Paper, “weight” I’m voting like a hamster

 

F9EEE044-8662-40C0-9C23-69342E8AE0CCHamsters are mainly nocturnal creatures that like to burrow in small places and live for cutting up paper and storing it as a way of creating a sleep cushion. This is Astroid our Syrian hamster…and his little rocket shaped home akin to Barbara Eden’s “I dream of Jeannie” bottle home. Our hamster gets plenty of exercise on his wheel and we even put him into a “hamster ball” for about 10 minutes twice a week for extra exercise ….after all animals naturally do what is best for them! But what about us? We often “spin our wheels” and get nowhere fast ….especially in the name of ‘progress.’

I had thought of it before I had to vote this year for the EU elections how ridiculously burdensome and outright confusing it is to vote in Greece. I better understand why the government can really be “hazardous” for our health — check out my ‘when systems don’t work’ post.  Speaking of ‘civic literacy’ as I pondered over the 42 different parties to choose from I realized

1) I didn’t know half of the parties running for office,  never mind unidentifiable logos and rebellious terminology such as “adarsia” (ανταρσία) was more often an option.

2) so much paper wasted —those poor landfills — and nothing is done electronically (yet),

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3) there was so much dirty tagging around the public school  grounds (the place I voted at) and even this silly “penis” series  …given it was a high school and students that age explore newfound  sexuality I guess we should not focus on the vandalism or call it “penis envy” (lol) ! EDC469DC-CDC0-4997-AD02-5A7890ACF5C7.jpegDo the municipalities and the school principals not understand about recycling? About teaching kids to “care” about their school grounds as well as each other ? Do I need to say more?! Why all the paper “weight”? Yet we “wait” too long to start building health literacy in our younger people?

I really liked the cover of the Quarterly magazine put out by the University of Athens ‘New Health’ (Νέα Υγεία) 84E66815-FEE4-4F0A-BE3B-0ACF042A1471so let’s turn a new page and focus on prevention like primary basic things to help kids build confidence and take better care of their bodies, and maybe rethink our waste for elections all for the good of health literacy shall we? Else we simply remain ‘in the dark.’

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!

Flying lanterns & Safe Returns

Lanterns made of biodegradable material, big and small, yellow colored with more bold red and blue checkered patterns, floated to the sky by the dozens, accompanied by fireworks, on the Saturday of the Resurrection. Traditions such as these, as well as a simple lighting of candles are customary to Orthodox Christians celebrating Easter week in several towns and villages in Greece and other parts of Eastern Europe.

I was in awe of the spectacle in the town of Leonidio former municipality of southern Arcadia, Eastern Peloponnesus. A small town with a traditional “Tsakonika” language dialect, and modern traditions including rock climbing, Leonidio will also have a summer feast of the eggplant  (aubergine) in the summer “Melitzazz” festival with jazz music 🎼

Yes, there are many pagan traditions that have made it across to religious Christian traditions as a fellow blogger rightfully addresses (Aratta) and the above are a welcomed change adding value to our trip while helping the local economy.

However, some practices are more difficult to fathom at close range including fireworks and other “poppers” including shooting guns for “fun”. This includes a random bullet on Easter Sunday landing in an 8-year-old’s head who is now fighting for her life in the town of Thiva, and a cameraman who lost his life at 58 from a misfired firework in the town of Kalamata. Many towns every year have fireworks to bring in tourism but at what costs? And we as viewers need to keep our healthy distance to prevent injury.

Health literacy people, to prevent injury by safe practices! The US Consumer Product Safety Commission puts out some good guidelines  to be safe around fireworks (CPSC) particularly for young children who may be “curious” or sensation-seeking teens and adults who tinker with danger.

May Wreaths

On May 1st we make wreaths from the earth’s bounty!

Take a moment this May 1st to pick your flowers and dance around the May pole (May energy) or rethink labor “rights” traditionally celebrated as “Labour Day” by many countries, neither North America nor Australia (hmm!) , on the side of safety first and occupational health.

“Rotting” from the Inside…Notre Dame, healthy society choices

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The Griffin of Time

Things get old, people get old, some things are preventable or are they? Thus after reading the article in the Wall Street Journal about “rotting from the inside”  the recent devastating fire of Notre Dame Cathedral last week and many that followed including the backlash towards the millionaires who want to rebuild this historic monument it got me thinking of so many related issues of social equity, spirituality, and choices.

Then two fathers in different continents killing their children and then themselves in order to “punish” the wife or girlfriends. The terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka hotels and churches and the intention of harm to a group of people affiliated to a faith (namely Christianity), all akin to the martyrdom of the pre-Christian Roman times. Same story, different century. Schools destroyed in Palestinian settlements by Israel — backlash politics?

In the late 70s we had the band Bee Gees sing the ever popular “Staying Alive” and now we have the “3-Gs” — Globalization, gentrification, girl mutilation (female genital mutilation — no health benefits to girls or women just another act of violence). It’s amazing how power and control works. Check out the Duluth Model (Domestic Abuse Intervention Project) to better understanding these dynamics for continued efforts of change.

Seemingly we can try to protect ourselves but given the randomness of modern times it seems we might affect our own life choices part of the time. My griffin is a reminder of this factor and how precious it is. Thus we should do our best, and build our own and others health literacy, as healthy functioning societies depend on it. Whether via formal or informal  education, and cultural influence we need to give weight on special populations and women. Why? Because our children are happier and thriving when their primary caretaker, usually a mother, benefits too.

One major soccer (football) athlete in the Liverpool team, Mohamed Salah, originally from Egypt, recently stated that men’s attitudes in the Middle East need to change towards women, and give them more credit. Never mind the recent world trends on female infanticide….not good. Yes, women are not just here to procreate, all societies must understand the burdens on women to be caretakers, breadwinners, often with little or no support as well as lower wages.

Let’s keep with the bright side. I was happy to read that despite the church devastation in the Paris blaze, a group of bees managed to make it unscathed;  surprisingly a great number of employees benefit from the honey produced annually — 75 kilograms (165 pounds) to be exact! See full story by Huffington Post  here. And yes, we have a Queen Bee respected by and relied on by her workers for a beehive to thrive in nature. Take the hint people.  Just in time for thinking ahead to Mother’s Day May 12th.

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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! 

The Audacity of Hope…Public Health week

The U.S. celebrates initiatives that make people’s lives better during April 1 – 7th national public health week and April 7th is World Health day (celebrated since 1948)!  There are so many issues to ponder over and one to focus on is giving people hope for better communities with less crime, more positivity, better infrastructure, building health literacy and overall wellness.

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Keep areas clean

Before Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. President I read his book “The Audacity of Hope” and years before a book about the community project titled “Streets of Hope” reflecting the community reorganization of a downtrodden area in Boston, the Dudley Street Neighborhood initiative. It is vital to understand how to motivate people and what community organizing is about — sustained efforts long-term. Reframing everything for positive changes does not mean turning a blind eye, but rethinking community strengths and addressing weaknesses. Understanding this first-hand I am constantly checking in to past efforts started and understand what Prochaska and Diclemente did so much research on years ago, the Stages of Change, a great one to add to our tool kits.

Taking the streets of most parts of Athens one sees many historic areas falling apart, trash, many run-down neoclassical buildings and mainly dirty tagging and more trash everywhere. As I travel to various places, I take photos of people’s work in trying to beautify their neighborhoods, often doing it with their own money and supervision. Change starts here, it starts with us, but we need to also maintain these efforts.

We know from the Broken Windows Theory (criminology article by Wilson & Kelling, 1982) that once one person creates a problematic situation like breaking a window other people soon follow. This can extend to modern ‘trashing’ of cities like the images featured above.  One friend’s motivational speech reminded me about social modeling (Bandura, social psychologist, would be  joyous with this) as her quote rings in my ears “if they can, we can too!” Let’s move away from negative to positive changes, see ‘what works’ in other societies and adapt for our own benefit towards long-term community health. Thus the concept of eudemonia goes beyond traditional wellness to incorporate physical, mental, and spiritual health extending beyond our  ‘selves’ to the larger community and global initiatives for all.

We have the right to:

1) clean cities without trash everywhere (Kondo’s method of cleaning house applied here) and most buildings desecrated by vandals. Respect cities.

2) hope for fellow humans to respect themselves and others by caring and helping each other and their environments.  Getting into positions of power to do away with corrupt politicians or any world self-centered mongul, let’s tell them to “take a hike.”

3) invest in health and focus on prevention — efforts like those by the CDC Foundation are prime examples of innovation and high-impact programs. Whether it’s an effort to combat depression or one to increase awareness of the need for vaccinations, efforts like the recent MIT Hacking event prove worthy of collaborative and volunteer work.

4) build infrastructure towards these goals, and be the change you want!

5) promote personal skills and efforts that have the potential to go global. This includes leadership and public speaking from clubs such as Boys and Girls clubs, Scouts, Lions or Toastmasters International (Toastmasters Greece link), and other similar local efforts reflective of these.

Yes we do, and have the right to the ‘audacity’ of hope!

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Do clean up the trash people (a positive reminder, Athens)