It’s a new day….

Michael Bublee says it best! A new life, a new day, and I’m feeling good! New Year’s Day is the first page in a blank book: Let’s write a phenomenal story!

I challenge you to pull out a piece of paper, take out your journal and write down at least 2 things you can change in the new year and at least 5 things or events you are grateful for from the past year! Remember make your new year resolutions achievable like “walking at least 5,000 steps each day!” Why? It keeps you motivated to do more…next day you might walk 10,000/day which is the achievable “secret” health goal. This year I ended my year walking 12,000 steps in a city I never traveled to before (oh yes, it was partially a Christmas gift so ”thank you” family) ….and it felt great!

Everyone has hopes (or resolutions) on new year’s day and as we begin the year 2022 let’s think of what we have accomplished to date…. we are alive, breathing, and doing the BEST we can despite the last 2 years of a global pandemic, economic downfalls for many countries, and ecological disasters throughout the world. I put on my warm socks, drank my anti-oxidant tea 🍵, started to sort through leftover stuff to clear the space and the mind, keeping that lucky ”faux” pomegranate (its traditional for the first visitor Day 1, in the Greek home to take a pomegranate and smash it — in a bag of course — and the seeds to represent luck and prosperity for the year) fostering an attitude of gratitude, being kind! I made my list, and thinking about:

  • all the things I’m grateful for …. how about you?
  • all the things I accomplished (some against all odds!) or hoping to accomplish
  • doing my annual medical tests to stay healthy and necessary prevention
  • increasing cash “flow” & spiritual “glow”
  • guiding our children and youth in the best ways possible
  • being more creative

Make this year your most creative one yet!

Amadeus, Amadeus “Requiem”

What would we do without the ‘master’? Today 300 years later we are still discussing the man, the genius, the jealous rivalries, and possible illness that lead to his demise on December 5th. There is ‘Baby Mozart’ to supposedly make infants smarter (unproven but still fun — read more about it here!) , there is Mozart while studying, if you enjoy those Austrian almond paste chocolate Mozart balls quite yummy! Perhaps you will be lucky enough to travel to Austria this holiday season and check out some of these along with the “lucky pigs” (see post: Beyond a New Year’s Resolution)

What caused his untimely death? His timeless influence, between reality and myth are still with us through today….

Falco’s line ‘Rock me Amadeus’ (German version below) is easily retrievable in our 80’s music memory stronghold…. priceless!

It was intriguing to read about possible causes of Wolfgang’s death, ranging from tuberculosis, to syphilis. According to historical records from other men his age, it was likely a streptococcal infection (see Dr. Markel’s full article “A symphony of second opinions on Mozart’s final illness” PBS 2016). A recent covid-related complications death of 69-year-old Mark Blum actor from ‘Mozart in the Jungle” brought the Master composer’s name back into the headlines. The study of epidemiology can be done years later to reflect on CAUSES by looking at the trends of diseases in a certain population at that historical moment.

The final scenes of the Oscar-winning movie Amadeus (1984 trailer) play off a jealous rivalry between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and Antonio Salieri (1750-1825). However, after the discovery of a mutual composition — a cantata ‘score’ written by both for the harpsichord (a favorite sounding instrument predating the piano) shed new light of their relationship, and Mozart’s death “by poisoning” has long been discounted …. we know how it is that everyone likes a little bit of drama! And yes, Mozart was age 30 when Beethoven age 16 met, so we can guess why they are both so great and their music can affect us years later…. useful also with music therapy.

By far, for those of us who ponder what angels on earth sound like, the pounding of the heart and the rising of the soul…. the famed Requiem is one of the most amazing pieces and the LAST one that Mozart wrote, never completing before his death at the tender age of 35. Requiem in D minor, K. 626, is a requiem mass — and “Lacrimosa” …. A bit for your music literacy!

IN REQUIUM then our dear Wolfgang AMADEUS Mozart…..

Classical music still popular today via different mediums …

Checkers versus Fortnite: strategy against “gaming”

Kids nowadays get easily hooked with on-line gaming that seemingly never ends. Games like Fortnite are free “strategy” games that are supposed to be played by 12-year-olds or older, but parents around the globe are complaining that even 8-year-olds are showing addictive tendencies.  There are good articles with recommendations (see here) and this game does not display blood but we need to be on alert and continue discussion with our child or teen.

Cognitive psychology studies prove that the brain increases its “energy” to the point that the child behaves aggressively and even has trouble falling asleep. It’s like “on-line cocaine”, a plague of our modern times. Parents are tired, their digital literacy (one of the health literacies) may not include understanding how problems about addiction start, mainly due to ongoing immediate gratification.

Many games have beautiful graphics, I must admit, and kids learn the English language better as they interact with their “friends” locally and globally.  Fortnite added character dancing so players can mimic (this is a good thing) for exercise.  But the negative aspects of firearms and shooting (the sound alone creates stress on the brain), screen time and staying up late at night affects health negatively . There are countless studies now that contribute to growing evidence that we need to do something about it, and this is not unlike the growing obesity problem.

If you don’t teach your kid to control it early you can literally lose your child to the virtual world.  Parents and other caretakers need to get control back in strategic ways and keep it fun so it’s sustainable.

So after trying to find a zillion ways to get my pre-teen off this potential addiction — including sports, movies, art, social events — I realized the biggest issue is the lack of patience. Music and bedtime stories may work but all this changes as “tweens” move to teens.

The other day my hairdresser told me about her client a single mother who has “lost” her 15-year-old to the virtual world of gaming and of course Fortnite and other online games make millions at the expense of our children’s health — mental, physical, and even spiritual. Our kids would rather stay in, not eat or drink, and they are constantly adrenaline ridden (and learning swear words) which in itself is dangerous to their body’s organs and our social interactions. Anger management for teens anyone?

So I took the step …despite the odds of losing interest to the fast-paced game I challenged my kid to a game of checkers. Yep that 12th century game that we all played as kids did it, and we even involved grandma! So this was a bit frustrating to relearn but it involves slowing down and thinking of the next move. And it involved inter-generational fun.

Be creative and rethink how you can re-teach others what they need to remember …simple strategy and patience, we all need that.

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Reflecting on yesteryear

 

Ring in the new year in joy, sail to new destinations and deal with the “rough seas” of life.

This past year was quite difficult for many with losses (financial, personal), past months we captured some of the tragic news happening in the US, in Greece, Spain see Keeping Afloat Seemingly Chaos even some “bad luck” like 20+ people dead in a flash flood, a ceiling caving in on the main entertainment DJ and another case of a snow avalanche killing one snowboarding tourist  — granted the news never emphasizing that homes were allowed to be built illegally in the valley, or that the snowboarder went to a closed ski resort, where were the safety precautions? Others dying in shootings or intentional terror type acts in the name of their “identity”, or losing their homes in hurricanes throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

You might say “life happens”, indeed. Some things could be preventable. As some are building beachside sandcastles in Southern Hemispheres others are awakened in early morning hours with our beds shaking — no it wasn’t Santa’s sleigh landing on our rooftop — indeed experiencing a small earthquake enough to get our hearts active again. When it comes to man versus nature, the latter will always win.

The morning of the last day of December, a favorite uncle beloved by all family, colleagues, friends for his kind and creative nature, lost a painful fight with liver cancer, just short of his 70th birthday. For me he was one of the great life philosophers and taught us about overseeing negativity and being humane. Coincidentally my recent writing about aging and the end of life and how being or building health literacy can help us all adjust to life’s ups and downs, helps to reflect on the sweet memories of yesteryear. Last year’s New Years post was plenty full with thinking of resolutions, and today’s CNN article really summed up what many of us health educators, counselors, teachers have been saying for years including mindfulness, balanced eating with plenty fruits and vegetables, and the vitality of drinking plenty of water!  Some other intentional resolutions to make it simple and real:

1) clean up your home and your environment, keeping in mind the 3 “R”s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle ♻️

2) be light of heart and kind in spirit …forgive and move on, remember doing good goes a long way!

3) daydream, dream small and big, this is what gives us hope. Yes the reason we had a tinker bell in Peter Pan or find “hope” in Pandora’s box is really the gift of “light”. This is necessary for our taking steps forward and believing in ourselves. So where is your dream catcher?304f034f-bf59-43bc-ad30-2b19a27e0f0c.jpeg

4) Accept both sides of joy and sadness — the movie “Inside Out” made this simple, plausible, that even children can understand the necessity of melancholy; it is OK to talk about the darker sides of human nature (even stubbornness, stupidity, and narcissism) but learn to work on yourself and either accept small faults in others or realize life is short no one is perfect. Do not dwell in inner darkness very long and if it gets too bleak seek support!

There is more reflecting to do, Leider and Shapiro’s book “Repacking Your Bags” will   help you do just that so consider it for one of this year’s “must reads” and we’ll get into that later in another posting….so much to say!

Enjoy each moment, and have a wonderfully brilliant new year!

Pomegranates, bittersweet moments

Demeter, goddess of agriculture,harvest and fertility, is a reminder of seasonal changes, human bounty, and potential loss. As the 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).

Late this past August through September we experienced several losses — mainly through accidents —filling us with shock, sadness and grief. Perhaps due to fate, some incidents may have been preventable. One great loss was of a couple, namely Dr. Chris and Ms. Claudia Lolas, also promoters of Greek Culture and history in bridging cultures (Ancient Persia – Iran & Ancient Greece … book written in Greek and edition in Farsi and in English forthcoming). These were great friends or family to some as their losses were amidst many other tragedies happening around the globe during those weeks. Prevention is key and such an intricate part of building health literacy.

As all good researchers do, and after an “unfair” speeding ticket I realized that we CAN do something to helping individuals and communities learn about safer driving and advocacy for better roads. In a small but winding distance from one town to another town in Southern Peloponnese (Greece) we counted 39 small memorial “churches” (10 were in straight others on curved road) clearly speeding, two-way traffic, bad weather conditions, malfunction of vehicle or motorbike, inadequate visual cues doesn’t help. GIS mapping can help track possible driving areas that need more attention.

Schools need to promote health literacy via health education, promotion of community health goals. Police can offer special trainings in conjunction with municipalities on good driving, but they must also be consistent in ticketing (speed traps, alcohol testing) and their police cars manned with appropriate equipment.

As individuals we should model good driver behavior for our younger citizens soon-to-be drivers! Here are some ways:

  • Mind our speeding (great articles such as prevent speeding or one by mechanics).
  • Wear seatbelts and ensure passengers are secure (children with safety car seats, etc,).
  • Follow Road Rules and demand clearer road signs as well as some helpful solar powered signs that “show” our speed.
  • Mind the drinking  cup !
  • Remember even if it’s not obvious, pedestrians DO and should have the right of way.

After my speeding fine and finally getting my license back (rules are very strict in this part of the world) I’m definitely checking my speedometer more often. Last night an expensive car went whizzing past me, only to be caught in a police speed trap further down and this time it was justified…as for me, a safe and guilt free ride home, in thinking of my lost friends, truly a bittersweet moment.