8 day Greece trip continued…Naxos!

Once we arrived in the morning from Milos on the ferry, we met our AirBnB contact who took us to our stay and arranged a car for us. This was a bit of a whirlwind and maybe not the smoothest of transactions but it actually worked out pretty well and was cheap. Once settled in we threw on our bathing suits and went straight out to find a good beach. Our first stop was Aliko or Alyko beach.

This beach is great. Clean and less packed. No restaurants or hoards of tourists here. A small grocery store nearby. Clear, clean water. Perfect for relaxing and exploring.

On our way down we did not ride along the coast because we were eager to get in the water, however, we drove up along the coast to get back to the main town center where we were staying. Our next stop was Mikri Vigla. At first glance this beach may seem crowded, and I would say most of the beaches going north on the west coast were a bit busy BUT if you walk over the rocks on the north of the beach you will find a beautiful cove! A small little beach and a shallow pool to swim in. It was beautiful. Take a look. This was my favorite beach spot on Naxos.

The cove and beach.

After these two great stops and the sun setting we headed into Hora (main town of Naxos) to clean up and have dinner. Our first night we checked out a busy tourist restaurant along the docks. It wasn’t that great so I won’t elaborate.

Near Filoti, On the way to Mt. Zas

Day 2- The Mountains of Naxos.

the only part of the climb that had “steps”.

One of the main reasons I wanted to venture to Naxos was because of it’s diverse terrain. We got up early and headed to Mt. Zeus/ Zas. The drive along the way is great. It was a cool, misty morning and on your way you can stop at one of the beautiful cafes in Filoti or Halki. We needed to be back in Hora early to get COVID-19 tests done so we didn’t stop but came back later (at the local hospital for cheap- you can book an appointment in advance). Make time to stop at all the little churches and structures along the way. Especially stop if they are open because most likely they won’t be on the way back.

There is a strip of road to park at the entrance of the Mt Zas climb. It is narrow and you need to park on the road (no parking lot), so also getting there early is a plus as you can park closer to the entrance. At the entrance you have access to water and can see where a car went off the cliff (so it does happen). I am pretty fit and this climb was not too strenuous or long BUT it is very rocky and has some steep steps (leg lifts not actual steps). In the beginning of the hike there was a path but there isn’t really a clear path either. I wouldn’t take my Mom or little ones on this hike but I still loved it. It was probably my favorite thing we did in Naxos.

I absolutely loved the Billy goats on the mountainside. All I kept thinking of was the story of the Billy Boat Gruff.

How many goats can you see in this picture?

After the COVID-19 test, we headed to Agios Georgios Beach. We actually didn’t mean to stop here on our way down the coast but it looked beautiful and quiet so we stopped. I really liked this spot and wanted to try the wind surfing but I couldn’t get anyone to join me so we just snorkeled. When you snorkel, I recommend going further out. It isn’t deep. On my way back to the beach, I got hit in the head by a windsurfer board. Now, I had on a large, hard snorkel mask so it protected my head but it gave me a fright and could have been bad.

After this beach we kept going south to Orkos and Plaka Beach. A lot of sand chairs and restaurants in this area. A bit crowded but again if you are looking to sit in a chair with a cocktail in hand this is great. Lots of kids around and plenty of fun to be had. On Plaka Beach there was a bit of nudity. FYI if you have virgin eyes or want your kids to have them. Always an eye opened for a teenage son. I didn’t take any pictures but enjoyed the hot sand. Water was a bit choppy.

Day 3- Naxos

Our final day before we flew back to Athens in the evening was filled with small stops around Naxos and some last minute shopping in Hora. We never found the Tower of Ayia but we did manage to find the Kouros of Flerio/ Fluoros. Faragi Kouros, I think? At least one of them. And the quarry.

We kept walking for a while but we never came upon an aqueduct or spring. There is an ancient site that if you are into archaeology, you will appreciate. We are talking 500 years BC old. The only thing is the signs were a bit faded so it was hard to read them but it can’t be helped in that sun. We saw these beautiful yellow butterflies whose wings looked to be flying backwards. The locusts or cicadas were serenading us. There is a shady path to the kouros. I really liked it there.

The olive branch

On our way back to Hora, we drove to Halki or Chalkeio (also known as Tragea btw) and had some amazing baklava. The church was closed 😦

Caffe Greco

After we grabbed some gifts we visited the Tower of Sanoudos and the Kastro. The view at the top and the restaurant looked fine but it was too hot for us to sit outside and stay. We viewed the Temple of Apollo from afar as it was crowded and also hot. We thought about going at dusk but there were just many people and not great circumstances during a pandemic. I really liked Hora. It has great little shops and narrow, windy, alley ways to get lost in and explore. There was a lot more to see and do (and taste) just in Hora alone so we would definitely go back. It makes me sad to see so many things that we ended up missing but we did do a lot.

We flew back to Athens on Olympic Air that evening and it ended up being a bit of a nightmare. Still I would go back to Naxos in a heartbeat. There is so much more to do and see and as the biggest island in the Cyclades, you can’t go wrong with Naxos. It offers everything- tramping/hiking, beaches, food and history. I hope y’all get a chance to go and keep checking back for the next adventure! Thanks for reading!

8 Day Greece continued…Milos!

Sarakiniko

Day 1-Athens/Milos

We took an early evening flight out of Athens. We decided to fly because it was much quicker. I don’t think the flight was even 45 minutes from take off to landing. HOWEVER…………………We flew Olympic Air. The boarding of the plane took a while so we landed late. We managed to get our rental car and checked into our AirBnB before dark but it was a late dinner and night after all. Our Airbnb host suggested a a few restaurants, including O! Hamos! but we couldn’t find it (I know it sounds silly but I guess it wasn’t lit up?) so we ended up having dinner at mikros Apoplous. It was so late we weren’t able to get a table by the water but that’s okay, our kitten company was across the main road. We had an amazing array of appetizers including Bruschetta with Stingray and Baked Feta sticks with Jam.

We had a solid two days to play in Milos. If I could do it again in a short period of time, I would have added one more day. to visit Kleftiko, which has to be accessed by boat. We thought about taking a charter boat tour out but it would have been a full day affair. However, if I could come back longer or often, I would come back annually with the family and stay in Pollonia. It just seems like a great place to make memories.

Sarakiniko Beach

As you can tell by now, I liked Milos. There is some sightseeing to be done but this was the island part of the trip, and I am going to call DAY 1- Rocky Beach Day. We visited 3 beaches. The first one, the most popular beach, was Sarakiniko Beach. This is the moon beach and it was has something for everyone. There is a sandy beach where little ones could ease it it. On the other side the rock cliff jumping for the adventurous. For solid swimmers you can go out and swim around the rocks in the cool, clear, deep blue. I didn’t see a lot of fish but I also didn’t see sharks. This may sound ridiculous but I live in Florida where there are plenty of sharks and the water is warm. If you generally don’t swim out in the deep, the water is mostly calm when you go out but stay clear of the rocks where you can get banged up. I think this was my favorite beach in Milos but not my favorite chill beach. It was beautiful.

Two levels for cliff jumpers. The only thing tricky about this is getting back on land.
In the middle is where the beach resides and on the other side of the rock on the left is where you can jump the cliffs. Plenty of moon walking to be had on the right.

Mandrakia

I read that Papafragas was badly littered so I opted for this Mandrakia. When we came in we stopped to our left to check out Tourkothalassa beach which from afar looked gorgeous but turns out was littered. Mandrakia, Μανδράκια is the town on your right. Cute little fishing town. Medusa, the restaurant here, is supposed to be really good, but we didn’t stop here long enough to eat. We did take a quick dip in the water below where I could of swore there was some warm spring spots and checked out the small church before heading off. I didn’t really see a place where people were swimming so we made our own.

Firopotamos

Our final beach for the day was Firopotamos Φυροπόταμος. This is a great spot to walk in and swim. The water is calm. Not as clear near the shore but beautiful out in the deep. We took the opportunity to swim far out to the left near a hole in the rock. It was a shrine/cave of sorts. The sand was rocky but not unbearable with some towels. There are a few trees but it does feel up quickly so take an umbrella if you want to stay out of the sun. In the small fishing “town” a lot of people were taking the opportunity to get their professional photos in. There’s a jumping spot off a high dock. The Church of Agios Nikolaos is here. It’s a beautiful church from the outside. It was closed when we were there though. And of course a neat treat here is a temple door but I apologize, I don’t remember its name. Finally, make sure your vehicle has decent power and tires to get up the parking lot hill. All of the cars I witnessed, including our own, had to start back to gain momentum to get up the hill when leaving.

After a clean up we took a drive up to Polonia/Pollonia and had dinner by the water at Enalion. My favorite main dish on Milos and maybe my favorite main in Greece was here. It was the Octopus. It was my one Octopus try in Greece and it did not disappoint. But it wasn’t the only good thing there. The fried goats cheese and the variety of local goats cheese were also fantastic. The squid was good too but everyone agreed my dish was the best 🙂

Day 2- Milos continued….

On day 2 we were eager to find a sandy spot to just swim and soak in the sun. Our first stop was just that- Agia Kiriaki Beach. It was blazing hot and the sun was burning our feet. There is not much shade which is fine because I needed an excuse to rent a sandbag under a umbrella! Best 12Euro of the trip spent. To the left of the chairs and sand chairs is a bar. But have plenty of cash because both are cash only. We could stayed here all day. Most relaxing beach by far. Great for the young and older. And when you are ready to eat head over to Thalassopetra restaurant and tavern. Their signature salad with anchovies is amazing, especially that homemade dressing.

Paleo Hori

Paleo Hori is your volcanic beach. The rocks on this beach are amazing. Such a variety of volcanic rock with a stunning sulfuric backdrop. Grab your boogie boards and closed water shoes. The water is more choppy and those pebbles can be painful. If you go down a little further you can find some beautiful spots without having to pay for a chair but if you want to be served yummy drinks under an umbrella, this is the place to do it. Just not cheap.

Final meal we went back to mikros Apoplous because O! Hamos! was too crowded and we just wanted to eat. This time we got a nice spot by the water. Two of us had the seafood linguini and Mousaka respectively. Ours was very good but I think their appetizers/starters are better than their mains. I only tasted the mousaka but I think it was the best of the mains. My son wanted to try the sea urchin linguini. He was okay with it. It’s an acquired taste, I think.

The next morning we were up early to catch a ferry to Naxos. At the time, we were hearing reports of massive COVID-19 outbreaks in Mykonos. I didn’t think to check whether our ferry stopped at Mykonos on our way to Naxos but it did. Thankfully, I don’t know who this guy was, but one of the ferry employees walked around the whole ferry ride and ensured people were wearing their masks. And he would stand by them and wait until they put their mask on. Barely anyone was on the ferry when we left but it was packed by the time we got off. The ferry itself was a lot more comfortable than the plane. I will say though that when we arrived in Naxos, the line of people waiting to board in the blazing sun was crazy. It looked miserable.

Check back soon to read more about Naxos, Greece’s largest island in the Cyclades, and a great one!

8 Day Trip- Greece!

I went to Greece for a a few days back when I was 19 but I like to say it didn’t count. My best friend and I went to Corfu while backpacking around Europe and the Pink Palace was a real life replica of what happened to Pinocchio’s friends who turned into donkeys. Anywho…. I have always LOVED mythology and western civilization history. 7th grade was my first real step into the ancient world. When you get older there are few things you truly remember and Greek day at Mahaffey Middle School in Ft. Campbell, KY was one of them. We brought in Greek food and wore togas. Later we got to visit the Parthenon in Nashville, TN and I stood in complete awe of the Athena replica. So when my son learned about mythology in 6th grade, I was so excited. When we were trying to decide on where to go for a vacation pre-COVID he said Greece. He loves snorkeling and he loves clear water. But it was so expensive to fly. So when Greece opened up and flights were cheap, we snapped up the opportunity to go. This time I wanted to see the real Greece and all its historical glory. Athens was a must. Finally, I was going to see the ancient Acropolis. And to boot, a pescatarians food dream come true. Of course, we couldn’t go to Greece without exploring some of the islands. Because of the pandemic I really wanted to steer clear of busy, touristy islands. I looked for more off the beaten path islands with limited time. I REALLY want to see the mountain north of Athens and Crete but we just couldn’t do it all. So we have an excuse to go back! Keeping reading to see what we saw and how we managed in 8 days (during a pandemic mind you)- Athens and 2 islands- Milos and Naxos. Efharisto!

  • Day 1 Arrival and Athens
  • Day 2 Athens all day
  • Day 3 Athens morning and early evening flight out to Milos
  • Day 4 Milos – Rock beaches and north of the island
  • Day 5 Milos- Sandy beaches
  • Day 6 Early morning ferry ride to Naxos and Naxos west coast beaches
  • Day 7 Naxos all day- Mt Zas (Mt. Zeus) and beach
  • Day 8 City center Naxos/Flight to Athens
  • Day 9 Flew out.

Athens- DAY 1

We arrived around 10am and hit the town around 12:30pm. First we stopped for lunch at Glykys. We loved it there. It’s outside, its tucked away in a quiet spot. And they had a bunch of yummy food. Our first visit included briam. Amazing. Then we headed to Anafiotika. This is probably my favorite place in Athens. It’s tucked away, quiet, and an enclave of flowers, little doors, and open windows to homes. You feel like you’ve been transported to a small village in Greece. There are cats everywhere. And there is man who plays a traditional Bouzouki to the cats. From Anafiotika, we walked towards Hadrian’s Arc. The main road from the center to the Arc is extremely busy. Be very careful, even at the crosswalks. Cars and scooters run the lights. The lights are quick. Right beside the Arc is the Temple of Zeus. The entrance to the actual site is Leof Vasilissis Olgas. It was here that I bought the 3 day pass and I think it’s a good deal. Unfortunately, the majority of the temple is covered in scaffolding and it’s mostly wide open to the blaring sun. We enjoyed it but if I was limited on time, I might just walk by this one and not pay to go in. But it is included in the 3 day pass.

Next we walked the National Garden. Now gardens are my favorite so if you want a really nice place to relax and enjoy much needed shade, this is beautiful place to go. There is a little pond with turtles in it.

We ran out of time since we started mid day but if we had started earlier I would go ahead and visit the Panathenaic Stadium which is on the other side of the National Garden. But again, you have to cross a very busy road, Ardittou.

Athens- DAY 2

Below is our exact walk from place to place. Everything we saw was on the way to the next stop. The breakdown of each place is below it.

Syntagma Square & Monument of the Unknown Soldier-Cathedral Church of Athens-Church of the Virgin Mary Gorgoepekoos and Saint Eleutherius (12th c.)- Hadrian’s Library- Monastariki Flea Market-Ancient Agora of Athens (Temple of Hephaestus/Odeon of Agrippa/Stoa of Attalos)- the Roman Forum of Athens- Greek Orthodox Church Pammegiston Taxiarchon and Panagias Grigorousas.

Heading out our first stop was the changing of the guard at Syntagma Square. It is slow and continual so you can’t miss it. As I’ve said a lot in Athens, get out early as the sun beats down hard and there is no shade. From here we walked to Cathedral Church of Athens. It was beautiful but the real gem is right next door, the Church of the Virgin Mary, a Byzantine church, with a mix of pagan and Christian symbols. Please, cover your shoulders, I know it’s hot but it takes nothing to carry a light scarf or cardigan. I carried mine in a camera bag.

Hadrian’s Library It was neat. No shade whatsoever. No seats. You could probably walk around the site if you didn’t want to pay. However, if you do pay, you can have a closer look at the Tetraconch Church, believed to be the oldest Christian Church in Athens.

At the entrance of the Monastariki Flea market are the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary – Panagia Pantanassa and the Tzisdarakis Mosque. Both were closed or we didn’t see the entrance. We bought cherries in the market outside the metro station. I didn’t really see anything I wanted to buy. It was a little packed so we stayed outside of the shops.

Ancient Agora. Probably my second favorite stop in Athens. Believe it or not, I think I liked it more than the Acropolis. It is spread out with different points of interests, some shade, more intact structure and a great museum which is included in the price and has seating and bathrooms. The museum, or Stoa Attalos, was outside but covered. It had some of the best marble sculpture I have ever seen. A stoa is a covered walkway and in this example, once was a marketplace. From there we visited the The Church of the Holy Apostles (Άγιοι Απόστολοι Σολάκη), a 10th century Byzantine church. It was open. Masks required btw in all churches. It’s a beautiful church and the Arabic looking tiles outside are very beautiful. From here we walked to the Temple of Hephaestus. Much more intact and almost as majestic as the Parthenon. A stunner. You absolutely must check this out along with the Stoa Attalos when you visit Ancient Agora. There are lots of things to see here, including the Odeon of Agrippa, a 15BC open theatre donated to Athens by Marcus Agrippa.

The Roman Forum’s most cool relic is the Tower of the Winds, a meteorological tower, thought to have been built around 50BC. Similar to Hadrian’s Library in layout and lack of shade. But you can see inside the Tower. Let your imagination build the walls and columns as they would have been. It’s not every day you get a chance to stand in archaeological sites from 1st century AD.

Athens- DAY 3

We saved the best for last. I think. The Acropolis is amazing. We really enjoyed visiting inside it. But I also enjoyed walking beneath it. I enjoyed glancing at it while eating. I enjoyed it it in silence at night under the moon. It’s just majestic. Yes, a visit is a must. But make sure you savor it. Take time to take it in, despite the crowds.

The main things you can see inside the Acropolis and while ascending the steps include:

  • the Theatre of Dionysus (on your way up). Ancient theatre.
  • the Propylaea. The first big thing you actually enter in. The main gate to the Acropolis. It really sets the stage.
  • the Temple of Athena Nike. This is the little temple on your right as you enter the Propylaea.
  • the Erechtheion. This is my favorite structure on the Acropolis. It’s on your left and includes the beautiful women holding up the frieze called caryatids. There are actually two more structures here. Make sure you see the olive tree to the right of the it. The legend goes that Athena planted the olive tree as her gift to the city after winning a competition against Poseidon.
  • the Parthenon (on your right). I swear there is one section of the frieze that looks like a rock was used to prop up a section of the gable or roof from falling (see pic below). Side note: It was very nice to see the frieze from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. I have seen another section inside the British Museum in London. Sometimes I wish I had Bill and Ted’s phone booth to jet back in time and get a glimpse of what it would have been like. This was one of those occasions. But I’m not a fan of sacrificing animals so in this case my imagination was fine.
Is that a fallen horse holding up the roof?
  • Odeon Herodes Atticus (on your way down). This is not as ancient and when we were there it was being set up for a performance so it’s still in use today. Imagine performing here! Goals for out budding performers!

When you can’t take anymore wind, sun and neck craning, there is a little spot where you can purchase some orange juice or frozen drinks and snacks at the bottom. If you aren’t completely tuckered out, there is a great rock/overlook of the city called Areopagus Hill. It is not flat but it does have stairs. But if I was back there, which hopefully I will be, I would hit this at sunset, right after dinner. From the picture below, this was taken during the Greek fires in outskirts of the city center.

Needing a cool off, we next headed to the Acropolis Museum. To avoid the lines, purchase your tickets on your phone. There is a sign beside the queue with a QR code that will take you to the website. You still need to get your tickets printed out once you are inside but the line is less long and there is air conditioning inside.

The museum itself had an excellent collection of ancient Greek antiquities. I loved being able to see below us ancient ruins. We were literally walking above an archaeological site. My favorites inside were the caryatids, again. No pictures inside. If you can, take a break and lunch at the Acropolis Museum restaurant. Small portions but very tasty and an excellent view. I really liked his place.

Where we stayed: Plaka- Nikis Street and Falirou Street (great, cheap food all around).

Some places we we ate: Glykys; The Greco’s Project, Acropolis Museum Restaurant; Svoura Cafe, Φουρνος Χριστίνα (bakery with homemade ice cream cones and so much more!

Helpful tips:

This is my biggest learning lesson in Greece. Get the Greek name of each place, site or street you are visiting. It is hard to identify the name of a street or road if you don’t speak or read Greek. A lot of travel books list the names of places in English. And some taxi drivers and most signs are not posted in English.

Get to know Hadrian. Roman Emperor, who had a love of Greek civilization, and had a lasting impression of Athens to this day.

The bus or metro are the cheapest and fairly easiest ways to travel into the city from the airport. Everyone was wearing a mask on the bus or metro. The bus on the way into the city was hot. The 2nd time it wasn’t. When you step out of the arrival doors turn right and the bus ticket booth is down on the right. You can tell the attendant where you want to go. There are plenty of buses heading to Syntagma (last stop). I think it was around 6Euro one way.

All of the main sites in Athens are pretty close so we didn’t use transportation around town.

Start early when it’s more cool and less tourists, but don’t be afraid to go out at night for a stroll around some of the sites. The outside of many sites and overlooks at dusk are beautiful.

When it says don’t put paper down the toilet, it means toilet paper. With this said, maybe carry a trash bag with you.

Marble, marble everywhere. So it is slick even with tennis shoes. And most streets and sidewalks are not flat. I slipped so many times. And I have really good balance. Just be careful. We were there in the heat wave and didn’t experience rain once. But I can only imagine how slick it is when it rains.

There is so much more to Athens so make time and make plans! Enjoy and coming soon Naxos and Milos!

Choice to Change

Mindset and the power of the Big, Beautiful Brain

Whether you are looking to eat more healthy, dig out of depression, do better in school or improve organizational behavior-it’s all change! Very few people are 100% content or happy with themselves and their circumstances. Personally, I am always on a path to improve- whether its my own character flaws or a public health problem. So how do we change? How do we change THAT one thing about ourselves (or multiple things)? How do we change our child’s behavior to chores? How do we change a drug addict’s choice? I am on this journey to explore these topics from a psychological perspective and also as a Christian. You mean science and faith complementing each other? I believe it is happening.

Now I have learned in the first “real days” of e-learning that I need to be paying better attention to my child’s e-learning, as he was missing some things. And as I am diving into this topic of change and mind set, I overhear a TED talk my son’s teacher assigned him titled, “

The Power of belief — mindset and success” by Eduardo Briceno.

Serendipitous? I think this is a great example of synchronicity.

Synchronicity Meaning: Message from the Universe | Synchronicity, What is  synchronicity, Meant to be

In this video he talks about the “Fixed Mindset vs. the “Growth Mindset”. This idea of a “Growth Mindset” was first brought to my attention by Carol Dweck. For all my friends who are peeved by Millennials who can’t finish a day’s work should read this book.

But I digress. Dr. Briceno states if we are to fill our potential we need to change our mindset. The key to do this is to realize We CAN change.

So step 1: Accept that you CAN change.

Now I am currently reading “Switch on the Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf. Like Dr. Briceno, she too states that the brain is malleable. Not fixed.

A large flaw within our thinking and society is that we need to be born with natural gifts and abilities in order to obtain or perform. I know myself as a parent, have told my child numerous times, that God has given him the natural ability for music. Now the problem with this is, when my son plays something incorrectly, he gets really frustrated with himself, and instead of working through the problem, he wants to quit for the day. Some of us may feel like we can’t pick up a new hobby because we weren’t given the opportunity to learn at a young age. For example, a language. We are told time and time again that the brain is best able to learn a language at a young age. That once we get older, it is hard for the brain to learn and remember a language.

This is so wrong.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

In Dr. Leaf’s book, she works with patients and clients who have had severe brain injury and/or learning disabilities. How many stories have you heard of someone being told they will never walk again but yet they somehow defy the odds and baffle the doctors? This isn’t battling the odds. It’s that big, beautiful brain that continues to function in an amazing way. Now if you are a Christian or religious, you might think this is a miracle? Well, if we look at what the bible tells us, really it’s just how God designed us and the power he bestows on us through him.

2. Understand it’s a process.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hebrews 12:1

Isn’t life a process? Aren’t we always trying to figure it out? We are constantly growing. And growth is beneficial and scientific. This is important to understand for many reasons. If you or someone “falls off the bandwagon” they may not get back on the bandwagon if they don’t understand that growth is a process. Which is why if you are in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) its a lifetime commitment, where if you take a drink, you can come back. If you are on a diet and eat a bag of cookies on Sunday, no one should tell you that you can’t get back on that diet on Monday. Many health campaigns have learned that in order for people to kick bad habits, we need to recognize failure and give people non-judgmental agency to try again, and again, and again.

Every Try Counts Campaign | FDA

Fall backs are an important part of the growth process and without them we do not grow. And God tells us this too.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

So what does a Growth mindset vs. a Fixed Mindset look like in practice. Here are some examples:

Growth Mindset

“Wow, you can really see that you studied and worked hard to get that score”.

“Its shows you have been practicing your 3-pointers on the court.”

“If I start jogging and add 1/4 mile each week, I can build endurance, work on my breathing and increase my distance.”

“I was not a good communicator in my last marriage but I am going to ask my fiance to hold me accountable to a weekly date night where we talk about anything we need to.”

Fixed Mindset

“Wow, you must be so good at math with a score like that.”

“You must get your basketball skills from your Dad.”

“I just don’t have an athletic build and won’t ever be called a runner”.

If I messed up this marriage, who says I won’t mess up another.”

3. Make a deliberate intention to develop your abilities to change.

What does this look like?

  • Make feedback process related.
  • Listen for your fixed mindset. Listen for toxic thoughts. Negative thoughts.
  • Consciously change it. Talk back to it.

Dr. Leaf says to “catch those thoughts”. As Missy Misdemeanor Elliott says,

Dr. Caroline Leaf’s book provides a 21-Day Brain Detox Plan. As I continue to read this book and work through my own 21-Day Brain Detox, I will continue to share my own personal insights and its application in my life and work. I want to reiterate that this is a process. For me. For you. Whatever journey you are on. And each of us are on a journey. Whether we are religious/spiritual or atheist. Whether we feel perfect or flawed. And all good things come with time and practice. But know that you have it in you.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

Final thought for my public health campaigners and social changers out there. How can we use this knowledge for positive, impactful social and behavioral change? For me, it reinforces the idea that SHAMING and GUILTING to not work. Knowing that Growth-Changing mindset is a key for change, how can we incorporate these into health campaigns? Providing actionable steps? Feedback loops? Positive reinforcement? How does this challenge us with reward and incentive products in a health campaign? Are growth-process campaigns better for specific target audiences? I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading!

10 Day California Road Trip continued…Mt Tamalpais, Patrick’s Point, Redwoods and More!

This post focuses on our 10 Day California Road Trip once we left San Francisco and continued north along Route 1 to Route 101 up until Eureka. The first day was Mount Tamalpais and Eureka. The second day we spent exploring the Redwood National State Park and the dramatic landscapes of Trinidad. Keep reading below for more details.

Mount Tamalpais. San Francisco in the background between clouds.

Day 2 (22nd July): Drove up the west coast on Route 1 stopping at or through Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Stinson Beach, Bodega Bay and the Avenue of the Giants (Humboldt Redwoods). Night in Eureka, CA;

Day 3 (23rd July): Explored the Redwoods. Hiked Lady Bird Johnson Trail and Fern Canyon Loop trail. Camped at Patrick’s Point State Park (total $42.99- Abalone site).

So we got up early from our AirBnB in San Fran and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for breakfast. I feel like this was a very touristy area with a lot of chain restaurants. We decided on Darren’s Cafe for breakfast. It was good but expensive for a diner, in my opinion, and we would probably have been better off grabbing a coffee and pastry or biscuit to go and saving time and money. From here we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge along Highway/Route 1 to Mt. Tamalpais State Park. This was a beautiful, scenic drive with no clear state park signage. I wasn’t sure if we had passed or missed our marked spots. We did stop for some cherries and apricots on our way up the mountain and a hiking trail along the road.

We intended to stop at Muir Woods (we drove past it) and Point Reyes National Seashore but we just did not have enough time. If I had to do it again, I would have added another night on the west coast between San Fran and Eureka. I would skip Stinson Beach and camp near Mendocino. We currently live near the ocean so we decided to omit the estuary habitat and go for gorgeous trees and mountains.

Once we left Mt. Tamalpais we ended up in the town of Stinson Beach. I think we were looking for a quick lunch cafe, but as we saw mostly restaurants, we ended up going for ice cream at the Parkside Snackbar. Now I am going to complain a little bit again about the restroom situation here. There is an adjoining restaurant and even though we were patrons at the ice cream parlor, they would not allow us to use the restroom inside the restroom. A father at the near by park just walked into the restaurant with his child and used their restroom, but when I politely inquired with the host beforehand, he said no. So I wasn’t happy and wish I hadn’t purchased the ice cream, which was window service. Though everyone else with their big, messy ice cream cones were content. Oh well. In the town of Stinson Beach there is nice shop called Livewater Surf Shop with swimsuits and gear if for some reason you need a little boutique browsing escape from your family (no judgement) or forgot your swim gears. They also provide board rentals and surf lessons.

Next stop was Bodega Bay. At Bodega Bay we found public parking right on the beach with a large parking lot, restrooms, and outside showers to rinse off sandy feet. This is wide open beach with plenty of room, warm sand and choppy Pacific water. Great place to stop for a swim for seasoned swimmers and surfers. From Mount Tamalpais to Eureka, CA it is about a 4.5 hour journey not including any stops.

By the time we got closer to Eureka it was getting dark as we drove through Humboldt Redwoods State Park and we did not stop. The ONE BIG REGRET of this trip because I absolutely loved the large, giant redwoods we did encounter on this 10 day trip and couldn’t get enough of them. I could dedicate a whole trip to just the Redwoods in California (Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods, Avenue of the Giants, etc.). That night we stayed at an AirBnB in Eureka. My impressions of Eureka is that its a small, logging town with lumberjacks drinking coffee and retirees bird watching. Haha. It’s quaint and a great launching spot for the next day.

Day 3- My Redwood Dreams Come True.

The next morning we had breakfast at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates on F Street. So glad we were able to find a local coffee shop with yummy baked goods. Did I mention I live for pastries? But this was not my favorite spot on the leg of this trip. What we found afterwards was… the Lady Bird Johnson Trail. This is a very easy and perfect hike for the kids and grandparents. It was flat and had wide open paths to accommodate lots of people, though we didn’t see that many people outside of the parking lot. The restrooms in the parking lot are also holes in the ground BTW with no sink/hand washing available.

My favorite photo
This was a very peaceful place. Beauty in silence. Majesty in trees.

Plenty of opportunities for the kids to climb trees, make pretend tree forts and hide in old tree trunks here!

I was doing some serious tree hugging on this trail. Such a beautiful place. It really shows you the importance of protecting our national forests and parks!

After we left Lady Bird Johnson National Trail, we headed to the Fern Canyon Loop Trail located inside Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This trail is known for being used in Jurassic Park.

jurassic3

Both trails are a part of the Redwoods National and State parks. You can find more details about these trails and others at the National Park Service webpage, as well as temporary closures.

To access the Fern Canyon loop trail we drove down a dirt road, past the beach and into a sandy parking lot. I say this because 1.) you can take a detour to the beach and 2.) your vehicle WILL get dirty and you WILL track sandy dirt into the car. The car parking lot was busy and packed. This trail was more populated than Lady Bird but we had enough space to physically distance ourselves from others.

My son said he preferred this trail but he is a water baby so whenever there is a creek he is happy. He was able to dip his head in the water dripping off the cliff-side ferns. Because of the cold water and shade, this is also a cool trail. As we were coming from Florida in July, you can see we had jackets wrapped around our waists for cool morning temps and coastal winds.

This is also a great trails for teaching children about different types of ferns. Plant lovers will revel in the unique and ancient species of ferns found here. This easy hike is a .7 mile flat loop, with opportunity to join longer trails if you want more. Would definitely come back here again and again.

After we were done with the Redwoods for the day we headed back down south to Trinidad. What a cute town!

We headed down to a restaurant on a pier called Seascape Restaurant and really lucked out with a great dinner and evening. I had clam chowder and it hit the spot from being on a chilled, windy beach.

Dinner view inside the restaurant. Eye spying some seals.

Turns out this restaurant is owned and managed by a local tribe – Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community. We also went to Murphy’s Market and Deli in Trinidad to stock up on groceries and firewood for our night camping. They have pre-made meals as well and a decent selection of beverages.

Next to the Pier is the Trinidad State Beach and Lighthouse. What an amazing beach! We had a beautiful evening. Some were kite flying. Others walking. Lots of critters to explore on this beach as well.

I would say this was one of our favorite moments of the trip. An after dinner stroll, drawing our names in the sand, chasing each other with seaweed, and walking off dinner. And aren’t moments like these what its all about?

I spy a yellow slug.

Afterwards we headed to our campsite at Patrick’s Point State Park. As this was our first campsite, we were really impressed with how nice it looked and its location. But if you read my first post about this trip you might remember my comment about the bathrooms in California campsites. Basically, you need to have quarters to take a shower at THIS campsite. And by the time we headed into the bathroom at night for a shower, the campground attendant (who I guess makes change for people) had closed down for the night. And again because people either didn’t know like we did or didn’t want to spend the money, the sinks were clogged with dirt and paper towels from where people were trying to take sponge baths in them. There was a pump outside near our campsite and even though it was freezing water, I opted to wash my face, brush my teeth and rinse my feet and hands off here. Funny thing, in the middle of the night I went to use the bathroom and came across a SKUNK! Thankfully I spotted him before I got too close and he/she did not spray me. 🙂

The real appreciation of this campsite did not come into the morning when my son and I woke up and decided to take a little stroll. A little path near our tent led to the most beautiful, dramatic lookout and kindred wild flowers. Top spot alert.

Dramatic drop off leading to the Pacific ocean and craggy rocks.
This reminded me of Goonies.

The area right outside of the campsite was also very pretty and lends itself to lots of picture stops. It’s very hard not to keeping stopping which is why the more time you can spend in CA, the better, or you’ll have to come back like I hope too.

From Patrick’s Point we headed to our next stopping point, Lassen Volcanic National Park. The drive was between 4-5 hours and since we had been going non-stop, this was a great opportunity for passengers to catch some ZZZzzz. Please check out my post on Lassen Volcanic Park coming soon!

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions for our next trip. Happy traveling!

Changing Behavior by Tali Sharot

How to motivate yourself to change your behavior

This TED- Cambridge talk was posted 5 years ago but it is still applicable today. It’s always good to have a refresher on a subject matter or be exposed to a new way of thinking when tackling a current issue. This TED Talk by Dr. Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at the University College London, provides “3 key ingredients” on how to change your behavior, however, some of the examples she provides are organizational behavior change and customer behavior change.

The 3 key ingredients are:

  1. Social incentive;
  2. Progress monitoring;
  3. Immediate award.

One big take-away I got from this is fear appeals, shaming, threatening, warnings, etc. on the whole are not effective in changing behavior. Many impact evaluation studies have shown where negative messaging and fear appeal marketing campaigns are ineffective in changing behavior, however, some fear appeal social marketing campaigns have proven effective in road or driver campaigns. I think this is something we really need to dive deeper into. Think about social norming of face masks during COVID-19. What if 99% of people are wearing a face mask in a grocery store but one person approaches a non-face mask user and yells at them for not wearing a face mask. What happens? Do they decide to wear a mask next time? Ummm, no. What if they are told that they may have a pre-existing condition in the future or may pass the disease unknowingly to a loved one later. Does this change their mind? Probably not. Now what if the manager goes over the intercom and says, “Congratulations shoppers at so and so grocery store, we are at 99% compliance for wearing face masks and we are outperforming the grocery store so-so five miles down the road”. Does this change the non-mask user’s behavior? More likely. What if the manager says, “we are passing out $2.00 off your coupons for all mask wearers”. We got a winner. The messaging is positive. It demonstrates social compliance, progress monitoring and incentives. The benefits are immediate.

We seek positive information! We want to know we are okay and WE CAN change the outcome. Positive intentions are REWARDED and socially ACCEPTABLE.

“Kids and teenagers are the worst at learning from bad news”. Plug for the ever growing trend towards positive behavioral therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy, in schools. How does this work in real life? “Son, you are getting better at picking up your toys, could you finish the job so we can go outside and play?” vs “Son, you still haven’t picked up your toys and you can’t play outside until you do”.

We get too much information and filter out what we don’t want or need by focusing on the positive information, giving us a distorted view of the reality. Self-denial anyone? I don’t know about you but my new thing is to tune out PEOPLE who don’t give me the information I want (anyone want to take a wild guess who it might be?). This is why it’s important for organizations to put out specific, timely, relevant and targeted messages with BEHAVIOR SCIENCE. Go beyond thinking about information or education.Don’t just put out anything to stay relevant. You won’t be.

Informational campaigns and education are not enough. We must get the word out to organizations and agencies that applying behavior science to impact change is a must-do and the more cost effective way to achieve results.

10 DAY CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY AND MUST-DO’s!

As you can see from my chicken scratch below, my initial plan was pretty ambitious. But you should have seen it before when I was planning a Washington to Santa Cruz trip! But with all travel, especially when you are traveling with children, flexibility is key.

Below I offer an outline of our

10- day California itinerary:

Day 1 (21st July): Flew into San Francisco- Explored San Fran. See below 10 day itinerary for our day details in San Francisco;

Day 2 (22nd July): Drove up the west coast on Route 1 stopping at or through Mt. Tamalpous, Muir Woods, Mendocino Beach and the Avenue of the Giants (Humboldt Redwoods). Night in Eureka, CA;

Day 3 (23rd July): Explored the Redwoods. Hiked Lady Bird Johnson Trail then visited Fern Canyon. Camped at Patrick’s Point State Park (total $42.99- Abalone site).

Day 4 (24th July): Drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park (4-5 hours). We traveled through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and stopped along the road for a stretch and breathtaking views along the river. We hiked the King Creek Falls trail at Lassen Volcanic Park (from Manzanita Entrance) then traveled down to South Lake Tahoe (3 hours). Night at Hotel.

Day 5 (25th July): Hiked Eagle Falls Trails to Eagle Falls Lake. Camped the night at Emerald Point (total $32.99 tent site at Lower Point). Dinner in town at @bluedogeatstahoe We had pizza and my partner discovered his new favorite beer, Great White from @LostCoastBrewery in Eureka, CA.

Day 6 (26th July): Hiked on the Rubicon Trail from Emerald Point campsite to Vikingsholm and Kayak Tahoe. Drove to AirBnB (Coulterville) outside of Yosemite.

Day 7 (27th July): First Day in Yosemite. Hiked the “4-Mile Trail” and visited Bridal Veil Falls. Stayed the night back in Coulterville at AirBnB.

Day 8 (28th July): Second day in Yosemite. Drove down to Mariposa Grove and hiked the Mariposa Grove Trail to the Mariposa Grove Cabin. The evening camped out at Cedar Bluff inside the Sierra National Forest (total cost- too much-charged for 2 sites).

Day 9 (29th July): Drove to Santa Cruz and straight to AirBnB. Explored Santa Cruz Wharf and harbor. Dinner at The Crow’s Nest and night at AirBnB.

Day 10 (30th July): Drove to San Francisco and flew home 😦 Depending on your flight time, there is the possibility to do at least one hike in Santa Cruz or highlight in San Fran.

Mariposa Grove Trail, Yosemite

Be sure to check out my other posts for more in depth details about each stop along the way!

Cost Breakdown

This is the first time I have posted a cost estimate of my trips but for this trip I kept better notes on expenses and I want to show people that you can accomplish a lot with a little, even in an expensive state like California (gas prices were insane!). This is not an exact price list but it can give you a good idea for a starting budget.

  • Plane tickets from Florida to San Francisco- $ 394.30 /per person
  • Travel Insurance for flight – $51.26
  • Car Rental for car pick up and return at San Francisco airport (10 days) – $ 440.44 (not including insurance, insurance was included with my personal car insurance policy);
  • Total accommodation costs including 3 camping sites, 1 hotel and 4 Air BnB’s (1 for two nights) – $1335.06;
  • America The Beautiful National Park Pass– $80.00

Day 1- San Francisco!

Day 1 (21st of July): Fly into San Francisco- We arrived at 9:40am and went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. We hired a rental car from the airport and compared to Tampa, FL, the driving was stressless. We checked out Fisherman’s Wharf and grabbed an expensive but delicious panini from the Round House Cafe, right near the visitor center.

It was July and it was windy/cool, so bring a jacket. There is a mild hike near the bridge and we did see one homeless person but other than that, it was beautiful, and we felt safe. This was the only homeless person we saw btw. I think San Fran gets a bad rap for homeless people but I honestly have seen a ton more homeless people in San Diego. I only say this for any safety concerns. Personally, I use it as a teaching lesson.

Next, we met up Kara from Chinatown Food Walk: Tea & Dim Sum experience from AirBnB. This was the first time I tried an AirBnB experience and we really enjoyed it. Of all the things we did for 10 days, my son said this was his favorite! Granted, he is a foodie like me. We went to a tea shop, a temple, THE Fortune Cookie Factory and three food stops. We tried dim sum, a moon cake, pork roll, boba tea and tons of tea! From this experience, my son and I became hooked on Boba Tea. I thought it was like Thai Tea and I find Thai Tea too sugary so when we tried traditional, Chinese black boba mile tea, I was pleasantly surprised. You don’t know unless you try things! When we got home we immediately scoped out the best Boba tea shop in Tampa. I won’t specifically name where we went on the tour, you’ll need to contact Kara for that 😉 https://www.stretchy-pants.com/sf-food-tours/chinatown-food-tour-san-francisco/

Pork Roll. First stop. Not Vegetarian.

Side note: this tour is not for vegetarians. Contact @stretchypantssf if you would like them to try a vegetarian menu. They might be able to accommodate. I generally don’t eat meat but I make exceptions for special occasions. My child has a shrimp allergy and they were able to help us with this.

After our tour we went to our AirBnB. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay out late due to flying in from the East coast and London so we were exhausted. We stayed at Jonathan and Sally’s AirBnB in the Twin Peaks area. Not much to eat within walking distance but a nice and safe area. The home was clean and cozy and offered a rare, second closed bedroom for an AIrBnB.

Next morning we hit the road up Route 1!

Tips and Tricks

If you don’t read any more of my posts about this trip I wanted to make you aware of a couple key things that you may not see on any official website or in a book.

At the San Francisco airport the cell phone waiting lot is not at the airport! It was about 6 miles away further down the interstate. Don’t make the mistake I did!

Showers are NOT included in the price of your camp fee at California State Parks. Some required quarters, some tokens- one had no shower at all (though it might have been a federal camp ground?)! So please, please do yourself a favor if you are camping and contact each campsite to see what they require to take a shower.

Gasoline prices are no joke. In areas outside of major cities, like Shasta, the cost per gallon was pushing $5.

Not all restaurants have bathrooms. Not sure how they got around this but we learned this to be true. AND the public restrooms at gas stations are NASTY. The majority of ones we stopped at didn’t even have soap. I can’t imagine the situation now with COVID-19. So while you are at stopping for supplies, grab some toilet paper, disposable wipes, soap, gallon of water and hand sanitizer!

Please continue reading my other “10 Day California Road Trip posts” to see fun photos, honest reviews and good details from each major stop!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to ask questions in the comment section. Happy travels!

10 Day California Road Trip Cont… South Lake Tahoe

On days 5 and 6 we traveled to South Lake Tahoe from Lassen Volcanic Park and spent two days exploring this beautiful area. The drive from Lassen was about 3 hours. The road into Lake Tahoe was windy. We arrived late our first night and stayed at Beach Retreat & Lodge Tahoe https://www.tahoebeachretreat.com/?utm_source=google%20my%20business&utm_medium=listing&utm_campaign=visit%20website. I don’t remember the room being especially nice. It was outdated but clean. However, the staff were really nice and there was a nice laundry facility right beside the pool. Since we got there late, parking at the hotel was difficult to come by. Even though we didn’t experience this, I would guess this is a great place to stay for a bunch of young friends in the winter, where they ski during the day and enjoy the night life at the end of the day. It is close to shops and restaurants/bars.

We were not out the next morning very early because I had a call and still managed to find street parking somewhat close to Eagle Falls Trail. The parking lot definitely does not hold enough visitors so plan to park on a windy, steep road and walk to the entrance of the trail. I believe there is a fee to park on the road or in the parking lot. I don’t remember paying it but we also had a national park pass decal so that may have been why. We hiked from the parking lot to Eagle Falls Lake.

Warning: the bathroom facility in the parking lot is a hole in the ground. I opted not to try it. Despite the scary bathroom, my son said it was his favorite hike of the whole trip.

It takes about 1/2 mile to get to the cascading water itself. When you cross the bridge there are some stones to rest on, cool your feet off and take a freezing dip if you are so inclined. We rested for a minute or two and then headed on to the lake.

While we were hiking up a little chipmunk followed beside us on the rocks. I think it thought we had some food.

Pretending I had food in my hand. As you can see, it was not shy. It was however, cute as can be!

Clearly some people are feeding them. Please do not do this. Later we discovered some carry the plague.

This is posted at Emerald Lake Trail bathrooms. Oops.

This hike is beautiful. It was a little steep in places and some of the footing was tricky but overall it is a pretty moderate hike with water to play in and stunning scenery.

The lake itself is not for the faint at heart. It is FREEZING. And you guessed it, all of the people in it were from Northern Europe or Canada. Except for my son, the island water baby and my poor freezing soul.

Cold water shock is real so make sure you read up on it ahead of time and expect to burn twice as much energy swimming in freezing water. BUT the reflection of the mountain on the lake and the scenery will leaving you feeling #blessed and invigorated.

You get great high up views of Lake Tahoe and big boulders to warm up on after a freezing swim in the mountain lake. This trails is about 1.8 miles one way.

Our second night we checked in at Emerald Bay State Park. The campsite was very clean and there is a nice spot to hop into the lake, HOWEVER, you need coins, not quarters to use the showers. After our first fiasco at Patrick’s Point where we discovered we though needed quarters to use showers, we came prepared with at least $20 in quarters. And after a long day of hiking and swimming we were ready to shower up and headed to the showers with a bags of quarters only to discover you needed tokens to shower. It was dark when we went so if there was a machine outside to change quarters for tokens, we did not see it. And of course, because either we aren’t the only ones who didn’t know this or some people don’t want to pay, the one big sink outside the bathrooms was busy with people cleaning up. I guess at least they offered that big sink? The showers were not very close to our campsite but there was a small bathroom across our site with 1 stall for women and 1 for men. If you don’t like bugs, than don’t go in. That’s all I can say. Also, bears are a big deal here so make sure you don’t leave any food or “smellies” aka deodorized toiletries out or in your car. You need to use the bear-proof storage lockers provided at each site.

On day 2 we tried the Rubicon trail that starts inside the Emerald Bay State park (near the entrance/exit). It was an easy, hike down and back to the lake and Vikingsholm.

At the time, Vikingsholm was undergoing some reservations so we did not go inside and do the tour but there is a little guest shop and neat restroom (complete with stalls and toilets) nearby. The guest shop was able to tell us a little bit about the family that built and lived in Vikingsholm, which was informative and free.

Then we headed down to Kayak Tahoe https://www.kayaktahoe.com/index.htm. There is a line, or two lines, to rent kayaks so go early and be prepared to wait a little. I don’t believe we waited long because we opted for paddle boards instead of kayaks, which seemed more popular. They are very friendly and can take card payments. You get a few minutes instruction and life jackets.

Children are not allowed beyond a certain point and must share a paddle board with a parent or guardian so my partner and I took turns riding with my child so we could paddle out to the little island in the middle. If you haven’t guessed yet, the water is cold. If you have never tried paddle boarding, this is a calm, relaxing way to give it a go. There are boats on the water with you but we didn’t witness any speeding so balancing on the board was not hard, but you can also lower down and paddle on the bottom or knees. #kayaktahoe is open 10-5pm with the last rental going out at 4pm. It is $25/hour or $35/hour for 2 hours on a paddleboard. UPDATE: Please check their website before going as locations, hours and renting times are constantly changing due to COVID-19.

Raccoon? What do you think?

For more of the 10 day California road trip adventure continue onto the Yosemite post or day 7.

Reducing health disparities: critical preconception health now for better outcomes later.

We are in very stressful times. Whether it is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our national state and/or the continued racial crimes committed against African Americans, a lot of people are in a heightened state of stress and feel helpless to help themselves and others. Like many others, I want to see long term positive impact for the improvement of black people and minorities in this country. And it is hard to see that in this moment. So I am offering today what I can as a public health advocate to improve the health of black Americans, create health equity and reduce health disparities.

As important as it is to show the general public police brutality and demonstrate against racial inequality, I also see how it fuels health risks among African Americans. Not only are peaceful protesters, rioters and police increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19, they are creating bodily stress which can have long-term health impacts. Combined with a lifetime of systemic racism for black Americans, its a deadly combination. So in this moment, it is more important than ever that black Americans take care of their physical health.

Black Mothers in the US Are Dying at Alarming Rates

You may be hearing a lot about health disparities and health equity. Why is this? “According to the CDC, black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. In a national study of five medical complications that are common causes of maternal death and injury, black women were two to three times more likely to die than white women who had the same condition.”.

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/07/568948782/black-mothers-keep-dying-after-giving-birth-shalon-irvings-story-explains-why

And why is this? Systemic racism and discrimination can cause something known as the The Weathering Effect.

The Weathering Effect

https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/01/14/577664626/making-the-case-that-discrimination-is-bad-for-your-health

Arline Geronimus coined the term to mean a sense of erosion by constant stress- how health is affected by big and small stressors in their life.

Infant mortality rates among African American babies are twice as high as those of the general population.

https://unnaturalcauses.org/episode_descriptions.php?page=2

What can we do about it?

  • Health is determined by an interplay of:
    • Genetics
    • Behavior
    • Psychological factors
    • Social factors
    • Environmental factors

…across an individual’s lifespan. This is known as the Life Course Perspective. Already black women and their babies are at a disadvantage because of the weathering effect, social factors (racism/discrimination), and environmental factors.

  • Each life stage influences the next
    • Each life stage impacts the subsequent stages, an integrated continuum
      • (infant → adolescent → young adult → adulthood → senior)
  • Social, economic, and physical environments interacting across the life course have a profound impact on individual and community health.

Hence the need for preconception health.

What is Preconception Health?

Preconception care is a set of interventions that identify and modify biomedical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman’s health and future pregnancies. It includes both prevention and management, emphasizing health issues that require action before conception or very early in
pregnancy for maximal impact.

If you or your partner are planning on having a baby in the future, Preconception Care can have a beneficial psychological effects on performance in labor, for both mothers and fathers.

So what can you do right now as an African American to protect your health, the health of your loved ones and your future children?

REDUCE YOUR STRESS

There are so many resources online for free, guided meditations, yoga videos, etc. I personally follow Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and have subscribed to a free Fitbit premium membership, which last 2 months. Or you can choose to pick up a book with exercises. If you have an Alexa or a smart phone, you can ask Alexa or Siri to play relaxing music, guided meditation music, even yoga videos. Now more than ever, stress relieving help and guided healthy, nutritional plans are at your fingertips.

A copy of my preconception presentation is open to the public here

If you would like me to share this presentation with your community group or organization, please contact me. If you would like to become a Preconception Peer Educator yourself in your community, the Office of Minority Affairs has more information. If you are a university student and would like to teach other students about preconception health, please also reach out to your state Office of Minority Affairs or contact me as well. And of course, feel free to share this information. Information is power. Empower yourself and others to make positive impact now. Be well and stay safe.

What if a COVID-19 tracking app was as popular as Pokemon Go?

As a public health practitioner, contact tracing is a vital tool and measure used to track and contain the spread of COVID-19. A few countries are using tracking apps to help with contact tracing and slowing the spread of COVID-19. But even within those countries, more participation is needed in order for the apps to be most effective. Given participation is voluntary, how to you increase their popularity and usage?

In this article, “Contact tracing apps: a behavioural economist’s guide to improving uptakehttps://theconversation.com/contact-tracing-apps-a-behavioural-economists-guide-to-improving-uptake-137157 , Drs. John Hawkins and Ben Freyens, from the University of Canberra gives us a few “nudges” in the right direction.

Summed up, here are top tips for applying behavioural economics for uptake in contact app tracing, and my own tips using other behavioral science theory.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Top Social Marketing Nudges for Contact Tracing Apps

1. Repetition in Messaging. Repeat consistent messaging. Messages are reminders. Applying the Transtheoretical Model, if people have made a commitment (the Maintenance Stage), reminders are important to keeping commitments. “They” say it takes 30 days to form a habit. A one time decision doesn’t seal a long time behavior change.

By repeating messages, you are also reminding potential users in the “Preparation Stage” to try out the app and can motivate users in the “Contemplation Stage” to move into the Preparation stage.

2. The Messenger. Chose them wisely. They are vital. In order to build trust with users, you must have a trustworthy messenger.

3. Social Influence. Normative beliefs. Observational Learning. Communicate what people are doing and how they are doing it. It educates and informs while shaping the social norm. For increasing users on tracking apps, now would be a good time look at how the Diffusion of Innovation theory could increase new users. Tap into what “innovators” are saying and doing to generate new buzz around the product.

4. Incentivize. Insurance companies using tracking apps can offer discounts on insurance or products for amount of trips taken and distance traveled. I know if my health insurance company offered me a $5 monthly rebate to use an app, I would. What if we got a coupon or rebate for ordering groceries and local food take out online? Count me in! Already companies are wavering delivering fees and restaurants are offering special discounts for curbside pick up.

Singapore launches contact tracing mobile app to track coronavirus ...

If you are curious what COVID-19 tracing apps are available for you area, here is a list of a few I have found:

Australia – CovidSafe

Hong Kong- StayHomeSafe

Signapore – TraceTogether

Israel – Shield

Utah, US – Healthy Together- COVID-19

North Dakota and South Dakota, US – Care19

PrivateKit (MIT) – allows you to share your tracking if you would like, can you where ever you are.

Norway – Smittestop

UK (currently under trial in Isle of Wight) – NHS Covid-19

South Korea – Corona100m

Other articles related to contact tracing include:

Curbing Coronavirus With a Contact-Tracing App? It’s Not So Simple.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/curbing-coronavirus-with-a-contact-tracing-app-its-not-so-simple-11588996809

How Europe splintered over contact tracing apps

https://www.ft.com/content/7416269b-0477-4a29-815d-7e4ee8100c10

Tech expert warns government shouldn’t rely on untested apps for contact tracing

https://wjla.com/news/spotlight-on-america/tech-expert-warns-government-shouldnt-rely-on-untested-apps-for-contact-tracing

Health Officials Say ‘No Thanks’ to Contact-Tracing Tech

https://www.wired.com/story/health-officials-no-thanks-contact-tracing-tech/

Happy Tracing!

Using Company Clout To Drive Social Change

Recently I read a great article, “Marketing Meets Mission” https://hbr.org/2020/05/marketing-meets-mission on how companies, such as Carling Black Label Beer, are using their brand to help promote social change. Written by Myriam Sidibe for the Harvard Business Review, she explains how marketing can be used to change social norms and adopt positive new behaviors, such as handwashing. This growing corporate trend generates “shared value” or when companies build economic value in ways that promote social good. Creating social impact does not just equate with brand awareness and profit, but it can “energize employees”, promote positive social norms, and improve social, environmental and physical well being. Take a look at the article to see some great examples from companies doing great social good, and how other companies can incorporate the “purpose tree” to create “brand advocacy”.

I will definitely be picking up a copy of Myriam Sidibe’s new book, “Brands on a Mission: How to Achieve Social Impact and Business Growth Through Purpose” https://www.amazon.com/Brands-Mission-Myriam-Sidibe/dp/0367428334

Public health social marketing in action during COVID-19

If you haven’t discovered it already, the use of social marketing for behavior change is kinda my public health bag, baby.

So right now during this pandemic my big, beautiful brain is working over time, watching, observing and creating my own social marketing public health response to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

In this post, I am having a sort of brain dump of observational what’s working and what can be improved upon. I love to see social marketing used effectively in action. For public health practitioners, this is a very informative time. Here are some of my initial thoughts.

Dr. Fauci is a messenger. My perception is that people stop and listen to what he is saying, and feel more comfortable following his directives, than say, President Trump? When the two don’t see eye to eye in a press conference, I am going to go out on a limb here and say Americans feel Dr. Fauci is the more transparent, knowledgeable and respected expert related to COVID-19. Which brings me to point #1. A messenger is a highly effective tool to change health behaviors.

Denise Irene on Twitter: "Dr. Fauci is the real spice of ...

On the other hand, we have another messenger who probably didn’t mean to make such a personal impact on social distancing behaviour in his own country but he did.

Internet users share hilarious memes as Boris Johnson tests ...

Making it social. In my opinion, the media has done a very good job in making #selfisolation and #stayathome messaging a positive and collective social norm. They have used the power of networks and social media to frame social distancing in a positive light, encourage good behavior, encourage commitments and build altruism. The One World: Together at Home concert is a great example of this. Not every day, you get a free concert in your living room, with famous musicians, comedians and performers, all promoting the same messages and supporting each other in a new behavior. Here are some popular COVID-19 hashtags (#’s): #COVID19; #socialdistancing; #coronavirus; #ShelterInPlace; #FlattenTheCurve; #StayAtHomeChallenge; #ViewFromMyWindow; #TogetherAtHome #MyPandemicSurvivalPlan; #QuarantineAndChill; #HealthyAtHome

Defaults and cues. Even though some have been slow on the uptake, most urban grocery stores have jumped on board with creating defaults and cues on how to social distance. For example, employees are wiping down carts, check out lines are taped off at every 6ft. and aisles have directional arrows. Cruises were doing in even better job of this before the pandemic became one. Royal Caribbean had hand washing stations before each dining area. They added guitarists and singers at each entrance to basically force passengers into washing their hands (do you really want to be called out for not washing your hands before dinner?). Upon exiting and entering the ship, you had to have your hands squirted with hand sanitizer by a cruise member. Not getting past them in a single file line. These defaults also helped define social distancing as a norm. It’s hard to not practice something when everyone else is without being embarrassed and socially shamed.

Grocery stores start to enforce social distancing, partner with ...

Making it easy. A lot of public health messaging for COVID-19 has been broken down into simple, easy actions. One of my favorites is how to grocery shop safely. Everyone still needs to eat and everyone is still using this essential service so creating a clear, step-by-step guide on how to grocery shop is vital for pandemic control and should be a top priority for health communicators. This leads me to another point on making it timely. (See “Not Ideal” #3 below.)

Social distancing key to slowing spread of coronavirus | News ...
Joint Statement on Keeping Parks, Trails and Open Spaces ...

The challenges. Making it attractive. Humor, storytelling, images, music, and dancing make social distancing and self-isolating attractive, fun and social. They are great prompts and effective “openings” to public health issues that are immediate and chronic, from pandemic mental health to trying healthy cooking recipes, a new exercise routine or simply, enjoying quality time for your loved ones. #healthyathome #getmoving

Even when our governments weren’t responding quickly (or accurately), public health did a good job making COVID-19 salient. Information was going out to people on what is was and what to do. Most people were jumping on board even when they were not directly targeted, i.e. not immune-compromised or not 65+.

If you don't laugh, you cry: Coping with virus through humor | KMPH

Not Ideal-The Lessons We Are Learning.

Media blowing up the protests. The number of people who are protesting vs. the number of people who are adhering to public health measures are not comparable. Drawing attention to the number of non-compliance protesters does not help create a social norm of social distancing in a pandemic.

Social distancing vs. physical distancing. First, one can be social and still physically distant. With self-isolating comes increased mental and emotional health risks. It is confusing to raise the importance of maintaining social contact through web chats, Zoom, Facetime, etc. while at the same time using words like social distancing. Second, you are asking people to physically distance themselves, specifically 6 feet of distance between you and another person. If you could only impart one step that a person should take with words, you want to make sure that the word you use is the most effective in communicating what you want. In this case, actual physical distancing of 6 feet. One hashtag that has not taken off the ground on twitter but conveys physical distance is #healthyspacing but the best one would be #physicaldistancing .

Timeliness. As much as I appreciate the step-by-step guide on safely grocery shopping, the messaging did not come out until people asked how to grocery shop safely. It took governments a little too long to jump on the pandemic board. Thankfully, corporations took it upon themselves to create their own pandemic measures.

The timeliness of social distancing measures, monitoring, feedback, and evaluation could have been improved with Cooperation and Collaboration across multiple sectors. A lot of creative ideas have come out of the business sector, but unfortunately, these weren’t public health nudges, and we can learn a lot from others ingenuity. And local governments are doing a lot of mind changing it seems. People are looking for ways to cope. We need to identify touch points and capitalize on prompting people when they are actively looking for information. As different organizations, governments and corporations are navigating this pandemic, we need to share information and ideas.

The #safehandschallenge or #handwashingchallenge. I don’t like “The Happy Birthday Song” method and messaging. I like my own one better. It is not only attractive (b/c of its use of music, not me) but because I give steps on HOW TO EFFECTIVELY WASH YOUR HANDS. Especially with children, it’s important not to just teach them to wash their hands, but how to do it. And the steps are right there in the lyrics.

We failed in targeting specific audiences. All social marketers should know that one size does not fit all. Early messaging was targeted to the most vulnerable populations but we failed to identify audiences that were the least likely to adopt behaviour change. We must use behaviour change theories in order to create effective social marketing campaigns. Using the innovative adoptive curve for example, we would have seen that immunocompromised individuals and their families would be early adopters, the 65+ population would be the early majority. For a pandemic with such high viral loads, shedding efficiency, and incubation period, health communication should not have stopped there but continued to identify measures and build a campaign to target the late majority and the laggards. I can think of one target audience here in Florida, the spring breakers on the beach. And now with the growing politicization of the pandemic, the conservative right-wing protestors.

Public health is prevention. We need to plan. Prepare. Prevent. Not react. We cannot effectively treat without prevention. We need local governments to think and apply the social determinants of health in a systematic way before a problem occurs. Healthy equity and access to services should be embedded into planning, not just a reaction. Which leads me to another connection. People are searching for information from multiples resources. A person may be looking on how to use public transportation during this crises. Another may be looking for a cycling route with closed parks. By applying a social determinants of health framework, changes can occur simultaneously and in conjunction with each other. Teamwork makes the dream work. Hopefully individuals, practitioners, organizations, businesses and governments are all learning from this pandemic and will use this experience to improve. Health communicators especially can use this pandemic as an “opening” for behaviour change beyond #handwashing and #COVID-19.

Let me hear your thoughts! Please comment below with any other behaviour change or social marketing observations and ideas from this pandemic, or previous research that can help going forward! Looking forward to learning more and applying lessons learned to creating an effective social marketing campaign!

“Should I Share My Ice Cream?” by Mo Willems Storytime.

Animated, acting and movement really bring children book characters to life. My favorite children’s author is Mo Willems. And my favorite series of books by him are Piggy and Elephant. Getting to know their friendship has helped me shape their personalities in my head, as well as the lessons they themselves are learning. When voicing over for a children’s book, it’s important to understand the emotional intelligence and physical development of a child reader or listener. It’s also important to look for the lessons the stories are teaching, especially in children’s fiction, as the story characters are teaching little listeners noble and helpful character traits and values.

I hope you enjoy my voicing of this story and please feel free to share, especially to your little one.

You can buy the book here online.

The Right Way To Pass Pedestrians

Here is another blog article I ran across on how to pass pedestrians while walking, running or cycling outside. It’s always good to get other people’s opinions and ideas, as well as the science behind it.

Since I shared my blog post on How To Social Distance While Outside https://tigerlillymama.com/2020/03/25/social-distancing-while-outside/ I have drawn some conclusions that I hope readers might find helpful.

10 “RULES OF THE CORONA ROAD” and tips for safely exercising outside while practicing social distancing.

  • “Imagine a person laying down across the street the sidewalk”. If you saw someone laying horizontally across the sidewalk or road, more than likely you would move around them or make an effort not to touch them.
  • Choose a less trafficked time. Personally, right after work hours (5-7pm for me) is a nightmare. So many people. And so many groups of people. I now run in the mornings.
  • #besafebesmartbekind Not only will you demonstrate good behaviour by moving over, if you smile while you do it, you will help others positively associate with this action, as well as make them feel better.
  • Remember, pedestrians (someone on foot) have the right-of-way on a sidewalk. When we ride bikes, we use the sidewalk because it is so dangerous to use the roads here but we still move over for pedestrians. Cyclist should move around a pedestrian(s) on their left side. Pedestrians if you see or hear a cyclist coming at you, or from behind. Stay to the right.
  • Not exercising alone?- Switch to single file. Just like in elementary school.
  • Walk on the grass. “Grass is not hot lava”. Most sidewalks are not wide enough for someone to safely pass you without someone moving onto the grass and dirt.
  • Give way to people with strollers, walkers and wheelchairs.
  • Imagine everyone is smoking and you are trying to get around the smoke;
  • If a child or children are alone- walk, run or cycle 6 feet around them. You are setting a good example, helping them feel more safe, and children don’t always act like the mature adult that you are showing them to be.
  • And finally, you can always wear a t-shirt like mine or run with a 6 foot pole, lightsaber or cat toy 🙂

Social distancing while outside

How to protect yourself and others while walking, running and cycling outside.

I have been “exercising” social distancing, stay-at-home, and shelter-in-place behavior for the past week now. I am working from home while my child plays and learns online like hopefully, most Americans who are able, are also doing. Now I do go outside as a daily runner and dog owner, and also so my child and I can get some much needed exercise and stress relief. Before we started to go off, I told my son that if he sees another person on the sidewalk to ride around them in the grass so we can maintain at minimum a 6ft distance between us and others.

Image result for social distancing memes

Now at the beginning of our daily lunch break bike rides, my son was practically falling off his bike while trying to ride around each person he saw. We came across a lot of families and friends walking side-by-side and in small groups on the sidewalks, Mom’s and Dad’s with strollers, couples with multiple dogs, etc. and none of them were moving over, moving aside, or moving into the grass. When we moved over there were a lot of looks of surprise, which got me thinking. Do people not believe in social distancing? Do people know what social distancing entails? Are people wondering who should move over? Do I move over too? Do they know social distancing means 6 feet? Do they know what 6 feet is? One thing I do know, my running shoes were soaking wet!

Image result for social distancing memes
I keep people at least 3 feet away by not shaving my legs 🙂 It works!

So I decided take this observation of sidewalk etiquette in the new era of social distancing to the internet and more specifically, to my community on NextDoor. This is what I posted:

May I respectfully request that if you are walking, running and cycling on the sidewalk that you please make an effort to move away from others who are passing you. I have been walking, running and cycling every day since this outbreak hit Florida and I am practicing social distancing and working from home, as a socially conscientious citizen and neighbor. Every time I see someone approaching me or my child, we both make every effort to move 6 feet away. Unfortunately, we have only been given the same due respect a couple of times. Like the beaches, if we cannot abide the recommendations, we will lose the privilege of being able to go outside. If you don’t believe in the current pandemic and social distancing, than please respect the people who do. Speaking my truth with love. Thank you”.

And the responses have really gotten me thinking….

“This needs to happen in grocery store lines”. (People aren’t social distancing in grocery stores either. Grocery stories aren’t communicating to customers or organizing how to social distance in our local grocery stores).

“I walk everyday since I stopped going to the gym and given that the width of the sidewalk is less than 6ft, it would be impossible to do so without one or both getting on to the lawn. But I do walk as far to the right of the sidewalk that I can without getting on the lawn”. (Some people don’t want or think they can walk on grass?)

More people than ever are outside exercising because their gyms and pools are closed.

Image result for social distancing memes

“Speaking for myself I’m more than happy for anyone to walk on my lawn if it helps them maintain that distance from someone else walking past!” (This person outweighs the the benefit of social distancing with the cost of trampled grass.)

Image result for social distancing memes

I run daily with my dog and if I see anyone come near us I make it a point to run on the lawn.. not sure why it’s difficult for some? It’s grass… it won’t bite.”

My response- “Me too. I will add, people please pick up your dog poop. Now that I am running and riding more in the grass, it is harder to avoid!”

Stepping in dog poop is a barrier to social distancing and social distancing increases the probability of stepping in dog poo 😦

April Ingram that is really important since more people are outdoors now.. thanks p For pointing that out”. (The majority of comments were polite and people were appreciative of my request and bringing up the issue).

Which brings me to my conclusion, this is new territory. We as a community, as neighbors, as people, don’t know what to do EXACTLY. We don’t know what the rules of etiquette or engagement are for social distancing on sidewalks and outside and we need some help if we want people to social distance.

So here are my suggestions from my community…

“yes I agree and they also have the other side of the street’s side walk. It’s not like it’s that packed most of the time. However it seems like I’m the only one volleying from side to side. Also you can still say hello to neighbors instead of looking away (kinda creepy/apocalyptic to me). People can be very weird during times like this but I think we just need to practice common courtesy, common sense and common kindness. Be well.”

“I like to walk in the evening, so here are my general rules of (dis)engagement: If I see people walking dogs or pushing baby carriages, I move off the sidewalk into the street until I go past them. It is easier and safer for me to do this than for them to do so. If I am walking with a friend and people are approaching us on the sidewalk, we line up single file on the very right side of the sidewalk so we can move past quickly without touching each other. What is frustrating is when others do not line up single file but rather continue walking abreast so that we all have to crowd past each other or trample people’s lawns. I have even seen groups of people just congregating on the sidewalks with their dogs and baby carriages, chatting away so that other walkers are forced to make a wide berth around them, going into streets or onto lawns. We need to all be considerate of others and not expect others to always move out of our way.”

Two keys points here I agree with: groups walking together should line up single file behind each other; and move to the right. I cannot emphasize moving to the right enough. Just like when you are cycling and trying to pass someone from behind, you always announce politely, “On your left”. Or if you are walking, running and cycling, keeping to the right so others can pass you.

Here are some of my “rules of social distancing” that I completely created in my head but that I accept as common courtesy:

  1. If I see someone or people who look elderly or has a physical impairment, I move off the sidewalk when passing them;

2. If I see someone with a stroller than I move off the sidewalk;

3. If I see kids by themselves, I move off the sidewalk and away from them. I think every parent or guardian can appreciate this. It cannot be assumed that kids are mature enough to know how to safely and politely move away 6 feet from someone;

4. Who am I kidding, I move off the sidewalk for everyone.

UPDATE: Since I posted on NextDoor I have noticed people moving off the sidewalk for me too 🙂 Yeah! This may be from leading by example. Another way to guarantee some ongoing compliance? Say, “THANK YOU!” and smile.

I’d love to read your comments about unspoken rules of sidewalk engagement and social distancing outside! Please comment below and let me know what you are doing and what you would like to see done when you or your family members are outside walking, running and cycling on sidewalks.

Finally for all my public health practitioners out there, I saw this today in regards to health communications. “Social distancing” is a new term to the majority of people. Most people don’t know what it entails. As health communicators, we need to help define what it means and communicate in messages that give people clear, known, specific, doable and concrete behaviors and actions. This is our challenge. I feel a social marketing project coming on….

Thank you for reading!

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Local, National and World Information Resources

Resources for information in Tampa

https://www.tampagov.net/emergency-management/covid-19

If you are in Tampa, you can sign up for City and Hillsborough County updates via text message:

Text TAMPAREADY to 888-777 for updates.
Envia TAMPALISTA al 888-777 para espanol

Resources for information in Florida

Florida residents can call the following line in Florida for more information, as well as where you can get tested, and what to do if you suspect you may have the virus.

Call 1(866) 779-6121 for the COVID-19 Call Center

If you suspect you have the virus, DO NOT GO DIRECTLY TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM. Please call the number above h and they will tell you what to do and/or where to go.

You can email your questions to:

COVID-19@flhealth.gov

Resources for US and Global Citizens

I use the following references for reliable, accurate and up-to-date info:

1. John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health podcast Public Health on Call https://open.spotify.com/show/0ipz4Jv2D7utXXzaQ7wKzU?si=1QaAR5uxT12qyYE51ojMnA ;

2. The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health website https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/ (though I noticed their interactive map was not up-to-date for certain countries)- You can get DAILY Situation Reports from the Center of Health Security. Also, this page – https://www.globalhealthnow.org/topics/coronaviruses

3. World Health Organization https://www.who.int/

Their interactive dashboard is located here https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/685d0ace521648f8a5beeeee1b9125cd

The situational reports are located here https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports

4. The Center for Disease Control (CDC). Here is their situation summary which is updated daily https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html and here is their testing sites page https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/testing-in-us.html

A friendly reminder that the coronavirus is dangerous for everyone, not just individuals over 70. Please do your part by social distancing.

Image may contain: one or more people and text

Thank you!

Florida HB1371 SB1000

“Turn the Flashing Yellow Crosswalks Red”

https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2020/01/14/turn-flashing-yellow-crosswalks-red-bill-filed-florida-rep-fine/4461358002/

This bill eliminates the ability to place Rectangular Rapid Flashing Light Beacons (RRFBs) on roads with more than 2 lanes. If the existing RRFBs are currently located on roads with more than 2 lanes, the RRFBs must be removed. If the RRFBs cannot be retrofitted with red lights, they must also be removed. https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/1371/BillText/c3/PDF

“Sophia Nelson Pedestrian Safety Act”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8052093/Florida-driver-83-killed-12-year-old-girl-crosswalk-crash-given-just-169-fine.html

Senate bill 1000 does not turn yellow flashing lights into red flashing lights https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/1000/BillText/er/HTML. It removes the flashing yellow lights (Rectangular Rapid Flashing Light Beacons) all together. It removes all mid-block crosswalks (or cross walks not at an intersection with controlled traffic signals). The idea behind this being is that it invites pedestrians to walk in crosswalks, where they might get hit by drivers who fail to stop for them (against the law), as oppose to not walking in a crosswalk, walking a longer distance to get to a crosswalk at an intersection with controlled traffic signals, or not walking at all. The problem here isn’t the pedestrian. The problem here isn’t the design. The problem here is the driver.

https://www.mom4safety.com/post/origin-of-florida-house-bill-to-remove-midblock-crosswalks

The legislation would require one or more newly installed RRFBs on Bayshore Avenue that now protect against crashes that killed Jessica and Lillia to be removed.

A driver who is distracted, unaware of the law, intoxicated, speeding or other will fail to stop for a pedestrian or stop in time regardless of whether a  crosswalk is mid-block or at an intersection, and whether Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) are present. So does this mean we should take them down? No.

People are begging for more crosswalks and RRFBs across the state to make drivers more conscientious of pedestrians. The state is currently unable to meet the demand for the need. How are communities able to afford removing crosswalks and installing crosswalks with controlled traffic signal devices when they are struggling to get sidewalks, crosswalks and RRFBs as it is? By removing what crosswalks and rapid flashing beacons that are currently in place, we are exacerbating the issue of pedestrian safety, by enabling drivers to increase their speed and reduce barriers to speeding, such as crosswalks. RRFBs are effective in alerting drivers who are safely driving of an upcoming crosswalk and pedestrian entering a crosswalk.

Finally, removing crosswalks will disproportionately affect urban communities of concern, creating health and safety inequities. I encourage you to instead prioritize effective systems and tools such as the ones outlined in Vision Zero. Tools which make pedestrians more safe include: painted corner crosswalk extensions, protected bike lanes, public transportation investment, reducing speed, driver education, automated speed enforcement, law enforcement, designing complete streets, and educational programming. Not removing the few scientifically proven resources we have at our disposal. RRFBs are highly effective (98%) and affordable. Please let your Florida Senator know you are opposed to these bills.

Senators in the FL Infrastructure and Security Committee

If pedestrian safety is important to you, let Rep. Jackie Toldeo and Sen. Janet Cruz know you oppose this dangerous legislation. Contact Rep. Jackie.Toledo@myfloridahouse.gov, (850) 717-5060 and tell her to oppose HB 1371. Contact Sen. Janet.cruz@myfloridahouse.gov, (850) 487-5018 and tell her to oppose SB 1000.

10 Day California road trip cont…Lassen Volcanic National Park!

More and more people are heading out to explore America’s national parks because of being cooped up in the house with the COVID-19 pandemic, to reduce their exposure by being outside, to avoid crowds and tight spaces while traveling, and for a new found appreciation of the ability to explore! If any of these reasons sounds like a driver for your trip, you are in the right place! Road tripping is one of the more economical and COVID-19 safe ways to travel, but I have noticed in the past year, its also getting harder. I am picking up where I left off on the 10 Day California road trip with Lassen Volcanic park. North of Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, it is less visited but still amazing. We actually visited Lassen before South Lake Tahoe on our way south of the east side of California. Keep reading to see our budget friendly and not so early planning of trip of Yosemite, and more!

Day 4 (24th July): Drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park (4-5 hours from Eureka).

We traveled through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (route 299) and stopped along the road for a stretch and breathtaking views of the river. Shasta is a beautiful area, that in parts, has been badly damaged by fires. Be sure to stop to appreciate the beautiful river and the large pine cones. A great way to stretch the legs. In general, I want to spend more time in northern California, and next time Mt. Shasta and Burney Falls will be on the must-do list, with more time in Lassen.

I should mention that if you are camping like we did, there is a big Walmart along the way to load up on supplies and food. Warning- this is serious outdoors. Once you get near and into the major national parks, clothing, grocery, and supply stores are few or non-existent. And what you do find can be expensive. Speaking of expensive. Gasoline in California. If you are not from CA, you need to create a separate budget for gas and double whatever you normally pay for petrol.

Somewhere along Rte. 299.
King Creek Falls Trail

Upon driving into Lassen Volcanic Park a bald Eagle flew right in front of us. It was majestic and the perfect beginning to an amazing American treasure. We headed in from the Manzanita Entrance and drove south before reaching our first and only “substantial” hike in Lassen- the King Creek Falls trail. There are 5 main areas of Lassen with levels of difficulty ranging from 1-4, so plenty to do and see, and something for everyone. We stuck to the Southwest area as we drove south out of the park for South Lake Tahoe.

Perfection.

Somewhere on the King Creek Falls trail we missed the path to the falls and ended up by ourselves high up in the mountains. Not that I am complaining. Fairly early on in the trail, I found one of my top 3 spots of our ten day trip. It was a valley with a small creek. It was beautiful and serene. Maybe 2 or 3 people when we came upon it and no one there upon our return. At least no person. There was a humongous, grizzly bear drinking from the creek bed. When we saw him or her, we were high up, so we could view the bear quietly from a safe spot. Make no doubt about it thought, there are bears! And you do not want to be near one. Stay away from the bears. You are not supposed to, but definitely do NOT take your dog on a trail.

I spy with my big brown eyes a big, brown bear! Do you?
Zooming In. Notice I didn’t say a closer view.

One exceptional reason to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park over Yosemite (if you have to choose), is the thermal activity. Now we have spent a lot of time in New Zealand visiting thermal parks (top choice is Wai-O-Tapu) so seeing bubbling mud pots and steam vents was not a top priority, however, if you have not had to the chance to see something like this before, then you need to check out this park. Lassen is unique in that you get all 4 types of volcanos- a shield, composite, cinder cone, and a plug dome. Lassen Peak is itself a plug dome. If you haven’t caught on, Lassen is a great park to learn and teach a lot about landscapes, geo-thermal activity and diverse ecosystems. I am sure you are all also wondering right now, are these volcanos about to blow? The last explosion was in 1921. No one knows for sure when the next big one will hit, but science has paved the way for a more ample warning system. You might also be wondering if its dangerous? No doubt about it, if you stray, jump or fall off a boardwalk or trail, you may end up severely injured or killed by boiling acidic water. Like I said with the Grand Canyon, do not take your child if they are unruly and undisciplined. If they are a kid that tries to run away from you in a parking lot, darting in front of vehicles, this is a no go.

If you are a geothermal junkie, then you need to check out Bumpass Hell Trail.

One thing my son who has spent most of his childhood in Florida appreciated, was the snow! Patches of ice and snow were still to be found even in July, though you could comfortably hike in shorts and a t-shirt.

Lake Helen-named after the first white woman to make the summit at Lassen (I am guessing as oppose to Native American, American Indian or Indigenous native), has beautiful blue and aqua colors. Apparently it gets is color from a mineral but I can’t seem to find out which one. If I had to guess- limestone? Points to whomever can tell me which mineral and the history behind the name.

The drive from Lassen to South Lake Tahoe was 3 hours. However, it felt longer. And was pitch black as we entered into the winding entrance of South Lake Tahoe. Next time we camp and explore more.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and learned a little more about different options in California and Lassen Volcanic Park. Please feel free to leave your comments, especially with insider tips for our next trip here. Thank you! Coming up next…Yosemite!

Camping at Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo

So this isn’t my normal type of camping. When I camp, in Florida especially, it usually involves a spring, a tent, a campfire, etc. in a state or national park. This was a little something “extra”. My camping buddy asked me if I wanted to try @westgateranch in Lake Wales, Florida. I checked out the website and discovered here was where one goes “glamping”. Y’all they got fancy teepees and double wide wagons to rent. Not such a fancy pants, I wasn’t sure it was my thing but then I checked out the activities and decided to give it a whirl. Glad I did!

Things to Note

The tent on the platform option does not seem any better than bringing your own tent. The tent size was not bigger than mine. If you really want electricity than this is an option. The water pump at the site was at the entrance so everybody could use, whether you brought your own tent or rented one of theirs. And let’s be honest, the party was in the open field. So many kids running around, riding their bikes, making friends, climbing trees. This is what it’s all about!

Try to camp during the week. We got there on on Thursday and the field where we could choose a spot was wide open and we found a beautiful location right under a perfect climbing tree. There are no designated camping spots so you can pick wherever you want in the field, but this also means people can camp as close to you as they want or can. On Friday night, the field was a totally different place! It was packed!! If you get there early, you can grab a spot with a picnic table.

There were spots to build a campfire. When I read the camp site description, it did not say there was a fire pit but we found one. It also did not say we couldn’t bring in our own firewood. We ended up purchasing their firewood because we didn’t think it was an option but if we do it again, we will bring in our own. There firewood bushels were around $10. That’s a lot in my opinion.

The lines are long. The wait is long. I don’t know if they have cut their staff in half because of COVID-19 but the wait to check in took forever. Then we had to wait longer so someone in a golf cart could escort us to a giant field. Big waste of time. The line/wait at the General Store was long. One person on the cash register, and they were also taking food orders. I understand you want to distance people and space them out at check in but it beats the purpose if they are standing in line for long periods of time. Especially if people aren’t wearing a mask (no surprise here but not everyone (guests) wore a mask.

Be at each activity you sign up for at least 15 minutes in advance. They make you check in (and there are lines again).

Bring your own soap for the bathrooms. The bathroom near the campsite (also beside the general store and skeet and shoot range) were almost always out of soap. Thankfully, someone always left some soap behind. Thank goodness. You would think that during a pandemic this would be top priority but I guess not.

The rodeo starts at 7:30pm on Saturday’s only. They say be there at 6:30pm. We purchased tickets in advance and found seats easily once we got in but again, we had to stand in line for 30 minutes until the gate opened and it was packed. Buy your tickets in advance, but don’t necessarily feel like you need to be there at 6:30pm, unless you like standing in lines, during a pandemic, around people with no mask. I will note, one of the doorman walked around and asked people to put there masks back on. This made me happy. I also noticed that people brought in there own food and drinks, FYI.

Everything cost money. And it cost a lot. Book everything in advance. We couldn’t purchase rodeo tickets until we checked in but for everything else, book online and book early.

Things We Did

The Rodeo! What can I say. I had fun! It’s very all American so if you have friends who aren’t American and want to show them a very American tourist show. It’s great. There is just something majestic about the horses galloping at a fast speed with riders bumping up and down. I don’t know if it’s because I am Taurus but I love counting the seconds riders can hang on until a bull bucks em off! It was good clean fun, music bumping to put you in the mood, and some friendly competition between riders. I have been to other rodeos and in the past I have felt uncomfortable at the way calves were handled but not at this place. The price for an adult was $25.01 with tax. Kids were $15.00 (5-12).

Airboat Ride.

Adults 13+ were $30.00. Kids (2-12) were $20. I did an airboat ride in the Everglades and this one was better. We didn’t see a lot of critters but in my experience you don’t because you are going so fast. Our driver took us up close to an area with baby gators and we got stuck. I have to say it was a lot of fun and a mini adventure because a pontoon boat had to come and pull us out. We loved it. And it gave our driver an opportunity to tell us about the waterways and the abundance of gators!

The Petting Zoo.

It was cute. There was not a lot of animals but there were some and it was nice. If you want to feed the animals, have quarters only for the bubble gum style food dispenser. The had baby kangaroos. My son said maybe they are rescues. Hmmm. I’m not a big fan of that. And I don’t need to see kangaroos at a farm in America.

How cute are these calf’s teeth?

Horseback Riding.

It was $48.15 with tax/per person for an adult and a 12 year to ride. It was nice. Wear sunblock while you wait for everyone to get saddled up. If they don’t offer, ask about getting a helmet. They had younger people running the counter and to me, this seems obvious for inexperienced riders but I guess I am biased as public health practitioner. I did see a horse decide to lay down mid trail with a woman still on. She was okay but here leg was a little trapped there for a bit. Kinda pricey for the ride but hey, it’s not something you get to do every day.

Meet Katie.

Swamp Buggy Rides

Adults 13+ were $30.00. Kids (2-12) were $20. So much fun. Cold! But fun. It wasn’t very swampy but it’s been dry lately. We went through some pretty big puddles and met some cows along the unbeaten patch. See video below. You might want to mute me gushing over the cows and calves running.

We loved it.

The Pool.

There is a pool and a hot tub. The pool was heated. The hot tub was hot. I read about there being a pool in the resort but it was not marked on the map or listed as an amenity in the flyer they gave me. But we found it behind the apartment or hotel looking rooms. It’s not a fancy pool but it does the trick. I was just so happy it was warm and towels were provided.

The Archery.

$10/per person. It was good way to practice your skills and kill some time. No instruction or instructors so maybe watch a YouTube Video beforehand it you didn’t go to 4H camp as a kid. I don’t think I saw mini or small bows for little ones but I could be wrong about that.

Things we didn’t do.

Rent a golf cart.

Visit the saloon.

Participate in the Adventure Center. Each activity in the Adventure Center cost money. For example, the Mechanical Bull costs $9/per person. But we didn’t go because of the money, It was because the kids just got too busy running around or riding their bikes and making friends. Also, the adventure Center didn’t open until 4pm. I wanted to play putt putt but we just didn’t get to it.

The Drive In Movie. Alert. It’s only for people in golf carts. The parking lot for the drive in only allows for golf carts. They don’t mention this. Bit disappointing. The Drive In Movie is free and on Friday nights.

Craft Shack. Or whatever it was called. It was closed.

Skeet and Shoot. Seemed hard and it was expensive. The age minimum is 13 so we missed it. Give it a go if you want to though.

We definitely had fun. I wouldn’t say it was the safest for a COVID-19 free get-away despite being outdoors, but it was close. We would do it again and I don’t think you need to have the glamping experience to get the best out of it. Matter of fact, you might have more fun amongst the tent campers. But definitely have some cash put aside for all the activities. Happy Camping!

Florida Department of Transportation Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Survey

The Florida DOT is conducting a safety survey related to Pedestrian and Bicycle activity.  We are assisting FDOT by sharing this information as widely as possible.  Please take a few minutes, if possible, to participate in the survey.  The survey is 25 questions long and parts of it will test you about your knowledge of traffic laws, it will not reveal to you if you answered correctly or not though.  The purpose is to determine how well the public knows the traffic safety laws.  The survey is anonymous.

Here is a link to the survey: 

Respectfully,

Sergio Gomez

Secretary

MC Squared, Inc.

5808-A Breckenridge Parkway

Tampa, Florida 33610

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