The prisons I build myself

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John Stepper

“Daddy, dance with me!”

We were at an outdoor blues concert on a beautiful summer evening. My 5 year old daughter, Hanako, was dancing to the music when she asked me to dance with her.

“No, darling,” I said. “Dance with your brother.”

Thinking of dancing made me immediately self-conscious. I was afraid of looking foolish and so, instead of sharing a magical moment with my daughter, I chose to stay in a prison I built myself.

Why?

The prisons we carry around with us

We build our prisons out of stories we tell ourselves – and the memories and feelings we replay as we tell those stories again and again. Over time, we come to believe them, and they become as real and hard to break as any prison walls.

Martha Beck, in “Steering by Starlight”, calls them “shackling beliefs.”

“My favorite cartoon shows two haggard captives staring…

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What’s in your bucket?

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I was watching an episode of Bones on Hulu the other night.  It was about a guy who was dying of cancer and made a bucket list.  I began to think that I should do a bucket list.  According to Merriam-Webster, the words bucket list originated from the term “kick the bucket” or dying. 

Although a list of this type would be created by someone who is diagnosed as terminally ill, why would I wait for bad news to work on a life plan?

If I did make a bucket list, it would read something like this:

1)  Career: finish my Accounting degree; pass the CPA exam; obtain an MBA and a PhD before 60.  Hey, I have a big bucket!

2) Travel:  take a 2 week vacation in Fiji ; purchase a vacation home in Curacao.

3) Community Service: open a Caribbean history museum; start and run a community service talk radio.

4) Personal Enrichment:  write an autobiography; catalog all my kids photos/drawings; Play Handel’s Messiah on the piano.

4)  Miscellaneous: add more to my list, God willing.

Although the above may be more comprehensive than your typical bucket list, I didn’t see the point of making it simple at this point in my life.  If God forbid, I was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I wouldn’t  see any reason to discontinue working on my list until the end. Obviously, some things on the list may become more important than others at that point.

Do you have a bucket list? Why not?

Hire by Auditions, Not Resumes

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Woman on the bench

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For a whole year I passed Jill sitting on the bench, at the entrance to the park.  I was too engrossed in my own thoughts to notice much more.  She sat there with her entire life in several bags next to her.  But like so many other walkers and joggers I just pass by unperturbed by her station in life.  After all, what can we do?  Maybe it’s her fault — she doesn’t want to work or she is crazy.
The following year I went back and there she was. Still sitting on the park bench.  I said hello.  She smiled a huge gap-toothed grin and said hello back.  I passed by but this time I thought about her.  I wondered what her story was.  Does she have a family? Why was she still on the park bench after a year? Did she spend the whole winter there?
The following week I said hello and stopped.  Jill was sipping on coffee and was as pleasant as ever.  It puzzled me that she wasn’t sad or had a sour disposition.  After our brief chat, I found out that she had been on that bench for two years after being kicked out of a shelter.  She had issues that required legal representation which she seemed to have but I still couldn’t help but feel pain.
I could not put her out of my mind after that. Every time I passed that way, I would bring some breakfast, juice, or coffee.  I began to pray for her.  We talked every Saturday when I went for my walk.  I would even stop by on my way to church.  I gave her may business card and a contact card for my church. I introduced her to my mother and two of my sons.
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Jill was well groomed (despite the fact she lived on a park bench).  Her hair was neatly combed, toe nails were painted…some mornings she was painting them while I was passing by. We became close enough where each greeting was met by a hug.  I did not feel I had to hold my breath or make a mad dash for the shower after hugging her.
Unfortunately, I lost track of her just before Christmas 2012.  I kept wanting to go to the park during the Christmas season but never made time for a visit.  When I went back in the New Year she was gone.  I pass by when I am going Downtown Brooklyn and look for her when I go for my walk but to no avail.  Again I am left wondering…is she dead?  Did she go home back to the South?  I think the worst and I think the best.  But not knowing…

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Seven things I learned about making cultured veggies by JRosemarie

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IMG_20130908_204247I read with interest Donna Gates book The Body Ecology Diet and was taken by cultured vegetables.  I did some research on sauerkraut and Kimchee and purchased some ready made products from a reputable company.  I loved the veggies so much, I wanted to make my own.  Plus, I wanted to put my own ingredients in without the salt.

So I purchased a dozen wide mouth ball jars and a box of “Body Ecology culture starter”.  I used my seldom used Bullet Express to shred red and green cabbage, carrots, beet (for some of the jars), red and green pepper, ginger and some scotch bonnet pepper for the heat. I also blended some celery and used the juice instead of salt and plain water.  I made 6 jars and they lasted for about one month. However I am having trouble opening the last jar and that will probably end up in the garbage.

Some of my takeaways from the experience are:IMG_20130908_203505

1. It is easy and fun.  Once you have a good food processor to shred the veggies, the rest is quite easy.

2. Use organic where possible. Although the good bacteria will destroy any bad bacteria during the fermenting process, it is best to start with organic foods.  This way your good bacteria can concentrate of the fermentation process.

3. Salt is not necessary. You can use celery juice instead of salt.  The flavor is no different I find.

4. Don’t be afraid to add spices and herbs.  Some people to not like spicy foods or strong tastes from herbs.  They also do not like the taste of garlic and onion.  I added garlic, onion, rosemary and thyme despite the warnings in the video and loved the strong flavor.  This may not work for those who prefer their food more bland.

5. Use a culture starter. A culture starter though not mandatory makes the fermentation process much faster I think.  There are also way more good bacteria available if you use a starter.

6. Do not overfill your jars.  I made that mistake and by day 3 there was veggie juice all over my server when I opened the jars to let the air out and to check the veggies were ready.

7. Leave them in a warm place to ferment.  You will notice the liquid in your veggies starting to bubble by the second day. Within 72 hours you can try them to see if they are to your taste.  If not, you can leave them in the warm location for another 24-48 hours then try them again.

The above is not a comprehensive guide but just a few tips I learned during my experience and from research.  Fermented foods are not only tasty but they are also quite good for our guts.  Fermentation enhances the immune boosting properties of the foods you use.

There are lots of resources on the web with step by step directions on how to make fermented foods.  I used the video from Donna Gates website – http://bodyecology.com/weight-loss-vegetable-culture-starter.html#sthash.Eje63R5w.dpbs

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Brussels Sprouts, Bean, and Leek Risotto

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