Dealing with Uncertainty + An Exercise to Bring You Closer to Your Values

I had to share this. It's so reminiscent of the backwoods wisdom I grew up with. I say that with love. I'm not proud of this but when people question me, I question myself. Come to think of it, maybe I am proud of myself. I've never been so stern as to think there's not room to grow, but that room to grow can quickly turn on you. When someone takes a willingness to listen and learn and turns in to a way to manipulate, have you think thoughts of doubt that aren't actually yours. Something they'd like to plant in you out of earnest insecurity in themselves. Today, I'd like to help those people find a bit of themselves, and in effect help myself; and again in effect use the energy and space that's been allotted to me to bring a tiny bit more peace and introspection to the world. 

On a side note, someone found my blog today by Googling, "I want to make love to you at work." I hope you get that chance, sir or madam, I really do. I hope your fantasies meet up with reality and it's all you've ever wanted.

There's a full moon in Pisces tonight it's making us all a bit wacky and introspective — my moon sign is Pisces. So, I guess I'm destined to always be that way. There are worse things, my friend. There are worse things. I don't know about you but I bought two new notebooks and I'm going to sit down in the grass and write, mosquitos be damned. 

Before I do that, I'll finish my thoughts about uncertainty and my trusting nature. While watching Hit Record on TV today, which is amazing fyi, I heard Joseph Gordon-Levitt say, "I think the difference between fantasy and reality might be another fantasy." You're going to have to watch the full episode to really get it into context. I think it's the second episode. You'll figure it out. It's the one about fantasy. I think that is the nature of uncertainty and maybe all doubt — the possibility that the person I am may just be a fantasy and if you fantasize something different about me then I start to entertain your fantasy... well, then I guess we're both just doing a silly dance that doesn't serve either of us. So, what I'm saying is, abandon all hope. Basically, give up now.

That's not what I'm saying. That's a joke. A bit of filler, between the rationale and the point which is in the old adage, "You are what you say you are." I'd take it even further and say, you are what you feel you are. The world is what you feel about it. Walk around tense and angry at people and you'll likely encounter the same. Expect folks to be kind and treat you with respect and you'll definitely take less shit and honor kindness in others. What are kindness and respect though? Well, those boundaries are for you to decide. If it makes you uncomfortable, or causes you the kind of questioning yourself that brings unnecessary hesitation, if it elevates someone else over you; it's likely not kind or respectful and it's likely you don't need it. 

... and I haven't even gotten to the exercise I'm talking about.

Basically I want to get you to the five things that make you, feel like, you, in the hope that it's as enlightening for you as it was for me. If we can all just focus on what our personal values and desires are, then cultivate more of those in the world. Then we are basically set. We'll all slip back a little here and there, but it's not an all or nothing thing. It's not a diet. You don't have to start being perfect on Monday. Also, don't diet, read this instead, unless it doesn't align with your values. In which case, who am I to make you feel small? Just some stranger on the internet, throwing out thoughts and ideas for the world to see, read, hate, love, criticize, or aspire to. I've had all of the above and then some I could never imagine come to me but I focus on love and aspiration — at least in my fantasies of myself I do. 

Before you start thinking I'll never make good on my promise. I'll share the very, simple yet profound exercise, shared with me by way of Overcoming Underearning, which came to me by way of Lindsey Lewis, a very thoughtful friend who keeps pulling me from the trenches, which I'm happy to say get shallower with every passing day. 

Image source: Overcoming Underearning

Directions:

  1. Circle 10
  2. Narrow it down to 5
  3. Put them in order of importance
  4. Live your life accordingly 

Mine go like this:

The more you can feel and align to your personal values, the better off you'll be. The fantasies that others keep of you can easily be dismissed by the fantasies you keep for yourself. Tell me I'm selfish and I'll tell you I value freedom, but not without truth and kindness. If that seems selfish to you find a friend with different values. And not begrudgingly because it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round. If your core values fall anywhere on the list I shared above — whether or not we get along on a personal level — I'd say you're doing just fine. May you find all the peace, love, truth, kindness, and freedom you're seeking. 

Seasonal Eating, Celebrating Food, and Shifting Perspectives: A Conversation with Jennifer Piette from Out of the Box Collective

I was standing on the bend of the French Broad when I suddenly found myself in a conversation about food. Not an uncommon topic of conversation in my then home, Asheville, NC. This time was a bit different. This tale leaned more to the redemptive side than the puritanical, a change I was grateful for. As his retriever diligently swam to unrulier waters to fetch, while my Aussie-mix — more brains than brawn — stayed anxiously ashore, dancing, and waiting to wrestle him for his prize, I listened to one man's childhood story of Twinkies, lunch meats, and other foods with a shelf life longer than the people meant to consume them. His story went like all too many we've heard before, discovering as an adult, on his own, how to feed himself. The very basics of self-care. What stuck with me all these years was how he ended his story on a note that I still repeat when I don't feel like paying ten dollars for really raw honey: "Pay now or pay later." Sounds a bit like a threat, but I say it in a chipper tone to make myself feel better. That bit of knowledge has carried me quite a ways. My interview with Jennifer Piette was pretty reminiscent of this experience. It's a simple shift in lifestyle, but one that will pay you back later: Stop feeling bad and just pay for good food. 

Few things have been more inspiring — or educational — than talking to Jennifer about her passion project Out of the Box Collective, a curated food delivery service based out of and serving southern California. After meeting up for our Santa Barbara Farmer's Market expedition, I can say from first hand experience, Jennifer is connected to food, interested in the history of it, how it's made, and how the person responsible for it came to fall into such a position. I've read my fair share of books about "fixing" food, many of which leave me spinning with enthusiasm and quickly thereafter riddled with the guilt of wasted efforts and this, in Jennifer's opinion, is the problem. Not the books, definitely not the information, but guilt. Feeling negative emotions around food and a continuous loop of up and down, lacking celebration, ceremony, tradition, and possibly the most important facet around food: relationships.

Just the simple acknowledgment of this guilt was a relief with all the information and media around what I should've eaten today and the way I should just think about food as a part of life. Albeit a joyous and integrative part of life. It wasn't meant to be looked at as a problem; and come to think of it, food goes through a similar process as we do with the media. We're shown what it should look, taste, and be like. Possibly the most digressive aspect is being told what need it should fill. "Drink this shake for breakfast and lunch to boost your metabolism." I'll bet you didn't think there was anything wrong with your metabolism before reading that. This is the reconditioning that Jennifer hopes to facilitate, helping families get into the kitchen with food, having an experience, building traditions, and making food a source of joy and interest over a chore or an over-marketed health commodity.  

She takes a great interest as well as a few precautions, one of which, is becoming a certified B-Corp alongside other organizations leaving a positive mark on the world. Some of the more famous include Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's. When discussing her B-Corp status she mentioned a few points I hadn't previously considered around food and just how stuck it is. Our food is as oppressed as our health. She describes the choice to get this certification.  

"If we were to get investors it would protect my social and environmental vision. One of the greatest problems in America today is that corporations have a legal, fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits for their shareholders, often leading them to externalize costs to society."

This was one of the most hard-hitting points for me. The obligation of many producers, facilitators, and distributors is no longer to the land, or even to their craft, but to the people invested in them financially. I trust you can see how this might escalate quickly. In addition to social dedication, she works with some of the most dedicated artisans in their particular craft. For example, a chocolatier from Twenty-Four Blackbirds builds his own machines to process his chocolate. She is also working with a member of the Lindy and Grundy team --  the famed but now shuttered Los Angeles butcher, to develop a meat program that looks at the whole cycle -- from an animal's life on pasture, to the practices of the facility that processes it, to the art of how it is butchered.

There is an upside to all of this. A very simple, bright, attainable upside: building a food culture. Jennifer lights up when talking about food culture. Having lived abroad for two and half decades, leaving the states as a self described "kid", she came back as a mother of young children, accomplished writer, and activist. She wants Americans to experience food culture with their families to benefit not only their health, but their quality of life. 

"When I lived in France and Portugal, people cooked dinner and sat around the table. People cooked with their friends and spent time in the kitchen socially. There’s a culture of food. There’s a culture of seasonality. For example, in Portugal, when the fava beans come in season there are sausages that are made to go with the fava beans. Everyone knows how to cook this dish, and looks forward to it. To me, food is culture. In America, there is a loss of identity because so much of our food culture has been outsourced to restaurants and grocery stores. Our food culture becomes childhood memories of McDonalds. One of the very few connecting things that we have as a country in terms of food culture is Thanksgiving. It really is about families around the table together, sharing a meal, and being grateful for the bounty of the land."

I, for one, got very excited about the golden arches as a child. I'm not proud but it's true and with all of the information about the way these animals are processed and treated, hell, the way human animals are being treated, it's tough not to feel the guilt. Then there's this whole not knowing where to start.

"A lot of people understand the problem and are motivated to change the way they treat food. But when they sign up and a bunch of kale goes in the trash they feel shame. When something doesn't turn out right they become overwhelmed. We have to find ways of getting over these hurdles. We want to start a project about kitchen fails to celebrate them."

We, ourselves are our own hurdles. Personally, a lot of produce of mine does pass its prime, but I've found out as the owner of two dogs, they love mushy strawberries. Plus, they get the vitamin C, so it's a win-win. There are a few other things you can do as she mentions, "If you didn’t get a chance to cook the kale, don’t beat yourself up. Compost it. Give it to a friend who might enjoy it. It’s part of a process." I think that's the real kicker. We forget that our lives, we as people, are in a process. We are changing, our environment is changing and if we can just take it bit by bit, if we all did a little more each day, 1% more each day, teach someone else to cook, invited them over for dinner, we could invent a whole new food culture here in America. One founded around community and not industry. This is important especially when thinking of children needing to experience and be connected to food, much like they get to in other countries.

"Creating lasting food memories for young people is also a really big and rewarding goal for us. I know that my customers' children will grow up with food literacy. They will know when certain foods are in season because they'll associate cherries with the end of the school year or peaches with hot, summer days, they won't have to learn this. This knowledge has been taken away from us. When everything is year-round in the supermarket, you lose touch with seasonality, and you lose touch with culture."

I think we can all agree that starting at the mouths of babes (pun intended) is going to be the most effective way to heal food culture in America and also give parents the intrinsic reward of knowing even if they veer off path, they still have the skills they need to find their way back. Jennifer is aiming for a different set of kids too. The kind that are on the brink of adulthood and independence. In a Kitchen Takeover program they have launched, young people, high school and college ages, are encouraged to cook dinner once a week. That's it, just cook. 

"There is no value given to basic life skills. The Kitchen Takeover campaign is promoting and motivating youth to take back the kitchen. Start to cook with your friends or cook with your family. Why wouldn’t your chore be to cook dinner for your family once a week?"

This goal is also promoted by the famed Michael Pollan, author of Cooked, who Jennifer claims as one of many inspirations. He said, “The shared meal is no small thing. It is a foundation of family life, the place where our children learn the art of conversation and acquire the habits of civilization: sharing, listening, taking turns, navigating differences, arguing without offending. What have been called the “cultural contradictions of capitalism”—its tendency to undermine the stabilizing social forms it depends on—are on vivid display today at the modern American dinner table, along with all the brightly colored packages that the food industry has managed to plant there.” 

So, there you have it, an appeal for real food, loving people, and using your kitchen to socialize, all while doing your part to make the world a bit more sustainable, a bit more social, and a lot more integrated for future generations. When you get a chance make sure to check out Out of the Box Collective and all the gregarious folks they get to work with. Thank you for reading and I encourage you to advance your understanding with real hands on experience. It you mess it up, oh well. Dogs enjoy burnt beets, trust me. 

Blackberry Cocktail with Cactus Water + Orange Whisky

Blackberries were on sale for 88¢, which is why I bought a bunch. Also, right next to coconut water I usually buy was this prickly pear cactus water, which I was unreasonably excited about. Plus this orange flavored whisky that I was also unreasonably excited about, but haven't used yet. So, a lot of things I was way too excited about coming together in one cup, plus trying my presets with different light settings. It's been enlightening. I think they actually worked better without the backlighting I've gotten so used to using. I'm always trying to learn new things, and I want to test everything really well before I put anything out for sale. I'm excited for the day when I finally put those presets out. I hope I stumble across this post at that point and wonder what I was so worried about all this time.  

Till then I'll just keep working and making new things and reading and all the stuff I like to do. If you haven't had cactus water before I wish I could explain the taste, but you really just need to try it. It's good, but not really similar in taste to coconut water. It is similar in the way that they both have electrolytes, which is good if you're into healthy stuff. As for this drink, it's sweet, but not too sweet. I think the Bermuda Gold I added, gives it a bit of a tropical kick, which pairs well with the orange in the whisky — which is already sweet. 

Here's what you'll need:

serves 4

For the liquor (per serving):

Directions:

  • Blend blackberries with cactus water - you can strain out the seeds and stuff, if you don't want them, but they're good for you. :)
  • Add in recommended liquor per 1 cup of fluid over ice. 

Lavender Mint Himalayan Salt Scrub or Soak + Reusing Candle Containers

I haven't written in four days, but so many great, food-related things have happened. I went with a friend to the Venice Farmer's Market yesterday, which was a lot more cozy and low-key than I would've pictured. The day before that I went to Malibu Farm, which was amazing — the view, the food, everything, not the parking, but everything else. On top of that I'm wrapping up the finishing touches and checking for typos in my post for Out of the Box Collective. I'm super happy with how the photos are turning out. Oh, I've got my book club rolling and I got my first book in the mail, The Gabriel Method. Still time to join if you want to sign up. I keep saying the more the merrier, but it's probably better to keep it small. This is something I'll have to learn through experience, I guess. Either way, the link is over in the side bar. There are still spots. :)

While at the Venice Beach Farmer's Market, I bought myself some greens to grow at home. I couldn't be more thrilled. One of the things I waste most at home is lettuce and kale. Now that I'll be growing them I'll have more of a process with them. I'll be more excited about seeing them grow and change and when I finally get a chance to eat them, that'll be the best. I love making things at home, less waste and making things simpler. 

In this scrub I added a bunch of extras that you don't necessarily need to add, but you're welcome to. I've actually been using this scrub as more of a soak, because of the vitamin C and minerals primarily. I want them to get really absorbed into my skin.

Here's what I added and why:

Vitamin C: Helps skin rebuild collagen making skin more resilient and younger looking. It's also a great antioxidant.

Eucalyptus oil: I added this because I am singularly obsessed with the smell of eucalyptus these days. Turns out it's pretty good for the throat chakra too, which makes sense because it's a great oil if you have any respiratory problems. 

Apricot Oil: I often sing the praises of apricot oil, but in this I added it to bring in a little moisture since salt soaks are detoxifying and could use a bit of oil to balance out of the skin. 

Here's what you'll need:

The containers I used were from old candles that I had. It's super simple to clean them out. All you do is boil a small amount of water and let the wax melt and wipe it out with a paper towel. Do this until all of the wax is gone. Run them through the dishwasher and then you're good to go. 

Directions:

  • Once you've gotten the wax out of the old candles, all you do is mix all the ingredients together and put them in the containers. 

Life Lately + An Invitation to My Digital Book Club

Yesterday was an amazing day for me. I went to this Arigato Zen meditation event in this beautiful house, with a beautiful view. It was like a dream. I often don't go through the methods of the meditations that I practice, but this time I will. It is so easy to replicate that I totally think it's worth it. Our meditation session went on for three hours and it was magnificent. It was hosted and led by Dr. Machida Soho who is quite well known in Japan and pretty clever in person. I've noticed meditation in the states is kind of, well, talkative. The teacher will say "Let's take a moments of silence." Then talks the whole time. I'm a fan of guided meditation, but at some point you need to let people branch into the vacuums of their own minds. So, it's been especially interesting to me to learn in different traditions. Yesterday's was a Zen Buddhism meditation service, but more regularly I've been practicing a recorded meditation led by Deepak Chopra, who teaches in the Hindu tradition, with chakras and all that. As a yogi that's kind of my language. The Zen meditation practice from yesterday was in its foundation, chanting, with a bit of guidance. Mostly we were to led to the things that needed to heal, letting them come in, and analyzing them within ourselves. Although, I promise you there is no way to meditate for three hours in a room full of people and not be influenced. I've never had anything but positive influence because that's what we're there for, for collective energies to fill in each other's weakness with strength and commitment, but influence is still influence.

Image source: Chakra Balancing Meditation

So on to how the meditation was structured. We began sitting up and passed around this powdered incense, which we rubbed in our hands. It sort of made body heat the diffuser, which is really cool. As the room heated up, the smell of sandalwood got stronger. We rubbed the incense in our hands and held it up to our faces to smell. Then with our hands in prayer we started chanting the Japanese word for thank you which is, Arigato. This is done in syllables: a-ri-ga-to-u. The -u is part of the original word, if said correctly. Chant each vowel slowly, from here it was broken into three parts. The first part we thanked those who've caused us trouble, challenged us, or created obstacles and opposition. The second, we thanked those who've shown us the way, been teachers, and guided us. The third, we lied on our backs and we visualized our future, still chanting. Then in the end we shared our experiences individually. We stopped chanting at this point. :) It was beautiful, all of the different harmonies of people chanting at different speeds and tones. It all works together effortlessly.

I didn't know that you could be physically sore after a meditation, but you can. You definitely can. It was beautiful. All of this was made possible by my friend Mayumi, who is originally from Tokyo, a city that makes LA, seem like it doesn't have a traffic problem. I was honored to be part of this program because it will be Dr. Machida Soho's last trip to America before retirement and settling at a temple at the base of Mt. Fuji. It feels a little like I've made it all up. So grateful for the life I have. I couldn't have dreamed up a better one if I tried. I actually did dream up a better one. I'll let you know when it comes to fruition. 

Source: Flow Magazine, read the whole pdf article here

So, I said something about a book club and that is that I'm starting one. Starting on September 1st, I'll be co-hosting a book club with my friend and soon to be holistic coach, Stephanie. There we will be reading The Artist's Way and The Gabriel Method. So, you are so more than welcome to join. It will be 12 weeks of us discussing a book and probably being generally ridiculous. I'll be drinking coffee. It doesn't matter what time of day it is. I'll be drinking coffee. We have not yet determined the time commitment, or what day of the week. That'll be something you can share on the survey. We will also do our very best to accommodate everyone including any international guests. I am so excited to start a mini digital community. We'll most likely be meeting up on Google chat unless we come across a better platform. Please feel free share the link with any interested parties. 

Book Club Survey!!