OLYMPIC IDEAL: The beauty and importance of friendship and being active with youth By Chris Wirszyla, LOL contributor

 

The t-shirt I have on is very special to me, and special to the person who sent it to me, my good friend Vanessa. No one knows the significance of this shirt unless you ask me (it would be hard to ask her as she is in Japan!). To us, it represents a nearly 30 friendship that began in Barcelona when I was teaching and she was a student at the Benjamin Franklin International School. It is a friendship based on sport, and competition, play and work, cooking and countless hours in brilliant sunshine on the beaches of Barcelona, playing volleyball and Frisbee. We spent even more countless hours doing the same on muddy courts, in the rain, in all kinds of weather. As long as we could experience the joy that sports and fitness brought into our lives all those years ago, we were playing.

I first met Vanessa and her family when they arrived at our school. She and her sister, Charlotta, enrolled and the very same day played a couple of hours of Ultimate Frisbee with our informal club. I remember her parents standing and watching, probably happy their kids fit in right away—probably happy they were playing sports with a group of kids (and their PE teacher), getting exercise, laughing, enjoying the game and each other. It

felt wonderful to have a family to be with when mine was an ocean away.

We spent many wonderful days and weekends traveling to the beach to play—a magical time, truly a situation one had to be a part of to fully understand. We broke bread together often: cooking together, dining as a family—the culinary delights of America, Spain, Sweden, Japan and more gracing our table. Everyone helped, everyone cleaned up, everyone remained close-knit. I learned and retained many valuable life lessons from those formative years I spent in the Asell’s company—lessons that guide my life.

Although she went to school for journalism, over her lifetime, Vanessa has shifted to sports and fitness, eventually becoming the first western female to be hired by the Japanese giant ASICS in Japan. She lived there until she got married and moved back to her native Stockholm. Then she returned to Japan where she currently resides.

The chief organizer of the 35,000 strong Stockholm Marathon is just one of Vanessa’s many accomplishments; she also was accepted for and completed a masters in Olympic History, in Athens, Greece. I was fortunate to be a reader for her thesis and vicariously lived through it.

Vanessa and her Japanese husband are happily raising three kids who speak just a variety of languages already: Swedish, English, Japanese, some Spanish, probably some German. It’s really incredible when some people I interact with on a daily basis would never even consider trying to learn anything other than their native tongue.

So the shirt I have on is from Olympia, Greece. It’s a t-shirt that symbolizes the “Olympic Ideal”: fair play, good competition, and integrating sports, and culture into daily life. It’s symbolic of the things I try, as a PE teacher, to instill in my students. Physical education is about three things: doing the skill or activity; understanding what you are doing; and feeling good about doing it. My master’s thesis was about the role of exercise in raising a person’s self-concept, or how they feel about themselves. The

literature clearly indicates sport/exercise and self-esteem go hand in hand; participation and getting better are good for the person.

Vanessa’s multi-cultural life is a prime example of the Olympic Ideal. She has pursued throughout her life the very embodiment of what it means to be eclectic, to realize self-actualization, to experience all life has to offer, from different cultures, with different cultures. She has lived in multiple countries for months or years, much the same as I—England, Japan, Sweden, Spain. She has been successful in her career while furthering her education, all the while raising a family. What she has done in her life is so absolutely foreign to many. She has taken chances, had her share of setbacks, but ultimately found a quality of life satisfaction that is so respectable.

So, what’s my point? Aside from the obvious: Choose your friends wisely. How about this summer, instead of plopping your kid(s) down in front of the TV or PlayStation, take them out and play. Get them interested in something physical. Summers in Wilmington are rife with ideas: hiking in Carolina Beach State Park, playing frisbee golf in Arrowhead Park and Kure Beach, or walking the many trails, from Halyburton Park to Poplar Grove Plantation. There is skateboarding at Greenfield Lake and in Carolina Beach, and tennis courts are located everywhere—not to mention the numerous supply of water sports and rental equipment places in town that can help turn a day of boredom into one of paddleboarding, surfing or kite-surfing.

But even if it’s too hot to hang outdoors, folks can learn a new language together. It will encourage kids to feel better about themselves. Travel abroad or across America or even your own state or region—just get out and see the land. Put away the cell phone and experience life the way it was meant to be. And do it with your kids. Hopefully, one day they will thank you for it! LOL

IS COFFEE NOW A HEALTH FOOD?

Let’s weigh the evidence to support it

By Lindy Ford, RD, LDN

A

s a registered dietitian/nutritionist, I’m asked the coffee question quite often: “Is drinking coffee good for my health?”

The medical and scientific community—including me—believe regular (not decaf), organic, fair-traded coffee is healthful in moderation. What is moderation? Well, it depends on the individual, but, really, consumption shouldn’t exceed 5 cups of coffee a day—and even that may be too much.

According to Miriam Nelson, a professor in the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, “We looked at all the science … we have found no negative, adverse effects on health when you drink up to three to five cups a day.”

Let’s weigh the pros and cons, all of which are backed up with scientific research.

Dear readers, it’s time for you to be the judge and jury for your own health needs.

THE CONS

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first…