Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Leadership – A Memorial Day Meditation

This is today’s Forward Day by Day reading, and I think it is perfect for Memorial Day, a day in which we celebrate those who fought and gave their lives that we might live free:

MONDAY, May 26    Rogation Day

Matthew 13:14. You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive.

The daughter of the young clergyman looked and she did perceive.

She had taken a bus trip with her father to their home country so she could obtain an identification card at the age of eighteen. Before the bus left, the driver asked if someone would pray for a safe journey. Her father walked to the front of the bus and led the passengers in prayer. Later, at a rest stop, the priest noticed some trash littering the area. After other passengers walked past heedlessly, he scooped it up and put it in a trash bin. 

The acts seemed minor, and he thought no more about them. But later, his daughter asked him to read her homework—a profile of a leader. He did and was humbled and amazed. 

The profile was about him. Citing those two examples and others, the daughter described how his behavior reflected his values. She wrote, “Leadership is not a title, but it is about the way you live your life.”

She had done much more than see her father’s actions. She had perceived their meaning and importance in the context of their faith.



May 26, 2014 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Environment, Faith, Hygiene, Interconnected, Leadership, Lectionary Readings | Leave a comment

Clean House = Better Physical and Mental Health

Time for some pre-Christmas cleaning 🙂  This from AOL/Huffpost:


A clean house isn’t just “nice to have,” it’s actually a necessity for good mental and physical health. According to a study published in Time, the Indiana University department of Physical Activity, led by associate professor Nicole Keith, discovered a correlation between clean houses and healthy people.

Researchers tracked the physical health of 998 African Americans between the ages of 49 and 65 — a demographic with a high-risk for heart disease – by comparing their levels of physical activity with the cleanliness of their homes. Those people with the cleanest homes were also the healthiest and most active, according to the study results. In fact, the findings also suggested that encouraging people to maintain their home’s cleanliness may be even more important to their overall health than the walkability of the neighborhood they live in.

“At the end of the day, the interior condition of their house seemed to be the only thing affecting their physical activity,” said Keith. “It was not at all what we expected.”

It’s clear by Keith’s statement that their discovery surprised even the researchers, but are these findings really so shocking? Florence Nightingale, a pioneer of modern nursing, famously quoted, “The connection between health and the dwelling of the population is one of the most important that exists.”

Even the Environmental Protection Agency admits that indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the outdoors. If the average person spends up to 90 percent of their time indoors, we are breathing in dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mold, bug skeletons, and toxins from such innocuous sources as conventional cleaning products and even chemicals emitted from our own clothing and bedding. These toxins manifest themselves as symptoms most people attribute to allergies such as itchy eyes, runny nose, and wheezing, but which should actually be blamed on an unclean house.

And the germy culprits aren’t always where you think they are. Elizabeth Scott, PhD, co-director of the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community at Simmons College in Boston, found staphylococcus bacteria, a common cause of serious skin infections, in 26 percent of the tubs she tested, compared with just 6 percent of garbage cans.

Yes, these statistics provide scientific proof that the mental and health benefits of a clean environment are very real; but, we also look to the renewed energy and happiness our clients describe to us after one of our visits. When we hear our clients use words such as “therapeutic,” “relaxing,” and “motivating” to describe their newly cleaned homes and offices we are reminded that a clean home is truly the embodiment of the science and soul holistic cleaning philosophy we maintain at GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning.

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Family Issues, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions | 1 Comment

Hilarious Ad

Thank you, Hayfa, I am still laughing!

March 16, 2013 Posted by | Humor, Hygiene, Technical Issue | 2 Comments

Donna Leon and Beastly Things Made Me Cry

I can always count on Donna Leon. She gives me a good read, a solid mystery, a social issue, the louche damp atmosphere of Venice and the Venetian aristocracy, and my good friend Guido Brunetti, police commissario, with his lovely wife and dear children and great Italian meals.

This time, she fooled me.

A barrel chested man is found floating in the canals with no identification. When identified, he is found to be a veterinarian, separated from his angry and hostile and broken-hearted wife.

Then Donna Leon pulls me way out of my comfort zone – TWICE. First, there are parts of the book I can scarcely read, as she talks about the meat industry. I’m reading this book, dealing with the meat industry, and I’ve just watched the movie GreY posted on the devastation meat eating causes in your metabolism and blood; the passages in Beastly Things sealed the deal – I don’t think I can eat red meat again. I’m not sure I can even be around red meat. Leon is fearless; she spotlights issues few dare to tackle. There are issues here that are not for the faint-hearted. Read at your own risk.

It’s a tricky mystery, and at the end, Leon catches me by surprise again, as she describes the funeral of the veterinarian, a very unusual funeral, where his patients are also in attendance. It was hard to read. My eyes were blurring. If you like mysteries, if you have pets you adore, this is the sweetest literary funeral you will ever attend.

October 3, 2012 Posted by | Books, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Crime, Cultural, Detective/Mystery, Education, Fiction, Food, Health Issues, Hygiene, Italy, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Technical Issue, Values, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Water Bed

This is a furniture store in Germany, where the sign says “Do Not Get On the Bed” LLOOLLL!

October 3, 2012 Posted by | Germany, Humor, Hygiene | Leave a comment

Hotel Stay? Where to Use Your Sanitizing Wipes

Found this morning in the Bottom Line Newsletter:

As a person who stays in hotels, it never occurred to me to wipe down the main light switch (DUH!) or the bedside light, or that the most bacteria filled objects of all would be the sponges and rags used to clean them. Oh UGH! I think carrying sanitizing wipes sounds like a really good idea!

The Four Dirtiest Surfaces in a Hotel Room

When you enter a hotel room, you already know that it’s probably teeming with germs from the many strangers who stayed there before you.

But, realistically, what are you going to do about it? Spend hours cleaning every corner? Cover yourself in plastic wrap? Not travel?

Well, there’s a new (and much more realistic) strategy that you can try, because a recent study has identified the areas in hotel rooms that have the most bacteria.
And they’re not all spots that you would commonly think to avoid or to wipe clean.
So instead of worrying or just feeling uncomfortable, I’m going to focus on sanitizing these few hot spots—and you can, too. It doesn’t take long (there are only four!).

Researchers collected samples from various surfaces in three freshly cleaned hotel rooms in three different states (a total of nine rooms), and then, back at the lab, detected how many bacteria were on each surface by conducting something called aerobic plate counts. The higher the surface’s “count,” the more bacteria it contained. The top four dirtiest surfaces (outside of housekeepers’ cleaning equipment, the toilet, and the bathroom sink and floor—all of which scored over 117 “counts”) turned out to be:

Main light switch: 113
TV remote control: 68
Bedside lamp switch: 22
Telephone keypad: 20

Most items (including the toilet paper holder, mug, bathroom faucet, room door handle, shower floor and bathroom door handle) had relatively moderate amounts of bacteria, with scores between 4 and 11. The two cleanest surfaces, both of which scored only 0.5, were the bed headboard and the curtain rod.

Yuck! Some of these top hot spots, such as the remote control, don’t surprise me, but I never would have thought about the bedside lamp! This news is definitely going to make me rethink the way I always turn on the bedside lamp (without disinfecting it first) while reading before bed. I’m also stunned that the bathroom faucet, the shower floor and the two doorknobs weren’t higher on the list!

You might be wondering which types of bacteria were identified. Unfortunately, the aerobic plate counts measured only how many bacteria there were on the surfaces, not which kinds.

When I called study coauthor Jay Neal, PhD, a food microbiologist and assistant professor at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management within the University of Houston, he wasn’t overly concerned by the findings, because not all germs will make you sick. But exposure to any pathogens (germs that carry diseases) raises your risk for getting sick, especially if you are immunocompromised. For example, if you’re undergoing chemo…if you’re pregnant…or if you have HIV, you’re more susceptible to infection.

Of course, there’s no way to completely avoid germs, but, in my opinion, it doesn’t hurt to take the following basic precautions—whether you’re immunocompromised or not—to help reduce your risk of getting sick.


While Dr. Neal does not believe that sanitizing wipes are necessary, I pack them whenever I travel. You, too, can slip a container of them into your suitcase to disinfect the bacteria-laden surfaces mentioned above the moment that you walk into your hotel room.

Don’t assume that a housekeeper cleaned those areas. Even if a housekeeper did, he or she likely wiped it down with a sponge or mop that was filled with bacteria. Of all the different surfaces that the researchers examined, sponges and mops were the most contaminated items of all!

And, of course, wash your hands when you’re in a hotel room as often as possible with soap and hot water (or use hand sanitizer)—especially before eating or touching your face.

Source(s): Jay Neal, PhD, assistant professor, Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston. Researchers reported these findings at the June 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Until the results are published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be viewed as preliminary.

August 16, 2012 Posted by | Health Issues, Hygiene, Statistics, Tools, Travel | Leave a comment

You Think Your Clean American Hospital is Safe?

We’ve long believed one of the ways to stay healthy is to stay out of hospitals as much as possible. A horrifying report I found on AOL Everyday Health:

Dirty Surgical Tools: A Hidden, Deadly Danger
A new report suggests that doctors all over the country are using medical instruments contaminated with blood, tissue, and other debris. Could the same devices that save your life also put it at risk?

THURSDAY, Feb. 23, 2012 — When John Harrison checked into Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, to have routine surgery for a damaged rotator cuff, he was told he’d need, at most, a one-night stay in the hospital followed by a few weeks of physical therapy. Seven follow-up operations and two-and-a-half years later, however, his shoulder is worse off than it was before, and Harrison, frankly, is lucky just to be alive.

Shortly after his initial surgery in 2009, the 63-year-old began experiencing severe pain and discomfort around the site of his scar, which had turned bright red and was oozing thick fluid. Doctors reopened him up to determine the problem — and found that an infection had eaten away part of the bone and set loose the screws and sutures they had placed just weeks earlier.

A Hidden Danger in the OR

Harrison’s case, unfortunately, was not an isolated one. Within days, at least six other joint surgery patients at Methodist developed similarly serious infections, leading to a temporary shutdown of the hospital’s operating rooms while officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) probed for a cause.

They found what they were looking for, and then some, in two commonly used surgical tools: an arthroscopic shaver and an inflow/outflow cannula. Both contained human tissue and bone, despite having been thoroughly cleaned after every procedure — a discovery that suggested the problem might be bigger than just one hospital in Texas.

In fact, according to a new report by investigative journalist Joe Eaton of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit that focuses on ethics and accountability, dirty medical devices are a widespread and potentially deadly threat to your health. In 2008, Eaton notes, a hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas revealed that a local outpatient surgery center was working with contaminated tools, some of which were intended for only single use anyway. This, in turn, led to an inspection of 1,500 other such centers — and the finding that 28 percent of them had “infection control deficiencies related to equipment cleaning and sterilization.”

But that’s not even the worst of it. In 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs admitted that improperly cleaned endoscopes had been used on more than 10,000 vets, some of whom later tested positive for HIV or hepatitis. It’s difficult to know for sure how many of those infections (if any) resulted from the dirty instruments, but experts say the risk is higher than most people realize.

“The cases we hear about,” CDC medical officer Melissa Schaefer, MD, told Eaton, “are only the tip of the iceberg.”

Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?

It would be easy to blame hospitals for this potentially deadly danger (and in some cases, we should), but Eaton says the problem is more complicated than it looks.

For one thing, research shows that sterilization instructions from manufacturers are often not up to industry standards. In a study presented last summer at a workshop for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), scientists at the University of Michigan Health System ran a tiny video camera inside 350 “surgery-ready” suction tips and found that every one contained traces of blood, bone, tissue, and rust. Even more disturbing, however, was the fact that all but seven still contained debris after the team put the tools through the recommended cleaning and disinfection processes.

“I don’t know who approved this or who made this a reusable item, but this is not a reusable or cleanable item,” said lead researcher Jahan Azizi, a risk management clinical engineer at the University of Michigan, referring to one of the suction tips. Azizi blames the proliferation of dirty instruments on poor product design and manufacturing — but experts say there are many other factors to consider as well.

Among them, Eaton reports, is that as tools become more specialized and intricate, so too do their cleaning needs. There are added parts to sterilize, smaller channels to unclog, different materials to wield — you can’t just blast everything with a heavy shot of hot steam and move on.

“Cleaning was once a basic factory job,” said Joe Lewelling, vice-president of standards development at the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. “Now it’s very complex. It takes a lot of steps. It’s more like a laboratory process.”

That process needs to be regulated, industry vets say — but by whom?

The Need for Action

According to Eaton, most sterilization of surgical instruments takes place in hospital basements, where underpaid employees work in less-than-ideal conditions to keep equipment in rotation, sometimes cleaning as many as 40,000 tools a day. Technicians are under a vast amount of pressure to do their jobs both quickly and well, which leads to high staff turnover and a frenetic atmosphere that lends itself to mistakes.

Mary Olivera, director of sterilization at a New York City medical facility and past president of the New York State Association of Central Service Professionals, thinks these issues could be addressed if central sterile techs were required to be certified to work in medical facilities. (Currently, only New Jersey mandates professional certification in the field.)

“The people who do your nails, they have to take an infection control course before they can apply for a license,” Olivera told Eaton. “Same with a dog groomer. Yet the people who deal with lifesaving equipment, they are required to have zero education.”

Olivera is among a group of people who have been pushing for legislation to regulate sterilization workers, but as she and her colleagues are finding out, change is easier said than done.

In July of 2009, after the CDC’s Methodist investigation, the FDA launched a safety review of arthroscopic shavers. Findings from the review have not been made public, but insiders say the results are “scary” and show serious potential for patient harm. Years later, however, the agency still has not taken any additional action to address the problem, save an alert on its Web site encouraging facilities to assess the effectiveness of their cleaning procedures.

“These are important products that have been used for decades with little evidence of risk to public health as a result of reprocessing,” FDA spokeswoman Karen Riley said by way of explanation. “In 2010, there were 2.1 million arthroscopic procedures of the knee performed and yet total adverse events from all causes was one percent. This does not merit withdrawal of a valuable device.”

John Harrison might disagree. Nearly three years after going under the knife for a “routine” operation, he can’t even raise his right arm to scratch an itch on his head. And the damage isn’t just physical.

“It’s changed my life,” he told NBC News. Every aspect of it.”

February 23, 2012 Posted by | Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions | 3 Comments

Naman: Cured or Pride?

Today’s Old Testament reading is from 2Kings. I like this story. Although it happened so long ago, it still applies to me today – do I want to be right or do I want to be cured?

2 Kings 5:1-19

5Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favour with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.* 2Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’* 4So Naaman* went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5And the king of Aram said, ‘Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’* 7When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?* Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 9So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’

11But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!* 12Are not Abana* and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. 13But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’ 16But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!’ He urged him to accept, but he refused. 17Then Naaman said, ‘If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord. 18But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.’ 19He said to him, ‘Go in peace.’

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Health Issues, Hygiene, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Room by Emma Donoghue

Hardly ever do I order a book in hardcover; they weigh too much, I do a lot of reading when flying, I prefer paperbacks so I can pass them on when I am finished (and no, I do not yet have a Kindle, because I like to pass my books along.) I made an exception for Room when I heard a review on National Public Radio. It sounded so different, and I wondered how it could be written without it being so horrible I couldn’t read it.

The story is told from the point of view of a five year old boy who lives in Room, an 11 x 11 foot space. He was born there, he has never been out of there.

As you read, you gain such huge admiration for the human spirit. Jake’s mother was abducted off the streets and kept in this room, which is totally soundproofed, surrounded by a chain metal cage, and can be entered and exited only by a door with a code entry lock. She raises Jake as best she can, keeping him hidden from her abductor. She teaches him reading and math, she tries to raise him eating nutritious foods, they have hygiene rules and daily physical education. Every now and then, she has a day when she is “gone”, when Jake wakes up and his mother won’t ‘switch on’ and just stays in her bed, sleeping all day. On those days, he feeds himself and plays quietly, knowing that his Mom will be back ‘on’ the next day – or so. He doesn’t understand his Mother’s despair, and she shelters him from it as best she can.

And then comes the time when she realizes that life is only going to get more and more difficult as Jake gets older. She makes a plan, a plan that relies on Jake, a desperate plan.

The book is fascinating. I have already passed it along; once I read it, I wanted to share it. In many ways, it is a cross-cultural book, because the culture Jake spends his first five years in is so insular, so enclosed. Emma Donoghue did a great job describing his world from his point of view, and dealing with the aftermath. I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the book for you in a major way. 🙂

There is a Reader’s Guide section at the back, and this book would be an excellent selection for a book club.

January 19, 2011 Posted by | Books, Crime, Cross Cultural, Family Issues, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Women's Issues | 8 Comments

Germy Mistakes I Never Thought Of . . .

This caught my attention on AOL Health News this morning. Ewwwww!

5 Germy Mistakes You’re Making Everyday

By Glamour Jan 11th 2011 2:45PM

You wash your hands frequently, do your best to avoid coughing strangers, and generally consider yourself to be a germ-avoiding pro. Still you may be surprised at five little things you’re doing that may be leaving you susceptible to harmful bacteria and viruses.

1. Fruit peels: You buy lots of fruit to eat — bonus points! But, when it comes to fruit you peel (think: bananas, oranges), do you ever wash them first? If you grab that banana, peel it, then handle the fruit as you eat it, you’re potentially putting harmful bacteria right in your mouth. Think of all the people who handled that banana: the banana farmer in another part of the world, the guy at the grocery store who stocked the bunch, 19 customers who picked over it to get to the greener bunch they wanted, the checker at the market, the bagger — and then you!

2. The handles/railings in your house: Did your roommate have a cold this week? Sure, you kept your distance and washed your hands frequently, but did you think to wipe down the stair rails and doorknobs? Using a little hot soapy water or a light bleach solution (like Clorox Anywhere Spray) on frequently touched surfaces can keep you extra protected.

3. Your shoes: Do you keep your shoes on in your house? Yes, this is a controversial issue — those who like to keep their shoes on, thankyouverymuch, may take offense to rhetoric about removing shoes at the door. But, there has been a mounting amount of research in the past years indicating that what we track in on the bottom of our souls could be making us sick — from chemicals lingering on sidewalks and roads to the microbes you picked up in the public restroom. In fact, some health experts consider taking shoes off in your home as a way that anyone can improve their health. Even the super-doc Dr. Mehmet Oz suggested this year that it was on his top-5 list of things he’d recommend people do. So take those shoes off, darlings!

4. Touching your face: We all do it — a scratch here, a nose rub there. But every time we’re touching our face (especially our nose, mouth and eyes), we’re giving germs a free ride into our bods. Even if you can be a teensy bit more aware of when you touch your face throughout the day, you can reduce your germ exposure. No, don’t be compulsive about it, but if you avoid rubbing your eyes now and then, you’re doing your body a good service.

5. The water glass in the bathroom: When’s the last time you sent it for a run in the dishwasher? How about now? Frequently used items like glasses — especially when shared or left out on a countertop where droplets can accumulate from various sources — can be a breeding ground for germs. Wash those glasses frequently, and don’t share them!

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Health Issues, Hygiene | 6 Comments