of islands occupying the central part of the Aegean Sea. Worldwide, people know about Mykonos, the “party island”, and some even think it’s a country 🙄 …we won’t judge that (Mykonos is one of the many islands in Greece, 227 inhabited but 6,000 exist). There are many “must visit” isles that are gathered around the windy Cyclades of the Aegean. Last year I wrote about Naxos island 🌴 but this post is about an isle whose history of marble sculpture production made it famous, becoming an international trading post during the Middle Ages and beyond — Tinos island. Tinos is a place that people visit for both it’s religious and touristic attraction as it is also directly across from the mythical Mykonos ! It’s also a place of artisans and those who learn how to sculpt marble. You can get there by boat/ship only and it’s worth the trip.
This year it was all different, the lines to the Evangelistria (Virgin Mary) monastery were not as long, the stores were less crowded (sure, we did some shopping with masks on!), we SAVED money because there were no nightclubs or expensive bars open ….we slowed down. TIME.
Time to enjoy the silence and count the ships coming in the port, or to do some mindful eating and enjoy an amazing lunch with artichoke cheese pie, their signature “Maistrali salad”, main course Kalamari with fava beans and salad greens ….Oh! And that lovely custard type dessert …all with the restaurant’s exquisite detail to safety. Even our utensils were wrapped and our table and chairs disinfected!
The video “Time” by Julius Sevilla says it best. A great REFRAME to make each day count. Don’t complain, don’t just dwell on what “didn’t happen, or didn’t work out” or the fact that you’re angry 😠 and holding grudges and regretting is not good use of your time.
Just think of the people who were away from that particular place at a particular time that a building came down (recent “atomic bomb” type destruction in Beirut or local floods, fires, and other disasters), those who lent a hand, those who have lost and grieve, but this why we try to PREVENT disaster by precaution and becoming more health literate as individuals as governments or societies LEARN from mistakes of communication, procedure, etc. As one of my teacher said when we had an eye-opening experience “dawn breaks on marble head!”…. Obviously it takes a while for health messages to penetrate. Keep on enjoying your summer and be safe!
There are many types of people, but along with all those positive posts and the ‘hoopla’ of the stay-at-home movement, there are a lot of angry (perhaps depressed) people. We all need to be transforming this negative energy into positive energy somewhere else….
“May day, May day!” Recently, in the beautiful community of Anogia (Ανώγεια), Rethymno region near the Psiloritis Mountain in Crete, there were some senseless killings over some misunderstandings and turf for sheep-goats. Two people wound up dead by gun shots, and a potential vendetta is ensuing. This is not unlike gang violence, domestic violence, or what we are seeing in several U.S. states where people “took to guns” over rights. As a matter of fact, the sales of guns in the U.S. have been on the rise due to the fear of COVID-19. Is this what we want ? On the one hand the reality of the pandemic and on the other, human intolerance?
Have we changed much since the biblical story of Cain and Abel ? We are all prone to anger. Sometimes it is necessary in the face of injustice or helping someone in a tough situation. But we caution about the “Amygdala Hijack” (see this Healthlinearticle) where our aggression or fear take over when and we react in ways we regret. You must ‘beat it’ before it beats you or your family …. some of you can read Anger Management for Dummies or read/listenThe Anger Trap or other great books on anger management, or how about an on-line course? and as always seek support via therapy.
Do something creative, gather flowers, make wreaths, plant a garden and think of bringing in the positive energy into your world honoring rebirth. Appreciate the beauty of nature. Be inspired by Ron Finley the “Gangsta Gardener” who helped transform urban settings, helped young people dream again! Getting back in touch with the earth…. he fostered health literacy and became an example from current and future generations in some U.S. inner cities.
The word that represents the month of “May” comes from the Roman-name goddess “Maia” (which also in Greek is the name of the midwife who delivers babies). Most make May wreaths while some dance around the May Pole in most parts of Europe (and in the U.S.). In my home we throw flower petals around the house to bring in the positive sun-spring energy. We have never needed this so much as this year during the lockdown!
The colors of all flowers and plants make any room brighter, our mood lighter. If you ever get a chance to go to visit flower shows even better! This year we could not gather in indoor flower shows unless in the outdoors, as the one I visited a few years back in Genoa, Italy called “Euroflora” (Euroflora_Genoa_2018). A gathering from various landscapers and florists demonstrating their creativity on the grounds of a pavilion, overseeing the sea. We learned about the plants and blossoms of the world and how we could make our own home and neighborhood/community even better. Granted some of us suffer from sringtime allergies but these can be in-check and helped over the long term.
We all may be stuck in the ‘shoulds’ of life some of which may be necessary for our daily survival. For example, we should eat at least 5-a-day fruits and vegetables (some people say 3-a-day in different colors is enough), drink 6-8 glasses of water daily, exercise at least 10 minutes daily, sleep 7-8 hours as part of our self-care routine (indeed what health literacy is all about). Be careful about those little gremlins of ‘shoulds’ and read a useful book, Taming Your Gremlins. The author even came up with a perfect ‘mind map’ of all of this negative self-talk (see example).
One month in quarantine. There is light at the end of the tunnel with the Covid19 insanity and seemingly as some experts say there are some medications in the works (see Voxpost). There are many side effects with some people, and individual differences with treatment (I do not want to talk vaccine as the nature of this disease transforming into subtypes is very concerning), and confusion of symptoms see blog post by Paleohacks.
Until then it’s important to keep up with keeping healthy in these seemingly “dark” hours, remember to follow the rainbow after the storm. Keep building immunity, walk daily at least 20 minutes in your home (loved this 15 minute video), on sunlit days at a distance, in your neighborhood away from that screen! With or without your pet or kids. Slow or fast, just keep it up!
I am running-walking more despite the fact I have more online work staying up later, as we all lose our patience, gaining a few pounds /kilos! As each year we picked our chamomile — that wonder herb that can be even used as an antiseptic eye compress (see Spring pickings). This time closer to home as all are cleaner due to less traffic! It’s amazing to see how nature should be. We all need to do immunity building and social (physical) distancing.
Sunlight makes our world function as it is important for plant photosynthesis, it increases our melatonin (the brain hormone Serotonin goes up and is important for mood and sleep), increasing doses of vitamin D for better health! Those of us who suffer from seasonal affective disorder understand this well. Some who do get enough light may need special lamps in darker winter months. And as experts recommend it’s the “blue light” that matters in light therapy.
Do you also know that sunlight disinfects? It is a Greek term called heliotherapy so it’s a good idea to hang out your clothes (even your shoes sole side up), sleep blankets, comforters, and pillows for a natural “bug killer”. My good ER doctor friend in the frontlines (🙏we pray for her!) and also has her own site healthyselfhealthyworld, uses it for her gear as we know those are sometimes scarce and it can be a risk.
I find myself doing leg exercises as I’m on hold for a half hour or more for calls or online purchases — it doesn’t work people, and no I cannot wait for one week for supermarket orders ! So take the risk with your “gear” (mask and gloves, antiseptic!) …. in the evening listen to immune building music 🎵 as it seems to work for many and that light from your candle can be a great source of inner peace and a “heavenly place” to pray or meditate.
These two weeks millions around the globe celebrate(d) Easter (Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox one week apart). As Jesus once said “I am the Light of the World” at no other time have we needed our faith — regardless of one’s religion — as prayer and meditation are beneficial to the brain and the development of neural synapses and emotional stability and expression.
Absolutely loved my friend Isabelle’s photo inside her apartment in Austria for Easter! It reminds me how city living especially needs strategic placement of real or artificial light.
One blogger talked about her experience in quarantine with a view of the NYC Empire building lit up red to symbolize the heartbeat 💗 of the city and keep people going in this Covid19 pandemic (BeautybeyondbonesEaster post for 2020 on NYC’s Beating Heart).
Keep writing my friends to spread that light to the world.
She was #166 waiting patiently her turn in a public hospital while others (and she) were unaware of her condition eventually aware she was carrying the Co-VID19. She took responsibility and informed others for the need of quarantine.
She was Asian who was living in Northern Italy and was told “go away, we don’t want your virus!” She wins the approval of her colleagues as bystanders intervened and she’s now trying to be see how and what we need to work on in the name of prejudice and in times of panic.
She baked all day, kneading the dough into perfect braids with her arthritis ridden fingers. Those infamous Greek koulourakia. They were given to several people living alone, in need for comfort food, and even some intergenerational fun.
I did my part Recently in an internet radio station in Northern Greece in educating the lay public on associated issues, the need for preventive measures of viruses, and the importance of health literacy (Watch/listen to this). We might be getting better in containment but still as with all serious health threats a “thorny” situation (take a read of “A rose in winter”) You may not know these women but you can relate to their actions, and we want them to keep healthy and strong!
May you blossom like the almond and cherry trees as they quickly change leaves to form fruit. You are vital to humanity’s survival. Congratulate and hug a woman today for just being her. March 8th, International Woman’s Day!
A new year, a new you. Should the emphasis be on “new” or “renew”?
New Years Resolutions are very much a western idea, measurable goals if you will. The concept of “reflection” however, transcends many religious and spiritual traditions. What would you reflect on for the past year? Basic questions can include:
Did I learn from my successes and mistakes?
Have I changed at least one thing about my consumption habits that will lead to a better health outcome? (Diet, exercise, use of substances, financial spending)
Do I ask for help when I need it? (Social support, counseling, etc.)
Am I learning more about myself and others? Accepting those things I cannot change….
Do I better understand love, friendship, family, and society?
How often have I given thanks for what I have?
Have I visualized at least one goal that I managed to succeed at?
The above help one gain “insight” and it could be a habit each year to reflect using a journalabout what we accomplished during the previous year, and what we hope to accomplish or strive for in the next.
Some common goals like “exercise more” seem unattainable in the strict sense (e.g. join a gym, run a marathon) either for physical or monetary reasons or life circumstances. If you focus on what you’ve done and congratulate yourself for persistence and alternative course of action it’s more effective than being unreasonably hard on yourself. Work toward “renewing” your outlook. Even Forbes Magazine had a set of New Year’s Resolutions to focus more on the ‘we’ and less on the ‘me’… what our overly narcissistic culture needs to be reminded of!
Examining patterns of behaviors will help you recognize them faster. We often think that we will remember everything but our memory deludes us, think “false memories.” It is most useful to write things down as your pattern may become more obvious — that “aha!” moment. Think about these issues:
Financial health — do you continuously spend more than you earn? We’re not saying starve here, or not “treat” yourself to something nice like a good bottle of wine, a fancy dinner, a new shirt or dress. BUT, do you really need to buy caviar and champagne, or the most expensive shoes for that night out? The basic rules most financially responsible families pass on to their children are:
track what you spend your money on
pay for necessities (for your health, food, insurance)
don’t rely on credit (pay off debts)
invest (start with your time, create ideas, start small think bigger) and reinvest (training and education).
Physical health – Can you modify some things? Take public transport and walk longer distances as this will help you get more in shape and notice things you would otherwise miss if you were driving! I often observe architecture and stores, take photos!
One night I walked 2 miles in the cold from the metro/subway in the middle of the Moonlit night….crisp January nights can offer one the most amazing ‘star’ features, you just need to be aware of your surroundings (and any stray dogs).
Relationship health — Do your relationships fulfill most of your needs? This includes friendships as well as romantic relationships (are these ‘needs’ realistic…. not narcissistic?). The key here is, do these people enhance you overall? are these people well-intended or do they drain you? (if they are toxic to your health think about setting some limits) Are you able to forgive and put your ego aside and apologize when it is needed?
People come into your life to offer something, teach you something, share something. The Eurythmics song “Sweet Dreams” says it best — some of them want to use you, some of them want to get used by you, some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused… keep your head up!
There are many articles about healthy relationships which includes
supporting each other, open or improving communication, reducing our expectations (too many romance novels or unrealistic movie experiences of ‘romance’ or ‘love’ may add to unrealistic expectations — do you really think you will fall in love with someone you meet at a bar? rarely happens…),
keeping our bodies safe (no abuse/violence – check out the Duluth Model “Power and Equality Wheels”, preventing STDs/STIs/HIV by using condoms every time you have sex, getting annual check-ups like pap smears).
Many people afraid to even take one basic step into the sea of a more fulfilling ‘relationship’ often let their lives pass them by… they are so afraid of being ‘hurt’ again, they simply shut down and close off any chances of love.
A very useful book about this was written by a Rabbi, “Why Can’t I Fall in Love? A Twelve-Step Program” to get you to think about your patterns — do you often pick the ‘wrong’ people, do you sabotage your relationships, do you think everyone is not perfect or you’re too picky? have you closed yourself off to love?
A great movie (the book is better) on the reality of our self, potential limitations, and sometimes luck in finding love is “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. The emphasis for me on mindfulness, and especially allowing yourself indulgences like food without guilt, dressing for yourself and not others, are very important in a society obsessed with perfection… and no, you don’t need to travel to Indonesia, India, or hike the Himalayan mountains to find peace. Then again the experience of seeing truth ‘in front of us’ sounds a bit like Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist.
Spiritual health — Do you feel you have a place in the world? Do you feel you have a healthy relationship with God? (even agnostics or atheists in times of trouble may question if there is something ‘more’, and we know from research that those with a spiritual foundation fare better long-term in terms of their health outcomes). The turning point for me was meeting renowned cosmologists and physicists who in essence are scientists, they also understand there is something greater, we are all interconnected, we simply need to ‘notice’ more and work together. For counselors and for self-improvement I recommend Scott Peck and Thomas Moore books. My favorites are: “The Road Less Traveled” by Psychiatrist Scott Peck, M.D. and “Care of the Soul” by a former monk turned psychologist, Thomas Moore. For healing trauma, see Edward Tick, Ph.D. books based on ancient rituals of healing such as “The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries Into Modern Medicine.”
We are natural storytellers. Whether it’s a folk tale, a fairy tale or your own “tale” the importance of the written and oral word are vitally important for building traditions and maintaining relationships. This includes family and even your healthcare provider as sharing of stories helps build empathy and health literacy.
During the cold season it has been a tradition for hundreds of years to gather around the fire 🔥 share stories, drinking hot beverages, that bring generations together. What better then to start your own tradition now?
Belonging to a self-improvement group like Toastmasters allows those advanced speakers to formally plan and be evaluated on their oral speaking skills includes establishing eye contact and rapport with your audience with the help of props and vocal variety. This year for the annual Christmas 🎄 and Holiday party I had the chance to retell the classic Hans Christian Andersen story “The Little Match Girl” with the goal of reminding our audience about the less fortunate and why we all need to maintain hope and be mindful of others. Friend and compatriot Toastmaster Sylvia, gave a great tale of “Sophie” the working girl who just wanted to stay home with her alcohol “friends” ….and how a few “elves” brought her back to her senses reminding her of the basics!
Yes Sophie please mind the cup, and remember Santa is good for our health, and please drink plenty of clean water!
No one is perfect in the oral tradition, it’s the small steps that matter ….speaking of which I appreciated Queen Elizabeth’s recent holiday speech of the generations coming together and how often small steps like thinking of climate change, the spirit of good faith, bring reconciliation and positive change.
Whether it’s hot chocolate or peppermint dreams do take time with those you care about, and share some good stories. As always be good to your body, mind, and spirit for better health! Happy holidays and best for the upcoming new year!
He’s a jolly old Good-fella you might say, and we love the myth of Santa Claus 🎅 !
Along the lines of Camelot and King Arthur legend, there are parts of the myth of “Santa Claus” (really St. Nicholas) based on truth, and it turns out a little bit of “fib” might be good on our own and children’s health.
One article indicates that “Santa mythology for children may be important for executive functions like attention skills, which provides parents with good evidence that they should not be discouraged from stimulating their children’s imagination.”
On the other hand it is quite a money-making venture and Coca Cola figured it out years ago with their initial red and white clothing to match their brand name, starting in 1933 to be exact.
Well it turns out marketing the North Pole has also been good for countries like Finland who take marketing Santa Claus pretty seriously and has increased their local business with booming locales like Rovaniemi.
However the original Saint was a Greek Bishop living during Roman times in a place in Asia Minor (now Modern Turkey) in about 280 A.D. And as usual despite his good deeds was eventually persecuted. Even his remains were fought over as this National Geographic article by Brian Handwerk indicates.
Listen to those winter tales “Twas the Night Before Christmas…” with the Good company of family and friends keeping warm with healthy soup and drink, cheers!!
What is your Fall Season “comfort food”? One of my breakfast comfort foods is oatmeal (boiled with water, bit of milk). Even better in times of “low energy“ adding some extra vitamins with pumpkin seeds, cranberries, some goji berries and a bit of maple syrup …yummy!
Wikipedia defines comfort food as something of nostalgic nature from our childhood usually that makes us feel “cared for” and indeed a hot breakfast around cold Fall and winter days makes us feel better. A reminder that “all that falls” could be your mood and a bit of seasonal depression so do something, be active, put on that warm cuddly sweater and make something good for yourself !
Evil Eye a common Eastern European & Middle East tradition
The children of U.K., U.S., and Ireland say “trick or treat” on October 31st for Halloween 🎃 while many parts of the world celebrate “all souls day” on November 1st. Images of dancing skeletons, ghosts and the candlelit jack-o-lantern add an air of mystery against the moonlit sky.
“Dark moon” may have been a movie thriller (year 2009) and the Black Moon back in 2016 — a phenomenon of approximately every three years and supposedly precursor to the “end of the world” got me thinking of all the superstitions that we are exposed to in our lifetime from our family circle or cultural traditions. More importantly how these can affect our thinking and ultimately our health and those around us!
I’m impressed by fellow bloggers’ images and information like this one by a man with an appropriate last name “Wolfe”…what would a full or dark moon be without?! Supposedly some of us have urges of creativity, hatred and envy (anyone have any of these issues today?) but we can learn to hone it into more healthy behaviors as the first step is awareness.
During a black 🌚 moon, the sun perfectly illuminates the back side of the moon, hence giving it the eerie glow while it appears like the “apocalyptic night.” In societies whom we may consider low health literate by our standards, people often have perfectly thought out alternative approaches to what we may consider crazy or out of this world!
We love mystery, as musical hits like the Dark Side of the Moon, Shakespeare’s line “my mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” (Sonnet 130) later copied into one of Sting’s greatest hits “Sister Moon” (1987), reminded me of a question I asked years ago of a serious scientist — “do you believe that planets affect us?” — in my attempt to better understand my own fascination with astrology and astronomy. I was surprised and secretly thrilled with his answer: “if the moon affects the tides and our body is hugely made up of fluids, why can’t planets affect us?” Perhaps the answer is the interplay of our biology (thinking, chemical balance or imbalance, genetic predispositions to anxiety or our amygdala giving us the wrong signals leading to fear) with our experiences… do you like ghost stories?
Those of you who believe in the evil eye (mati) will understand when I say, if a talisman makes you feel more secure wear it or hang it outside your home…. this allows you some form of ‘control’ which may reduce your anxiety use it! BUT if this becomes an obsession (e.g. “I can’t function because I have the evil eye”) or we blame natural phenomena such as fatigue on the evil eye (e.g. “the baby is crying, must be the evil eye”), you may need some good old fashioned counseling.
There is hope! In an article written in the Huffington Post “How to Get Rid of the Evil Eye” the author reminds us that we all have cultural quirks, and though the evil eye is a tradition of Eastern Europe, the middle east, what I discovered in my past cross-cultural learning is that some beliefs may have permeated to other cultures like in Haiti when my friend spat three times (to supposedly ward off the evil eye), or to my great surprise appeared in more nature-oriented traditions such as the native Americans (or American Indians) who believe in the “eye of the lake” or the “eye of Providence” as affecting all mankind.
Lastly, this thing in the west about black cats bringing bad luck — unless you find yourself not seeing the cat in the late night because your eye’s rods aren’t firing fast enough in low light and you wind up stepping on its tail or worse falling over the cat into the trash receptacle, well, don’t blame the cat! They are truly beautiful creatures, in ancient Egypt the black cat was revered and there was even a cult of the cat well until several hundred years A.D.
During the summer of 2016 we had the opportunity to rescue a kitten stuck in the fender of our car (don’t ask how or why, he was very scared from something…. now I better understand the phrase “don’t be such a scaredy cat“) who with a lot of care and love is one of the sweetest creatures I have known, and very lucky to be alive, hence why we named him “Lucky.”
Reframe it to “Black Cats bring me love and good luck, especially if we treat them with love and respect!” You may be a dog person, but any pet contact on a very ‘down’ day or dealing with chronic illness, or with those with whom communicating is difficult (autistic children, elders with dementia) is truly healing and why so many people are learning more about pet therapy.
I may not, in contrast to Sting, wanting to “howl at the moon the whole night through” but I am drifting off to sleep before the witching hour (yes I did read the famed New Orlean native Anne Rice’s novel “The Witching Hour“) thinking of Selene, the moon goddess drifting across the skies…