Water water everywhere so let’s preserve it to drink

Do you have the water running while you brush your teeth ? What about when you wash your dishes or your car? Every single product you have and need for your life contain water 💦 are you health literate about your local and global needs?
Do you keep up with the costs of fixing broken pipes and bad infrastructure (Physical or Communication) never mind the overuse of pesticides that run into our drinking water! Most governments are not even following the law for Safety Standards !

Dr. Angelina-Kallia Antoniou, European Environmental Law Expert

We should all be concerned about the quality and quantity of our water supplies in the world which includes the threats like bioterrorism and even the opportunities of therapy with water — there are entire Web pages dedicated to this (eg. Livpure). We learned about hydrotherapies like Ποσιθεραπεία (Water we drink), Πυλοθεραπεία (water with minerals we put on our bodies). We were informed about biodiversity and the fact that 30% of the land in Greece is part of Natura 2000. All this with water-related art, water filter display and networking opportunities at the 1st International Forum on Water held December 10th and 11th in Zappeion, near Syndagma square Athens.

Dr. Vantarakis speaks about the interplay of individual and community behaviors as well as the government importance of maintaining the public’s health !

Do you understand that disease is “cyclical” and waterborne diseases come and go ? Remember Cholera (think John Snow’s water pump) or experiences of gastroenteritis? Painful and deadly. We often have only a few days to “move” in protecting our public’s health epidemiologically but not enough time for lab results …while news spreads like wildfire through media! Sometimes accurately sometimes not, as Dr. Emmanuel Vantarakis, Professor of School of Medicine of Patras University indicates.

There was talk about dealing with public health disasters that reflect what we had posted on this blog a couple of years ago and no, you cannot just hide a problem of potential epidemic proportions where countries in the future won’t even have clean water to drink due to climate changes and geopolitical games.

Congratulations to the Woman of the Year Time magazine 2019, Greta Thunberg, and we love the magazine cover ! She’s keeping our heart and mind on protecting our environment and taking recycling and minimizing plastics seriously ! Our congratulations to local groups like this beach cleaning community who have been attempting to clean up beaches and be more civically engaged with young people. Let’s go global citizens you know who you are!

We can live without food for up to 14 days, without water for only a couple of days, and our earth 🌍 needs to be maintained else humans will be extinct like dinosaurs! Great initiatives …let’s keep talking water!

Chestnuts in the Forest

Fall in the village of chestnuts «Καστάνιτσα»

In search of those little brown delicacies in the wood? Chestnuts are the perfect Fall food, a low calorie “nut”, a great source of dietary fiber, with Vitamin C among other vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folic acid, manganese, molybdenum, and copper as well as a good source of magnesium. Wow!

This is the month of gathering chestnuts in several villages in the mountains of Arcadia as we visited “Kastanitsa” and their great Fall festival complete with roasted chestnuts, hot food (yes with chestnuts!), local honey, Arts and crafts as well as folk music.

🌰 Chestnuts, chestnuts 🌰 everywhere and what great treats to eat! Roasted or boiled they taste great with white meat like chicken or pork. As a matter of fact we tasted roasted chestnuts, some chestnut soup and “creamed chestnut” on crackers, and a hot meal made with pork, quince, chestnuts, tomato, pressed garlic and wine …delicious and perfectly nutritious as part of seasonal eating. An alternate delicious version #2 includes prunes with quince. And some say when you eat the appropriate seasonal foods you can even lose weight!

A tasty Fall meal

Local artists added their special ‘note’ to the event as it was well organized they even had a “Kastagram” with receptacles for trash and recycling! There were activities for kids, dancing, food sections, and local vendors. There were buses coming from everywhere — granted too many for my taste — to enjoy the special tastes and sounds.

Afterwards we took a walk in the wood to pick our own chestnuts as our family outdoor activity. I would do it again, and yes it felt a bit like Heidi of the mountains…..

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….

Dark Moon, Black Cats, Evil Eye: Superstitions & Health

The children of U.K., U.S., and Ireland say “trick or treat” on October 31st for Halloween 🎃 while many parts of the world celebrate “all souls day” on November 1st. Images of dancing skeletons, ghosts and the candlelit jack-o-lantern add an air of mystery against the moonlit sky.

“Dark moon” may have been a movie thriller (year 2009) and the Black Moon back in 2016  — a phenomenon of approximately every three years and supposedly precursor to the “end of the world” got me thinking of all the superstitions that we are exposed to in our lifetime from our family circle or cultural traditions. More importantly how these can affect our thinking and ultimately our health and those around us!

I’m impressed by fellow bloggers’ images and information like this one by a man with an appropriate last name “Wolfe”…what would a full or dark moon be without?!   Supposedly some of us have urges of creativity, hatred and envy (anyone have any of these issues today?) but we can learn to hone it into more healthy behaviors as the first step is awareness.

During a black 🌚 moon,  the sun perfectly illuminates  the back side of the moon, hence giving it the eerie glow while it appears like the “apocalyptic night.”  In societies whom we may consider low health literate by our standards, people often have perfectly thought out alternative approaches to what we may consider crazy or out of this world!

We love mystery, as musical hits like the Dark Side of the Moon, Shakespeare’s line “my mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” (Sonnet 130) later copied into one of Sting’s greatest hits “Sister Moon” (1987), reminded me of a question I asked years ago of a serious scientist — “do you believe that planets affect us?” — in my attempt to better understand my own fascination with astrology and astronomy. I was surprised and secretly thrilled with his answer: “if the moon affects the tides and our body is hugely made up of fluids, why can’t planets affect us?” Perhaps the answer is the interplay of our biology (thinking, chemical balance or imbalance, genetic predispositions to anxiety or our amygdala giving us the wrong signals leading to fear) with our experiences… do you like ghost stories?

Those of you who believe in the evil eye (mati) will understand when I say, if a talisman makes you feel more secure wear it or hang it outside your home…. this allows you some form of ‘control’ which may reduce your anxiety use it! BUT if this becomes an obsession (e.g. “I can’t function because I have the evil eye”) or we blame natural phenomena such as fatigue on the evil eye (e.g. “the baby is crying, must be the evil eye”), you may need some good old fashioned counseling.

There is hope!  In an article written in the Huffington Post “How to Get Rid of the Evil Eye” the author reminds us that we all have cultural quirks, and though the evil eye is a tradition of Eastern Europe, the middle east, what I discovered in my past cross-cultural learning is that some beliefs may have permeated to other cultures like in Haiti when my friend spat three times (to supposedly ward off the evil eye), or to my great surprise appeared in more nature-oriented traditions such as the native Americans (or American Indians) who believe in the “eye of timg_7363he lake” or the “eye of Providence” as affecting all mankind.

Lastly, this thing in the west about black cats bringing bad luck — unless you find yourself not seeing the cat in the late night because your eye’s rods aren’t firing fast enough in low light and you wind up stepping on its tail or worse falling over the cat into the trash receptacle, well, don’t blame the cat! They are truly beautiful creatures, in ancient Egypt the black cat was revered and there was even a cult of the cat well until several hundred years A.D.

During the summer of 2016 we had the opportunity to rescue a kitten stuck in the fender of our car (don’t ask how or why, he was very scared from something…. now I better understand the phrase “don’t be such a scaredy cat“) who with a lot of care and love is one of the sweetest creatures I have known, and very lucky to be alive, hence why we named him “Lucky.”

Reframe it to “Black Cats bring me love and good luck, especially if we treat them with love and respect!” You may be a dog person, but any pet contact on a very ‘down’ day or dealing with chronic illness, or with those with whom communicating is difficult (autistic children, elders with dementia) is truly healing and why so many people are learning more about pet therapy.

I may not, in contrast to Sting, wanting to “howl at the moon the whole night through” but I am drifting off to sleep before the witching hour (yes I did read the famed New Orlean native Anne Rice’s novel “The Witching Hour“) thinking of Selene, the moon goddess drifting across the skies…

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.

Missing blood

Do you donate blood? You should as it benefits everyone. I ❤️❤️ This link listing 14 reasons  to donate blood from CarterBloodCare.

This weekend, given the opportunity to speak to a group of people who help organize issues around giving blood at a national level here in Greece, and address many issues or should I say “barriers” we all learned from each other. The concept of the Amfiktionia (αμφικτιονία) was new for me and indeed a most positive community effort to bring key issues to the forefront (see site organization dedicated to Amfiktionia).

The National day of blood donation was June 14th and this year World Blood Donation day!

My presentation was about building volunteers, collective trust and health literacy.  Anyone doing anything related to relaying health information on crucial topics such as giving blood indeed builds community health literacy. A big “Bravo!” for all these hard-working people. Also, let’s not forget corporate sponsors that make these events possible — for this event it was Vikos – Βίκος refreshing water and softdrinks (note all of us were volunteer speakers 📍❤️).

There are many barriers including recent GDPR changes, and for blood donors (at least here in Greece) who have to do too much running around with paperwork to both donate and receive blood! There are rumors of political “interventions” but as one speaker Dr. Michalis Christakis (President of local municipality Kleisthenis) well said if you follow procedure and municipalities manage well there is no problem.

However I better understand the issues around a procedural problem of getting a blood donor card. Who has the time to “report” to the association of these problems ? This should all be easy and there needs to be quality control. The continuing problem — communication, organization, and legal or municipal  action if procedures and laws are not followed.  Make it easier.

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We need national  social marketing campaigns like the one by the British NHS above, else we keep “missing blood.” Other places around the world do great short “spots” that get people to donate blood like this family oriented one from Thailand (Donate Blood Save Lives)

One older cartoon (1985 clip) created by Bulgarians showing the elves as blood donors saving their beloved Snow White with the help of the prince of course! Let’s keep it flowing … please donate blood today.