Touching faith

Graffiti art at a local high school reminds us of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the need for human touch…with God at the helm.

Faith is not tangible but it is there, a mindset, a feeling, strong motivation for making through the most difficult challenges. A recent cover of Bloomberg magazine featured an artistic image of US President Biden with the line “Move fast and fix things …” eluding to his first 100 days. We all want quick fixes of broken economies, civil unrest, and in our personal pain (from self meds to “ridding ourselves of toxic people” ) but do we look in the mirror? Do we clean our own internal house ? From our choice of words, to the food we eat, the air we breathe (as they say there is no “plan B” to care for our planet 🌍), and our health literacy about our self care and community care is of vital importance to us as local and global citizens.

Over a decade now, I’ve been teaching a course called “Developing the Global Citizen” a hodgepodge of interdisciplinary information and tasks aimed to help increase student awareness of individual and social responsibility as each are challenged to reflect on common issues as well as career development, communication, even corporate responsibility and pandemics! Most students reflect on how much they learned years later. That said, we touch upon health in my courses as a combo of mind, body, spirit but seeing since I cannot mention a specific religious belief the idea of “wholistic health” is certainly one we all can identify with.

The importance of “May day” is not just dancing around the May pole and gathering flowers 💐 , it is about labor laws and being mindful of all our “rights.” This year May 1st was special to Christians of the Eastern Orthodox faith as they celebrated Easter weekend. After one year of lockdowns and not going to church for many the opening of places of worship is their personal “resurrection” back to normalcy.

As George Michael’s song FAITH this year many of us identified …“you gotta have faith” or perhaps 🤔 with SEAL who sang “Crazy”…. we need to survive with humor, social support and spiritual strength as we do not LIVE alone. And if you do isolate ask Why? Deal with your fears, listen 🎧 to affirmations change your self talk. This is faith…. surviving and coping with the most difficult challenges. In these post-covid days we need to continue believing that ‘we will overcome.’

May traditions from pagan to Christianity ✝️ times call forth Spring and resurrection of nature
😷 and mass ending by 9 p.m. was a first for all of us this year!

So important to detox yourself, and clean house!

Build faith in your own abilities but also a strong spiritual foundation, as only this can “weather” the elements. Your own experiences can truly help others learn to better cope and survive. Sharing information and advice is caring for your fellow human beings. This last year was one of strong spiritual building for many of us and a show of faith.

Faith is taking the first step even when you dont see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mundane Poetry and thoughts on Pandemics

April is National Poetry Month, in the U.S. Inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), the Academy of American Poets established National Poetry Month in 1996.

I have been writing poetry for a very long time and only recently during quarantine had a bit more time in my plethora of life and work matters, to pick up some poetry books to read, and of course write more. Why not published….. hmm? Too busy reading articles. Part of inspiring hope is through literature and poetry. Poetry can take many forms, it can describe a mood, reflect on subconscious or conscious thoughts, history, fantasy or reality. Quotes and poetry add great depth to our lives, to inspire, to make a difference, so dream and think like a poet!

Robert Frost, and many of his writings are classics, one of my favorites, as also the metaphysical poet John Donne. Andrew Spacey in Owlcation poetry analysis of Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (written in 1922) provides a great analysis by stanza (group of lines divided into groups and separated by lines in a poem). Indeed some of Frost’s lines are “dark” but then, a lot of music and poetry is. It describes our mood, subconscious thoughts or simply a state of mind. Frost has that ‘hunky sensitivity’ — endearing to many of us romantic types — this poem is indeed reflective of isolation, and if anyone travels to Vermont or New Hampshire during the long winter months, they can understand the context of a seemingly mundane world.

This may be how some people even view the current pandemic. Mundane and isolationist.

Diseases categorized as ‘pandemics’ used to travel very slowly, in older days. So slowly that it took decades and even hundreds of years for these to reach continental Europe from places like Asia. Although it has been documented that quarantines helped control disease spread in the Middle Ages, we as human beings cannot live very long in isolation. We do not travel solely on ships anymore, we are ‘airborne’ — and this is the issue of the current COVID-19 and related SARS family of diseases. COVID continues to get the reputation of being a ‘clotting disease‘ and unfortunately damages multiple organs. We keep losing people, the medical community is overburdened and fatigued.

One of my students recently lost his wife, mother of two, ages 13 and 9, may she rest in peace. Others we know had been hospitalized, some ‘survived’ but still report extreme exhaustion and having ‘fuzzy’ unclear thinking processes.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886) another American favorite wrote more than 800 poems found in her family home in Amherst, MA. Influenced by her context, a strict father, a mother who was crippled from a stroke.

It takes time. We want to believe that self-tests will shed light on the “Typhoid Mary” types of of our communities, the Spreaders and potential Carriers. We hope that having a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated will help humans move forward so it is not as in ‘the end of days’ or some version of the Apocalypse. We need to go back to the basics of trace data, inform close-nit groups, and train community health aides.

There is confusion, an anti-vax movement, and for sure no perfect solution. As with everything, we need to take action, to educate, and to empower. A recent March correspondence article “Covid-19, cults and the antivax-movement” in The Lancet, I am aligned with this: “Burgess and colleagues drew attention to how people who might have suffered disproportionate economic and health consequences from COVID-19 are now being asked to trust the same structures that failed to provide adequate resources and social protection during the pandemic…..However, Burgess and colleagues make a distinction between ‘people wholly opposed to vaccinations (anti-vaxxers) and…vaccine hesitancy.’

MUNDANE

War, Blood,

the tears of pain,

of victory, of power,

the story of greed.

Walk, journey,

the birth of life,

of growth, of courage,

the story of survival.

Hope, fear,

the light of truth,

of freedom, of serenity,

the story of peace.

(B. Kondilis, 1991)

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

We start with a few, and keep adding…. this is how preventive education starts. Individual is good but population-based even better. Meaning the “biggest bang for your buck.” No one knows it better than people trained by the CDC or similar entities. As it seems, it makes no difference if we were trained 20 years ago or 40 years ago. Whether it was the AIDS epidemic or the Covid Pandemic, increasing health literacy remains a consistent goal.

We are trained to give information, to work with teams and media (radio, TV, internet, magazine, newspaper, you name it), for any type of disease (chronic or infectious/ communicable). Mental health trained clinicians deal with loss, help people better understand their strength and resilience, to ‘have a chance’ and make the world a better place to live. We know there is mistrust, but we also know how important trust-building is to the patient-provider relationship. Healthcare professionals, allied health professionals, mental health professionals all bring their ‘arms’ to the “Round-Table” if there ever was a health communication ideal of ‘Camelot’….

Barbara Kondilis & MaryLee Behrens, lifelong health educators
during an online session with health psychology students

Teaching kids to appreciate science 🧬

A social scientist recently said that the pandemic may have given many parents the chance to slow down and really talk. Talk about what we “take in” from the online world from what we watch or play.

Every day we have chances to teach children, but seem to compete with online gaming and other such popular distractions. In our family the “game night” did not last long. We tried at least once a week 😆 (Checkers vs. Fortnite) but at least we TRIED!

This week school assigned a biology experiment which helped us better understand that what we take in — physically and psychologically — affects us; much like the celery which is now “becoming” blue (that’s food color in the water 💧that the celery is drinking) … to better understand osmosis. Yes 👍

No lava lamps for us this time. One site by Good Housekeeping even has over 20 experiments one can do at home ! Additionally “try” three (3) things 🏡 with a discussion and a “debriefing” afterwards of how your body feels and tension/stress is released. A great way to get them started to appreciate Psychology! Yes 👍

  1. Body scan and emotional “state” before and then after your 20 minute walk or bike ride
  2. Guided meditation or yoga poses with music 10 minutes
  3. Coloring books for relaxing the brain

And who knows …what the kids will become ! Keep sharing and keep caring.

Leftover plants 🪴transforming thoughts

Dolly Parton, is a force of positive energy and humour. She once said “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.” Last year, several posts were written about rainbows 🌈 as we sometimes are burdened by over-thinking or over-working. Some “drown” from all the rain 🌧 of exhaustion and negativity. However, we need to remember our umbrella ☔️ of health literacy. Self-talk, self-care, social support and transformation of our surroundings. There is always a way…. to untwist your thinking 🤔 change your path, get the support to make it through… Even the little fun-loving grasshopper was “taken in” by the hardworking ants 🐜 he made fun of if you remember the one from Aesop’s fables.

One of my good friends “took in” a baby turtle 🐢 she almost ran over on the road. Asian cultures say turtles are good luck. He/she now lives near her plants 🪴 next to her tree 🌲 which she has also nurtured since it’s growth/birth. Caring people nurture growth in all of us. My hope is for you to be as lucky to have some good people in your life like this. People who can help you with the “shelter” of sharing a cup of tea or a bowl of soup, take a walk with, and give you a pep talk. Like her turtle we all need a little protection once in a while. Particularly in winter months, times when real or experienced mental “darkness” may attempt to take over. Do something for your physical, mental, and spiritual life —don’t forget the light — one lucky turtle !

Add color to your life with good words, deeds, changes, think of transformers. More color to your life in the form of plants can increase your oxygen levels helping any home in bleak winter months be happier and healthier ….and maybe a good bowl of soup 🥣 akin to the series “Chicken Soup for the Soul”!

Featured plants: Holly, spider plant, poinsettia

Many plant species have “migrated” from international sea travel and it turns out that the well-known Xmas plant poinsettia (in Greek called Αλεξανδρινό) has come from parts of South America. Certain species can grow several meters high and I’ve seen white, red, pink versions in many places. What a great idea to add to your home 🏡.

Why not keep those leftover plants 🪴? Add some pressed flowers 🌸 in your journal pages that you can find years later to remind you and reflect fondly on those beloved memories? Many young people don’t keep hard cover journals anymore, but I say bring it back… there is proof that writing has a specific connection to your neurological system as some claim that by changing some writing you can even affect behaviors (anger and disorganization for example). Remember to share new and old books — Let them have books 📚 and cheesecake! 📚

“These are a few of my favourite things …and then I don’t feel so bad …” Sing 🎶 it Julie! She “transformed” the von Trapp family in the Sound of Music 🎼 movie! The real story about the Austrian family may surprise you (real Trapp family) 😲

Think of your “favourite things” to help you over a tough period and take a walk to “healing” nature!

Smile 😊 it’s a NEW Year!

We are turning the “chapters” of our life pages, renewal and moving ahead. Smile it’s a new year 2021 — 365 new days for ideas and renewed hope and life chances!

One of the best “calendars” I have received and a great message “Smile” 😊 try new things and develop gratitude …. what 3 new things will you try? I’ve outlined a few ideas 💡 ….

Let’s shed light on things we’ve neglected
  1. Enrol in online classes with 365 quotes by Persian poet Rumi? OR some belly dance classes to shed pounds\kilos? There are many courses like DailyOm or sites like MindValley that are certainly interesting!
  2. Clean house, clean out old habits, particularly those bad ones that affect your health (body, mind, spirit), as well as your community’s well-being. (Respect your own body and build immunity, think about your ‘cave’ be less selfish, respect others & refresh cities).
  3. The calendar 📅 of happiness ? Check out this link (actionforhappiness).
Begin 2021 with new ideas & new energy
Some guided meditations are useful instead of only passive breathing, tap into your active mind !

Home for the holidays

Hot beverages, home cooking, turning inward, online burnout, family matters. This is what many people described as key themes from this year’s holidays. Perhaps a slowing down is what that “little bugger” Covid intended, for sure we still have much to learn.

Many of us want to look ahead to a brighter year, thinking of New Year’s resolutions…cook more, quality time with family and friends, reading, music, art, inner work…and yes more hot chocolate and the Eat, Pray, Love philosophy. And, a recent gifted book I’m reading by Haemin Sunim, The Things You can See Only When you Slow Down (c) 2012. One thing is for sure it’s great to make comfort food. The leftover candy canes this year went into some fabulous chewy, coconut oil based brownies ! Yummy 😋

We have responsibility to ourselves and our communities in slowing down the transmission of all communicable disease 🦠 so we can give our health professionals and healthcare facilities a “break.” This WHO social marketing campaign makes it clear. Burnout and risk are also clear.

We are amidst a global pandemic. The latest stats show us that there is a big Pharma “war” for the most COVID vaccines as seen by this very interesting site called “Visual Capitalist” (global maps vaccines ), and of course the gaming industry gains (much to the dismay of parents) , and the “Top 20 visuals from 2020” — missing some additional losses (actors Sean Connery [007] Kirk Douglas [Spartacus], David Prose [Darth Vader], Kelly Preston [Travolta’s spouse] & Nick Cordero [A Bronx Tale] , soccer player Diego Maradona, basketball player Kobe Bryant, rockstar Eddie Van Halen, country singer Kenny Rogers and comedian-singer Little Richard, Maestro Ennio Morricone, to name a few in tribute.😕😢 some of whom had COVID related complications.

No, it’s not just “another flu” …it’s likely as complicated as HIV-AIDS once was. It’s also fast forwarding us to what people call “futurism” and there is certainly a lot of mistrust in governments, the global “network” of economic and media gurus… full conspiracy theories. My friend’s card reminder should help all of us cognitively reshift …..

When life gives you lemons 🍋 ….make lemonade! Indeed

….and of course some good tea!

Winter solstice

Winter Solstice, the old and the new. The morning of December 13th, one could enjoy the Swedish site of the “light” festivities for Santa Lucia. Jewish friends celebrate Chanukah 🕎 with the lighting of seven candles and the 12 days before Christmas we can start with truly listening to the “Twelve days of Christmas” (c. 1780) song 🎵 to the mindset of giving.

Pull out your Farmer’s Almanac. This year, winter solstice happens on Monday, December 21, 2020. The word solstice comes from Latin sol “sun” and sistere “to stand still” implying that the sun’s path across the sky will stand still. This is the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest day of the year. Turns out our ancestors were brilliant about using special stone techniques to track the seasons including Stonehenge (England) and Macchu Picchu (Peru) to name a few, and several calendars merged from pagan to Christian to allow for some festivities in winter.

Even the crescent moon 🌙 found in many Muslim countries is based on astronomical and mythical symbols pre-Islam of the moon goddess transformed later into religious symbolism. Specifically for West Asian peoples since pre-Islamic times, it was associated with the worship of the Moon Goddess, who was given the names Ishtar, Astarte, Alilat, or Mylitta, while some eve associate it with the Greek goddess Aphrodite (Venus).

Emma Shaplin


Perhaps we could be inspired about the moon and stars from Emma Shapplin’s Spente le Stelle or explore the more interconnected cultural histories. This year on Dec. 21st we expect to see a “Christmas star” whereby the planets Jupiter and Saturn will be very close to each other. Supposedly, this bright phenomenon has not been seen since 800 years ago (story Cambridge Independent). The year some people call the “worst ever” actually has this special astronomical surprise… 🪐💫

If you’ve been privileged to explore the magnificent Aurora Northern or Southern Lights, or partake in Shamanistic drumming to “heal the soul of unhealthy spirits”, there is an aspect of ecological balance that many traditions continue from pagan times onward. Wise people understand these rituals highlight the importance of both self-care and community care as needed to thrive and human survival.

Each day is a gift if you seek to take care, recognising healthy and unhealthy habits, and access appropriate care — all part of building individual and community health literacy.

Feeling a bit “down” are you? The word “melancholia” [root Greek words melanin (μελανίνη) and choli (χολή), the former if lacking makes the person feel acutely sad/ depressive, more “choleric” or bad-tempered and moody. Many crave carbohydrates, generally more fatty foods which some are necessary for “making it through” the winter cold. These real-body experiences add up for many in the form of body fat and cellulite and some experience this annually as S.A.D.D. (Fall-winter or even Spring). More on dealing with this in a future post!

Last Spring the post on “the importance of light” highlighted the need for vitamin D, increasing melatonin function for better mental and physical health, as well as the spiritual “good” which holistic approaches aspire to be. If you’re working with a coach or therapist hopefully they are attune to these issues giving you the proper guidance you need.

Add more hot drinks in “heating” your system, healthy foods in your diet to help increase the much needed melanin-melatonin hormone levels; vitamin B complex for better functioning of muscle and cardiac system, neurological building brain food (top foods include: walnuts, chestnuts, asparagus, oatmeal, pineapple, cherries, oatmeal, brown rice to name a few. For kids, in the evening try adding a potassium rich banana with milk making for a great smoothie to help them fall asleep 😴 faster.

Need to lose some weight? Increase your protein and trick your metabolism. Why not add more mushrooms to salads or rice dishes? check out fellow blogger all about mushrooms 🍄 — makes one realize that nature indeed provides all we need if we “seek it” out. I

Consider buying gifts for healthier eating this holiday lockdown season and whatever you do, keep seeking the light in the darkness! Paulo Coelho author of the “Goodread book” Warrior of the Light would be proud.

Deliver healthy gift options to friends this year!

It’s the little things…. this holiday season

Nostalgia over melancholia (be nostalgic but fight off being melancholic 😔) you can do it! The newest trend is 21 days of daily meditation — affirmations and guided versions are great 👍 — to help one change their subconscious mindset. It works.

As a kid we watched a lot of common Christmas movies, like Scrooge which taught us not to hoard wealth, the Little Donkey or Rudolph about how differences make us unique. Somehow Coca Cola red and white colors has now overtaken any idea of the “giving” Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nick 🎅🏻 I hear is taking precautions this year as the word spreads. Someone sent me this image, a welcome reminder of capitalism at best 😆 ….

Currently, “Happy Holidays” is the politically correct terminology for the new world order but nevertheless it’s the little things that feed our subconscious that make this season great.
The other day my good friends surprised me with a beautiful plant 🪴 for celebrating my Saints day, how special that felt. Yes 👍

Each item we choose to display may remind us of a trip, a friend, an accomplishment — like our last year’s making a wooden “Rudolph” with the help of Lions Club & Black and Decker (corporate social responsibility as all money made went to local charities).

Let’s be “rebellious” and stop destroying the little things that give us hope and positivity — even in our part of the world where Dec. 6th marked a tragic event — a big mistake — by one police officer who accidentally took the life of a teen boy who was with his friends bad mouthing the local cops the “ACAB” mentality (not a race issue but definitely a local community gone amuck), 12 years later the trauma keeps being politicised — this community needs healing not more trouble! It is time to refuse focusing attention on the anarchy of youth who resort to burning, looting, destroying our cities — no more PR by media (where is their responsibility not to focus on this?) Can we re-shift our thinking? Yes “Imagine” with the Swoosh effect and also neurolinguistic NLP techniques !

‘Tis the season then! Perhaps you can:

  • drop off a gift 🎁 to someone not expecting it like a “care package” of goodies, a plant, or send flowers 💐
  • make some soup or shovel the snow for your elderly neighbor without them asking (or paying for ….social security checks are low now, and people are suffering enough)
  • send cards with a note 📝 about your news….so much nicer than email which can be “deleted” and forgotten more easily. Thanks 🙏 dear ones who still do this!
  • say “hello” or a nice compliment ….it’s amazing what it does!
  • revamp or redecorate a family heirloom to keep fond memories and share stories
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

We miss being able to give, and of course we should be open to receiving. Several years ago students moved to give hope to others with programs like “Make-a-Wish” foundation. What comes around goes around, and specifically giving and volunteering also contributes strongly to our own happiness and well-being. Thus, add this to your “health literacy” matrix.

Loving the “we serve” purpose

A recent YouTube video was circulating pre-Covid days by GENTRI that took the “Little Drummer Boy” to a new level giving meaning for children fighting cancer….. 💕🙏

Living and walking the “talk” of the Christmas spitit

‘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

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 🌽