The early bird … and the porcupine

It is morning 8 a.m. first time at the beachside for that enjoyable cappuccino — yep! glad that your nose still smells coffee as it’s a sign you don’t have Covid. There they were the chirping happy wrens out for their morning snack. There is a great article on how to attract wrens to your backyard, what about to a favorite outdoor cafe ?

I always tell my son “the early bird gets the worm”… and that’s how it is. You see it in nature… there is competition and resources may be few to scarce. We talk about resources in public health as we see transient populations and of course fear of the unknown or coping during hard times. Animals compete and adapt all the time to change, why are we different? Preventing disease but accessing care early on makes a world of difference and part of global health literacy! As far as getting your sense of smell back ….that too (see DW article).

The early bird may get the worm , in this case it was a chip (potato that is!)

It was the first time in almost a year that I went to the beachside cafe (featured here at Schoinia’s Bay in Marathon, Greece, the original marathon that is). I had time to think 🤔 about what time I’ve wasted or gained the last two years, resources lost or gained, my own family’s marathon . Spring fever and our own need to socialize, to “belong” and also to feel loved 🥰. This isolation has caused many to feel hopeless and the need to have faith and patience is great. Many feel they’ve lost opportunities, or is it time to rework new ones?

For some, this isolating leads to more “prickly” feelings towards others as people seem antisocial, recently in the U.S. we hear more daily crimes – killings seemingly getting worse. This afternoon in my 15-minutes walk I came face-to-face with a little rodent on the road, a little porcupine. According to Native American folklore (Source) In most Native American tribes, the porcupine is a relatively minor animal spirit, most often associated with self-defense and cautiousness (Covid for sure has fostered this in many of us).

Some Southwestern tribes, such as the Hopi, porcupines are seen as a symbol of humility and modesty, for others, porcupines considered lucky animals. Supposedly, a hunter who spotted a porcupine was sure to have a good day hunting. It is a call then to begin the “hunt” for what one needs…

Porcupines! teach us to be humble, our self-defense in a world of seeming insecurity? or a sign that the “hunt”will be a lucky one?

They deserve the Purple Heart 💜 today

Valentine’s Day 2021 quarantines, lockdowns, economic destruction, the importance of “bubbles” to keep safe, people being afraid 😱 of their neighbor — “have they done a rapid test?”, “What if they’re positive?” We “run” to the florist as it’s one of the few open businesses (thankfully) to buy a flower 🌹 or a stuffed animal …this year those “eyes” got me 💕 as well as that nice morning surprise of cake 🧁 heart-shaped fruit 🍎

Catching your breath under the 3 layer mask, lack of oxygen likely affecting our brain, for the “nth” time a trip to the supermarket. This time, to buy extra rice and mushrooms for the risotto, a bit of chocolate 🍫 for the marketed occasion, supplies for a celebratory glass of red wine 🍷 for those flavonoids — good for the adult heart. Speaking of which ….this year one bakery (Veneti) had a great Valentine’s bread 🍞 idea in the shape of a heart. St. Valentine was Roman Catholic of Italian decent — his relics are dispersed and displayed around the world (Rome, Italy 🇮🇹 and Dublin, Ireland 🇮🇪) for those “seeking” love 💗 with one relic buried on the island of Lesvos (Lesbos) Greece 🇬🇷. This island has been in the news quite a bit these last years due to the Mediterranean migration crisis with local populations opening their hearts but also suffering immense pressure and economic disasters of their own. “Let them have bread” might be a phrase that comes to mind here.

The Purple Heart 💜 is a U.S. military decoration given to those courageous wounded soldiers, or those killed in battle. Today, we dedicate thanks 🙏 to those workers who help us daily, who put up with customer rudeness, stock the shelves and risk their own health are exhausted and stressed, ‘forgotten key workers‘ — working in supermarkets, factories, pharmacies, flower shops, street cleaners, garbage collectors, to name a few …. so many songs that could be dedicated here. Today it’s Sting “The Shape of My Heart” 💗❤️

Minks, Covid-minks ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author, healthliteracyweb.com

‘Catching cancer’ early, a Halloween reminder …

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

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hats off for Teachers

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

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

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

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

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

‘Blocked’ by anger….

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

Key words ‘bring to the table’ — communicate.

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

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

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

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

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

“Styling” during Covid and caution with hand sanitizers

Social distancing it turns out is complicated and the data on Covid has been confusing. As much as the disease itself in terms of who and how much exposure ultimately affects our health ultimately leading to negative outcomes, the diagnostic tests, and medical protocols. But for sure masks are here to stay. At least for a while …It doesn’t matter if you put on a regular medical version you buy from your local pharmacy or you buy or make a more fashionable one like so ….

You still can wash and use hot sun 🌞 energy (heliotherapy) to get rid of germs as well as iron the fabric ones, as this means we continue to REDUCE waste! Please be careful when throwing out masks or gloves and do NOT throw in the street! Recent scenes are ludicrous … and infuriating!

masks and gloves tossed in streets 🥵

Regardless of whether you are a conspiracy theorist, a realist, a pessimist, or just following the local policies and laws, one thing is for sure …we have carriers, sufferers and those who ultimately lose their life as Covid destroys major life organs as our lungs. Recent loss of beloved actor (father of one) Nick Cordero really “hit home” for many younger people who think it won’t affect them !

The latest on hand sanitizer warnings by the FDA of toxic methanol is worrisome. I don’t think many of us are checking out the labels and what about sanitizers outside the US ?

Years ago I had visited Disney World and in retrospect I’m with the “Mayor“ and his wife — no handshakes and wear gloves ! It’s styling it … Maybe we should bring it back ?

Disney World — the Mayor and his stylish partner

“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!

Get a little crazy …

  1. Create out of boredom — Lockdown may not be the “introvert’s paradise” as once thought according to a recent MIT technology review. Since librarians tend to be more introverted, they actually took the time to put all these books in order … wow, that’s crazy !
  2. Transform our lives — Some think it’s crazy to “live” more from our internet connections than be “in touch” with the real world. A lot can be said about this… it seems the Matrix is becoming a closer reality. Scary. Several articles are written about how things will be “different” and how we need to transform our thinking (see April VOX article featured in Apple News). Though I did like the idea of change in the context of young people building resilience by building educational partners, presented by Harvard Professor Gil Noam who represents the PEAR Institute.
  3. DreamsIt was just a dream. I thought I was losing my mind when I was holding and reading an upside down newspaper written in hieroglyphics, while all these cars were leaving a parking lot quicker than I could count to ten. It is as if Walmart or Public were having a sell-out. I woke up realizing that this was a lucid dream and it is not unlike what people have been reporting they experience due to Covid19 (see National Geographic article)
  4. Health illiteracy — I realize how much people follow their leader but to the point of over 100 people calling in a hotline in Maryland (US) asking for the medicine that Trump prescribed? That is absolutely nuts, …see article in Business Insider. Definitely shows how health illiterate and outright dangerous people can be. Guess what people ? They’ve cut the chloroquine studies short due to safety concerns so please don’t go there!
  5. Funny dances in home. I mimicked something from this Fortnite character called “Deadpool”. Well at least Fortnite is trying to promote physical activity! or how about doing a line dance or better yet a “line” dance as you are on hold for those 30 minutes waiting to get your order in… the experience can be exhausting and then when it arrives the quality is questionable….
  6. Business and socializing — two sides of the coin. It turns out that constant online work is exhausting . However if you space things right you’ll be less crazy and more happy as it’s a “coping” tool. I had TWO online friend meetings in one day. Coffee ☕️ by day and Champagne 🍾 by night! Hey it might be one of my only Friday eves I actually “found” time. Yes we know our brain is tired from those little screens …. use Zoom to your benefit! We had a friend’s meeting with champagne or wine in our favorite crystal glasses. Time zone difference did not matter. One friend was baking her awesome cookies while another celebrated her teen son’s birthday (mind you he was having another party with his friends on-line I’m the room next door). Then there are those ZOOM parties and how to host them…..
ZOOM Trivia, crazy stuff!
Like tulips in the Springtime…. FLOWERBAR in Alimos

Caution Caution no health literacy alert! Be careful what you drink….

No Trump Cocktail for me …thank you

“Oh we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy “… lyrics of SEAL “Crazy” hit me every day as we are almost at almost 2 months of lockdown.
Some crazy 😜 tips to help your days …like
we did and still more to come . Oh yeah my fish “Tiko” has a new bodyguard in the form of a nutty bird …

In all seriousness now. It is almost two months later in Lockdown. We are doing our best despite the long-term economic “slaps” we have been given, especially by the EU! This latest Bloomberg article talks about the “humbled Greeks” teaching the world about lockdown and Covid19. OR is it a bit of “learned helplessness”? Despite constant “punches” resilience building dictates that for us to survive we need to have health literacy!

The country’s HLS-EU data dictates that half of the people are considered health literate though there are declines in the over 50 years old groups and those less educated groups (no surprise). Thus why reading about aging and caretaking can take it’s toll….. check out the book chapter in the International Handbook of Health Literacy!

AntigoneD with “Cousteau”… her hair even matches with the flowers 🌺, crazy!

LOVE THOSE PETS, The flowers, the hair! I am in with the creative genius Antigone D… thinking of some good stuff to share with you in the near future…

Roses are red, poppies are too…

Roses are red, the Poppies are too
It’s not just the red Easter eggs But also what you intend to do.

Red eggs tradition for Eastern Orthodox Easter
Poppies at Zeus sanctuary in Theision (Athens, GR). Courtesy of N. Pavlikaki, Arhchaeologist, Art Historian & Tourguide

Thank you to all the hospital 🏥 staff, RED Cross & Red Crescent. The majority are women. A reminder and thank you to our friends & family who continue to donate blood 🩸vital to emergency medicine. And yes we keep missing blood.

Thanks to all the street artists who help us stay positive and strong with inspiring artwork. Let’s fight this little bugger Covid19 and be grateful for all that we have learned.

Thanks to our hardworking parents and loving grandparents who manage to make us all happy with their oral histories and their special contributions.

Thank you to Ms. Penny who slaves away each year to make her Sweet Easter bread and cookies. She actually had the strength to give one of her baked goodies to our alcoholic neighbor in the midst of his yelling randomly (loneliness my friends is a human’s worst experience…..as we are social creatures). Guess what? It worked and he finally quieted down.

This my friends is “the way” and why we need guidance and light no matter how “dark” our days and nights are. We hope they all stay healthy and strong as we push forward to a cure .