After the storm


A great day, one of beach cleanup, and getting some much needed vitamin D from natural sunlight. Floods have become commonplace as a result of bad weather ⛈🌪 and deforestation due to fires 🔥 this past summer with one of the greatest ecological disasters on the isle of Evoia, as one friend said “apocalyptic”. A public transport bus in Attica was flooded as the driver misjudged a bridge and the passengers made a human chain to get out, several drownings — all reminisce cases of people we know who died — wrong place at the wrong time. 💔😥 Often in a rush to make it on time, we misjudge and create accidents, or lose a life.

This day was all about teamwork, beach cleanup after the storm, the benefits of volunteerism. Plastics, cigarette butts, beer cap bottles, old shoes, were some of our findings. So glad that cafes and restaurants are finally mandated to use paper straws. Thus, the lovely loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta, native to the region, won’t get the plastic ones we found (counted over 25!!!) stuck in their snouts.

“If I could remind people one thing for their own and other’s health — Slow Down and enjoy each moment!”

Author, October 2021

Thank God for seashells, and rainbows 🌈 and the promise of new beginnings. Great days ahead.

Pomegranate and Autumn 🍂 comforts

Autumn is here and we are loving the rain and cooler days. For many world regions floodwater has destroyed property and land a bit apocalyptic for some; flooding is concerning due to continued climate change.

Time for the Earth to bare her last fruit/veggies as she, like us ”takes a rest”. Fall or Autumn (from the Latin autumnus) reminds us of the year passing, as we take out out warm sweaters and comfort foods.

What is your Fall Season “comfort food”? Perhaps a morning oatmeal with a bit of maple syrup reminding you of the colors and the beauty of autumn.

In times of “low energy“ it’s to your benefit to add some extra vitamins with pumpkin seeds, cranberries, some goji berries … good and extra yummy!

Wikipedia defines comfort food as something of nostalgic nature from our childhood usually that makes us feel “cared for” and indeed a hot breakfast around cold Fall and winter days makes us feel better. A reminder that “all that falls” could be your mood and a bit of seasonal depression so do something, be active, put on that warm cuddly sweater and make something good for yourself !

Breakfast, the most important part of your day so start your day with energy!

Demeter, goddess of agriculture, harvest and fertility, is a reminder of seasonal changes, human bounty, and potential loss. Gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece mirrored human nature, one may say as a mother she surely felt a great emptiness when her daughter Persephone was lured by Hades into the underworld disappearing from beloved earth grounds. Hades, a dark figure (may be something like a modern Darth Vader) convinces the kind-hearted Persephone to fall for him offering her a pomegranate.

By eating a few seeds she consummates this relationship so that even the great leader-god Zeus could not intervene, thus Persephone travels to Hades part of the year, and as she re-emerges her mother, Demeter brings flowers and the budding of Spring —  a beautiful myth!

Writers talk about the necessity of change, darkness being a necessary part of our healing (Thomas Moore “Dark Nights of the Soul”).

The continued pagan tradition of the pomegranate, a bittersweet food of seeds or squeezed into juice, rich in vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties, is added with barley / bulgar wheat, to commemorate death of loved ones as part of the memorial services of several Eastern Orthodox traditions (called “kolyva” κόλλυβα).

There’s a great list of benefits including helping weight loss indicated in a popular fitness magazine, Shape (pomegranate info).

There are the RED types

Fall healthy eating tips:

  • Eat more pumpkin, lotus, and any beta carotene rich vegetables and fruit
  • Take a walk in the woods and gather some chestnuts ? Remember 20 mins a day, walk briskly.
  • Pair your Halloween 🎃 candy with some Omega rich nuts !
  • October health literacy month a reminder to build health literacy.

We made our Halloween mini garden featuring Mr. pumpkin 🎃 and our seasonal basil 🌿 ready for hybernation.

As we close with Eric Clapton’s Autumn, I came across this great quote in thinking of winter and your relationships — a reminder for ”cleaning house”:

October 4th — World Animal Day

Elders, animals, compassion is more of what we need to help our communities become more health literate and learning patience and respect. October is health literacy month.

It’s more than “knowledge” it is taking the appropriate actions for your and other’s health and being advocates for local and global change. This is across the globe as it includes animals — October 4th world animal day to commemorate St. Francis of Assisi.

When I ask friends, what does your pet mean to you? or how did your pet help you during COVID lockdowns, the answers I get are consistent with the evidence that pets help by minimizing stress, furry animals in particular “give warmth and love” to their owners who attribute “good health” to these little (or big) creatures. Teaching children to take care of pets, including respecting the larger environment, helps them become more active in their communities.

Global Health Literacy goes to Taipei, Taiwan this year virtually (more to come on that later)! Keep learning about how you can contribute to your community’s pro-animal efforts:

  • Be generous
  • Be proactive about your health in understanding how to minimise stress
  • Get animals spade or neutered (microchips a must for house pets)
  • Respect all creatures big and small
  • Adopt and feed stray animals
  • Remember some animals are becoming extinct, educate yourself and donate to organisations like Greenpeace

A big Thank You to all the animals who posed for us for health literacy month !

The princes of darkness

They are handsome, debonair, can talk you to the moon 🌝 and back again…but as with that, some dark sides of the moon we cannot see clearly until it’s too late. I cannot say how many times I’ve heard this. The experience of the ‘blame game’ where partners take no responsibility, some using their physical or economic strength (if their partner/wife is raising the children and do not work) as male privilege. Worse, the intentionality of a crime where many wives and mothers, girlfriends, are killed as a “result” of their wanting to leave the relationship — perhaps with building pressure from job loss or stress of COVID, who knows? Fits of narcissistic rage, long-standing anger builds to the point of abuse and death. This borderline personality of “I love you but I hate you” is alive and well within all levels of society. There are many sites we can refer to better understand what the POWER & CONTROL issues are and in order to help our friends, neighbors, fellow citizens become more aware of anger management, domestic abuse, and issues of equality. The best model by far is the ‘Duluth Model’ developed in Minnesota in the 1980s as it is still used and modified by many counselors, organizations, and advocacy groups today.

The recent Greek murder case of the 20-year-old Caroline Crouch, beautiful and talented, experienced kickboxer, a mother of an 11-month-old infant, who wanted “out” from a relationship with her husband of almost twice her age, is now dead. Murdered by her husband Babis Anagnostopoulos, who recently confessed …. a national shocker for the country and now the world, for what seemed a ‘perfect crime’…. her personal data watch helped crack the case. It brought me back memories of an older crime from the 1990s in Boston, Mass, a story which also made national headlines with 3rd party accusations — another Carol, and her husband Charles Stuart. She was very pregnant, family issues no one was aware of, and her husband became greedy. In a scene between Rey and Ben (a.k.a. Kylo Ren), the intensity between the characters and being ‘put down’ to feel emotionally vulnerable ….the “Join Me” scene….it is subtle, but the moment of weakness is evident.

The intense ‘Join Me’ scene between Ben (Kylo Ren) and Rey (Star Wars The Last Jedi)

Confronting fear and looking in to the dark side to find the “ray” of light was an intentional part of Star Wars. An enjoyable post by Digital Spy shows how Rey helps Ben (Kylo Ren) ‘escape’ from the dark side. Indeed, this is what many women do, as natural caretakers, to help or ‘save’ partners in the name of love. We all need to be in constant check ourselves of our behavior and choices. But as the story made horror film of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde goes, it may be our chemicals and our becoming possessed from this darker side that leads to unexplicable reactions.

Many of these “princes” are indeed fabulous in the beginning of relationships…. until the children come and/or the stress builds …. a large falling out can happen to many who experience the stress of a new baby the first couple of years. For men who may not comprehend that a wife /mother has her priorities on her baby/young child until the balance is resumed, can experience intense emotional conflict. Many of us have been there….with this experience of the “fairytale gone bad” due to longstanding narcissism, borderline features, some traumas (untreated), all too familiar. It does not matter who you are, but it seems that if you are younger, alone or isolated, these ‘characters’ can take this as part of an advantage….

Patterns of behavior can start young … some relate to developmental immaturity, others carry throughout life.

During one of my graduate public health classes years ago, we had created an intervention for violence prevention emphasizing how younger relationships may sometimes end up in dating violence — examples of “power” struggles and use of force (physical, sexual, psychological) because of fear of loss and intense jealousy (i.e. breakup) which can end in a horrible situation, even death.

  • Communication skills and empathy building, anger management (building EQ) are critical.
  • Any intervention should include both the perpetrators and the victims. As one teacher friend did by building a communication “card” for her students to deal with bullying, we all need one through life!
  • Seek counseling and spiritual guidance.
  • Share your stories so that others can learn from them.

Personality is complex, aspects build over time, the side that past psychoanalyst Carl Jung referred to as our dark side is sometimes unknown fully even to us! Spiritualists call this evil.  I recall this pictured vividly in an older film movie “The Ghost” as life circumstances and jealousy lead to extreme actions. The shadow, the anima, the animus, and the Self – as Jung wrote has both a light and a dark aspect… modern research indicates that we CAN help others control these ‘inner demons’ with meditation, prayer, and cognitive restructuring, NLP (or whatever works for them). Of course meditation helps with depression — longstanding depression or intense anger issues, one should always check with a professional! Many Bible verses call for protection, and can be found on-line. If this is something one wishes to seek out, then practice reading these daily!

Is Pinnochio just a childhood story ?

The “dark triad” of personality, such as the one that may be indicated in personal or workplace relationships, is one that develops over time. It is a combination of narcissism, sociopathy and Machiavellian traits. Wikipedia lists the “Prince of darkness” as being either Satan (in the Biblical sense) or Machiavelli the statesman historical figure of Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 -1527) whose cunning political prowess kept him in power at the helm. You might think his childhood hero was Pinocchio, an innocent and manipulated wooden puppet who eventually developed remorse for his actions….not sure about Niccolo! He wrote the infamous book, The Prince, which some say he was writing about himself, while others think was about what he witnessed around him. It’s worth a read, as we all need to keep these dark sides “in check” as when we allow the ‘takeover’ we can destroy our own life as well as that of others….

If you are READING this, and you recognize some of the emotional instability patterns in several relationships (frequent break-ups, rage at others especially if they ‘don’t pay attention to you’, emotional up and downs) it will benefit you to seek professional help.

Austen Lennon, M.D. has a newer book (2018), a ‘must buy’ for those who want to help people with borderline personality (see GoodReads here). Several sites refer to POWER & CONTROL issues, intending to help our friends, neighbors, fellow citizens become more aware of domestic abuse and issues of equality. I liked this site developed both in Canada and in the U.S. to Reach Out and ‘help a friend’ (webpage). The video below is a ‘taste’ of some of the issues of an emotionally abusive relationship (Duluth Center). You can try to kiss the toad, as that childhood story goes, but they might be one of these very ‘dark’ princes…. so keep your eyes on your inner mirror.

Yellow Sunflower Days🌻

Some days you want to stand out …. even more now with those face masks many of us are still wearing…. because some of us work long hours even some weekends through much of June there are some days, consciously wearing happy colors like yellow can change one’s mood.

We took off in front of that beautiful winged horse we all know from Greek mythology named Pegasus, and then heading over evening to have a seaside meal of calamari (καλαμάρι), or hot dish calamari with purée chickpeas (ρεβύθια), a fresh Greek salad, in Corinth (check out this website as a greatest places in Greece). Mediterranean cuisine makes a wonderful end to perfect days. Of course it’s all better with cheerful friends.

Smiling 😊 is contagious, as I remember taught this years ago when I took a “smiling therapy” class for enhancing my clinical work with youth and groups ….yes there are direct positive affects on our neuronal brain connectivity by looking upward and smiling on our own.

Be like a sunflower 🌻 spread a smile 😃 it’s a simple curve that makes everything better.

There they are smiling at you if you notice them, brilliant 🌻 sunflowers 🌻 basking in the sunlight. Yellow is a cheerful color that many of us need this in our daily routines (diet of fruits of the rainbow to include banana for potassium, and pineapple full of vitamin C, or sunflower seeds on yogurt with honey, to keep healthy) …. how about a piña colada cocktail 🍹 without the alcohol!? The barman matched the fruit and decor with my bathing suit. That’s mindfulness in customer service!

There is even a Sunflower song 🎵 …. positive vibes, and it’s a great reminder that summer is here.

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 !