Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Tag: health Page 1 of 4

Weekly Column: In defense of home cooking and family meals

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday April 21, 2019.

We had to add a few seats around the table for dinner last night. The kitchen was a bustling place, as it is when we have family and friends over. There were stories and laughter and dinner became tea time which went on for a while longer.

I am one of those people who believes that having people gathered together for a meal is a magical thing. Even with the simplest, rushed meal at times, because life is like that sometimes, the four of us sit down and share that time and the food.

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Weekly Column: Stories of Heartbreak and Horror – Why Domestic Violence Is An Urgent Issue

To the outside world, Elana Fric and Mohammed Shamji were a couple in love, married for over a decade, children and all, each with a great career. But the truth of their relationship was marred by darkness, the kind that makes people shudder when they look closely. Unfortunately, few could, given that their carefully curated (by Shamji) social media profiles displaying a happy-go-lucky family and couple life.

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Weekly Column: Climate Change Challenges Will Never Be Solved With Cat Doors

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on January 7, 2019. 

If you want to chuckle, check out the amusing story of how a $2,000 cat door installed in a West Vancouver home can help fight climate change (embedded in the $3 million home it belongs too.) To be fair, the article has some good information on passive houses, or net-zero homes, but you might find yourself jaded by the time you get to the part where the 11-foot windows are described (shipped from Europe, they were.) Carbon footprint applies to the whole product and the processes involved in building it, no?

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Weekly Column: Will Locking And Guarding Bathrooms Solve The Vaping Problem

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday December 10, 2018. 

The short answer is no. Yes, vaping is a big problem, health-wise in the first place. You may have heard that a North Vancouver high school is tackling the vaping-in-the-bathroom issue by locking all but two student bathrooms (which would have to serve 529 students.) Other high schools are having teachers and other staff members guard the bathrooms to deter students from vaping.

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Weekly Column: Our Teenagers Are Vaping Away At The Cost Of Their Health

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops on September 17, 2018 and also published at www.danielaginta.com

On August 30, 2018, the San Francisco-based company Juul Labs Inc. announced its arrival to Canada. Their products will be available for sale starting this month. The Juul memory stick-like vaporizers contain nicotine in variable amounts, as high as 59 micrograms per milliliter of liquid. The amount of nicotine contained in a pod could be as high to two packs of cigarettes, according to one source. The nicotine salts deliver a head rush like no other, users say. Plus, it’s slick and easy to conceal.

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We Are All Guardians Of Our Breathing Space

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on November 13, 2017. 

If you hike to the top of Peterson Creek Park on any given day, more so on a cold one, you’ll see a blanket of yellowish, dirty air draped over the valley.

This is not new or unexpected. The surface inversion well-known to these parts increases the effects of air pollution. Whatever is released into that cold air trapped close to the surface, be it vehicle exhaust, mill emissions, or wood smoke, it all stagnates and makes our breathing air a lot worse than it should be.

There is no clear answer as to what is in the yellow plume. Winter smog is a terrible beast made worse by inversion phenomena, but knowing what we breathe in would be good. You can’t fix something if you don’t know where to start or how complex the issue.

It would be nice to know how much each polluting source adds to that yellowish layer. There is no heads-up information about mill emissions or slash pile burning. That affects some people more than others. It is unsettling to be exposed to air pollution by various industries in or around town, and not know when that will happen. Of course, when it does, people notice, but there is something to be said about habituation. Except that in case of our breathing air, it is not in our benefit at all to accept it as is.

On top of notifications about mill emissions and slash burning, there should be information sessions on how air quality is made worse by the inversion and a low venting index. If psychologically it is easy to shrug off the memory of many socked-in days when a better day comes along, and the valley air looks clean, our bodies react differently, as the perilous effects on health are compounded.

Air pollution is a real enemy to human health, and an increasing body of scientific evidence points to it. Short- and long-term effects of air pollution are real and, for the latter, deadly in many cases. The reluctance to recognize them as such have to do, I am willing to say, with the invisible nature of this threat. Should dirty water pour out of out taps, few if any would want to drink it. The air we breathe should be no different. It is true that industrial pollution accounts for much of the bad air in town. But some of the dirty yellow plume is caused by residential activity, be it driving or wood burning.

City traffic has been increasing over the years and that means an increased volume of exhaust gases. Adding to that is the unnecessary idling. There is no need to idle cars for more than 30 seconds on a cold day. Nor is idling while stopping to chat, or while running into a store for some quick shopping, or to keep warm while waiting. Just more toxic gases.

As for wood smoke, whether from residential use or slash pile burning (an environmentally unsound and health-costly solution for all the logging leftovers,) it tends to linger for a long time, which is exactly why in areas where inversion is present wood burning should be reconsidered. A recent study by a team at McGill University concluded that wood smoke increases the risk of heart attack in people over 65 by 19 percent. Residential wood heat accounts for 15 percent of PM2.5 in British Columbia, likely higher in areas like Kamloops where inversion is present.

Wood smoke is a mix of approximately 200 compounds, including particulate matter of various sizes, powerful cancer-causing and mutagenic agents. When it comes to particulate matter, the smaller it is, the deeper in the cells of respiratory tract they get. Not exactly what we want to have in our immediate environment for months at a time. As always, children and unborn babies are at highest risk due to their developing bodies. As for the elderly and those who with chronic respiratory diseases, life becomes a few times more dangerous just by breathing, and the constant irritation of the respiratory tract makes them prone to longer and more debilitating seasonal infections.

Interior Health recommends that wood burning should be done on those days when the venting index is good, which is close to 100. On a regular ‘socked-in’ day, the said index is a mere 10, which is classified as poor. Venting indexes can be found at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/epdpa/venting/venting.html. It’s an eye-opener for sure, along with air monitors present around town (www.purpleair.com.) Tomorrow is forecasted to have a good venting index, by the way.

I know I am not the only one wondering about this. And I know that when there’s a will, a solution, or many, are found. We ought to find the will to reconsider the way we think about our air, and we ought to change our habits to help keep our air clean. At the same time, we ought to be able to get the industrial polluters to realize that pushing potentially harmful gases and particulate matter into our breathing space is no longer an option. Accountability is not a volatile concept.

Summers will be smokier, we are told. If some of that will be unavoidable, long-term exposure during other seasons can and should be avoided for all the right reasons. The most important one being that nothing matters if breathing is impacted.

The Magic You See When You Close Your Eyes

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on November 20, 2017. 

Late afternoon Saturday found us at our neighbours’. My husband was to lend a helping hand lifting a potato and onion box our neighbour built for his wife. There was no defined B-line between walking in, moving the said box, sharing stories of old and new, and the time when we were all seated in the living room, our boys and dog included, their dog too, listening to Todd playing his guitar. It just happened.

He played a Johnny Cash song first and then a composition of his own. His fingers picked gently at the chords and his voice waltzed with the guitar sounds at a mesmerizing rhythm. The magic of those shared moments of beauty made my thoughts burrow deep inside where I only seldom get to go; life’s hurried that way. During Todd’s song I closed my eyes, so I could better see the place he was describing, the wind-swept islands of Haida Gwaii.

That sent me straight to my favourite quote by Helen Keller ‘The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they have to be felt with the heart.’ This quote stuck to me back in high school because there was something she was alluding to that I was not sure how to describe or get myself close to do so, but I knew it was true and worthwhile. Many life stumbles later including births, deaths, farewells and new beginnings, moments alone and with people that hold my heart in theirs, I started to understand more. You get to see more by closing your eyes. It’s where the soul fairies live and dance.

Todd’s song and his words opened the door towards that state of wonder. In the softly lit living room and with all of us in a spell, I was reminded that I could see better if I closed my eyes. It brought me to tears, for many reasons amalgamated. Todd is blind, you see. And yet, since we met him, I’ve learned that he sees more than many of us do with our intact, or close to, vision.

He sees those he meets in a way that few of us do. He listens in a way few of us do. He lives a fuller life that many of us do, simply because he does not take any given day for granted. I got to learn that since I made his acquaintance.

I met him shortly after we moved in mid-November. I was returning from an afternoon walk with the dog. I said hello and introduced myself. I introduced my family too, in absentia. Might as well, since we live across the back lane. Our dog, an overt people lover, budged in with much curiosity and smelled his hand. Todd stooped down and petted her, remarking on her soft coat and snuggly nature. Then he asked me to describe her.

Ah, I realized he could not see. I described her as accurate as I could. We chatted some more, and I left bewildered. Not because I had met a person who was blind, but because when I greeted him in the back lane and introduced myself, I actually interrupted him from work. His shirt was peppered with wood dust and so were his hands.

Soon after, I met his wife, Maggie. Her smile is just as heartful as his, which is why we never just say hello and get going. There’s always an extra life bit shared. It’s better that way.

Todd is often in his workshop. He builds furniture and makes beautiful things, many of which adorn their home. His hands tell stories of many a happy hour spent in the shop. Yes, you may wonder, like we did ‘But… how can he do that?’ He’d laugh at that and say he does it the same way anyone else does; with care. With love and dedication, I’d add. Lots of it.

The same way he learned to play guitar, which he did after the accident that left him blind, in his mid-twenties. From one day to the next, his world turned black. You need a heap of grace and resilience not only to go through that, but to grow, despite of it. Todd has both, plus a whole lot of determination.

To do his full-time job, and hold the volunteering positions he’s been taking over the years, many of which made him instrumental in designing the blind-friendly features that the streets and public buildings of Kamloops now have. In a world we take for granted, he sees so much more that can be improved on. It’s humbling. And even more humbling is to hear that on more than one occasion people address his wife rather than him directly, assuming that his handicap prevents him from being who he actually is. Indeed, it takes grace to know that.

My husband and I tell Todd that he types faster than both of us combined and he laughs a hearty laugh. He shows the boys how he does it, and then he sends each of them an email. They’ll email him back in a couple of days. He makes a deal with our youngest to exchange jokes, they both seem to have a knack for it.

We say goodbye after we plan another get together. Again, I find myself bewildered. Both Todd and his wife are as warm as can be, gently embracing each other’s presence and building a space for us, their friends, to come as we are. It’s called grace. It’s called gratefulness. When I grow up, I want to be like them.

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