Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Courage to Say "No"

A man was riding a donkey. He saw a wanderer carrying a large bundle. “Are you by any chance on your way to Las Cruces?” asked the wanderer. “Indeed, I am” responded the man on a donkey. “Could  you give me a lift?” asked the man. “I am sure my donkey would not mind a bit. Get on.” said the man on a donkey.  

Relieved and happy, the wanderer got on placing the heavy bundle on animal's back and both men went on in silence contemplating their luck. After a while the donkey owner asked: “Isn’t my donkey great?” “Oh, yes sir. You have such a great donkey!” 

They went in silence for another mile when the man with a bundle said happily: “Don’t we have a great donkey, or what?” Shocked at what he just heard the donkey’s owner stopped the animal on the spot and told the man with a bundle to get off his donkey. “But why?” asked the surprised man. “I know the kind of you! First, it was my donkey that was great. Then, it was our donkey that was great. If it goes like that, after another mile you will probably tell me how great your donkey was! Get off! I have nothing more to say.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you had no choice but to say “No” to someone who seemed to have almost taken charge over your life? 

Last month a very good friend of mine was asked to baby-sit a dog. The dog’s owner had to go on a short trip and my friend did not mind a bit to have her dog in his house over the weekend since his own dog loved to play with the other dog. The woman came back from her trip and took her dog home. Only a few days later she demanded that my friend took care of her dog again. And again. And again. It did not matter that it was middle of the week and my friend was at work. He had to report at the woman’s house and take her dog with him. In no time the woman became a social leech – someone who would suck the life out of you but was almost impossible to get rid of unless, of course, you took a very drastic measures. 

Many of the so called “good souls” become victims of egoistic manipulators. We offer help, we offer advice, we are friendly, we do a favor for someone who asked and before we even notice, our friends, spouses, relatives, colleagues, neighbors or acquaintances not only come for more, they seem to move into the center of our attention and rearrange our schedules. They demand full attention and terrorize us with phone calls, e-mails and spontaneous visits. Sometimes the situation becomes so unbearable that we are to scared to even answer the phone or open the door. We suffer and yet, we are unable to say “No.” 

We are unable to say “No” because we fear that we might hurt or offend someone. We are afraid to lose a friend or be accused of selfishness or indifference. We love harmony and want social approval. And we would rather suffer or hide instead of facing the person head on. But is it worth it? 

The choice is really between our own frustration and our own happiness. Saying “No” may be the first step to a more fulfilled and happier life, but it takes a lot of courage. We might indeed become unpopular and lose some friends at first, but knowing that we are in control is more precious than friendships with unscrupulous people. 

Saying “No” does not have to be hurtful or offensive, but we have to clearly mark our boundaries. We do not have to please others, and we definitely do not have to put their needs before our own. 

Those who feel offended by our own “demarcation” are probably not our real friends because real friendship is based on respect. Boundaries do not put us into isolation, they simply define our private space in which we feel authentic and comfortable. Learning to protect our personal boundaries is necessary if we want to live a genuinely happy life.

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2014

Image source here

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Symphony

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is my symphony. - William Ellery Channing, (May 25, 1810 – December 23, 1884), American Unitarian clergyman, writer and philosopher.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Health Benefits of Blueberries

Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods available to us all year round. More and more researchers publish study results that are quite amazing. Short of a nutritional miracle this tiny dark berries can help reverse effects of premature aging and improve debilitating conditions. 

Blueberry is a native North American perennial flowering plant from the genus Vaccinium that also includes cranberries, lingonberries and bilberries. The plant produces indigo-colored berries and is mostly cultivated in North America and Europe, but also grows successfully in other parts of the world.

Blueberries are very high in vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, copper and dietary fiber. They contain anthocyanins, flavonols, and other phytonutrients that include resveratrol and pterostilbene.  Studies demonstrated that all these phytonutirents act as antioxidants that protect the whole body from oxidative stress. These nutrients protect the DNA and act as anti-inflammatory agents that help reduce inflammation in the body.

Cognitive Health
The latest research suggests that compounds in blueberries may help slow down age-related damage to the brain cells, reverse age-related memory loss and improve overall cognitive health. Test subjects who consumed blueberries had improved memory, learning skills, cognition, reasoning, verbal comprehension and numerical skills.

Blueberries may help slow down cognitive decline in aging adults and prevent against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Researchers discovered that compounds in blueberries significantly increase production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine deficiency is associated with bad mood, depression and Parkinson's disease. Increased consumption of blueberries may help ward off the onset of Parkinson's disease, improve mood and alleviate depression in dopamine deficient individuals. 

Cardiovascular Health 
Blueberries protect blood vessels from oxidative stress and help balance cholesterol. People who ate 1-2 cups of blueberries daily for a period of 1-3 months had increased levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) and reduced levels of LDL or the blood vessels clogging and damaging bad cholesterol. Blueberry extract was shown to lower blood pressure. People who eat blueberries on regular basis have much lower chance of developing hypertension. Research shows that blueberries help lower blood pressure in two ways: On the one hand they help blood vessels to relax reducing the resistance to blood flow; on the other, blueberries (the extract, to be precise) inhibits the protein that the body uses to keep blood pressure elevated.

Blood Sugar

Blueberries are classified as low-GI fruits. GI or the Glycemic Index is a method of measuring the impact of food on our blood glucose levels. Foods with lower GI release glucose more slowly and steadily and do not cause glucose spikes. This is important for people who struggle with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity. In addition, fiber in blueberries helps to further balance blood sugar and improve health of those patients who were diagnosed with blood sugar problems.


Various studies demonstrated that blueberry extract may prevent uncontrolled cell reproduction that could lead to formation of tumors. The extract also prevented formation of pre-cancerous lesions. Cancers such as that of the colon or the cervix begin as pre-cancerous lesions and turn into malignant tumors. Blueberry extract greatly reduced formation of such abnormal tissues.

Blueberry extract also prevented angiogenesis or the formation of new blood vessels that feed the tumors. Cancer has the ability to spread to adjacent or distant organs. Tumor cells can penetrate the blood (and lymphatic) vessels and spread throughout the body. For the metastatic spread of cancer a network of blood (and lymphatic) vessels is important. The formation of new blood vessels is called angiogenesis. (The formation of new lymph vessels is called lymphangiogenesis.) Blueberry extract curtails this growth of blood vessels and increases survival rate in cancer patients. It also has the ability to inhibit enzyme responsible for the proliferation of cancer cells. And last but not least, the extract triggers apoptosis or cancer cells' death. 

Antioxidants in blueberries help protect the retina from oxidative damage. They also protect the retina from damage caused by the sun. Anthocyanosides in blueberries provide protection against such disorders as the age-related macular degeneration, myopia, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, extreme dryness and retinal infections. People who consume blueberries on regular basis report improved night vision.

Urinary Tract
Just like cranberries, blueberries contain compounds that prevent E. coli bacteria from adhering to the walls of the bladder. According to latest research this helps ward off the urinary tract infections. 

Weight Management

As I mentioned before, blueberries have a very low glycemic index and help balance blood sugar. This helps people with weight problems to reduce cravings. Blueberries help lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and improve fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity. Moreover, polyphenols and catechins found in blueberries help activate fat-burning genes in abdominal fat cells. And last but not least, fiber in blueberries helps improve digestion and elimination. All these factors combined with active lifestyle, exercise and sensible calorie intake may contribute to a desired weight loss. 


There is hardly any system in the body that is not positively affected by the consumption of blueberries. Adding one or two cups of blueberries to your daily diet can help your reverse premature aging and protect you from many diseases.

Blueberries are rather inexpensive and are easily accessible throughout the year. When buying fresh blueberries make sure that you are buying pesticide-free organically grown berries. They are darker and richer in antioxidants. Fresh and frozen blueberries can be used to make smoothies or desserts.

Dried blueberries can be added to cereals or trail mixes. Standardized blueberry extract sold in capsules has one advantage over the fresh fruit. It provides the most reliable means of delivering the vital flavonoid components to your body. Capsules can be taken as a means of prevention in addition to regular consumption of fresh fruit. 

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

75th Anniversary of the World War II

 Polish Cavalry

Seventy five years ago, on September 1, 1939, a bloodiest war in the history of humanity began with a German attack on an unprepared Poland.

In 1939 Polish Republic was a young country that has re-emerged on the map of Europe in 1918 at the end of the World War I after almost 165 years of partition between Prussia, Austro-Hungary and Russia. 

The war was undeclared yet, but by August 28, 1939, Europe knew that war was inevitable. The non-aggression treaty between Nazi Germany and Russia was signed only five days earlier. The two powers had already secretly divided the spoils of war that was yet to come. Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Romania were already "assigned" to, either the Russian or the German, spheres of influence. 

While Poland fought its September 1939 battle against the Germans and the Russians who attacked its Eastern borders on September 17, 1939, the Polish pre-war allies France and Great Britain waited uninvolved with the hope that Hitler would be satisfied after taking Poland. They could not have been more wrong. Although the two countries declared a war on Germany on September 3, 1939, their military aid to Poland was very limited.

The Polish expedition was not as easy for Hitler as he expected. Although abandoned by its allies, Poland did not give up without a fight. The small Polish army fought like mad. As a result, Germany sustained a relatively heavy losses in personnel and equipment.

There is a myth that the sabres brandishing Polish cavalry fought German tanks. This isn't quite true. While the cavalry fought bravely in 1939, it constituted only about 10% of the Polish armed forces*. Polish artillery, infantry, navy and the air force were definitely inferior in number and equipment, but not in bravery, determination and boldness. And they fought on two fronts! 

What is not widely known, Poland has never officially surrendered  to Germany. Under the incredibly brutal German occupation, the Polish Army continued to fight underground. Those who managed to cross the border joined other armies to fight against the Nazis. They fought in Battle of Britain, in Narvik, in Tobruk, in Monte Casino, and Normandy.  

Polish government-in-exile that was first based in France and then, from 1940 on, in Great Britain, exerted considerable influence in the Polish underground. Although widely unrecognized and without power, but very dear to many Poles, this government remained in existence until the end of the communist rule over Poland in 1990. 

The biggest tragedy of all was that at the end of the most atrocious war ever Poland was abandoned one more time. A decision was made at the conference of Yalta in February 1945 that offered the war exhausted Poland on a silver platter to the blood-thirsty Stalin.

Generation after generation asked the same question: Could have the outbreak of World War II been prevented? Historians argue that just like the Yalta conference in 1945 created the necessary conditions for the outbreak of the Cold War, so the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919 after the end of the Great War created conditions for the German belligerence and re-militarization. Looking back in time we wonder why the Nazis were not contained in 1933. Why was Europe so indifferent to the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938? Why no one was alarmed at the union of Germany with Austria in the same year?

The Nazis did not hide their ideology. They openly proclaimed their racial superiority and their wish for Greater Germany. And yet, no one really took them seriously. No one really seemed to understand the perils of the ideology that was taking root in the minds of millions of Germans.

Seventy five years later we are unwilling to face another threat. The new threat is  geographically so remote and ideologically so improbable that we seem to collectively ignore it. Those who warn us about the imminent danger are dismissed as alarmists. Once again great lessons that history has taught us remain under a thick cover of dust. Alas.

But maybe we should pay attention to the wise words of an American playwright, Eugene O'Neill: There is no present or future - only the past, happening over and over again.  

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2014

Image source: world wide web

Note: *Seidner, "Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz - Rydz and the defense of Poland" p. 289–91