Thoughts of Christmas Harriette Barker

Joy to the World the Lord has Come

Free Stock Photo: Red poinsettia flowers

Christmas has always been a very special time of the year for me.  In the Caribbean certain sounds, sights, food, and events are associated with the joyful season.   One of our popular Christmas songs recall these sounds. There are the noises of Christmas.  It is not loud; more like a hum, or echo in the air. Everyone and everywhere seems to reverberate with this special Christmas sound – the shoppers, Christmas cards, Christmas trees, the stores, decorations, special smiles and exchanges of good cheer.  Everyone is joyful and happy.

Over the years, we tend to focus more on the material side of Christmas.  There is Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and daily sales.  Merchants estimate how much money they are going to make. Family and friends are disappointed at the gifts that they receive. So, amidst the frantic preparations that drain our energy and pockets, I want to share my thoughts of Christmas.

Reconnection

A Caribbean Christmas means the joy of reconnection. There are many Caribbean families living in other countries.  Each year many of them return home to celebrate Christmas with family and friends.  I enjoyed such a reconnection a few years ago, when many of our family members were together at Christmas in almost thirty years.  It was a wonderful experience.  Joy was overflowing.

Sadly, there are some families who are disconnected, losing touch over the years.  The Christmas spirit, can help us to resolve petty differences, and bring us closer together through shared memories, increasing faith and love.

Reconciliation

andy at faith: The Purpose of Christmas ~ A Time for Reconciliation

Christmas is a time to open our hearts and allow the spirit of forgiveness to enter.  We should be forgiving of each other throughout the year, but at Christmas time there should be a greater focus.  Listening to the hymns and carols of Christmas we are reminded of the real purpose for Christ coming.

Many selfish and petty issues cause discord among families.  Unfortunately, these grievances can be heightened at Christmas time, sometimes resulting in fatal events.  Sadly, there are times when death separates us before we can be reconciled.  There is the grief of loss, and the despair of unforgiveness, that dampens our spirit.

There is a story of two armies having a cease-fire at Christmas time.  The soldiers exchanged chocolate, cookies, and cigarettes with each other.  Then they sang Silent Night.  For those brief moments in time war was forgotten and memories shared.

Reconciliation is an important part of our Christmas celebrations which should continue throughout the year.    There should be a greater emphasis on the spiritual than on the material.

Rejoicing

Christmas is a time of rejoicing, of hope and love.    The story of Christ’s birth is filled with praise.  It begins with Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah, the Shepherds, the angels, the Wise Men all giving thanks and praise for the good news.  This is a time to rid ourselves of the sadness and despair that often overwhelms our daily lives.   We should make a big effort to resist gloom and encourage hope, as this is the promise of Christmas.

The Carols, hymns, and songs of Christmas are bright and joyful.  They lift our spirits and implore us to open our hearts to the joy of the season.   We can rejoice because the angels’ song of “peace to his people on earth” is a promise that Jesus would unite all of us in love.  Praise and rejoicing should be the cornerstone of our celebrations as we join with family and friends to share the joy of Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Generosity

 If ever there was a story of Christmas generosity to lift your spirits ...
Gift giving is an integral part of our Christmas celebrations. No one wants to be Scrooge.  We want that generous part of our nature to shine.  Sometimes we go overboard, placing ourselves in debt or becoming depressed when we are unable to live up to our own expectations. However, we should remember that the most generous gift was given to us.  God loves us and this was affirmed when he sent his Son to this earth.

The traditional giving of gifts at Christmas is an acknowledgment of the generous God who pardoned us and gave us a chance to receive everlasting life.  Although gifts are the outward expression of our love to others.  It should be remembered that a loving heartand kind deeds will last longer that the brightly wrapped packages.  This Christmas and throughout the year we need to share Christ’s love generously with our fellowmen.

Renewal

Our hymn of meditation reminds us that when Christ was born he brought joy into the world. The savior that had been promised throughout the ages had finally appeared. The world had eagerly anticipated his coming. Now he is here, and things have changed. On that first Christmas, there was also a sound. It was echoed in Israel where the people had waited many years for their Savior to come.  One of our Christmas songs reminds us of the wonders of the season.  Yet for many it, it is marked by depression, loneliness, separation, grief, and despair.

This Christmas, we need to refocus.  Instead of the pointless, endless race of shopping, partying, eating and drinking, we should immerse ourselves in understanding the reason and meaning of Christmas.  By bringing the glorious message of Christ birth into our hearts and homes, we can renew and energize our faith and hope. Let this Christmas be a holy day, where we worship the new born King.

Merry Christmas from my house to yours – Harriette Barker

 

Domestic Violence and the Holidays Harriette Barker, Ph.D, RN

Free Stock Photo: A red Christmas present isolated on a white background

 

Each year the decorations, shopping, bright lights, Christmas cheer, and celebrations signal the holidays.   Many people are happy, but others are emotionally, financially and socially stressed

Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year are challenging for persons who are experiencing financial difficulty, loss or social isolation.  Many individuals also experience the “holiday blues,” a form of depression that is more prevalent during this season. Family stress may also be high.  If relationships are fragile, family gatherings may cause increased stress levels.   Partying and excessive alcohol intake are other sources of stress for many people.

Some police departments in the nation have reported an increase in domestic violence during this current holiday season.  However, a reason article in the Huffington Post on this issue suggested the idea of increased violence at holiday time is a myth, because “violence does not take a vacation.” According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, there is a reduction in the number of persons contacting their service during the holiday season. They suggested that concerns about keeping the family together during the holidays may be the main reason for under-reporting any violence.
Domestic violence can be physical, verbal or emotional.  It may be subtle or coercive.  The abuser may use financial, restrictive, isolation or exclusionary tactics to exercise control over their victim.  For example, not allowing her to use the car to visit family or friends.  In one situation, the abuser canceled a holiday luncheon without informing his partner.

Tips to reduce holiday abuse

  • Clear communication is the key in helping to prevent abuse.
  • Expressing your feelings calmly but firmly is important.
  • Head off situations that are escalating by leaving the room.
  • Eliminate provocative arguments
  • Take time to cool down.
  • Make a budget written in stone. No changes.
  • Monitor alcohol intake
  • Refrain from attention seeking behavior
  • Reach out to a resource when overwhelmed.

You can suddenly find yourself in an abusive situation.  It is important that you have a plan for getting help.  Family, neighbors or friends may be your first sources, but in abusive situations, it is better to contact 911.    Do not accept that your abuser is experiencing seasonal stress.   Do not use excuses to defend your abuser.

If you live in an abusive situation, holiday stress may easily exacerbate any interactions with your abuser.  There are a variety of resources in your community such as shelters, hotlines, churches, non-profit organizations and the police that will offer help.  You should keep a list of them and their contact numbers.  Domestic violence is often difficult to detect, so family and friends should be vigilant for any signs of its’ occurrence during this period.

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline  Number

24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). All calls are confidential and anonymous.

 

Food Adventure: Bugs Anyone? Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of Mexican fruit flies on a grapefruit

 

I do not like creepy-crawly things and cannot stand bugs of any kind.  Growing up in the Caribbean with its wide variety of insects and crawlies, I could never think of any insect or worm as food.  Culturally we are a meat and fish-eating people.  I am not adventurous with food.  I prefer to stick to things that I know.

Many years ago, visiting the island of Tobago, I was encouraged to try some of their meat delicacies such as Agouti, Manicou, Armadillo, and Iguana.  I passed.  I could not imagine them going down my throat.  I am also picky about fish.  I only like those with scales and cannot tolerate shark, or shellfish (allergic).  No shrimp, conch, sea eggs or lobster for me.

With my limited food choices in meat and fish, my eye caught an article in a science magazine about eating bugs.   Apparently, insects like grasshoppers are nutritious, iron rich, and comparable to the nutrients in beef.  They could become an alternative source of inexpensive protein that is good for everyone.  Instead of cattle farms, we would now have insect farms that are more sustainable and friendly to the environment.

Entomophagy is the correct name for eating insects.  There are many countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe where this practice is an important part of their diet.  Many westerners are not keen on eating these bizarre foods.  However, they are specialty restaurants who are enjoying a new interest in these foods from their patrons.

Image result for free pictures of insect meals

http://www.phuket.com/magazine/eating-insects.htm

I think of the bugs that grow in the Caribbean, roaches, centipedes, lizards, beetles, butterflies, caterpillars, millipedes, and none of them begin to make my taste buds water.  In fact, most of them I cannot tolerate.  I am a fan of bizarre foods, but sometimes I cannot watch the host eating his delicious choices of insects.  I remember one episode where he had a large Louisiana centipede on a plate.  I just ran from the room.

The best eight bugs recommended in an article in the National Geographic are beetles, butterflies, moths, bees, wasp, flies, mosquitoes, water boatmen, backswimmers and stink bugs.  The online magazine alternate daily.com narrowed these down to the three best bugs.  How nutritious are bugs?   They are high in protein, fatty acids such as omega-3s, calcium, and B 12.

Rich in protein and low in fat, Insect Burgers on sale at Jumbo supermarkets in 400 stores across the Netherlands, Stock Photo

Are insects good for your health?  Yes, per the United Nations.  They can help to alleviate world hunger, reduce the risks of anemia, stimulate metabolism, boost the immune system, and are handy in emergency situations.

I do not plan to eat any insects, so I felt good about myself until I came across this information.  Apparently, a lot of our foods have in insect parts.  Peanut butter, tomato ketchup, coffee, packaged food, some red food dyes and chocolate to name a few.  Now I am feeling squeamish.

We have been eating insects since birth.  Before you start gagging, the FDA knows all about it.  They accept that a certain level of bugs in our food is good.  Okay, so what shall I do?  I am thinking of a way to quieten my stomach which is beginning to feel queasy.

I am still curious wanting to find out if there are any entomophagy cookbooks.  I found eat-a-bug and bug-a licious and more.  Such recipes  as Cabbage, Peas ‘n’ Crickets and Bee-LT Sandwich,  may tempt your appetite.  If you are adventurous and looking for food excitement, then you may want to venture into the world of bugs. “If it looks good, eat it,” the host of Bizarre foods encourages us.  Maybe the day is coming when we take his advice seriously.

Interested in bugs cookery you can get a free cookbook at http://cookbook.pestaurant.com/

 

 

Laughter: Your Free Medicine

 

Laughter is important, not only because it makes us happy.  It also has actual health benefits.  And that’s because laughter completely engages the body and releases the mind.  It connects us to others, and that in itself has a healing effect.”

Marlo Thomas
Do you know that laughter is good therapy?  Can you remember the last time that you had a good laugh?  The kind that made you roll over on the floor holding your stomach with tears running down your face?  Just last week I experienced a few moments like these during the presidential debate.  I felt good but wondered if my neighbors thought that I was going crazy, laughing at that time of night.

According to health experts, laughing relieves stress, depression, anxiety, pain, illness and improves relationships.  Laughing is associated with being happy, responding to funny situations, or relieving tension. Laughter therapy is now becoming a healthcare specialty.

Many years ago one of our Caribbean Calypsonians (Calypso is social commentary) described the different types of laughter according to our social status.  It was a funny and witty song and made you laugh, but seriously this is one form of therapy that is healthy for you, and it is free.  Some people may need the help of a therapist to help them laugh, but I think that the majority of us would be able to do this on our own.

However, as our lives become more stressful as we rush around trying to complete our daily tasks, many of us forget to laugh, even to smile.  Sometimes you meet someone on the street or train, you smile and say hello, and the response is a frown.

At Christmas time laughter is plentiful and smiles are everywhere.  The day after Christmas we are back to our unsmiling faces.  One of the songs in the Broadway musical Mame reminds us that we need a little Christmas spirit in July and throughout the year.

Laughter as “medicine” is being used to help patients manage chronic health conditions such as cancer.   Norman Cousins described how laughter helped him to recover from a painful illness.  Sometimes as we grow older,  the stresses of lif.e overwhelm us.  The disappointments, failures, struggles, helpless or hopeless situations, losses, and put downs.  Years of racism, discrimination and stereotyping may also take their toll.

In the midst of all that is going on, we must remember that laughter is a powerful tool.  It can help us to overcome these difficulties.  One of the best and easiest ways to get more laughter into our lives is to revisit some of the TV comedies from the sixties and seventies.  They don’t make them like that anymore.

Remember Laughter is available free of cost.  Try it.

 

BLACK BOOMERS: Ten tips to keep you hydrated

Free Stock Photo: A glass of cold water with ice cubes

Keeping the body well hydrated is a problem for many older adults.  Dehydration, (not enough fluid) may cause the blood pressure to drop, and the person is at risk of falling.  It may also cause poor coordination, loss of balance, confusion, disorientation, constipation and heart problems.

During hot weather, people tend to drink more to avoid becoming dehydrated, but this is a problem that can occur at any time.  Besides hot weather, you may become dehydrated if you are taking water pills, (diuretics), blood pressure or heart medications, are on dialysis or have a medical condition such as diabetes.

The flu, a high temperature, constipation or a bout of diarrhea can cause dehydration.  Some persons do not like to drink because they fear wetting accidents, lack access to bathroom facilities, are physically disabled or have memory problems.  Some signs of dehydration are dry mouth, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, fainting, sunken eyes, and passing small amounts or no urine.

An easy test for dehydration is checking your urine.  Normally urine is light yellow in color.  Dark, concentrated urine is e an early warning sign of dehydration.  Another test is pinching the skin on the back of your hand, abdomen or chest.  The skin will form into a little tent which should return to normal within five to ten seconds.  If the skin is wrinkled and remains in folds, this indicates dehydration.

Dehydration can be serious and life-threatening if not treated immediately.  Some complications are seizures, brain swelling, low blood volume (hypovolemic shock), acute kidney failure, coma, and death.

Tips for Staying Hydrated

  • Increase your fluid intake – to at least eight glasses of water daily.
  • Eat fruit and vegetables with a high water content e.g.cucumbers, watermelons, celery
  • Drink fat-free or skim milk
  • Drink water before and during meals
  • Try teas, herbal, iced, coffee – limit caffeine
  • Try sports drinks – check for high calories, sugar, and sodium
  • Coconut water – be aware of high sugar content
  • Set up a hydration schedule
  • Carry bottled water
  • Add lemon or orange slices to water
  • Limit diet sodas (high salt) and energy drinks(high sugar)

 

Resources:

http://www.parentgiving.com/elder-care/dehydration-a-hidden-risk-to-the-elderly/

http://dailyburn.com/life/health/healthy-foods-stay-hydrated-without-water/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/basics/

Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN, CHC

 

Black Boomers: No Magic to Weight Loss

Closeup of an older woman wearing a blue sports bra and watch : Free Stock Photo

One of my students presented me with a watch-like gadget.

“What is this?” I asked her

“It is to help you track your steps.  10,000 steps each day to keep you fit.”

A few days later my friend called me.  She was walking home from the train station trying to complete her targeted steps for that day.  Many persons are using technological devices to help lose weight and get into shape.  As I take my daily walk/jog, I see these fitness trackers on the arms and wrists of persons trying to get fit.  Some people swear that the gadgets help them in their goals to be fit.  I often questioned about those 10,000 steps.  It is like drinking eight glasses of water a day.  Good to do, but who is to say that more or less may not be just as effective.

A new study about weight loss and fitness trackers has indicated that technology alone does not aid in weight loss.  The two-year study compared standard behavioral weight loss interventions such as diet, exercise, tips, and counseling with the addition of fitness trackers.  The results indicated that adding a fitness device tracker did not make a significant difference.  It looks great wearing a tracker on your wrist or arm.  However, moderation and consistency in the diet are still the basics of weight loss goals.

Is there a place for technology such as fitness trackers in the battle of the bulge?  I believe that these devices can play an important role in helping persons to become motivated to achieve their goals.  However, this technology is not magic.  Those persons who are trying to lose weight must commit to healthy lifestyle changes that help to promote and sustain their weight management goals.

 

JAMA. 2016;316(11):1161-1171. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12858.

Black Boomers: Did you get your Flu Shot?

17149-a-nurse-administers-a-vaccine-pv

I hate taking needles.  You would not believe that as a nurse, I gave out my share of needles,  As a result of this fear, for many years I refused to take an annual flu shot.  I had received one many years ago that made me sick, so I did not bother to take any more.

The winter of 2014 changed my mind.  The Sunday after New Years’ Day, I was down with the flu.  It was rough.  I felt like I was going to die.  The pain in my body, the cough that hurt my chest, no energy, no interest in food.  It was terrible.  Last winter I screwed up my courage and took the shot.  I had mild flu-like symptoms, and a sore arm, for about two days.  Then in March of this year I came down with the flu, but it was not as severe as last year.

Since taking the shot four days ago might arm was sore for about two days, but I did not have any other flu symptoms.  I have also been boosting my body with supplements, so I am hoping that I will escape it this flu season.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the benefits of taking the flu shot and other vaccinations.  Some people believe that taking shots can do more harm than good. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended a flu shot for persons 65 years of age and over.  This age group is at the greatest risk of contracting a severe form of the flu with complications that may be life-threatening.

Two vaccines designed for the sixty-five plus age group are:

  • High dose –has been used since 2009. It is stronger and more effective than the regular dose.
  • Fluad – is a newer vaccine for the 2016-17 flu season. It is stronger than the high dose vaccine.

REMINDER:

  • Both of these vaccines may initially cause mild side
  • Do not take the nasal spray form of the vaccine if you are sixty-five years of age and over.

 

Tips to Protect Yourself:

  • Get your Flu shot
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Keep away from people who are sick
  • Get medical attention if you have flu symptoms.
  • Discuss the need for other vaccinations with your health care provider.

 

 

Resources:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm