The psychology of flowers and why they make us so happy
These days, as our lives go through ups and downs due to the changes we are living through, more self care is called for. We may need more exercise, a healthier diet or more sleep. We might find peace in moments wandering through nature or in meditative quiet time. And we might receive a much needed emotional lift from Flower Power.
In 2005, the Department of Psychology at Rutgers University conducted a 10 month behavioural study, looking for links between flowers and life-satisfaction. They found that “Flowers have immediate and long-term effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviors and even memory for both males and females.”
“What’s most exciting about this study is that it challenges established scientific beliefs about how people can manage their day-to-day moods in a healthy and natural way,” said Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and lead researcher on the study.
In the study, subjects received deliveries of flowers and other gifts such as fruit, candles and pens. While most deliveries of gifts received a positive response, the highest response rates came from receiving flowers. The studies showed that these positive responses lasted two to three days.
But honestly, we didn’t need a scientific study to tell us what our bodies intuitively know (though confirmation is sometimes nice). According to the Rutger’s study, the presence of flowers:
Why do Flowers Make Us Happy?
Flowers are connected to the release of some seriously happy-forming hormones in our systems.
Dopamine, the feel-good neurochemical, helps regulate movement, learning, motivation, attention and emotional responses. It is released by the expectation of a reward. Flowers, back in the day, were a huge reward signal in our brains because they promised abundance after a hungry winter. While we may not link flowers so directly with food anymore, flowers can still trigger that sense of anticipated excitement.
Oxytocin is a neuro-chemical often called the “love hormone”. It creates feelings of social trust from mother-infant bonding, to romantic connection to group cohesion and belonging. These bonds are crucial not only to our survival as a species but also to our capacity to thrive and grow. When we give each other flowers, oxytocin is released. Flowers then serve as talismans, communicating the strength of our bonds, and our intention to invest in caring for the relationships that form them. Because of the evolutionary connection of flowers to physical survival, we are also underlining the importance of social connection to our well-being.
And then there’s serotonin, the neuro-chemical crucial to mood, well-being, happiness and our spiritual lives. Scientists have found that serotonin receptor activity in the brain correlates with a capacity for transcendence or bliss. From the lotus to the rose, lowers have long been associated with spiritual paths since ancient times. It is both the colour of the flowers AND their scent that trigger serotonin and lift the Spirit.
That brings us to the Chromotherapy and Aromatherapy. That’s part 2 of this blog post. Stay tuned. But in the meantime, here's a lovely bouquet to help your happy.
So you grew a ton of zucchini. Here are three yummy ways to perserve and enjoy them.
End of Summer is Squash time in the garden. There is a proliferation of Zucchini coming off the vines. Rather than eating zukes until we can't look at them anymore, I've been casting about to find different ways to preserve them so that we can enjoy them into the fall, and possibly the winter.
Here are the three things we’ve made this month using zucchinis that turned out fabulously.
I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. Frankly, I was a Dill pickle-making nube. But I had made mango and carrot pickle, Indian style from scratch before . So I went in using that knowledge to mix it up in the recipes I found. Here is what happened:
So, all in all, Zuke Pickle was a big hit!
2 pounds small zucchini (preferably about 4" or 8" long), trimmed and cut into spears
4 tablespoons coarse sea salt or pickling salt, divided
2 teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
4 star anise clove
12 garlic cloves, halved
4 red jalapeños or Fresno chilies, split lengthwise
2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
We love a good veggie spread at our house. There is nothing more satisfying than a Baba Ganoush or a humus and pita with a Greek salad on the side on a hot summer day. So when we stumbled across Zucchini Butter, we knew this would be a winner. It's basically Zucchini with a bit of butter, garlic and herbs, cooked down to a spreadable consistency. We have been eating it on baguette slices as an appy; in a veggie panini with Havarti cheese; and as a BBQ meat topper. It rocks in a burger or a-top a steak as an alternative to sauteed mushrooms. Added bonus: It keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
5 garlic cloves, gently smashed
2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 2 pounds)
5-6 springs of rosemary (thyme and/or oregano is also good here)
1/2 teaspoon finely milled sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD
This recipe uses grated zucchini, picked fresh from the garden, semi-sweet chocolate chips and cocoa powder. The moisture from the zucchini gives the bread a decidedly brownie-like texture. Not complaining. Not now. Not ever! I’m loving this bread with a scoop of ice cream or a bit of custard and whipped cream. Okay, I’m now officially drooling!
I didn’t use all the zuke I grated so I measured out two cups, the amount needed for a loaf of Zuke bread, bagged and froze it for later use. This way we can keep enjoying Chocolate Zucchini Bread right through the fall, possibly winter.
2 cups grated zucchini (fresh or frozen then thawed)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (use natural unsweetened cocoa, NOT Dutch processed)
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts or seeds (optional)
6T tbsp unsalted butter, melted OR sunflower oil
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
Zucchini has not been a favourite with my kids over the years. They've always found it bland or too mushy, though I was always able to sneak it in with chocolate. And now, we have definitely upped our zucchini game. Plus, cooking with food harvested fresh from my garden is bringing me a lot of joy and satisfaction.
What have you been making out of zucchini lately?
Resmaa Menakem on healing black and white trauma; Austin Channing Brown and Brené Brown on the humanist work of anti-racism; Brené Brown on shame and accountability
This week has been a bit of a roller coaster ride--again--as our human story unfolds. Things are opening up a little as we venture into Phase 2 of the COVID response plan. As expected, new case numbers have spiked in various locations, causing adjustments in the plan. I am grateful to be living in BC where Dr. Bonnie Henry has been so pro-active about maintaining our health protocols.
Truthfully, I have enjoyed the "sheltering at home" period, the quietness in the world, the songs of the birds being so audible in the city, the decrease in traffic and road rage, the care people have shown for one another. This pace feels "normal" to me, what life should be like so that we can stay grounded, connected and not lose our minds in stress frenzies. My neighbours have been echoing much the same and are not eager to return to how things were. They've enjoyed the experience of being at home with their families; homeschooling; taking classes online; working from home; having the Canadian governments use taxpayer money to bail Us, the citizens, out (for a change). They, like me, are wanting a revisioned new normal.
Ignited by the anti-racism protests currently occurring all over the world, my desire also extends to wanting to write racism (and every other divisive "ism") out of our new normal. As a person of colour, anti-racism work, in all its complex nuances, has been a part of my life since childhood. It hasn’t been easy or fun. It’s actually been exhausting--but necessary. Without standing up for myself as often as I have, I'm not sure I would still be here, self-value more or less in tact. Along the way, I have met amazing people of colour who have been willing to do the hard work of standing up against relentless systemic behemoths, only to be beaten down time and time again, but relentlessly rise up and do it again; and white people, who have been willing to do the hard work to unlearn racism and become an ally, standing in that interstitial space between the oppressor and the oppressed.
In my walk so far, I have found that we are more alike than different. We are a human family, as Dr. Maya Angelou has said, albeit a dysfunctional one. But as in all dysfunctional families, repair is possible with a lot of hard work. It seems to me that in order to revision a new normal, we’re going to have to dismantle the old one, its inequities and systemic abuses. Its going to take a lot of honest introspection and perspective shifting grounded in a vision of unity, equity and love. For in the end, fear isolates; Love liberates.
1. Resmaa Menakem: Notice the Rage; Notice the Silence
First, a perspective-shifting interview with Resmaa Menakem, trauma specialist and author of My Grand Mother’s Hands. In his examination of why anti-racism work hasn’t taken root, so to speak in the last 20 years of equity movements, he speaks about the trauma of Racism as it lives in both the oppressor and the oppressed. I’d never thought about it this way before but as soon as he said it, I thought, “Of course, it makes sense.”
Trauma, he tells us, is stored in the DNA for generations, it’s role being to inform our survival reactions in the here and now. So a trauma that might have terrified an ancestor becomes recorded in our DNA which, in turn, triggers our own survival mechanisms. In order for us to heal division in our human family, we have to heal that trauma that signals danger, causing us to fight or flight. Resmaa Menakem is working with old wisdom and very new science about our bodies, our nervous systems, and all that we condense into the word “race" to offer us the possibility of change, beginning at a cellular level.
Using a gradual process, we can learn to take our survival reactions off autopilot by observing and noticing the trauma reaction, moving the body itself to unlock stored trauma, and then choosing to replace the trauma reaction with mindful, loving responses (not reactions) that fall in the realm of what Angel Davis calls Radical Self Care. Menakem shows us the possibility of being able to change and let go of our collective traumas.
Having been through trauma recovery counselling myself, I can tell you that this method--slowing down, noticing and then making a choice to respond rather than react on the survival fight or flight autopilot--is crucial to transforming traumatic experience into lived wisdom. It takes time, but once it's done, the effects are far reaching and profound. And without diffusing trauma reactions, we will have trouble hearing each other rationally.
2. Brené Brown with Austin Channing Brown on I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
Brené Brown’s podcast interview with Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, is an exercise of witnessing one way in which hearing each other across the race divide gets done. Austin Channing Brown is a writer, speaker, media producer, thought leader on racial justice in America is invited to share the Brené Brown mike. They have worked together on the issue of race before and have a lovely back-and-forth banter.
Their conversation raised a crucial point for my exhausted Social Justice worker self: The work of un-learning Racism is about being a better human. That’s it, plain and simple, period. It’s not about shaming or blaming or maiming. It is simply about the will and desire to be a better human being and to make sure that everybody, regardless of colour, has the space to experience and just be without fear, dignity and self-worth in tact.
3. Brené Brown on Shame and Accountability
In another podcast about unlearning racism directed mainly at her white audience, Brené Brown continues on, examining the role that Shame plays in accountability, through examples from her own life. One of the main nuggets is that being held accountable or called out on Racism is not the same as being shamed, even though one’s ego’s survival self-defense mechanism might get triggered. As a shame expert, she unpacks this part of the human psyche in a way that is succinct and easy to follow; and she shares her strategies for bringing her thinking brain back on line after a survival trigger has gone off. She's also echoing much of what Resmaa Menakem is saying about defusing trauma reactions.
I share these resources because they put into words some important tools that can help us navigate times of flux and change. For it’s not just racism that is falling apart as a system of control right now. All other "isms" are up for review too: sexism, homophobia, trans-phobia, casteism, cultural phobias, and the list goes on. In short, any difference that has been exploited by power hegemonies to ostracize, divide, conquer and control segments of the human family. My hope is that if we can actually transform some of this division trauma in ourselves, we might actually be in a place to collaboratively revision and reinvent our world from a place of love and not fear, a place where there is enough for everyone, where the dogs no longer have to eat dogs. The new normal.
How’s your week been?
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
THE BEST PARENTING STYLE FOR HOMESCHOOLING SUCCESS
I was gifted two precocious and intelligent children. When they were younger, school was important to them primarily for social reasons. In the learning department, they were both bored out of their heads. My eldest was on the gifted learning spectrum. My youngest tested as “bright”. In order to help facilitate their learning needs, I part-time home schooled them through the lower grades of elementary school. They are now 27 and 23. I can honestly say that homeschooling has made a difference to their lateral and critical thinking abilities, depth of empathy, and desire to collaborate with others in meaningful ways.
I know many of you are facing the homeschooling challenge right now. I encourage you to not be daunted. It’s not as difficult as it might seem, because you are actually your child’s first teacher. Your child learned how to eat, walk, talk and navigate the world from you. So you’ve actually been homeschooling from the moment your child was born. In short, you’ve got this.
Don’t think that you have to replicate the classroom in your home. See it more as an opportunity to bond with your kids and teach them not just classroom curriculum but a model a set of values, ethics and tools that they can carry with them all life long. See it also as a opportunity to re-evaluate and hone your own way of being, life tools and parenting style. This is actually a great time to decide what is most important to you and your family, how you want to be in the world.
AUTHORITATIVE PARENTING FOR THE HOMESCHOOLING WIN-WIN
Homeschooling is a little different than conventional schooling. While schools set curricula and have expectations about children completing learning modules, these can be incorporated into a homeschooling method. But is not at the heart of it. At the heart is your child growing and learning how to be in the world. Homeschooling becomes a testing ground for his or her capacities, skills and talents, explorations guided and facilitated by you in a loving, safe environment.
Homeschooling as a methodology is based on a concept called “child-led learning”. What that means, practically, is that the course of learning is set by your child’s interests. The method of delivery is set by your child’s learning style. And you work with your child to determine areas of interest and corresponding projects. There are a lot of differing educational theories out there, to be sure. But I will say from experience that if your child is interested in the subject, and has a feeling of ownership of it, he or she is going to be more invested and inclined to stay with it. It is a really effective way to cut the boredom factor off at the knees.
So what does that have to do with your parenting style? Well, in order to really understand your child’s needs and interests, you have to be able to hear them, observe, and then problem solve with them. The way you parent will affect your ability to do this effectively. I’ve learned that one from experience.
According to Bright Horizons, there are 4 main parenting styles. As a side note, their website mentions that their research is based on North American culture. Having been raised in North America by Muslim parents, I can say that these styles are cross-cultural with differences in expression. While authoritarian parenting, for example, may look one way in North America and another way in Africa, the essence of the attitude and goal behind the parenting style remain the same.
If you’re not sure what your parenting style is, click the link to get to know parenting styles. Most of us parent in combinations of these styles. There’s an ebb and flow to it that depends on so many things. The challenge is to maintain balance between allowing your children to explore, learn and grow while providing a safe, non-judgemental space in which to do so.
From my experience, I would say the Authoritative parenting style is the Gold Standard in homeschooling. Authoritative parents are reasonable and nurturing, and set clear expectations for their children. The parenting goal is for children to be the best they can be, to thrive, grow and expand with all the support they need to do so. It’s parenting that comes from love and trust, rather than fear, guilt or punishment. In this style, children are seen as people who need care and guidance to grow into their fullest and best selves. Children with parents who demonstrate this style tend to be self-disciplined and think for themselves. And it’s thought to be most beneficial to children.
The Authoritative parent:
You don’t have to know everything there is to know in order to facilitate your child’s learning. You’re not expected to be a genius or an expert in every subject your child studies. But being a parent who observes, nurtures and responds to your child, who can communicate with them eye to eye, at a level they can understand, who sets boundaries consistently, who sets realistic goals and problem-solves with your child, and who engages in self care so that you can be calm and present for your child is a definite set up for success in both parenting and homeschooling.
Remember, You’ve Got This!
These Homeschooling blogs contain my experience and opinions. They are not meant as professional advice.
DIY DISWASHER TABS
The other day, I masked and gloved up, then hit the socially distanced grocery line up. The shopping list was long but wouldn't you know, I forgot to buy dishwasher tabs, a fact discovered after arriving home and unpacking our haul. The frustration didn't last long. I did a little research and hit the kitchen to whip some up. I'm so amazed at how well these dishwasher tabs work, I wanted to share the recipe.
You may have the ingredients lying about the house. Each has its own benefits. Baking soda (or washing soda, you pick) helps cut through the grease and is a great all-purpose cleaner. Borax is also another great cleaner that (bonus) helps disinfect. Salt helps mitigate the effects of hard water. Vinegar adds more cleaning power and helps to bind the ingredients together. Finally a bit of essential oil, for its anti-bacterial properties and lovely scent.
You will need:
1 cup of baking soda or washing soda. Both work equally well.
1 cup of Borax
1/2 cup of coarse salt
3/4 cup vinegar
15-20 drops of essential oil. I used Sweet Orange. You could also use Lemon, Tea Tree, Lavender, Rosemary, or Eucalyptus, as all these oils have antibacterial properties.
In a bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Measure out the of vinegar. Add it slowly to the dry ingredients, mixing as you go. There might be a little fizz from the chemical reaction between the vinegar and baking soda. Mix until the vinegar is evenly distributed through the powders. Now add your essential oil and mix it through again until evenly distributed.
Spoon the powder into a silicone ice cube tray mold. Then pack it down with your fingers. Gloves are optional. Let the tabs set overnight.
Next day, turn the mold over and pop out the tabs. They should hold their shape. If they don't, save the powder. You can still use it, just spoon it into the soap dispenser in your dishwasher.
Come dishwashing time, put a tab in the soap dispenser and set your dish robot to its usual settings. If you have a super crusty set of dishes, you can add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Ya, I know they don't advise it, but found that a little, tiny bit boosts the cleaning power of these tabs.
Et Voila! Clean dishes! Everything came out shiny and clean, even the glasses; no spots. I hope this recipe is of use to your family.
What are your favourite DIY house cleaning recipes?
Stay well, stay kind.
CHOOSE CALM AND CONNECTED THROUGH COVID19
As the COVID19 story unfolds, many of us are feeling a little stressed out and scared. The words "lock down" have a decidedly negative, trapped feel to them. I came across a wonderful, positive alternative today in my internet travels: Safe Harbour. We are currently anchored in the safe harbour of our homes until the storm passes.
Humanity has an amazing ability to rise above adversity and be our best selves. I see so many examples out there of people pulling together and reaching out in different ways to help and support each other, often without even being in the same room. I’m feeling hopeful.
Here are a few some resources to help you and your loved ones keep stress levels down and some feel good articles to keep your spirits up.
TURN OFF THE NEWS FOR A WHILE
Words illicit feelings which in turn affect our bodies and frame of mind. So in a time such as this one, it can be a good idea to download less negative information and open yourself up to more positive messages. Happiness hormones really help us on the health front. So turn off the news for a while. That doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore what’s going on in the world. It just means give yourself a break from stressful mass media messages. Check in once a day for a short period of time just to be updated and then get on with the rest of your day.
SING, SING OUT LOUD
According to Uplift Connect, “The neuroscience of singing shows that when we sing our neurotransmitters connect in new and different ways. It fires up the right temporal lobe of our brain, releasing endorphins that make us smarter, healthier, happier and more creative. When we sing with other people this effect is amplified”.
People in Europe know the score on this one. Here are some feel-good stories from Europe of people joining in song together. In Italy, people have been singing or jamming together across balconies. In Milan, a DJ played music for the neighbourhood, while in Florence, a tenor gave a beautifully moving concert of Nessim Dorma.
Inspired by the singing in Italy, Bono has written a new song called Let Your Love Be Known. The song was released on St. Patrick’s Day so that people could continue celebrating despite not being able to gather in the same room. It was posted on U2’s Instagram page.
SHAKE YOUR GROOVE THING
Get yourself and the kids moving. Random acts of dancing (my go-to) can be really helpful in times of stress. From Arthur Murray Dance Centers, “...dance has the ability to act as a stress reliever stems from the idea that when the body feels good, the mind does, too. Any type of physical activity releases neurotransmitters and endorphins which serve to alleviate stress. Neurotransmitters are chemicals within the brain that help communicate messages throughout the body. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller to reduce stress and improve the mind’s perception of the world. Thus, after a good workout the endorphins cause the body to feel calm and optimistic. The endorphins also aid in improving the quality of sleep, so that a few sleepless nights due to stress can be avoided after dancing!” So put your favourite tunes on and let ‘er rip!
In Seville, Spain, a fitness instructor led a workout for quarantined citizens. Closer to home in Vancouver, Canada, VYVE is hosting a virtual dance party on March 20. Turn up the tunes and have a romp around the living room.
PRACTICE PEACE, GET GRATEFUL AND HELP WHERE YOU CAN
Meditation and deep breathing techniques are really useful right now. These are practices that allow us to connect with our intuition and inner knowledge. It also helps keep us calm. This would be a great time to teach these tools to your kids. According to the Chopra Center, meditation gives “…kids the tools to help them fend off negative thoughts and behaviors, build self-confidence, focus, and treat others and themselves with respect and appreciation is a gift they will have for the rest of their lives.” They offer three kid-friendly meditations to try.
Practicing gratitude in times of uncertainty is a really great way to stay focused on the positive. Try journaling, writing down all the people and things in your life you are grateful for. Take the time to expand your list with why you are grateful for them. When you feel anxiety, return to your list to remind yourself of what’s most important to you. And when its possible, share your gratitude. Let people know what you appreciate most about them.
In Spain, people felt it important to express their gratitude for their hardworking, dedicated health professionals. They came out collectively onto their balconies at 10pm to applaud and thank them.
There are many of us coming together in the community to help each other out. In Vancouver, Canada, a FaceBook group, Caremongering YVR - Vancouver Community Response to COVID19, offers a place for people to connect and help each other. A similar one has been set up in North Vancouver, COVID19 Coming Together. Look for similar groups in your neighbourhood. I’m sure they are out there. Because kind and giving is just who most of us really are!
Don't feel like you have to help in a big way right now, unless you feel called to do so. Every little thing helps, like calling your friends and family and checking in with them; and observing self-isolation protocols and your self-care rituals. Don't let fear over take you, even in the grocery aisle. Take only what you need and leave some things for others, even the toilet paper! Be as considerate and loving as you can.
As for me, I’m at home looking after my loved ones, checking in with family, friends and neighbours and helping where and how I can. At home, we’ve divided up chores and responsibilities and we’re doing a lot more cooking (also a time for Kitchen Dance Party and Sing A Long). Davida and Zak just made a most beautiful, tasty braided cheesy garlic and herb bread. Thom and I are spending time in the garden. He needs those Vitamin D rays; I’m getting ready for planting season. I find it reassuring that despite all this, Mother Earth just keeps going. If you pull the camera out a bit, you might see a silver lining: all of us staying at home is giving the Earth some space to clear up some of our mess. Let's not get in her way.
I wrote a poem that I want to share with you, if you don’t mind.
Birds have come to life in Wuhan
Singing the earth back into health
Swans and the dolphins frolic in the canals
loving the earth with their joy
Smog rolls away in Shanghai
Letting the light back in
Neighbours sing to each other from balconies
Reminding us that we are in this together
Families dance around the living room
Snatching fears back from the unknown
This love that powers our planet
This is who we truly are.
Stay healthy, stay calm and keep singing! We are in this together.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
A TOOLKIT FOR STAYING RATIONAL THRU COVID19
I have been reading a lot about COVID19 lately, as, no doubt, have you. It feels like we're being bombarded by information and a lot of fear and uncertainty that seems pretty confusing at the outset. But I’m not one to panic easily in the face of illness. I mean, I’m the woman who chose to be with a man with MS, knowing he would need care-giving as we aged together, right? And I have to say, after having done some research, talking to people and checking in with my own intuition and heart, COVID19 doesn't call for a change in our approach. We are treating it with the same kind of calm and common sense that we apply to any flu that crosses our threshold.
I'm not a medical practitioner, so none of this is meant as medical expertise. I just want to share some resources I've found in my internet travels with you that are helping me stay sane during this time period. Hopefully they do the same for you. Take only from this what serves you, and leave the rest.
Before we get to the Toolkit, here is a word from the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. I found his words a reassuring reality check.
“...we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic...This is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumours.”
From a speech given in the Congo on February 15, 2020
On that note, here's our Staying Rational Toolkit
1. If you are looking for a medical paractitioner with a voice of reason, here is an article from holistic pediatrician Dr. Elisa Song on the medical implications of COVID19. Her intention is to meet fear with facts, helplessness with pro-activity. Of course, the fact that she cites some of the same resources I found in my internet searches only helps my trust-in-her factor. She updates the article periodically, including new stats and information as the virus story unfolds.
I’m finding it more comforting hearing from alternative and holistic practitioners at this time because they seem to be more focused on on logical and achievable solutions. They speak about boosting the immune system in a number of ways that don’t rely on a non-existent vaccine cure, but rather on the natural healing wisdom we as a collective whole have been using for centuries to stay healthy.
2. Here is some information from doctors in Shanghai about recommendations to use high doses of Vitamin C to treat the virus as well as this one containing some anecdotal evidence from a family in China that survived the virus.
When my friend Cat, (who lives in a wheelchair due to a virus that attacked the motor centers of her brain 18 years ago) called in an understandable panic, I sent her these articles. They helped, at the very least, to ease her anxiety and bring her back to calm. More importantly, they alleviated the feelings of helplessness that can come up in the face of pandemic talk. In short, there are things we can do that have been proven to work in a high diagnosis zone.
3. Here is a link to the John Hopkins Hospital’s world map on the virus.
I found this resource particularly helpful in keeping things rational. It tells us how many cases have been reported across the world, by country. It also tell us how many people have died. But more importantly, it tells us how many people have RECOVERED. The number of is significantly high in comparison. This map and its number charts were particularly calming. Isn't it amazing, the power our minds give to numbers? And the trust we have in them? If you want to geek out some more on COVID19 reports and guidance, John Hopkins has a resource center that you can explore
4. Follow common sense advice from experts to help protect yourself from the virus. Some of these measures include:
• Monitor for symptoms and if you are symptomatic, stay home and take care of yourself. I'll be exploring more on these in more posts to follow.
• Minimize social contact and avoid large groups.
• Postpone non essential travel for the moment
• Frequent handwashing. Here’s a video from The National Health Service in the UK on how to thoroughly wash your hands. It's a little corny but it gets the message across.
• If you're going to leave the house, make sure you're wearing Personal Protective Equipment, especially a mask and gloves. Maintain a six foot social distance.
Washing my hands thoroughly is definitely a part of my daily routine of ensuring the products I make meet Health Canada’s safety standards. But because I have sensitive skin and eczema on my hands, I have to choose gentle soaps. Our Thieves Foaming Soap is a great option. The soap in it is effective yet gentle. The essential oils in it have antibacterial properties that can help kill germs. I usually follow up with a light coat of Free Lion Body Butter to keep my hands nourished.
Above all, when the fear hits, remember that it is just another flu virus. Stay calm, follow health professional's suggestions, and take care of your immune system. You've got this.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
What are you doing to stay sane at this time? Please comment below.
GALENTINE'S DAY: SELF-LOVE AND WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT
I've been looking up the roots of Valentines Day. There are a lot of stories, but I'm sharing the one that spoke to me.
Apparently (actually no surprise here) Valentine's Day may have its roots in pagan cultures. At the beginning of February, halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, the Celts would celebrate Imbolc to mark the beginnings of spring and the stirrings of life in the ground in the Northern hemisphere. This was also a day to clean out your home and invite in Brigid, goddess of creation, sustenance and wisdom into your home to ensure fecundity and prosperity in the land, the animals and yes, people too.
This was also a time when the worst of the winter had passed and women no longer needed to rely on a man as a source of life saving body heat at night. Mothers and daughters would gather their boyfriends’ animal pelts, set them on fire, and feast on winter squashes and root vegetables until the fires burned out. Then they would go on a little road trip together, grieve and release the death of old relationships followed by rituals of spiritual renewal and growth.
Enter the Roman church and its habit of co-opting pagan rituals for its own purposes--mainly expanding its power over the lives of its followers. Due to the high death tolls in the wake of its many wars, purgings and plague, the church needed to do something to compel procreation. So they thumbed through the Saint Files and extracted the traumatic, crisis filled story of St. Valentine and his beloved to overlay on an existing women’s ritual based on independence and the right to choose one’s own mate. Another moment in history when religion has actively gone out of its way to control women’s freedom and their bodies.
Here’s Valentine’s story: It came to pass that Emperor Claudius II banned marriage for his soldiers because he thought their attachments to wives and family would distract them from ”bringing it” in warfare. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret. It’s said he wore a ring embossed with a cupid by which couples seeking him out could identify him.
When Claudius found out, he had Valentine thrown in jail, tortured and eventually sentenced to death. While awaiting death, he befriended a guard who’s daughter was ill and needed some healing. Valentine provided this, and she got better but, you guessed it, one thing led to another and they fell in love. When he was taken to the chopping block on the 14 February he sent her a love letter signed "from your Valentine".
At the same time as pushing this co-opted story of Valentine, the church also declared it heresy for any woman to leave her boyfriend or husband, thereby systemically tightening the noose on love and a woman’s freedom to have an active choice in it. A culture of men conquering passive women through courtship was created, shot through with Cupid’ arrows, and laden with sweets. The flowers that women once lay on the symbolic graves of relationships they chose to end were now laid in their laps, symbolic of the death of their pro-active right to choose.
A woman’s role was now to sit and wait. This is cross-cultural by the way, which means that it is a program of patriarchy in general, not just the patriarchy of the Roman church. My parents’ marriage was arranged. This is a transaction in which love is not a thing. It’s about class, caste, education, religion, shade of skin and any other thing that could divide, conquer and control, right down to a woman’s weight or eye colour. My aunt used to quote a Bollywood movie (or was it Merchant Ivory and Ruth Prawar Jhabvala?) line to me when I was a little girl. “When we were young, we put flowers in our hair. Then we would sit by a window and say, Has he come? Has he come?” This, in essence, was my education in dating. I would love to say that this message was eradicated, culture and society-wide, in the Free Love of the 60’s and women’s rights movement in subsequent decades. But, sadly, I can’t. It’s still there. Just have a look at V-Day advertising and the countless Bollywood and Hollywood movies (made mostly by men) that continue to valourize men and objectify women.
But what if we took some Ancient women’s wisdom and put it back into Valentine's Day? That means reclaiming this time of the year for self-love and self-care. There has been a movement for such a reclamation, popularized through a 2010 episode of the US sitcom, Parks and Recreation. Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler explains its meaning while throwing an annual Galentine's Day bash for her friends, but it's still tainted with patriarchal ideas of womanhood. There are elements of poking fun at women's gifts to each other and the event ends with her mom's hook up story. I imagine that on that ancient women's road trip, such stories might be shared also, along with stories about relationships ending.
Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks Galentine's Day is a good idea. Google Galentine's Day and you'll get a lot of links to many things self care. In addition to listings of multiple events for a girl's night out, I also found a self-love song playlist from The Tempest. And I just got an email from my local bra shop inviting me to a Galentine's event at their store.
I love the idea of this time of year being about self-love and self-care. It's the first step to being able to claim your own power and effect the change you want to see in the world. Evaluating aspects of your life that work (and don't) is very much a part of self-care and nurturing.
To have a period of time set aside in the quite winter months to consider your relationships and decide which ones support your life's journey makes complete energetic sense. You can take the time to evaluate and decide which ones you'll keep and nourish and which ones are toxic and need to go. Or you could choose which ones need work and look at what you’re willing to do to breath new life into them, come spring. This means that any relationship could be up for review, not just intimate ones. Also, I love the idea of going on a little road trip with your girlfriends to grieve, let go and have your process witnessed as you do the same for others.
Imagine how much healthier our psyches might be if we actually took the time to consider our own needs, the needs of our loved ones and nourish these relationships the way we might nourish the soil in our spring gardens, before planting? And imagine if this was something both genders did on a regular basis, clearing out the old, revitalizing what remains and making room for the new?
And what if we took this time to plant some seeds of self-empowerment and positive dreaming for our lives, instead of just waiting? Ooh, I’m getting goosebumps!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
SIX FRIENDS MAKE HOLIDAY CARE PACKAGES FOR THE HOMELESS
The Gandhi's (Mr. and Mrs.) said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." It means walk your talk and these are two people who most certainly did some serious talk walking!
It takes some strength and commitment to be of service to others. Some time ago 6 friends got together to figure out what they could do to be of help to people in need, in their own communities. They knew about a man named Sam who collects donations from various places and distributes them among the homeless in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. They wanted to do something similar, be more hands on, build relationships and connections with people, like Sam does. So this year they jumped in, feet first.
I delivered a box of mainly Body Butters, Balms, Salves and Paw Wax to Stacey Carruthers, one of this team of wonderful women. They put together gift packages for women, of essentials for women, like socks, bras, underwear, hats scarves, mitts, toothpaste, tooth brushes, personal care items and more. It is our honour to have our Body Butters and Body Therapy included in their packages. Our Paw Wax inspired gift packages for the dogs that also live on the street alongside their humans. They all need some good skin care, to protect them from the elements as best as possible, especially at this time of the year.
Stacey told me that the women were really happy to receive their gift packages. Our products gave a little bit of luxurious self care that they don’t usually get. She said, “Your products were the icing on the cake - SO much appreciated!.”
Stacey and her friends will be continuing their hands-on giving in the Downtown Eastside all year round. If you are interested in donating directly to their project, you can contact Stacey at email@example.com.
Free Lion donates our products to non-profit organizations that support women and children. You are a part of this, too. For every purchase you make, we make a donation. It's our way of paying it forward, for the good of us all.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
SUPPORTING WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT IN IRAQ
We dream of a peaceful, kinder world for us all. And we believe that starts at home, helping women and their families to heal and thrive, not just survive. Coming out of the ravages of war, at any scale—in the country or the house in which you live—is not a journey for the feint-hearted. It takes courage, hope and determination to rebuild. Learning to love and value yourself is a huge part of that journey. And so is self-care.
So, within that spirit, in September of 2019 I delivered a large Free Lion Body Care care package to Ellen Woodsworth to take to Iraq. She had been invited to speak at a conference hosted by the National Democratic Institute in Iraq, in partnership with the Government of Canada. The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization that responds to the aspirations of people around the world to live in democratic societies with open and multiparty political systems that recognize and promote basic human rights. A writer, organizer, former Vancouver City Councillor, international speaker and consultant on urban issues, Ellen is passionate about working for social justice, economic equality, a creative culture and environmentally sustainable planning, using an equity/intersectional lens to ensure that cities work for everyone.
The conference’s purpose was (in NDI’s words) “to launch Women’s Advisory Boards (WABs), independent committees that will provide policy recommendations, as well as implement local projects, in order to promote gender-sensitive problem-solving. Each of the five WABs, one in each province, is composed of about 17 women from all walks of life – teachers, lawyers, health professionals, NGO workers, businesswomen, housewives – whose backgrounds embody the vibrant cultural diversity of Iraq. They are already actively making a difference, from helping internally displaced persons, to campaigning against gender-based violence, to advocating for the rights of people with disabilities. Their ultimate goal is to help create inclusive provinces where women and girls, youth and elderly, people with special needs, and religious or ethnic minorities can sustain their livelihoods, access education and healthcare, and move freely and safely, without fear of violence or discrimination.”
“This conference enabled me to structure my thoughts. After three days of work with my peers from other provinces, I realize that there is still a long way to go; we need to unify our efforts,” said one participant from Ninewa at the conclusion of the event.
Ellen told me that the women were thrilled to receive body care products, as these things are hard to obtain in the provinces in which they live. I sent mainly body butters and Face Chai Moisturizer so that they could nurture themselves, even a little, through their very difficult journey. My hope is that they know that they are not alone and that there are people in the world who are rooting for their success.
Free Lion donates our products to non-profit organizations that support women and children. You are a part of this, too. For every purchase you make, we make a donation. It's our way of paying it forward, for the good of us all.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team