A rose in winter

If a rose is full of thorns, it does not mean it’s not full of beauty……Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom.

Quotes by Matshona Dhliwayo

One of my favorite books turned Disney success was “Beauty and the Beast.” The original French Fairy tale titled La Belle et la Bête, was written by French novelist GabrielleSuzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740, a time of great tumult and revolution in Northern Europe, and the beginning of what some termed the “great awakening” for the colonial North Americans who eventually rebel 30+ years later…

Perhaps we like the story because of the ideal of love and kindness of the heroine Belle turning over the well educated yet harsh beast into a handsome, well-mannered prince (what many women may fantasize about with a crude partner, in addition to monogamy and other similar more positive traits….). More than this, her relationship with her kind father who in the middle of cold winter stopped to pluck the one beautiful red rose, I imagine similar to this one found on a post-snow day.

We don’t live in a castle, even though the temperature stood at 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7• Celsius), this fuchsia colored rose wanted to survive growing tall, wanting to reach the warmth of the winter sun. Standing alone, beautiful, bundled up in its petals as if saying, “take me into the warmth of your home.” Well, we all know the rest of the Fairytale story and we all love those winter holiday tales… and here is the health “twist”…

Are you caring for yourself and others who need you? Can you rethink monthly about your new year’s resolutions and take practical healthy steps towards this?

“Every rose has it’s thorn” was sung in that cowboy drawn accent by Guns-n-Roses and this last week has caused a lot of ‘thorny‘ subjects to come up. Range from the US – Middle East, all the way to the ecological disaster in Australia and all those helpless animals down under…. with every difficulty we grow stronger and there are always people (we know or foreign to us) who help, like the volunteer firefighter pictured here…

You make us proud

I don’t know who you are Sir, but THANK YOU for showing humanity, as many other people have risking their lives, while most of us sit in the comfort of our homes perhaps wondering what can we do? There are many agencies to donate to and of course we should be selecting those whom we think are honorable in their cause as well as reputable.

  • Maybe your parents are aging — this is a fact of life and so you need to adjust your own life as they will theirs — this indeed was one of the main reasons I wrote my Chapter on health literacy (Across the Lifespan Handbook). As the rose, we whither and pass on but our “scent” still remains, this is what we have contributed to the world of ‘beauty‘.
  • Maybe you are tired of always giving and “fixing” others. One comment I saw posted recently was that it is not “our job” to fix people or take them on as “projects”…. but I’d ask is it enough to TRY to show them the way? I recall one someone telling me about relationships to keep in mind — we all have baggage, but then it depends whether it’s carry-on or check-in.

Be realistic people, not just individualistic, we are supposed to work towards the collective good are we not? Move away from the anger of the ‘beast’; things can be prevented and helped if we care about people, our environment, our community, please ‘call a Spade ♠️ a spade‘ — say it like it is, don’t use empty or irrelevant words. Move beyond simple “likes” on FB , do something about it, and yes social media is helpful to brainstorm ideas and raise funds.

Natural disasters are one thing, man made crises are another. People become displaced in life and love, but people also learn to prevent based on lessons learned (example of one family & the Rafina 2018 fires, or the Boston Strong movements). ‘Thorns’ can be removed.

You may be called on intentionally or by accident to help others and your actions may be like the ONE beautiful rose of winter…. an unforgettable smell reminding you of the “hope” of Spring just a few months away. Don’t get stuck in darkness, heal your body and your spirit with good “food” (books and fairytales included) it only makes you stronger. Sweet and fragrant dreams….

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!

Birds of a feather, Flu season and personal responsibility

Everyone loves flamingos right? Birds migrate to warmer climates throughout the year despite global warming and colder climates with snow in unlikely places (last post). We all should know that birds are one of the major ways disease is transmitted across continents and via mosquitoes to animals and humans! .

Have you ever stopped to think how your own actions could prevent further spread of what are known as “communicable diseases” such as flu? This season is prime for H1N1 (known as swine flu) or others like bird flu, and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization constantly share updates on disease spread and prevention.

Good friend Jenny, did her part too! She’s not only talented as a Dramaturg and Stage Director, she recently proved to be very health literate too! Being health literate is having the ability to act appropriately medically (getting tested, vaccinated, taking appropriate meds once sick, resting and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration), and taking personal responsibility to prevent disease spread.

Her Facebook post (permission to share with you) says it all. It was the first time we had “virtual drinks” and it was a great time despite illness!  Thanks Jenny for doing your part! Maybe it’s true that birds of a feather truly hang together…

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Post Rafina fires … “I saved my family and property” one family’s story

October 10th is annual World Mental Health day (WHO-MentalHlth) and all that Falls upon us may include recent or past traumatic events, including the Rafina “Mati” fire of July 2018 (see past post ‘Ashes to Ashes‘). As psychosocial and public health professionals we refer to post-symptoms including anxiety and depression, loss of sleep etc. which may be indicative of a post-traumatic stress disorder after a shocking or life-threatening event. Last September I interviewed and photographed one woman and her property in Rafina, 10 minutes away from “Mati” where approximately 100 people lost their lives in July 2018.

Fire moves fast, mostly passing on the ground or heat melting  leaves from trees and plants, or parts of homes.  We heard so many stories of ‘survival’ of people jumping into the sea and swimming for hours to be rescued by the Hellenic Coast Guard, or running down stone pathways away from the fire. Just a few hours…. that was the time it took for utter devastation. This post focuses on survival. How one woman’s story of saving her home and property with her family.   Eleftheria (her name means ‘freedom’ in Greek) is in her 70’s and she made it through using prevention smarts, quick courageous actions during the event, and likely one who has high health literacy.

Eleftheria_This close

This close….I saved my family and property.

Traveling to their home I did not know what to expect.  Realizing the last time I visited the area was the beginning of July, coming ‘this close’ to the now tragically famed “Mati” fire where many people died, many lost their property.  What I encountered left me open-mouthed.  This family’s home was completely surrounded by ashes — several homes and surrounding land were burned to the ground. A few streets down there were blackened charcoal regions, houses with burned windows in a corner part near one of the small ports nearby — there an elderly couple died of smoke inhalation.  They did not know each other — but it came this close — it could have been them….

To my amazement, as we walked around their four-acre land only a few trees were burned, though clearly evidence of heat-fire having passed as if on the surface of the earth’s skin… Now only happy animals play or search for food in this family’s fields.  This includes 40 chickens (only one was lost in the fire because it got scared and wandered off), two dogs — a shepherd and a hound, almost all bee hives were untethered.  I sat down with Eleftheria to hear her family’s story, what they did and how…. in hindsight they took risks but they managed to stay out of harm’s way near cemented parts of the home (like their basement) — we now understand for the area there was no clear evacuation plan of the region by the local municipality or media. As a matter of fact most families watching the news that day thought that the fires were only happening in the Peloponnese in Kineta, and from Pendeli (in Attica) fires moved quick as if in a large downward ski slope all the way trough Rafina, to the Mati area.

“It took two hours”, “I thought it was the end of my parents” said her daughter, “I thought it was the end…” said her husband who is now over 95 years old.  But Eleftheria kept moving fast, protecting the animals, using water, throwing dirt or using large branches and wool type blankets to put out fires.  As she says, the primary reason they survived was due to prevention.  Some neighbors who do not maintain their field or surrounding areas to their home had much damage done. In thinking of around the-year prevention, she shared these tips and actions:

  1. clear bushes and surrounding trash, tall grasses, cut down trees year-round, especially during the fire season (summer, dry months)
  2. some plants/trees like cactus fruit, fig trees, aloe vera prevent fire from spreading due to their deep roots which keep moisture in — maintain and plant more of them!
  3. bee hives should have a solid type foundation away from tall grasses if possible
  4. glass windows closed — wooden or plastic panels pulled away so that fire does not pass, and any melting doesn’t prevent doors from opening (for quick escapes)
  5. water storage areas (wells, containers) replenishing and cleaning fire equipment and extinguishers once a year as maintenance
  6. evacuation route pre-planned if possible (knowing the area, clear road/route signs)

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Eleftheria gives me a jar of honey taking a pose for a photograph. I am happy that she, her family, and all the animals she cares for and loves, made it through this tragedy safe and sound….. may we continue sharing lessons for locals as well as our governments to look at “lessons learned” towards improving communication and better planning efforts.

We deserve better.

Mind your Guns, Take Control

Love westerns and great movie lines but photographers now can’t even say “shoot” without people ducking for cover. We know many high ranking US political officials are largely funded by large companies and in particular pro-gun manufacturing National Rifle Association (NRA). Others by large pharmaceutical companies, etc.

I’m in full support of fellow bloggers like “Wear You are Now” trying to open our eyes to take action mindful of humanity, and practically against guns and against violence. Including wearing orange, peaceful walk-outs in March and April (March 14th and April 20th to be exact)!

Too many young people are angry about life, have low EQ which includes lack of patience and self-control.  This, combined with other mental health issues (or with extreme ideologies) is a ticking time bomb. Doesn’t stop here.

Teens torturing animals, dating violence, more intense bullying. Today a FB video of young kids maybe 4 years old shown around FB are playing a shooting game (in Libya?) which involves having their friends kneel down with hands behind their head and one child with a fake semi-automatic “shoot” them behind the head. Yes this is terrorism in the making. Then there are all those video games kids as young as 7 years old play like “Assassins Creed” or “Grand Auto Theft” and many more online games pro-violence and pro-guns.  Psychologists refer to the process of desensitization… we become “tolerant” of violence….it’s a cycle. Power and Control, clearly visualized in the Duluth model power and control wheel on domestic violence!

Yes, we need to be health literate which includes what we are exposed to visually or virtually, what we have access to and are easily accessible (from crap food, violent games and media even videos and music) that lead us to bad decision-making and inexplicable behaviors, and there is more than enough proof. We see and live it every day. School violence and senseless killings? Michael Moore in “Bowling for Columbine” describes it best and unfortunately many countries around the world are following suit to the violence in the United States. Perhaps it is intentional population control? Why not truly focus on prevention and education? It’s not just the West. The East and all countries of all religions need to realize we cannot promote violence against women, marginalized groups, against religions, against nations. The new world order ain’t working folks. The Dalai Llama has it right and gets our vote for a truly global citizen — act now, WE create violence not God, it’s BEYOND our prayer.

Health Love Rock

Health and Love ROCK!