Monthly Archives: September 2014

Week 7 – A New Year, and Cares Continues

Good Morning friends! Welcome to another week – also, guess what? I (think I) finally figured out how to allow subscribers for this lil ol’ blog!  Click on Subscribe, in the top right hand corner, add your email, and bad-a-boom! We are golden.

A few thoughts, before I launch into our GBD for this week.  Yesterday I had a birthday. I really love ritual and reflection around such times, and I also really like lists – so before I share my three statements of gratitude, I also want to share a couple of things that this last year has taught me.  I share them because maybe you identify with some of these, too.  Because it’s easy to think we’re the only ones who have ever felt a particular way about ourselves and the world. And because I love birthday reflection : )

  1. I read so. many. selfhelpbooks. And despite hi-lighting this concept a couple dozen times over the years, I would say that this was the FIRST year of my life that I learned how to set boundaries on a regular basis, and not feel badly about it. That “No” is a complete sentence. That boundaries teach people how to treat us, and that setting solid ones can be an important gift to ourselves
  2. If you were to ask people who have known me for several years what drives them crazy about me, I would imagine that a popular response would be “She apologizes for everything.  All the time.” It’s really only been in the past couple of months that I’ve tapped into a place of deep understanding about why this helps NO ONE.  Why I don’t need to do it anymore, and never did. And why you don’t either, sweet friend
  3. That being mean to/hard on myself doesn’t make me any better
  4. That asking for what I want is actually ok. That I don’t need to say “it doesn’t matter to me,” when sometimes it actually does
  5. That nothing is permanent, and “stuck” is only a state of mind. That when I’m in a headspace or situation that feels impossible or miserable, or like I’m powerless to the world – I’m not. That I have agency, always

Ok! Now 3 statements of gratitude, and onward we go!

  1. I am grateful for the lovely birthday messages, cards, thoughtful gestures, and surprises. I used to be embarrassed that I’m a pretty easy person to surprise. Nut now I kinda love it! Makes life more fun : )
  2. I am grateful to jump back into rehearsal today for a show that I could not possibly love more if I tried

photo-33

3.  I am grateful that I packed my yoga mat on this trip. I don’t always when I go out of town, and even though it takes up a fairly irritating amount of space when you’re packing for a flight, I’m super glad I have it

Friends. This lovely lady is Sarah Rae Mitchel.

10152449_10201846300694882_5811743800045238205_n

A dear friend, beautiful performer, old soul~ed kindred spirit, and our GBD for the week. Sarah works for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, and through her own initiative and creative genius came up with an amazing event THAT IS TONIGHT! Read on to learn more…

For the Celebrationists out there who may not know – tell us a little about Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, and what you do there.

SRM: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 BC/EFA has raised more than $250 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

I am lucky enough to be the Outreach Associate at BC/EFA, so I get to work with high school and college theatre students to raise money and awareness for this wonderful cause by doing what we all love, theatre!

Now what gave you the inspiration for “Cares Continues?” This event was something that you came up with, right? How would you best describe the evening of fun that you’ve created here?

SRM: The question that always seemed to present itself, be it in my own mind as I went to work every morning, or as I was asking college students to start fundraisers for Broadway Cares on their campus was, “why do we need a next generation of Broadway Cares?” If this was the fight of an older generation, and the disease is now manageable, why should people in their 20’s and 30’s continue this fight? I knew there was a good reason! But to be honest, I really didn’t know what it was. So I started to research and ask questions and I sought out young people who were being directly affected by HIV/AIDS, and the idea for Cares Continues was born! We would put on a benefit rock concert celebrating a new generation of activists joining the fight for those battling HIV/AIDS. The concert pairs your favorite 80s songs, popular during the early days of AIDS activism with hopeful stories from today’s activist generation. AND all the performers are alumni of some of our largest collegiate fundraising events! (and a couple of them just happen to have been on Broadway 😉

You mentioned to me that there will be testimonials from people of our generation – tell us more about this.  Want to share one? For the folks who have to work that double shift and can’t be there?

SRM: We really got some amazing stories from these young people! Some of them are terribly sad but many of them are hopeful and inspiring and even funny, but I think this one sticks with me the most because it’s simple and relatable.

“As a gay man, the threat of the disease is constantly something that lives in the back of my mind. I’ve never been with a sexual partner and felt completely safe. I have a lot of friends who take the risk because we hear about the advancement of medicine rather than history. And because things like Prep exist.  There’s such a stigma surrounding the term “AIDS,” that I think the most significant part of coming to grips with the diagnosis is the emotional and social connections to the disease. I could never imagine having to tell someone else that they probably contracted the disease because of me.”

I know the nice people can click on this link here, http://tickets.thecuttingroomnyc.com/event/663615-cares-continues-strength-in-new-york but since this rocktastic party is TONIGHT, give us the details! Time, place, tickets?

SRM: It’s tonight! Monday, September 29th, 9:30pm at The Cutting Room (44 E. 32nd St.) It’s such a rock n roll venue, the perfect place to see some 80’s rock music!

If someone is feeling super inspired and wants to help support BC/EFA, what’s the best way? How can they do it?

SRM: They could come see the show! Or you can go to Broadwaycares.org and click on “show your support!” Thank you!

** Blogger note: Also you should probably watch this rehearsal video because it is AWESOME and will make you want to go…http://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10202758793186624

What’s another organization or person doing Little Bits of Good that you’d like to give a shout-out to?

SRM: Besides BC/EFA, two organizations that are near and dear to me are City Harvest http://www.cityharvest.org and The Heifer Organization http://www.heifer.org They both do smart and compassionate work that really makes a difference.

What’s the best thing that happened to you today?

SRM: I found a new walk way in midtown Manhattan, today. Instead of fighting through crowds on 7th ave in Times Square, I cut through these little concrete “parks” that are tucked between the buildings between 6th and 7th ave, you can walk all the way from 50th street all the way to 46th st. in the middle of the avenue! One even had a waterfall, such a lovely and peaceful morning walk.

79-atlg

Thank you Sarah! Join us next week for another exciting GBD, and in the meantime, feel free to subscribe, if you like!

Week 6 – No One is Alone, and Sneak Peek

Hello, sweet friends.

As excited as I was about my plan to bring you another brilliant GBD this week – and trust me, I am still REAL excited – a few days ago a thought started tugging at me, and I was too inspired by it not to shift gears. And since it’s my blog, I guess I’m allowed to change my mind about what each week will bring : )

So today is a bit of a follow up post from last week, or, the other side of that coin. But first:

  1. I am grateful for several large pieces of undeserved kindness and understanding I have been shown in the past 4 days.
  2. I am grateful for this first day of rehearsal for Into the Woods!
  3. I am grateful for the kind man at LaGuardia airport who was attentive and nurturing when I lost my driver’s license.  We didn’t find it, but his concern felt real and beyond his job description, which I appreciated so much. What do we ever want as much as feeling heard?

photo 1 photo 2

(Yes, I decorated my Into the Woods binder out of sheer excitement, what of it? : )

What I’ve been ruminating on:

Internal balance can be hard. As I mentioned in my first-ever post, I’m a Libra. I’m always looking for balance, even though most of the time I find it by powerfully swinging from one side of something to the other – no matter how it appears from the outside. I think this relates to Little Bits of Good because as much as we want to be generous, amazing humans to our fellow inhabitants of this planet, we can’t forget ourselves either.  We can’t reach out in kindness and then treat ourselves in a way that we would never treat our best friend. Does this ring a bell? Probably you’re not alone.

To allow guilt, fear, shame, and their crazy-making cousins to traipse into our hearts and sign a sublease there is not in keeping with the good we are trying to create. Those guys are sneaky, and they can make us feel undeserving, incapable, and small…when really we are doing great – and doing the best we can with the information we have at this moment in our lives.  I think most of us, to greater or lesser degrees have spent years internalizing messages from whomever – our parents, the media, people in our social circles, wherever – and come to believe on a cellular level certain things that just aren’t very true about ourselves. We believe these repetitions until the idea of them becomes a habit. And those habits become stories. Stories that go like:

“Well, I’m always a disaster when I try to….” or “I’m no good at…” or “I can’t have….” and we don’t even realize we’re doing it, because it feels totally real, and linked to our identity. I think we all have such stories. I also think that in order to create a wonderful world, we have to start with ourselves. There are countless books about self-love, that talk about how damaging it can be to allow ourselves a steady diet of these hurtful messages.  But how often do we focus on doing Little Bits of Good for ourselves? So that we feel strong, brave, and healthy enough to go out there and share that goodness? So that we can be present for the people we love in a way that is whole, and not in a way that is just taking the focus off our our own issues and projecting them onto someone else. So that we don’t self-sabotage and get in the way of what we desire most. So that we fully believe that we too, as much as anybody else on this planet, are deserving of Little Bits of Good.  So today, I want to leave you with some ideas for self-care. If last week was about 10 Little Bits of Good you can put into the world, here are 10 for YOU, especially for days when those sneaky suckers are knocking on the door to your heart and trying to unload their moving van full of lies inside.

Please share your own ideas, I’d love to hear them!

  1. Re-read handwritten magic – if you’ve ever received a letter, card, email, or even text message (so, not totally written, but you get the picture) that made you light up – that made you smile and feel a deep sense of well-being, re-read it. Someone took the time out of their life to tell you what you mean to them. Take their words in and believe them. Try to see yourself the way that they do, for just a moment.
  2.  Call a trusted buddy – different friends play different roles in our lives.  Call someone who you know will really be present with you if you’re struggling with self-doubt and self-love, and give them the gift of being there for you. Sometimes accepting help or a kind ear is much harder than offering it. When you’re down and out, you can choose to open up or shut down. And when you shut down, there’s no place for the light to get in.  Remember that you are never alone.
  3. Take a walk, preferably in nature – Physical activity has long been recommended as a remedy when you’re feeling out of sorts, but allowing yourself to do it for no other reason than to be alone with your beautiful self, allowing your body to work out some of what you’re feeling, and experiencing the beauty of our world can be very healing. Give yourself the gift of the effortless radiance of nature, and the consciousness of your own body’s ability to allow you to explore it.

photo 1

(Grabbing a sensible walking stick is obviously recommended)

4.  Be present with your pain, when it happens – A dear friend just reminded me of this gem a few days ago. We all experience pain. Like everything else, it is temporary. So give yourself the gift of sitting with it and experiencing it fully, instead of telling your body to “shut up,” or that the hurt you’re feeling is wrong. There’s a difference between wallowing/dwelling/yanking others into the deep well of your emotional hailstorm, and just allowing your own feelings to be present, but also knowing that like anything else – they will pass.

5.  Snuff out your stories – Review the extensive library of stories you’ve created about yourself. Take a hard look at them. Do you really “always” mess up your work/relationships/etc? Always? Really? I bet there was at least one time when you didn’t. So that possibility does lie within you.  Just remember that the story you’ve been creating doesn’t have to be the final draft.

6.  Find your happy place – Can you remember the happiest time of your life? Not so much an event that “made” you happy, but when YOU were the happiest. How old were you? What did that sort of effortlessness feel like? Be gentle and remind yourself that that person, that little girl or little boy – is still you. Still in there. Even bodies of water that are tempestuous on the surface have a place deep, deep down that is totally still. Totally calm. Totally at peace. You just have to go deep enough.

7.  Make a list – Of all the things you like about yourself.  I know. This sounds kind of  like a miserable exercise. But I’ll tell you what, it helps. Challenge yourself to write ten. And try to base this list on what you see. Not what you hear other people say about you.

8.   Clarify – Give yourself the gift of being totally specific about what you want. Not what you SHOULD want, not what you THINK YOU CAN HAVE – but what you WANT. In SPECIFICS. Write it down.  There’s something empowering about letting ourselves go there. Give yourself the freedom to throw boundaries out the window – if you could create a life that looked like anything in the world, what would it look like?

9.  Buy yourself the book You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero. – I’m serious. Just do it. You’ll thank me, I promise.  http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Badass-Doubting-Greatness/dp/0762447699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411263175&sr=8-1&keywords=You+are+a+badass

photo-30

10.  Forgive yourself – Guilt doesn’t mess around, friends. But what better Little Bit of Good could you do for yourself than to let go of the need for shame? Let go of the need to feel guilty and undeserving? Turn up your Frozen soundtrack (come on, you know you have it, too) and blast that freaking song, if you have to! You are too beautiful, life is too short, and we have too much to do to be bothered with mean-head guilt anchors wrapped around our ankles.

So be good to yourself this week, Celebrationists. And now I want to give you a little preview of next week’s GBD, Sarah Rae Mitchel.  This delightful lady is producing “Cares Continues,” her own brainchild, to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids.  We’ll learn more next week, but I’m posting this link NOW because the concert is on September 29th, at 9:30pm! You won’t want to miss it. Check this out, for more info – http://thepozlife.com/2014/09/17/rock-concert-cares-continues-to-benefit-broadway-caresequity-fights-aids/

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.

See you next week! : )

Week 5 – Shakin’ things up!

Hello, and happy Monday!

I hope you had a wonderful week, and are as psyched for the fall as I am!  Depending on where you are the world, you may be feeling the departure of summer to greater or lesser degrees, but New York is definitely shifting into that blissful season of sweater-weather! For me, this is the time of year that feels like things are beginning again – the time to hit my “reset” button, more so than on January 1st. I think it’s less about some part of me that is stuck on “school time,” and more about the awareness of nature turning things over – energetically, everything feels like it’s whispering wildly, “We’re getting ready for something new! Want to be a part of it?”

Anyway. Fall.  I love fall. And in the spirit of newness, I want to shake things up and write a different kind of post today. Not to worry though, next week we’ll be back with more GBDs!

And first, 3 things I’m grateful for.

  1. Six more beautiful days to enjoy New York before I head to Florida, until January
  2. A very thoughtful early birthday gift from my sweet friend, Alex
  3. The opportunities that come up for me to spend time with animals, until it’s responsible for me to have my own (like today, I’ll get to spend some time walking/cuddling with Cole, a 96-ish lb bundle of black labrador love!)

photo-29

There are many moments when I get caught up in my own plans, obsessions, dreams, and general “busy-ness,” and it seems like I don’t have the time or energy to reach too far outside my own orbit. Which is a sure sign that it’s exactly the time to.  So I wanted to offer up a little list of ideas that I’ve been brainstorming – ways that we can take a moment out of our day and do a really meaningful little bit of good.  Modify them, change them, or ignore them totally – but if you feel like it and it makes you happy, challenge yourself to doing just one little bit of good this week.  If you do, let me know how it goes – either in a comment, or email it to littlebitsofgoodblog@gmail.com Here are 10 ideas that I came up with:

  1. Give a book – Let someone borrow (or have) one of your favorite books.  Something that is really, super meaningful to you, and has had an impact on your life in some way. Without putting any pressure on them to read it quickly, or even at all, you can offer a buddy some inspiring reading material to kick off this season of change. Just being thought of in this way might be a great gift, in and of itself.
  2. Contact a teacher – I think that teachers are the unsung heroes of many of our lives. Think of a teacher who really made a difference to you, even if it’s been quite a few years, and drop them an email or phone call.
  3. Handwritten magic – Anyone who knows me well, knows that there are few things I love giving or receiving more than a handwritten anything. Especially now in an age that is super text-tastic (which I also enjoy, don’t get me wrong) – a hand written card or note of appreciation or affection can mean the world.

photo-28

4. Foot the bill – Most of us are experiencing varying degrees of financial struggle, most of the time. Consider footing the bill on a coffee or lunch date, “just because.” Doesn’t have to be a birthday or special occasion.  A gesture of “thank you for spending time with me – I appreciate your company, and would like to take care of this even though we are both broke, for no other reason than you are my friend,”  can be a surprising and day-brightening gesture. In a similar vein….

5. Tip more generously than you normally would – Consider leaving just a dollar or two more than you typically might at a restaurant, in a cab, etc.  The person serving you has a whole life that we know nothing about, and that couple of extra dollars might go farther than we think!

6. Compliment someone honestly and specifically – a kind and genuine word has the potential to spark a chain reaction of good things in a person’s day.  We’ll never know if a person was feeling down in that moment and a few sincere observations gave them the energy to push forward, complete a task, or shine in a moment where they might have felt insecure before.

7. Volunteer – Depending on where you are, hunt around online and see where there might be opportunities to volunteer in a way that is meaningful to you. In NY, I like using https://www.newyorkcares.org – once you join and attend one orientation, you are able to sign up for a variety of projects, many which only require a one-time commitment.

8. Acts of service at home – do something kind for a roomie, parent, spouse, or whoever you live with.  Wash their dishes, take out the trash, deep clean the bathroom – and don’t say a word about it.

9. Cook/bake for someone when it isn’t their birthday – because this brings smiles. And smiles are the best : )

10. Learn something new – Give yourself the gift of reading the newspaper, an online article, or a book that challenges you in some way.  Education is the first step to awareness, which is the first step to making a difference!

Baking 4

Thanks for reading, fellow Celebrationists! You have my support this week as you embark on your own Little Bits of Good! Tune in next week to meet a new GBD!

*HUG*

Week 4 – Little Bits of Healing

Whew! How quickly a week races by, am I right? Here we are again, darling Celebrationists.

With so many positive things happening in my life at the moment, for me, this past week has been about wrestling with some sneaky Upper Limiting Problems! If you’re not familiar with this term, as I wasn’t until fairly recently, check out this short but potent Daily OM article: http://www.dailyom.com/library/000/001/000001907.html – I PROMISE it’s worth your read.  I’m not going to expand very much because we’ve got a LOT to cover today, but let me just say – this treasure of an article is my personal gift to you for the week. You’ll be glad you read it. And if you’re feeling super generous with yourself? Pick up a copy of that book.

Ok! I’m going to share my 3 statements of gratitude and then cut right to chase, because we’ve got another exciting GBD to meet!

1.  I am grateful for my friend Kevin Gilmartin who took me to a wonderful play, And I and Silence, at Signature Theatre, last night.

2.  I am grateful to have laundry in my new building! My first-ever New York apartment to have it!

3.  I am grateful for this morning’s affirmation in my “I Can Do It 2014 Calendar: 365 Daily Affirmations,” by Louise Hay.  It reads “Forgiveness is a gift to myself.  It is easy and rewarding to forgive.”

All right, friends. This is the tenacious, talented, and taste-bud-tantalizing Jacqueline Raposo.

PIe Contest for a Cause - Photo Kym Fajardo

(photo by the talented Kym Fajardo)

Jax is an article-writing, story-telling, dog-snuggling, play-acting,  treat-making lady with a wonderful story of her own. Jacqueline has been dealing with Lyme Disease for a significant part of her life. A disease which makes physical pain, digestive issues, (and and more that we’ll get to in just a moment) a big part of every day life.  Since being diagnosed, Jacqueline has explored a variety of natural and holistic methods of healing – which she shares in the most generous of ways.  Her creations, discoveries, and insights can delight and inspire people who are coping with chronic illness, or folks who are just seeking a healthier and more enlightened lifestyle!

As a vegan who is fascinated by natural healing and home remedies, I’m particularly fond of Jacqueline’s view about “food as medicine.” Read on, to hear more…

Can you share with the folks out there who may not be so clear about it – what is Lyme Disease like? When were you diagnosed?

JR: Generally, Lyme affects people neurologically (headaches, confusion, memory problems, overstimulation by sound and light) and in the joints, producing swelling and a lot of pain. There are over 300 documented symptoms, so it’s a bit of a mess.

I was first diagnosed when I was twelve, and again when I was nineteen. When first diagnosed I had excruciating pain in my legs, so I was in a wheelchair for a while. In college it was more about my spine, making me blackout in class and wearing down my vertebrae. I had another really bad flair in my mid-twenties, which was mostly all-over body pain and a complete lack of appetite; I was lucky if I forced 500 calories in my body a day, and dropped thirty pounds. Also: severe adrenal fatigue, and pretty delicate digestive issues; I’ve been off cow-dairy, gluten, corn, soy, sugar, eggs, beef and a plethora of other things at varying points since that diagnosis. I’ve also had sleep issues, blood sugar issues, liver issues, nutrient absorption issues… lots of issues. But I still consider myself a very happy, fortunate woman!

On your blog you mention using food as medicine – when did you start experimenting this way, and how has it evolved?

JR: My first semester in college I started eating like your typical collegiate: pizza, beer, mac and cheese…. I remember having such a severe migraine by Halloween that I had to skip parties and stay home during class. By second semester, I was cooking all meals myself in my dorm room or at friends’ apartments. It was the first time I really got how food makes such a huge difference for my health. Finding locally ground cashew butter or devouring brown rice and steamed broccoli was the first step towards my real relationship with food that would keep me as healthy as possible.

When I moved to New York, things changed significantly. All of a sudden there was more temptation, but also cuisines of varying ethnicities that I could explore: rice noodles, steamed dishes, curries with coconut and no dairy, cuisines that never used dairy!!! I made a choice that I’d either have to actively explore how to cook and bake well for myself, or I was going to continue to love/hate that simply sautéed chicken and steamed broccoli.

If you’re having a day where you feel under the weather, what are your go-to power foods? Do you have any, and do they change?

JR: Food is always changing for me, since my body has lived with Lyme for so long and is constantly evolving; there have been periods I’ve felt relatively “healthy” and been virtually pain free (!), and times (like now) where I can live “pristinely” and still find myself at the whim of my body’s hour-to-hour needs.

So right now my power foods are about reducing inflammation and soothing my spirit. Here are a few:

  • Raw almonds: they’re awesome for protein, and the sort of bland, salt-free aspect makes me feel they’re absorbing some of the stress in my stomach. That’s what I impose upon them spiritually, anyway! There’s a huge difference in how we digest raw versus roasted/salted nuts, and I keep raw almonds on me almost always; if my blood sugar is at a dangerous point, they’re a great stabilizer and smooth things out safely without the threat of poor digestion or too much sodium.
  • Carrot/ginger soup: I have this in my freezer a lot, ready for a day when everything feels on fire. It’s loaded with turmeric, ginger and cinnamon, all which help inflammation, and it’s really gentle on my stomach.

Anti-inflammatory Carrot Ginger Soup from TheDustyBaker.com

(Find this delight at http://thedustybaker.com/2014/09/08/battle-inflammation-carrot-ginger-soup/)

  • Coconut water: I don’t do sports drinks, ever, and this gives me a boost of potassium physically and is yummy, so it makes my head and heart happy, too. I know there are a lot of conflicting stories out there about the benefits, but when you have a compromised immune system and a limited diet, things like unsweetened coconut water are your dear friends.
  • Organic, low-sodium chicken broth from the best company I can find: there are some days when things just go wrong, and I have to stay in bed. At home in NYC, I always have a container of organic chicken broth to warm up, as it gives my body something and is extremely soothing. If in Connecticut with my family, I usually ask them to grab me the chicken broth and some all-fruit popsicles. For some reason those two things make a sick day so much brighter!
  • Peppermint tea: I used to hate herbal teas, since I’d been drinking them since childhood. But peppermint is so helpful for my headaches and stomachaches. I very much rely on mint oils, tea tree, and soothing herbs like chamomile and lavender to work my body and spirit.
  • Lemon water: every morning I drink sixteen ounces of water with a lot of freshly squeezed lemon. I use organic lemons when I can, since they produce much better juice and actually taste far less acidic. This balances out the acid in my stomach from sleeping and sorta washes my digestive tract for the day. Very important when urging the body to absorb nutrients and let go of toxins, which I’m constantly struggling with.

Do you have a favorite ingredient, recipe or type of dish that you are especially enamored with, at this moment? Do tell : )

JR: Oddly enough, this relationship with food led me to a point where my job now is writing about chefs, farmers and food artisans, and I’m around food I can’t eat all the time! So more than a specific dish or ingredient, I’m really psyched to get cookbooks by chefs I’ve worked with and adapt something so that I can eat it. I just started a series where I’ll be adapting a recipe on my baking site www.thedustybaker.com, and link it to either a book review or a full version of an interview I’ve done with the chef on my writing site http://wordsfoodart.com It’s making me push myself to get out of my carrot soup and roasted vegetables on salad greens box and have fun with food again. So that’s really what I’m mostly enamored with right now; being so lucky that I’m being able to speak with professionals about their food and get suggestions for how I can adapt.

My next one up is Chef Jamie Bissonnette’s chicken liver mousse from his upcoming The New Charcuterie Cookbook http://www.amazon.com/The-New-Charcuterie-Cookbook-Exceptional/dp/1624140467 , out September 16th. The book is gorgeous, and I’m particularly excited because my docs have been telling me to eat more liver for years (I’ve never been fond of cooking it at home) and Jamie gave me a brilliant adaptation that I never would have known to do to replace the milk in the recipe. Can’t wait to get that one up.

But a short list of things I’d really not want to have to cook / bake without?

  1. Organic full-fat coconut milk and coconut cream; they’re the closest to mimicking the fat content in milk, and it makes adapting recipes really easy. Organic just tastes better, and low-fat anything has zero purpose in my book, as healthy fats are my friends.
  2. Coconut palm sugar: I don’t use stevia or any chemically altered. I’m not afraid of white sugar, and generally my recipes are not that sweet (except those done for a group thing, like my gluten and dairy-free Milk Bar adaptations, http://thedustybaker.com/category/recipes/milk-bar-mondays/ But when I have some extra cash or am making something for a special occasion I’ll want to eat with less worry, I trust coconut palm sugar to not threaten my blood sugar levels as aggressively as other sweeteners.
  3. Eggs! Organic, free-range, large eggs are my lovers! They’re magical! I had to cut down on eating them every single day because that’s the fastest way to developing a negative reaction to a food, but I love to make custards, crèmes, whipped meringue frostings, puff pastry… they’re just really delightful.
  4. Really yummy olive oil: if you’re a New Yorker, get thee to Fairway and sample their olive oils and really take the time to taste and enjoy and choose one you particularly like. Olive oil is like wine (which I also love); it’s so telling of where it came from and how it was made. Having a little really good olive oil (doesn’t have to be expensive) on hand makes a simple meal special, and it’s another healthy fat I adore.
  5. Raw honey: Honey from a small apiary is a completely different being than that “Grade A Amber” stuff you see on grocery shelves, which is blended and mixed and reduced so that the good stuff is boiled out of it. Raw honey has pollen, so it’s great for fighting allergies and inflammation, for building up immunity to air-born allergens, and it’s go SO MANY flavor possibilities depending on the flowers around where it’s made from. I’m obsessed with it; I’m on the second of a three-part series for one of my clients about it http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/07/how-honey-gets-made-bees.html 

Besides using food as medicine, are there other practices in your life that re-energize you when you’re feeling low on fuel – physically, mentally, or spiritually?

JR: So many! My entire life now is focused around keeping my stress levels low. Here are a few that help the most:

  • Giving thanks throughout the day: I have a Muslim call to prayer app on my phone, and when it goes off I say immediately what’s in front of me that I’m thankful for. It’s the difference of sitting at my desk in pain and frustrated that my brain’s not helping me get through a piece, or being happy at my sleeping dog at my feet, the tulips on my desk, the sunshine, the quiet, the tea in front of me. There’s so much to be thankful for, and keeping that in mind helps me focus on the good and not the pain.
  • Flotation tanks and bathtubs: Constantly battling inflammation, I take Epsom salt baths daily in cooler weather, and one of my little indulgences is really good bubble bath (the lavender-patchouli-vanilla from Sabon is my running fav). I discovered flotation tanks years ago in Ireland through a friend with crippling bone issues; you delightfully settle into a bathtub or tank with so much salt that you float without effort, and so your weightless body doesn’t need your muscles to do any work for you. It’s also pitch black, and the hour in silence and darkness is so uber rejuvenating and restoring. I go to La Casa Day Spa in New York http://www.lacasaspa.com/spa-services/floatation/; it’s an affordable deal with a really calming space / staff. I’m trying oxygen therapy with them next time, too.
  • When I can afford them, acupuncture and massage: I used to see my massage therapist, Denise Williams of Much Kneaded Massage http://www.muchkneadedmassage.com, twice weekly during that really bad period a few years ago; I wouldn’t have been able to move without her, truly. I’m currently trying to figure out how to budget to see her once a month; I’ve been seeing her for over ten years and couldn’t trust a massage therapist more.
  • Meditation: During that same particularly bad period, I found meditation at Integral Yoga http://iyiny.com. My body was attacking itself so violently that my brain couldn’t keep up, and I had a really hard time having any control of my thoughts. They do free twice-daily group meditation, and I started going several times a week and took a quick workshop. I credit it for helping reduce my physical and mental stress to a point that my body could take a breath and work at healing itself. Meditation is my grounding point, and I try it from all sources.

Tree Hugging

Now, you’ve done a lot of food writing, too – and not just on your blog.  Can you give us some hi-lights?

JR: A personal highlight was wrapping up my 2+ year chef interview column for Serious Eats http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2014/04/what-interviewing-nyc-chefs-taught-me.html?ref=title. That column really helped me find my niche, writing about passionate people and learning more about a craft I admire. I did a final piece on five life lessons from some of from them on my site http://wordsfoodart.com/2014/04/29/5-life-lessons-from-my-ending-we-chat-with-column/.

Another really fun one was documenting the experience of flying to an island in the Caribbean to make a wedding cake for a friend, when I’d never made a wedding cake before! I had three of NYC’s finest chefs help me, and it made for a really fun series http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/06/how-to-make-wedding-cake-nyc-pastry-chef-part-4.html!

St Croix Wedding Cake collage

How can non-chronically-ill people help their friends who have to struggle with their health?

JR: Ask them how they’re feeling, and then really listen to them. A lot of illnesses are invisible, so people forget to ask a loved one often in pain how they are. It means so much when someone who knows of my illness asks how I’m feeling, and then doesn’t tune out or say something general back. Alongside the blessings and positivity are a lot of pain and feelings of isolation; my life is more solitary when I have to budget time for all that medicine and cooking and meditating and floating. So a friend really caring enough to know what living in my body is like and letting me know that they see how hard and rewarding it is…. that’s special. I’m getting choked up just thinking about that.

For example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a beautiful thing. But I encourage people to not just make donations and post things on social media. If you have a friend with an illness, just dropping an email, sending a card, making a real phone call, sending flowers for no reason or stopping by for a visit is a huge mitzvah. When someone goes through something surgical or major, those things abound. But months and years of illness are often harder. Someone taking a little time to reach out is truly, truly, a HUGE bit of good!

What is another organization you believe to be doing Little Bits of Good?

JR: A woman with Lyme disease, Allie Cashel (who happens to live only one block from me!), is writing a book on living with chronic Lyme called Suffering the Silence http://sufferingthesilence.com/ ,out next year. She started an online community (along with a friend, Erica, who has Lupus) for those of us with chronic illness to share our stories. I met the two ladies recently at our local coffee shop and there is nothing more soul-filling than speaking with similarly positive, hard-working people who battle health issues with strength, humor and hope. Their project is just getting off the ground, but meeting them really made me feel a bit less alone in this body.

They asked me to write about my experience for their site [http://sufferingthesilence.com/jacqueline/#sthash.VI09w63D.dpbs], and the emails I got in response from people in my life was overwhelmingly beautiful; some confided illnesses in me that they don’t largely speak about, and others told me how much it helped them or someone they love who’s also living with Lyme. Community is so important, and what Allie and Erica do makes it easier to find that camaraderie.

What is the best thing that happened to you today?

JR: I got a beautiful bunch of tulips in my grocery delivery this morning that are sparkling in the sunshine on my desk! I try to surround my workspace with things that make me happy, and these are making my soul sing right now.

Also, writing this. I battle with making sure that my writing skills / time / whatever do something good for the world as often as I can, rather than just writing about caring for honeybees http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/08/how-to-raise-bees-honey-beekeeping-introduction.html?ref=title or to make herb jam http://www.tastingtable.com/entry_detail/national/17762/A_North_African_herb_jam_that_goes_on_everything.htm (which I really love doing, too!). So writing about an experience for Allie and Erica and you is really soul-filling. Thank you!

Top-10-Jacqueline-ron-ben

Thank you so much, Jax! Best wishes as you keep sharing your knowledge, beautiful spirit, and thoughtful insights! And once again, be sure to check out Jacqueline’s website http://thedustybaker.com

Have a great week everyone! And check back next week for more Little Bits of Good!

Week 3 – Japan, and the lovely Katie Berger

Hello there, my dear Celebrationists! Sorry I missed you last week – I was enjoying an incredible week in Tokyo, which was my FIRST TIME being out of the country!

***A word about Japan: People are SO kind. Yes, I believe that people are kind everywhere, but they take it to a whole ‘nother level in Tokyo, from where this girl is sitting! The level of politeness, respect, cheerfulness, and willingness to help is just OFF THE CHARTS amaze-tastic! Even non-English speakers (whom I encountered many of) were somehow able to help by hand-waving directions, recommending the best kind of iced coffee to try, or offering an encouraging smile while I spend ten minutes trying to figure out if there is anything vegan on the menu!

A few favorite things I saw/did/LOVED, in Japan:

  • Went to the top of the Tokyo Sky Tree, which is 2,080 ft. It. Was. Awesome.
  • Visitng Enoshima Island, where I got my feet eaten (just the dead skin cells) by “Dr. Fish,” and saw/pet many beautiful cats who roam the island freely, while hiking/seeing  many a stunning view.
  • Experienced the closing performance of War Horse, and helped Chad Jennings celebrate 2 1/2 years of glorious hard work!

OK! Now three things I am grateful for, then we’ll launch into this week’s incredible GBD…

  1. I am grateful for my new home.  I moved yesterday into a lovely new home, in Woodside, Queens. I will miss Brooklyn dearly, but I know I’ll love it here, too. A thank you to Craig Sculli for making it happen!
  2. I am grateful for Willa Johann and Tyler Quinn who valiantly took apart my bed so I could sell it.  This was NO easy task, and they were so kind to do it, particularly given that they were preparing to move, as well.
  3. That I get to play Cinderella in Into the Woods, at freeFall Theater – which begins rehearsal in just a few weeks!

Whiiiiiiich brings me to this week’s GBD, the thoughtful and radiant Katie Berger

10559714_10152120304615904_6473060688514985778_n

Katie and I will be playing/creating/having a ball together in Into the Woods, and I’m so looking forward to working with this lovely lady.  Katie is doing Little Bits of Good by sharing her story and raising awareness on the subject of eating disorders. She creates a platform for self-empowerment in her own blog, and in the way she lives her life. Considered a delicate, tricky, and sometimes confusing topic for many, Katie sheds light on her own experiences, offering hope in the face of a disease that can sometimes feel hopeless:

Give us a bit of your history with your eating disorder, if you don’t mind – as much as you feel comfortable sharing. 

KB: I started restricting before I even realized what I was doing was an eating disorder, and because of the intense denial that comes along with ED’s, I didn’t even realize I was anorexic until I was so far in that there was no turning back. I never set out to go on a diet or lose weight.  I have always been small, and never felt the societal pressure to be thin, but in college everyone was absolutely obsessed with it.  Friends were constantly hitting the gym, attempting to attain the “broadway body”, and like any good brainwashing, repetition is key.  Suddenly I was so busy and active, so good at restriction, and so unassuming that I was dropping weight no problem. I wasn’t even trying.  I have always had OCD, and suddenly all my compulsions and obsessions began revolving around food – portion sizes, safe foods, dishes, meal times, etc.  I had everything down to a calculated science, and if something hindered my rituals, I would become inconsolable. I became VERY good at lying, and had many people fooled (myself included)

How long have you been in recovery, and what sparked it?

KB: I have now been in recovery for 11 months (to the day!).  On September 30th, 2013, my Mom brought me into her room, sat me down on her bed, and through tears said “We can’t lie about this anymore.  You have an eating disorder.”  It was simultaneously the worst and best day of my life.  I spent the entire day crying and screaming and just being a handful.  The next morning was the first day of the rest of my life.

Has there been a particular obstacle or challenge in your recovery that you’d like to share?

KB: The hardest thing I’ve had to come to terms with in recovery has been the fact that it feels like you’re getting worse.  That is because you don’t have your number one coping mechanism to fall back on, so you are feeling things more intensely than ever before.  It’s overwhelming and really hard to deal with while you’re going through it, but eventually the sun breaks through and you realize why you’re getting better in the first place.

What is one piece of advice that you’d like to offer people who may not know much about eating disorders, but have a friend or loved one who is struggling with one?

KB: Eating disorders are real, mental illnesses that need to be managed as such.  They are irrational disorders and can make us do weird things. They are NOT a choice. Don’t tell us to “snap out of it” or to “just eat a cheeseburger”.  I would have given anything to just “snap out of it” a year ago when I was in my room pacing back and forth because my ED wouldn’t leave me alone.  I would love nothing more than to just chow down on a cheeseburger in the middle of the day with no guilt. It’s not that easy.  Just let them know that you are here if they need you.  If they don’t reach out to you specifically, don’t push the subject.  That might not be how they cope, they might want to not talk about it, or you might be a triggering presence.  If you are, please don’t take offense…just let it be.  They will come to you when they’re ready.

What is one piece of advice that you’d like to offer people who are battling this disease currently?

KB: I know it sounds cliche, but honestly the most important thing to remember is that you are NOT alone.  In any stretch of the imagination.  There are countless others who are battling demons and fighting wars in their brains.  Reach out, and see what happens.   There are so many resources out there to make your time in recovery more of a team effort. A big turning point in my recovery was becoming a part of the of online recovery community through my blog and tumblr. It made me feel 100% less alone.

I know that spreading hope and raising awareness are important to you! What ways have you been able to do this so far, and do you have any particular dreams/goals for the future, for raising awareness?

KB: I try to use my experiences in my performances.  I am obviously cast young, but that doesn’t mean that these characters don’t have real issues that I might share.  Frances in “The Burnt Part Boys”  especially hit close to home, and i know from some preliminary character work that I connect with Little Red on a deep level. Then of course there is my blog. I love writing and it is such an easy and accessible way to get my words out there!  I still can’t believe how many people read it and message me about it daily.  It’s truly humbling. I am currently in the early stages of planning a cabaret event to raise money and awareness for the NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association), which I think with all the heavy hitters involved in “Into the Woods” will be kind of amazing.  As far as long term goals – I’m currently writing an original musical which will deal with ED’s and is semi-autobiographical.  I think the theatre world needs this.

10479189_10152034971130904_350240793764506598_n

What is another organization or individual you believe to be doing  “Little Bits of Good?”

KB: Catholic Relief Services – Recently my mom went to Baltimore for training to become a Fair Trade Ambassador for CRS and it’s amazing to hear all of the great things they are doing all over the globe!  I am so proud of her…coolest mom ever. http://crs.org

What is the best thing that happened to you today?

KB: I talked to my best friend, Robyn, on the phone!!  She is the bee’s knees and always makes me laugh.  It’s tough having a long distance best friendship (she lives in Chicago), but she is always there for me and I’m always there for her!

Thank you so much, Katie! You can check out Katie’s own blog (she has a new post today, too!) at http://www.angelatheuke.blogspot.com

10177920_10151952701635904_3933450650590709750_n (1)

Stay tuned next week for more Little Bits of Good!