Begin Within Monthly Journal
& Favorite Easy Meals
Holidays 2015; Letter 12
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Happy New Year, Friends and Followers!
I’ve come to see that one of the most productive things we can each do, in terms of personal happiness as well as success, is to discover and then work with our specific talents, gifts, and inclinations. To fight what we are, to compare what we do to others, to wish to be something we obviously are not, these things all set us up for unhappiness as well as personal failure because we are not working with what we are good at— or as some might even say, what we were meant to do.
When I was young- I’ll guess between 6 and 8, and both my parents still lived in Denver, Colorado- I was on a soccer team called the Red Ants. When I think of the team and the name, I can see us in our little red shorts and t-shirts, and I laugh remembering how appropriate the name was. Like stepping on an ant hill, we swarmed the ball up and down the field.
Though constantly reminded by our coach to play our positions, it was so hard not to get caught up in the moment and want to be in on the action. Shin guards were essential to prevent lower leg damage from all of the little feet trying to kick the ball at the same time.
Look, what I found :)…
At least that’s how it was in the early years. Our team, and my friends on it, did improve as we grew in size and skill. I, however, never was the athlete. I don’t recall ever being deluded into thinking I was; though I also wasn’t unhappy going to soccer practice and weekend games.
At the end of the final season that I was on the Red Ants, the coaches and parents held a party at someone’s house, and everyone was given awards... ‘The Most Goals’, ‘The Longest Kick’, the ‘Best Defensive Player’, you get the idea.
I don’t remember exactly what they all were, but I do remember mine:
The Happiest Player.
The fact that that didn’t depress me (even though I knew they were stretching to give me an award for a positive contribution to the team) only reinforced the appropriateness of the award.
I played many other sports throughout my youth. I don’t really know why. I think it mostly had to do with my parents wanting girls to be well-balanced, even tough, and to never ‘throw like a girl’. I was on basketball, baseball, and various soccer teams (once on an all boys team even). I was never particularly good at any of them, and I have just a few stand-out memories of sudden strokes of good performance.
The point is that things haven’t really changed. As I got older and got into gym fitness, which was a more appropriate form of exercise for me, I was working out to improve myself, not to win or compete against another. And I've stuck with that. I might not have been designed to win in the physical realm, but I have always been inclined to look on the positive side and to be a good team player.
I also wasn’t designed to be a mathematician. I can do math on a basic level of course, and I use it to keep accounts and do calculations for investing. I have found just few times when I was quite good at calculating something when others weren’t. (Typically when I could visualize the physical parts.)
Had I put myself on a career path that involved needing to use complicated math everyday? Forget about it. Could I force myself to learn it? Sure. I CAN do anything. Would I be great at it? Probably not. I have trouble remembering a few numbers for a few minutes. I tend to switch digits and make up numbers (though I believe they are correct), especially when stressed or tired.
We joke about it around our house, and I have finally learned that when I am POSITIVE that I am remembering a number correctly, I probably am not and not to bet the farm on it.
However, if I were a Ramanujan, why would I do anything except math?
To align what passionately interests you with what you are inclined towards and good at, that is a recipe for success and happiness.
A nice little book that covers this topic really well is The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.
(When I was young I also loved to read and create art. Still do.)
Another little book that I finished just before the holidays has some great tools for overcoming our personal blocks in order to maximize life experience.
In this context it’s more about addressing common problems that stop us from succeeding and prevent us from having fulfilling relationships.
The book is called ‘The Tools’, by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels.
In it, two psychologists teach five tools that they developed over decades working with their patients. The tools were created for their patients who needed something to actually DO once they understood why they were doing what they were doing. Modern psychology still tends to dwell on the past, with few if any answers to the question, “Okay... but what can I do now?”.
Very practical, very simple tools that help us to overcome self imposed obstacles, to connect with others and heal relationships, and deal with inner fears. The exercises also help to experience tapping into that impossible-to-describe something that is ‘beyond’ our limited physical selves.
In the book they use the term higher power and then discuss a ‘Source’. Interesting to me, is that after my first strong personal experience with something ‘beyond’ what we can physically see, the name I came up with was also The Source.
I don’t like to use the word God, because it is so loaded and everyone has a different interpretation of what God means to them— ranging from violent and damning to very esoteric. I prefer The Source- or even ‘Life-, because that is what it is and how it feels. It is what we and all life come from and are.
(Interestingly the more I read and study, the more clear it becomes that the basis for most religions and spiritual practices— the seed, NOT necessarily what they have become— all discuss very similar things, though often in different terms.)
For me, Tool #5 was the best. I have worked on myself for at least 20 years and my personal growth has reached new levels in just the past few years. But I still have phases where I stop practicing the things that are the most helpful and slip back into complacency or even irritability. (Like, is life ever going to get easier? Short answer: Not really.) Tool 5 perfectly addresses the issue and was an immediate kick in the pants to get me back on track.
As many have said in different ways; finding peace, or living in ‘the now’, are not remotely passive states. They take constant work and will challenge you more than anything ever has. There is no magical solution or easy way out. (The payoffs are also huge. Like most things in life, achieving the good stuff takes desire and determination. )
I am reminded of this quote, though I don’t know the source:
Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water
After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water
On that note, I’ll leave you with a couple of inspiring items I received over the holidays.
This for Thanksgiving, which I missed sharing with you: The Thank You Project
And below is one for the New Year, a reminder to take advantage of our short time in this life. Why you should buy 1,000 marbles...
P.S. I’m sorry to have been so out of touch. Shortly before Thanksgiving things got busy and stressful and then my computer died. Whenever you have two many balls in the air at least one is bound to get dropped. But I do appreciate you, dear Readers, and here’s a heartfelt Thank You to you all for reading and writing to me. Wishing you all peace and happiness throughout the New Year.
Why you should buy 1,000 marbles...
From Mark Ford, founder, Palm Beach Research Group:
The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings.
Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise. Or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work.
Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.
A while back, I was shuffling toward the basement shack with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons life seems to hand you from time to time...
I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio to listen to a Saturday morning swap net.
Along the way, I came across an older-sounding chap with a tremendous signal and a golden voice.
You know the kind... he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business.
He was telling whomever he was talking with something about “1,000 marbles.”
I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say.
Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well, but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much.
It’s hard to believe a young fellow should have to work 60 or 70 hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital...
Let me tell you something, Tom. Something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.
And that’s when he began to explain the “1,000 marbles.”
You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about 75 years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about 75 years.
Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52, and I came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in an entire lifetime. Now stick with me, Tom, I’m getting to the important part.
It took me until I was 55 years old to think about all this in any detail. And by that time I had lived through over 2,800 Saturdays.
I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about 1,000 of them left to enjoy.
So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.
Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.
I found that by watching that bunch of marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on Earth run out to help get your priorities straight.
Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container.
I figure if I make it until next Saturday, I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.
It was nice to meet you, Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. Seventy-three, old man. This is K9NZQ, clear and going QRT. Good morning!
You could’ve heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off.
I guess he gave us all a lot to think about.
I’d planned to work on the antenna that morning. Then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next Club newsletter.
Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife with a kiss.
“C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids out to breakfast.”
“What brought this on?” she asked with a smile.
“Oh, nothing special. It’s just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”
2015 Holiday Healthy Meals
The following are two twists on healthy recipes from the archive to help start your year off right!
Gluten Free & Vegan Cobbler
First, review my original Healthy Cobbler Topping Recipe for a full run down on the details.
This version is blueberry, but you can get creative with the fruit filling. I also love to use plums in season. I don’t add any sugar and love the tartness of the baked plum filling with the slightly sweet topping.
The main change made here is to use a ripe banana in place of eggs, in order to create a completely dairy free, egg free, gluten free, no added sugar, cobbler topping. And, yes, is still tastes great.
See the original notes on the fruit filling and how to adapt the recipe to your fruit of choice.
Here I used an 8x8 pan for a ratio of more topping to fruit. (In the original recipe I used more fruit and the same amount of topping spread thinner over a 9x12 pan. Both work well. Feel free to double the topping for a thicker cobbler with a 9x12 pan.)
Vegan Wheat Free Cobbler Recipe
3+ cups fresh or frozen blueberries (or other fruit of choice)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch, or preferred thickener
1 cup oat flour (or finely ground traditional oats)
1/2 cup traditional rolled oats (not groats)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional, do not use with rhubarb)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 ripe banana, smashed (fresh, or frozen and thawed to room temperature)
1/2 cup hot water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350F/175C.
Fill an 8x8 baking dish about two thirds full with blueberries (fresh or frozen).
Mix in 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch.
Bake 15 minutes in the hot oven.
Meanwhile prepare the cobbler topping:
Combine the dry ingredients.
Blend in the banana using a food processor, or smash in with a fork until thoroughly incorporated.
Combine the liquid ingredients until the coconut oil is totally liquified. Add to the oat-banana mixture.
Remove the hot fruit from the oven and give it a stir.
Loosely spoon the topping over the hot fruit. Bake an additional 15-20 minutes at 175C/ 350F until the topping is set and golden.
Let cool enough to handle and enjoy!
Keeps great in the fridge for leftovers. (I love to eat it cold.)
Baked Falafel Salad
This is a really tasty alternative way to serve up my Baked Falafel Patties.
I adapted a traditional Tzatziki Sauce to use as a dressing for the salad, choosing the tiniest garlic clove I had. Even that was plenty for flavor, but not so much my husband complained. (He can’t stand the lingering taste from raw garlic the next day.)
This time I experimented with the herbs in the falafel recipe and used chopped basil, parsley, and a little fresh thyme. It worked great, so feel free to mix it up if you don’t cilantro on hand.
Make the baked falafel patties.
Prepare a bed of fresh watercress (or other sturdy and flavorful green, like arugula).
Add fresh cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, and sliced raw mushrooms (optional).
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
Top with baked falafel patties (3-5 per person).
Finish it off with avocado slices, Greek olives, and fresh-made Tzatziki sauce as dressing.
I adapted this recipe, cutting the quantity to one third of the original, with the following adjustments:
My basic homemade yogurt, normal yogurt consistency
One tiny garlic clove (1/8 tsp estimated)
The cucumber placed in a salad spinner with salt to drain, spun a few times
1/4 teaspoon dill seeds
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
Super easy, healthy and delicious vegan dinner. Try it with cobbler for a healthy dessert!
Ask me anything or leave a comment here. And feel free to share.