August is known for many things, including the dog days of summer, National Watermelon Day (Aug. 3) and National Smile Week (Aug. 5-11). But there are many other fun facts associated with summer’s last full month. The month of August is often referred to as the “dog days of summer” but not because of pet pooches. It has to do with the star Sirius, also known as the dog star, which rose at the same time as sunrise during the month of August in ancient Roman times.

~August is named after Augustus Caesar, founder and the first emperor of the Roman Empire, who was posthumously adopted by his maternal great-uncle Gaius Julius Caesar. In the early Roman calendar, August was actually the sixth month of the year. It was originally 30 days in length, but an extra day was added so that it would equal the number of days in July, which was named after Julius Caesar.

~August has two birthstones: peridot and sardonyx. Peridot is among the oldest known gemstones and is green in color. Sardonyx, which is lesser-known, is a white- and brown-banded gemstone once believed to have mystical powers.

~The official flower for August is the gladiolus. These vertical-growing flowers were named from the Latin “gladius,” meaning a sword.

~Fans of Elvis Presley mourn each Aug. 16th, the day the famed singer died in 1977.

~People born in August fall under the sun zodiac signs of Leo and Virgo. Leos are known to be dramatic, creative and outgoing. Virgos have acute attention to detail and are the people most likely to dedicate themselves to serving. They also are loyal, hardworking and analytical.

~On Aug. 21, 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre Gallery and not recovered for two years.

~Although civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., is honored in January, when he was born, he is best known for his famed “I have a dream” speech, which was given on Aug. 28, 1963.

~Some famous people born in August include Martha Stewart, Martin Sheen, Jeff Gordon, Deion Sanders. Matthew Perry, John Stamos, Magic Johnson, Patrick Swayze, and Halle Berry.

Happy last month of the summer~

World Day against Trafficking in Persons~July 30th

Today is an international day of recognition for human trafficking crimes. The World Day against Trafficking in Persons is dedicated to bringing awareness to the horrific crime that is human abduction and trafficking. This is a global crime that targets and exploits women, men, and children for horrible purposes such as forced labor and sexual molestation. People may feel that this is the type of thing that only happens in specific areas or on TV crime shows or as a bad plot for action movies starring Liam Neeson – but the reality is much sadder and so horrific.

The Panhandle is not immune to human trafficking. In fact, just last November a Pensacola business owner named David C. Williams pleaded guilty to trafficking women to provide prostitution services out of his massage parlors (amongst other charges like money laundering). Additionally, the state of Florida is ranked SECOND in the country for highest number of human trafficking reports received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can bring awareness on how to spot human trafficking, report it, and fight it in your life and community, please check out the local organization Called2Rescue located in Pensacola. This non-profit organization as founded by Brad Dennis in 2013 and was created to “educate, empower and mobilize an alliance of local churches and community partners to search for and rescue trafficked and exploited persons in our area.” Additionally, the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking is an excellent source of information and resources.

National Blueberry Month

July is national blueberry month. Blueberries are native to North America, and they are grown in 35 out of 50 states. North America supplies blueberries to 95% of the world. Currently, the four-week harvesting between late March and April can supple the whole United States.

Why are blueberries considered to be a superfood? Eating just a quarter cup of blueberries daily can make a significant impact on your health. Here are a few facts about blueberries.

  • Blueberries are rich in antioxidants. They have the highest antioxidant capacity compared to other fruits. The powerful antioxidants in blueberries improve the immune system and prevent infections such as urinary tract infections.
  • Blueberries can help reduce the risk of cancer. They contain anthocyanin that gives them the dark hue, which is known to attack free radicals that cause cancer in the body.
  • Blueberries can help with weight loss. They are low in fat and sodium and are low in calories, with just about 80 calories per cup, making them a healthy, low-calorie snack.
  • Blueberries are also rich in Vitamin C that promotes tissue growth and wound healing. They provide about 25% of the daily requirement for vitamin c in one serving
  • Rich in manganese that supports bone development and helps the body to process cholesterol and convert carbohydrates to energy.
  • Blueberries are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which reduces the risk of heart diseases and obesity since it adds bulk to your diet and keeps you full longer. Three servings of blueberry a week can help to fight heart diseases, memory loss, and indigestion.
  • Blueberries are excellent for the brain. They improve brain health and reduce the risk of memory loss.

Did you know that blueberries, packed with fiber and antioxidants, have also been linked to reduced arthritis pain, improved joint flexibility, and lower levels of inflammation? Also a  great tip for teething tots is to freeze a container of blueberries and put in a netted teether for instant relief!

June 19~International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict

Sexual violence in conflict is a rising, troubling trend in the world – so much so, that in 2015 the United Nations General Assembly designated June 19th the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. “Conflict-related sexual violence (aka CRSV) refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. The term also encompasses trafficking in persons when committed in situations of conflict for the purpose of sexual violence or exploitation.”

This international date is a joint effort of the United Nations to support country-level efforts to prevent conflict related to sexual violence, improve coordination and accountability, and respond to survivors more effectively. The date, June 19th, was chosen specifically to commemorate the UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008) in which sexual assault was first recognized as a weapon of war rather than an unintended side effect. During this current COVID-19 pandemic, CRSV has intensified due to a limiting of availability of authorities to respond. If you’re interested in contributing to the cause, check out organizations such as the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and The Relief Fund for Sexual Assault Victims amongst many, many others. These organizations and those like them are crucial to supporting survivors and making a difference.
For more detailed information, please visit the following link to the UN website: https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-sexual-violence-in-conflict-day AND https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/about-us/un-action/

Nelson Mandela International Day ~ July 18

The first Nelson Mandela International Day was held in New York on July 18, 2009 in honor of Mandela’s birthday. It was created to celebrate the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world and have a positive impact. Nelson Mandala was a single man and yet his personal impact was astounding. He was a man of many accolades including being a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker, an iconic figure fighting South Africa’s apartheid regime, the name behind the phenomenon known as the Mandela Effect, AND he was the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.

A popular practice for Nelson Mandela International Day is to spend 67 minutes of your time, just under an hour and a half, doing good in your community and helping others. This is in honor of the impact of Mandela’s 67 years of public service in his various positions. Since quarantine is still a wise choice given the rise in COVID-19 cases in Florida, below is a list of ideas on how you can assist your community and donate your time without endangering yourself or others.

Be My Eyes: a free iOS/Android app that allows you to help blind users handle visual tasks like reading foot labels or matching outfits. The app will alert you when someone is in need of help and you can pick up the request or ignore it as you wish; very low pressure and easy to do from home!
Help non-profits and research projects with transcribing, proofreading, and audio recordings: Zooniverse, the Smithsonian, work with Proofread Project as a Distributed Proofreader, record audiobooks for LibriVox – all of these sources are free and run almost entirely off volunteer efforts.
Have kids you need to entertain? Pull out the crafts and help your kids create individual cards with nice sayings to leave in your neighbors’ mailboxes! It’s a trying time, and everyone could use a kind word of “hello” and “I hope you’re well.” Additionally, you can help run the kids’ energy down by going walking through your neighborhood to drop off the notes. If you have a sidewalk, consider doing sidewalk art for all who walk by to see.
Become a pen pal to help seniors combat loneliness! You can contact local senior homes in your area to see if they have pen pal programs or would like to start one, or go to one of the following websites to sign up for a preexisting program: Reachout America, Pen Pal World, Retirement Online, and check out the #CareNotCOVID movement as well. Please note that the virus is highly unlikely to be spread by the mail but be certain to wash your hands after opening a new letter and before sending one to help keep seniors and immunocomprised people extra safe.

For additional volunteer opportunities specific to the Panhandle, check out Panhandle Home Health and Volunteer Match.

Plastic Free July

Earlier this month, this blog featured a piece on the Plastic Free July movement. However, working towards eliminating plastic in your life when living in a rural community can seem especially daunting. Below is a short list of changes you can make living here in the Panhandle to reduce the presence of chemically harmful plastic in your life.
1. Swap goods and services with neighbors! Need a new blender but don’t want to buy a plastic wrapped monstrosity from Walmart? Check in with your neighbors to see if anyone has a spare in their storage or are finally ready to admit they just don’t like smoothies and pass their blender on to you. If you’re on Facebook, consider joining or creating a Zero Waste Swap group in your area. Oftentimes people are willing to give up items for FREE! How great is that? You don’t have to pay for something you need, someone else keeps from throwing that something into the waste stream, AND there’s no new waste introduced by your purchasing a new item. Saving plastic all around!
2. Stick to the basics! This includes using shopping totes, fabric produce bags, reusable water bottles and coffee containers, foregoing plastic straws unless you need them medically, packing a lunch instead of a store packaged one, and so on. While simple, these actions add up. Additionally, it is safe to use reusable shopping bags despite COVID-19 – just sanitize between uses. Cloth bags are the best because you can just toss them in your wash.
3. Create the means to be the change! This is related to the step above. If you notice a need in your community, fill it. For example, if you are in need of cloth bags, create them. You can sustainably source material from thrift stores in the form of curtains, sheets, mismatched pillowcases, and more. Then bring them home, sanitize them, and get to sewing! Pass the bags out for free to family and friends or make a small profit by selling them cheap outside grocery stores or farmers’ markets. This is just one example of how you can help reduce your communities reliance on plastic while you’re largely stuck at home during quarantine.
This article was largely sourced from the following blog, please check it out! It has a lot of great additional information and is a very moving piece on rural community: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/4/8/1848735/-Thinking-Outside-the-Plastic-Box-Going-Plastic-Free-in-Rural-America

Plastic Free July

In 2011, the Plastic Free Foundation started the annual Plastic Free July in Australia. The month is all about assessing and fighting the global dependence on plastic through individual and collective action. It has grown to be one of the most influential environmental campaigns in the world. Millions of people across the globe take part every year by committing to reducing plastic pollution during July, and usually far beyond the end of the month. It is an opportunity to learn about the devastating effects of plastic dependence on the world – plastic effects everything from a person’s health to the health of the ocean to the harmful chemicals we absorb through the air and more.

The website plasticfreejuly.org, offers a wonderful wealth of information. The website can be used to share resources, ideas, and stories to better help people reduce the single-use plastic waste in their homes and communities. It even offers inbuilt evaluation tools to help participants discover where excess, single-use plastics exist in their life and measure their success throughout the month at reducing their plastic use. Additionally, it allows both individual users AND the Plastic Free Foundation to track the trends in the common plastics that households use and create more effective methods of reducing these plastics.

National Ice Cream Month

July is National Ice Cream Month, and you have Kentucky to thank! In 1984, Senator Walter Dee Huddleston of Kentucky introduced a resolution to proclaim the month of July 1984 National Ice Cream Month and the 15th of that month National Ice Cream Day. Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law the same year, and the rest is history! Even though the bill only specified that July 1984 was National Ice Cream Month, the tradition carries on—much to our pleasure.

The first true Ice Cream was said to be introduced by Catherine de’ Medici in the 16th century. So impressed was Charles I of England (one hundred years after this introduction) that he paid to keep the formula secret, making ice cream a royal prerogative, utterly unobtainable by the common man. The first recorded recipes didn’t exist until the 18th century.

Ice Cream Month has only one appropriate celebration, gorge yourself on Ice Cream at every opportunity! Ok, ok, moderation is necessary even during Ice Cream Month, but there are a bunch of different ways you can enjoy this delicious treat. It goes great with a warm apple pie, and nothing compliments a brownie better than vanilla ice cream. Maybe you prefer a nice scoop of strawberry doused in caramel topping, or that most amazing of all ice cream treats, the Ice Cream Taco! You can even take the time to make your own ice cream during Ice Cream Month and enjoy the fruits of your labor on a hot summer evening! And to celebrate and to provide a little pick-me-up, Blue Bell ice cream has brought back a fan favorite, Milk & Cookies Ice Cream!

July 4, 2020

The Fourth of July—also known as Independence Day or July 4th—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and would reportedly turn down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest. Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

A few things about the 4th you may not know: ~The Declaration of Independence was not signed on July 4, 1776. That’s actually the day it was formally adopted by the Continental Congress, but it wasn’t signed by most signatories until August. ~Americans typically eat 150 million hot dogs on Independence Day, “enough to stretch from D.C. to L.A. more than five times,” according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. ~Massachusetts became the first state to make the 4th of July an official state holiday in 1781. ~The famed Macy’s fireworks show in New York City uses more than 75,000 fireworks shells and costs about $6 million. ~Small towns in the U.S. typically spend between $8,000 and $15,000 on their fireworks displays. ~John Hancock has the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence.

Did you know more pets gets lost on July 4th then any other day of the year? Here are a few ideas to keep your pets safe. Many dogs get scared when they hear fireworks. ~Be sure your dog has a visible and up to date id tag. ~Take a current photo of your pet just in case they get lost and you need a current photo. ~You can leave music or a TV on to distract your dog from the noise of the fireworks.

Lightning Safety Awareness Week~ June 21-27

It’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week! Dangerous weather is not uncommon this time of year. If thunder roars, go indoors! If you can hear thunder, you’re in the danger zone – lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from rainfall. Play it safe with summer storms.

Thunderstorms are dangerous weather systems that include lightning and can also produce power winds of more than 50 mph, create hail, and can cause flash flooding and tornadoes.Lightning is one of the leading causes of injury and death from weather-related hazards. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. Although the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are less than one in one million, some factors can put you at greater risk. Lightning most often strikes people who work outside or engage in outdoor recreational activities. Regional and seasonal differences can also affect your risk of being injured by lightning. Last year, in 2019, 20 people in 13 states died from lightning strikes. All of the lightning-strike incidents happened while individuals were outside; six were involved in water activities.

You can protect yourself from severe thunderstorms even if you’re caught outdoors when lightning is close by. Have a lightning safety plan.
If the weather forecast calls for thunderstorms, postpone your trip or activity. Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors. Find a safe, enclosed shelter. Don’t forget the 30-30 rule. After seeing lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. If no shelter is available, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly up to, and exceeding, 100 feet away. Avoid concrete floors and walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring. Outside dog houses are not lightning-safe. Dogs that are chained to trees or wire runners can easily fall victim to lightning strikes. Consider bringing your pets inside the home or garage during thunderstorms.

~Never drive or walk through flooded roadways. Turn Around Don’t Drown®. It takes just six inches of fast-moving water to knock an adult down, and one foot of moving water can sweep away most vehicles. ~If indoors, avoid running water or using landline phones. Electricity can travel through plumbing and telephone lines. ~Wait 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder before going back outside after the storm.

For more information click here: https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning