Re-shift and be Thankful

You’re drinking and having a good time, getting into a car driving fast, alone or with friends. No one volunteered to be the “designated driver” and somehow you escape hitting someone on the street, running into a tree or worse, getting into a head-on collision with another car or truck. You stop, breath heavily, are THANKFUL that you are still alive.

Rethink, and re-shift your mind’s gears … what can you do to avoid “crashing” in times of crisis? This is a post about re-evaluating your situation and even your life. This is not “toxic positivity” as I’ve read people describing those who may be in their own “positive la la land”…. perhaps this is “delusional” or simply a defense mechanism for survival?

There seem to never be enough positives, as there are too many grumpy, sarcastic, catastrophic “toxic critics” for my tastes.

Too many who lack faith, forever question truth as if blind, some live in perpetual darkness. Read between the lines.

“Toto we are not in Kansas anymore” as Dorothy once said in The Wizard of Oz — what a journey that was on the yellow brick road to “find home.”

People who have high expectations for others to “save them” yet don’t DO something to help themselves or ask for support, may lapse into negative catastrophic behaviors — ranging from drinking irresponsibly, taking inappropriate meds or street drugs, to eating crap food, listening and watching crap music, overdosing on social media “likes”, video games/TV. Many move to procrastination or sloth, filling their mind with toxic negative thoughts. This then leads to anxiety, depression, blame, in extreme cases suicide or homicide. Hurting themselves and others with little thought as to why or how they can change, not caring about consequences.

The fields of wellness and health literacy attempt to address how we can improve through language associations and subconscious work…. learn more about neurology and specifically neurolinguistic programming.

Daily mindfulness exercises can help us bring conscious attention to our daily activities/routines for better health long term.

  • Rethink and re-shift your language.
  • Focus on what is positive daily, and try not to dwell on the negatives (don’t ruminate).
  • Clear out the “junk” that surrounds you physically, and keeps you from moving on mentally. (Remember the Kondo method?)
  • Be kind. When the going gets tough, always ask for help!
What are you THANKFUL for this year?

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 🌽

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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Marble, Masks & Memories, Tinos Island

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!

Amazing food with detail to safety

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!

“MAY” Days

We’re getting out of Lockdown …..this May!!  

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 Healthline article) 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/listen The 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).

Let’s focus on the power of affirmations . Messages that may affect us both positively or negatively. Thus, MAY you…

  • walk in sunlight to warm your soul
  • hear the birds and bees sing their happy songs
  • feel butterfly wing “kisses” on your sun-touched skin
  • understand that you are not alone — we all should share our collective experiences and support each other.
  • choose the beautiful ‘flowers’ of your thoughts and heart to remind yourself of better things in difficult days that may come!

The importance of light

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 Vox post). 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.

A Poppy for your thoughts…

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.

Find your inner peace


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 (Beautybeyondbones Easter post for 2020 on NYC’s Beating Heart).

Keep writing my friends to spread that light to the world.

The women of the day

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.

Koulourakia for a better world !

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!

Beyond A New Year’s Resolution

A new year, a new you. Should the emphasis be on “new” or “renew”?

New Year’s Fireworks in Prater Park – Vienna


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 journal about 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).
  • teaching children at each stage (7 Smart ways parents teach kids about money; Parents.com even has a set of age-by-age list of money teaching recommendations).

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).

Rococo architecture (photo as roadside observer)!

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).
  • Long-term support and commitment may be better for our health — marriage may not be such a ‘bad’ thing! Are you a commitment phobic? seems to be a trend according to experts, reinforced by our fast-paced societies. 
  • 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.”

“Disappointments in love, even betrayals and losses, serve the soul at the very moment they seem in life to be tragedies. The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. We might remember the part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.” ― Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

2natures

Bringing storytelling to the holidays

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!

Great storytelling!

Santa 🎅 is good for our health!

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.”

Marketing the Santa myth

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!!