When a pet passes away, helping children

Why do we hurt so? Growing pains and losses….They were truly “out of this world” — “Astroid”, Pet #1, was along the lines of Ratatouille the little mouse 🐁 . Well not exactly, ours was a hamster and likely more smelly than a cartoon, he didn’t know how to cook nor French speaking, but we thought he was the cutest!

“Comet”, Pet #2, was a beautiful array of blue hues fish 🐟 and he lived happily in his fish bowl until we came home to find him floating on the surface… the cycle of life from birth to death are an inevitable part of our being, and building health literacy.

Thus why having guidelines for different ages such as that provided by the International Handbook of Health Literacy published this year is so necessary for training professionals.

Astroid you came and went like a flash! R.I.P.

Pets who have short lifespans (1-3 years) are likely to die sooner than others, some pets die in accidents or wander off (like our cat “Lucky” featured in this past post) and we need to be prepared for this loss. Fall season seems to be common time for pets to “go” as if they want their carcass to become part of the earth’s organic material again.

When we have young children dealing with this issue their experience of loss can be quite extreme, and difficult for us to handle. This is normal for most …. as we are all sad, and a bit of self-care for adults is vitally important! If intense grief lasts more than a couple of months, consider a grief counselor or contact a group that deals with this and puts us in contact with the right specialists.

For almost all, special therapy is not necessarily needed as over-ruminations may cause more problems in the end. This post is about pet loss and not meant to address all kinds of loss which may need special approaches like play therapy or family therapy.

First, inevitably a lot of crying or anger and even denial it has happened, the need for physical comfort (hugs, kisses), holding stuffed animals that remind us of our pets. Then, accepting, reminiscing, and beginning to understand the larger concept of loss. Using books to process especially since very young children think “he’ll just wake up” whereas finally as they get older their cognitive process changes and they better understand irreversibility which means it is not coming back.

Helping kids by keeping them hydrated and giving them Chewable vitamins during a time they might under or overeat things not very healthy or not enough for sustained nutrition, should be emphasized during this grieving process, which is most intense the first weeks.

Finally, some type of memorial which can include a “Goodbye” letter to the departed pet or a flower memorial in the place where the pet was. We even gathered field stalks or “stubble” to our flower vase gathered from outside areas after taking a healthy walk. This helped a lot, as he commented, “that looks better than the empty space, much better now.”

Books are always a great way to process feelings …. these were particularly helpful:

  • A Dog Like Jack by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan, a story about a boy who loses his dog.
  • The other part of a series The Way I Feel Books relating to different emotions like sadness or anger (for younger kids who especially are first learning how to identify their feelings.
“Bibliotherapy” is useful for all ages as is art or music therapeutic techniques.

Finally after a week my child wrote a goodbye letter on his own to his dear departed friend “Astroid” that I kept for memory’s sake and for closure. It speaks for itself….

Dear Astroid….
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Favorite Fall Comfort Food?

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!

Breakfast, start your day with energy

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 !

I absolutely love this “Autumn Sonata” by Igor Krutoy (Fall music compilation)

What is your comfort food ?

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Albert Camus, French philosopher, journalist and Nobel winning Author of The Plague a novel of poignant questions of the human condition.

Do it yourself …Hufflepuffs!

What inspires you to CHANGE how you see things?

Color your life, with change!

Do you make positive change, clean your neighborhood, or wait for (and hope) others to do so ? Is it nature or nurture?

The question always raised by fields like applied psychology (developmental, social, environmental …research is similar), socio-linguistics (“language creates culture” versus the typical Chomsky nativist view of the “language acquisition device” or LAD). 

Our nature is influenced by our environment and so this interaction creates change, for better or worse.

Speaking of language, a recent blog post about “Shiny, Happy People…” by Fractured-Faith resolved that there is a certain ‘insincerity’ and even ‘fakeness’ of some people who appear happy and ‘perfect’ all the time. This might be true, as it is likely cultural (or ‘sub-cultural’ not just ethnicity). There is reason why the rest of the world refers to the U.S. ‘happy’ and there is a popular song by Pharell Williams …. “cause I’m Happy!”

Why are we not happy? Why should we not be happy? And do we want more misery and unhappiness which we see a lot? Is it true that misery loves company? Is this why some people don’t make even the simplest changes in the way they live? Is it a choice

We cannot deny what we see “Beauty and the Trash,”  “Transformers,” “respite and public spaces” many cities are making choices for positive change and this includes working with local artists. Making even the smallest change to our environments adds more positivity and hope to all who live or work there. A book written in 1992 about Care of the Soul by Psychologist Dr. Thomas Moore for me was pivotal about this issue. He emphasizes changing our attitude, maintaining our friendships and our surroundings, our home “no matter how big or small,” to help us in the short and long-term. 

We see that even in several low-income neighborhoods with poor homeowners (family inheritance) or just plain poor, when one maintains what they have and doesn’t  focus only on how much “money they don’t have“ —  the financial component — places where people look out for each other and take care of their surroundings, it creates a sense of trust, fulfillment, and often change. Lately in most cities, due to high crime and globalization we see entire sections of uncared for “overly-tagged,” full of trash neighborhoods and municipalities. We know that when communities make the decision to change, they can. One great example is a once down-trodden neighborhood near Boston, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) that continues to make change for residents through today.

8fe93496-d38a-4589-9f80-3025d2a3893bCreating murals that beautify, a simple act of painting over an otherwise ugly metal object add beauty, meaning, and value to a community.

Some say these acts can help to reduce crime (think “broken window syndrome”) as more local businesses open to attract visitors thus increasing local income.

Young people off the street with more jobs, happier people… domino effect.  Maybe some of us would rather have some ‘fake’ happiness through these small but important changes, than all the misery (and jealousy) that we experience on a daily basis?

Over the years, having visited countless neighborhoods including villages, towns, cities, in Europe and the Americas as well as parts of the Middle East, I realize it’s a matter of community choice and more importantly individual efforts. As a matter of fact, universities like MIT even are studying this on a larger scale —  a friend first told me about environmental re-engineering (in the 1990s, wow!) that included work spaces — from the ergonomic cubicles to the broad table placed strategically as a meeting area for people to gather — and being serious about studying change in public spaces .“Build it and they will come,” “no man is an island unto himself,” “Just DO it” are all well-known quotes that apply well here. This month, we did it. Working hard to plan for some research and community collaborations. And on an individual level what did I do? 

♥ Made the change for ourselves, and  painted the common space that was soiled from mold and mildew because ‘no one bothered’ all these months… and the outcome was worth it.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 9826b99f-635d-428f-9961-758e8c6226b8.jpegAccording to the world of Harry Potter, one can discover what personality type they are. For example, the hard-working  Hufflepuffs (answer the questions via the Sorting Hat in “Pottermore” to discover your ‘House’).  

These individuals are the supposed honest ”worker-bees” and the related color is yellow. Are they ‘as good as gold’? In Don Lowry’s “True Colors” this person would be a “gold”,  going back to Ancient Greek philosophy or medicine  — Plato’s sensible type or Hippocrates’ black bile humor. All individuals are of course one part of the balance of life, as there are various personality types, but we need more community builders!

Speaking of bees, a recent scientific debate declared that bees are the most important ‘beings’ on our planet as they are in danger of becoming extinct ….they both contribute to our healthy ecosystems through pollination as well as by the healing power of their honey (see scienceandinfoblogpost).

We need to know and communicate about these issues to increase our community health literacy. We need to ‘spread the word’ that simple acts like adding more potted flowers attracts more bees (they have done in Denmark), and adds beauty and value to any neighborhood. And who knows, once one person starts, then another, and another….

One house, repainted, with the love of flowers…. in a lower income neighborhood.

Individual and community efforts, in often down-trodden and neglected communities make our daily life more beautiful and create hope.

 

“It’s a respite” …. positive change in a public space

Her place of respite

Soula often comes to this part of town to go to the public beaches in the area, a southern city of Greater Attica. She takes a break, before she takes a bus back to her home several kilometers, and cities away. She sits on a bench listening to the water falling like rain, smiles taking in the “Indian summer” sun rays.

My brief conversation with Soula, an older woman who loves swimming in the sea as much as she can, revealed a person very aware of her own well-being (physical and mental health), seeing this specific spot as a ‘respite’ place to relax before her day goes on. She emphasized, “the Mayor is doing a wonderful job, hopefully he will continue for many years to come” hoping that regardless of political party we give credit when it is due. She likes (as I do) the modern designed fountains, the trees (fig trees, acorn trees, daphne herb trees) planted in the area, symbolic to the community, and enhancing the ecosystem. 

Water Fountains and trees planted last year, city center of Glyfada, Attica Greece

For years before, this part of the center had trash and small beach-type selling kiosk points that never seemed to be making enough to keep afloat. After many tries, the local Mayor made big changes. He is one of many around the country making changes for those who live in constant crisis (financial, emotional) and even physical crisis (destroyed playgrounds, dirty tagging everywhere, trash even hypodermic needles that threaten the public’s health …. see post on ‘Riding the Crisis’ in HealthyselfHealthyWorld).

Besides repainting parking space lines, adding clothing recycling points by Recycom — whose main webpage indicates “Together we can make a difference” — the Mayor has managed to ‘win the hearts’ of all people whom I talk to, as the idiom says, keep my ear to the ground to listen to the voices of local communities and visitors. It seems that public space, at least what is done to it, affects the perception of all passersby. At least those who really notice the changes. And then there is the position of unlawfulness and vandalism….and this city is no exception.

I recently came across why police would intervene in a public space with the question of ‘What is public space protection order?’ in the U.K. and these “nuisances” include keeping dogs on a leash, no public use of alcohol, and in general as “having a detrimental effect on the quality of life” (Para 1).  So what about trash in general and the issue of dirty tagging on public and private buildings?  Hmmm.  The Urban Dictionary has some interesting quotes and general comments about tagging by both taggers and individual community members (Urb Dict: tagging comments). There are clean-up efforts like ‘Athens Un-tag’ (LIFO article 2018) but in this part of the world and it turns out in most of our cities, the epidemic of vandalistic style graffiti has gone amok.  But with the bad, there are amazing graffiti art areas and international as well as local artists like Dreyk the Pirate truly make an effort to beautify otherwise dull and depressing areas.  In a past interview with Penna he indicated that yes, if artists don’t get permission and they vandalize it is a problem and reflects negatively even to his very positive street artwork (the law in Greece and in other European countries is similar and involves getting permission as well as taking into account the community ‘value’). 

So how about this? Get the popular graffiti artists to help us increase our graffiti literacies which is one of the many in the umbrella of health literacy. Develop some type of App where people take photos and the community and the local governance decides if they should ‘keep’ it or get rid of it….for the sake of peace of mind, community well-being, and finding our own points of respite for all ages and peoples to enjoy. This has been done in hundreds of cities, and all it takes is a bit of organization and local community building…. step by step.

Love your City, seaside.

Checkers versus Fortnite: strategy against “gaming”

Kids nowadays get easily hooked with on-line gaming that seemingly never ends. Games like Fortnite are free “strategy” games that are supposed to be played by 12-year-olds or older, but parents around the globe are complaining that even 8-year-olds are showing addictive tendencies.  There are good articles with recommendations (see here) and this game does not display blood but we need to be on alert and continue discussion with our child or teen.

Cognitive psychology studies prove that the brain increases its “energy” to the point that the child behaves aggressively and even has trouble falling asleep. It’s like “on-line cocaine”, a plague of our modern times. Parents are tired, their digital literacy (one of the health literacies) may not include understanding how problems about addiction start, mainly due to ongoing immediate gratification.

Many games have beautiful graphics, I must admit, and kids learn the English language better as they interact with their “friends” locally and globally.  Fortnite added character dancing so players can mimic (this is a good thing) for exercise.  But the negative aspects of firearms and shooting (the sound alone creates stress on the brain), screen time and staying up late at night affects health negatively . There are countless studies now that contribute to growing evidence that we need to do something about it, and this is not unlike the growing obesity problem.

If you don’t teach your kid to control it early you can literally lose your child to the virtual world.  Parents and other caretakers need to get control back in strategic ways and keep it fun so it’s sustainable.

So after trying to find a zillion ways to get my pre-teen off this potential addiction — including sports, movies, art, social events — I realized the biggest issue is the lack of patience. Music and bedtime stories may work but all this changes as “tweens” move to teens.

The other day my hairdresser told me about her client a single mother who has “lost” her 15-year-old to the virtual world of gaming and of course Fortnite and other online games make millions at the expense of our children’s health — mental, physical, and even spiritual. Our kids would rather stay in, not eat or drink, and they are constantly adrenaline ridden (and learning swear words) which in itself is dangerous to their body’s organs and our social interactions. Anger management for teens anyone?

So I took the step …despite the odds of losing interest to the fast-paced game I challenged my kid to a game of checkers. Yep that 12th century game that we all played as kids did it, and we even involved grandma! So this was a bit frustrating to relearn but it involves slowing down and thinking of the next move. And it involved inter-generational fun.

Be creative and rethink how you can re-teach others what they need to remember …simple strategy and patience, we all need that.

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Appreciative “May” benefit your outlook and health

Today was one of those days….. bombarded by everyone and trying to settle on finances and budgets, schedules, as typical of working women who are trying to balance their life. And yes if you are in your midlife or older chances are you are that “squeezed” sandwich generation where you have the task of home, younger family and elder family care. It’s no coincidence then that this group often experiences burnout and what is called “caretaker syndrome”.

According to statistics,  women have it worse as they are tasked with more housework (if not all of it) caring for their aging parent or in-law, all the while their teenager is flipping out or their little one is whining about something. It turns out that women’s natural ability to multitask makes it easier for everything  to get done …so remind me why women are paid less?

And did I mention married men have better overall health than married women ? Likely because spouses usually nag their husbands about going to the doctor. So be appreciative of your wives! And if you’re divorced try to hang out with more female friends, they might benefit your health if they’re health literate themselves!

As I was scrambling to get my facts straight about changing risk behaviors, making lists and filling in my calendars (yes both paper and electronic!) the look on my face likely made the cafe barista want to lend a hand or a heart ❤️ as you see from the cappuccino outcome.  I’m very appreciative!

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It got me thinking that many important holidays and days of remembrance happen in May. Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, European Cancer prevention week,  Clean Air Month to name a few. In thinking of the outdoors I was also appreciative (despite my seasonal allergies) to walk in green fields and soak up some sunlight this past week. It’s amazing how nature truly calms us and is truly a “soul healer”. Dr. Scott Peck, you’d be proud as I often take “The Road Less Travelled”.

2A55A92F-2801-4A9C-BCDA-96F295A95A35Five simple things you can do this month to make you more appreciative of others and  your community at large:

1) Smile, and Say  “thank you” more often and give thanks for what you have (the glass is half full remember??). Regardless of their age, little and big people love this!

2) Reuse, Reduce, Recycle ♻️ daily. Keep things simple and “prune your stuff often” as experts like Kondo recommend. Life can be complicated, make it simpler.

3) Take a walk (20-30 minutes daily or at least 3 Xs a week) for heart health and better cognitive function.  While you’re at it, plant a tree 🌳 , and remember to always stop and smell the roses, or the violets. Exercising and doing more self-care are a ‘must’ for long-term benefits.

4) Read a new book (or listen via audio), write a letter to a beloved friend — no matter how far they are…even “snail” mail is great on occasion it’s a pleasant surprise!

5) Be creative whether in art, food, or in writing.  Write five things you enjoyed or accomplished each week — don’t focus on what you didn’t finish — this adds to your  self-esteem and your outlook of positivity. We all tend to be harsh on ourselves or others but remember one needs a hand (or a branch/vine) if they are to get un-stuck in the quicksand!

Violets in the Spring

Spring is here in full bloom and many of us have seasonal allergies, others use this time for  a stricter diet — perhaps for lent but most to reshape our body after our seasonal eating and drinking “escapades” as natural to take on weight during winter and hibernate …Well I’m trying?! I gave in with my friend for her namesake and had a Spring inspired dessert …Pavlova with strawberries and Violet ice cream 🍨! Yes you heard it right … infused with essence of violet.D401FB7B-EE66-4572-8251-068A07F444E2

Turns out that the inspiration for that light fluffy Pavlova dessert was inspired by the Russian ballerina’s “tutu” Anna Pavlova in the 1920s according to history of food site! After eating this, surely feeling light and jubilant inside. In the name of health please enjoy everything in moderation and with friends …less guilt, more enjoyment!

Turns out that this low ground flower is traced back to Greco-Roman myths in Greek also called “Io” and it also symbolizes sexuality as well as humility  (see all violet myths described by blogger Herb Rowe).  Thus the color purple is considered a spiritual color and in some cultures even used in times of lamentation. It is also a color of the quartz stone Amethyst, the birthstone of February. Amethyst comes from the Greek  “amethistos” meaning one who doesn’t get intoxicated or drunk, have any of you drunk alcohol from an amethyst goblet or ‘drinking vessel’ to test this?  Let’s stick to Spring and flowers shall we? Keep the stone for your own crystal therapy (see blog on Energy Muse)! Regardless if it is considered a questionable practice with not enough scientific proof it is still fun to learn about.

F084389D-5E66-49F1-A029-A074191846DAThese lovely purple violets were bought at my friend’s small business called “Flower Bar” in Southern Attica (Greece)  — let’s support locally! There are over 200 types of violets, these with deep purple leaves and a yellow color center are “African violets” to be exact, made a family couple very happy for their Golden 50th anniversary! Check out the Farmer’s Almanac for caring for these gorgeous violets. 

Inspired by the flowers and spiritual color of purple is a common poem (written in 1784_ source) we used to say or sing as children and even in our romantic years! Bring back more romance people, it’s good for your relationship health ….

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet and so are you!