Monkey Do


I always found amusing the age-old monkeys image where each monkey covers its eyes, ears or mouth. It was almost as if to my childish mind, that some monkeys were smarter if they kept their opinions and strategies to themselves. They just might live longer, perhaps even get ahead of the troop. I have spent many years being an observer. It means that much time was spent on the sidelines, maybe even more than actually engaging in the game of life. But it is not enough to observe. Life is for living.

Observing life from the back of the room is advantageous to a point. Many of us would do it simply to steer clear of criticism or social aggravation; others of us would choose to not expose our own ignorance by keeping our mouth shut and our hands off the table. Some of us would even go so far as to let others talk long enough until they have enough words upon which to choke themselves. I have been at all three stations at least once in my life. A shrewd and critical surveyor of the characters around me. But it bears repeating: life is decidedly for living.

In the last several years I have noticed a willingness to connect with people… People who generally didn’t get me or otherwise were difficult to handle. You know the ones, those people who aren’t like you, the not “my kind of people” people. But we do ourselves and society at large a great disservice by harboring distrust to the point of seclusion. We stunt our own growth. And we limit the collective growth of humanity.

One of my favorite Biblical verses is James 5:16, “Confess your sins one to another…”. In broad strokes, I take the verse to mean that we should lead open and compassionate lives, to the enrichment of each other. Confessing sins, so to speak, is another way of being real and honest about who we are, warts and all. If you can forgive me my errors, I can forgive you yours. And if I can’t handle yours, I’m either vainly proud, unrealistic, or both. This verse, to me, goes in tandem with another more easily (even haphazardly) slung-about maxim: “Judge not, lest you be judged.” The clarification of this latter verse is for another day, let it be enough here to compliment the former.

The soul who sits back in observation is seduced into hiding, maybe believing it is better than some of the souls in its company. Such a temptation leads to false impressions of superiority, or worse, inferiority. Verily, we should not think more highly or lowly of ourselves than we are, for this leads to hiding, observing. But when we connect with one another, when we observe and engage, we remove vanity, prejudices and false pretenses. We cannot point the finger outward for too long before recognizing we must point the finger inward as well. We may be different on some things from those around us, but we must also recognize we are so very much the same. Self-preservation is no longer that desperate and overbearing need any longer. We are free, for we know the truth. And this makes us all the healthier.

Monkey Do

Blessings & Curses

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You’re not good enough. You’ll never do it. You’re a dreamer. You’re not getting any prettier. You could stand to lose a few pounds. You’re not the kind that succeeds. You’re too skinny. You’ll just keep failing like you always do. You make me so angry. Have you had enough of this?

Sticks and stones do far less cumulative damage, generally speaking, than words. The above line of declarations being decidedly deconstructive, they do make firm a general theme: someone is good for nothing. Whether it is true or not is immaterial, the recipient begins to believe. All the above statements have been pronounced over me, and I suppose over many of you dear readers. The words of influential people in our lives most certainly have an influence upon us, like it or not…believe it or not. The math checks out. So let us learn to put this knowledge to good use, to our advantage.

The science behind affirming ourselves is simply this: we give weight and consideration to everything spoken to us. Whatever washes over our brains has an effect; therefore we should be highly selective as to what we allow to wash over us, making sure we sparkle and not wither. The purpose of speaking to ourselves is to edify ourselves, to encourage ourselves in truth. If we do not know truth, then herein lies the first endeavor. Once we are persuaded of the truth, we can shamelessly affirm the truth over our very lives, bolstering our footing, expanding our circles of inspiration and influence.

Our lives are programmed, for good or for ill, most influentially during our first decade of life. Any destructive or fruitless programming accomplished during this early season will hinder us for the remainder of our lives, just as any positive programming will serve us forever. This is why ascertaining the truth is imperative, affirming the truth as it applies to us individually is liberating. Let us agree on two things.

The reprogramming of one’s headspace is a monumental task, made more difficult the longer we neglect to commence in earnest. It is a process of unlearning and re-learning, from darkness to light. In the second place, it is a task most assuredly worth beginning, for the obvious fruits it must necessarily produce. A record may only play according to the grooves placed upon it, whether sweet music or dissonant mental aggravation. We have an opportunity to smooth away the initial destructive grooves by the repetitive application of those desirable grooves.

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” [Deuteronomy 30:19] This verse encapsulates a reason why one might choose to practice the discipline of affirming herself as something that she heretofore has believed she was not. It is a form of the prophetic, calling that which is not yet as though it is already. In time, the reflection of the affirmation appears in the mind, then in the body. In due time, the reflection has become the word made flesh, no longer a reflection at all, but the substance of that which was once hoped for. Faith comes by hearing, so we should be sure to listen to ourselves and to others with longevity in mind.

Blessings & Curses

Short & Sweet

No, this is not an autobiographical post; those should be longer and tend to disprove sweetness.  This is, however, a post about the most addicting substance on Earth, namely sugar.  “Most”, not because of it’s strength, rather it’s ubiquity.  Sugar is present in the majority of our grocery store processed food comestibles; would that world peace had the same clever marketing team.  But what do we know of these mono and disaccharides, these cute cubes of sweetness on the cafe table, this organic free trade GMO-free juice from vegetal cane?  Let us make a brief survey here.

The western world, in 2017, is notably well-apprised of the benefits and drawbacks of sugar consumption, even within common core educational facilities.  On the pro side, sugar is…well…sweet.  It makes what we like to eat more likable perhaps.   There is also food preservation, a February 2006 article in Scientific American explains how sugar (and salt) may be used “to inhibit or prevent growth of food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella or Clostridium botulinum when properly applied.”  Whereas salted pork legs, such as jamón serrano, are enjoyed without licking off all the salt used in the curing process, the same discretion seems less likely when sugar is used.  I’ve seen occidentals consume a jar of sugar-preserved fruits, then drizzle the remaining liquid over bread or pancakes or ice cream.  If a jar of pickled cucumbers was only mildly seasoned, I maybe could stomach drinking the liquid.  Maybe.  Sickly sweet preservation syrups go to my head, not to mention my teeth; this is the result of growing up in a culture that has only very recently given in to sugary sweets…promoted by the west no less.  Mother had a special treats cabinet for which she alone kept a key, doling out one square each of a Hershey’s chocolate bar, per week, to my siblings and me.  One.  That’s how sugarless we were only thirty years ago in South Korea.  Salt, conversely, is heavily used and shows up everywhere in my culture, from soy sauces and kimchi preparations to lunch table condiment racks.  No surprises here.

“All things in moderation”.  Whoever said that should be widely celebrated.  Actually, as my husband now points out, it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “moderation in all things”, but, being shuffle-averse, we rarely quote it so.  We are not, as a species, averse nearly as much as we ought to be to liberally stimulating ourselves with heaps of sugars for all of our waking hours.  The known health fallout ascribed to over-consumption of sugar are before us constantly.  William Dufty, in his 1975 classic, Sugar Blues, shouts from the rooftops: “It has been proved that (1) sugar is a major factor in dental decay; (2) sugar in a person’s diet does cause overweight; (3) removal of sugar from diets has cured symptoms of crippling, world-wide diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart illnesses.”  Doctor Nancy Appleton’s 1996 offering, Lick the Sugar Habit, lists the following direct effects of sugar consumption:  dental caries, hypertension, hyperactivity, long-term lethargy, headaches, poor mental function, depression, allergies (including food), poor digestion, constipation, asthma, psoriasis, candidiasis, PMS, reduced immune responsiveness, shall I continue?  How about blindness, cataracts, anxiety, appendicitis, emphysema, pregnancy toxemia, eczema, cardiovascular disease, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, Crohn’s disease, kidney stones, cystic fibrosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, gall stones, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, accelerated aging and premature death?  Oh, come on, just a few more:  atherosclerosis, pancreas damage, hormonal imbalance, and all manner of ailments associated with fermentation in the digestive tract.  This is a partial list, for brevity.  The above publications are well-established, the truth is out there, the truth is old.  With direct effects such as these, those little cafe packets should come with at least a warning: sprinkle responsibly.

It has been said that the single easiest thing the average person can do to improve his or her health is to add a single raw vegetable or fruit to their daily diet.  An apple a day.  Then add another, and another.  We consider adding good habits easier than striving to break bad ones, crowding out the undesirables being the idea.  I have found this to be true for me.  If we are unwilling to do the very least to improve our health, we really should expect no sympathy when, sure as bears sleep in the woods (family friendly blog), we succumb to the natural consequences of our inaction.  God will not be mocked, we cannot reap except what was sown.

Short & Sweet

Up-line Upside

Thou shalt not gossip…so I won’t mention any names.

An acquaintance, who evidently had an opinion of who she thought I was, asked me recently point blank: “Why in the world would you ever get involved with an up-line-based direct sales business?!” It reminded me of my own smugness due to the limitations of arrogance not so long ago. Reading between the lines, the question really is a veiled pronouncement: “I thought you were more intelligent than that.”

I thought I was too, a few short years ago. This multilevel business model had a sketchy track record in my mind; my husband would actually walk away smirking at your idiocy if you broached the subject in conversation. And if you were “passionate” and “excited” about selling beads and baubles in people’s living rooms, the bigger he smirked. But Life has a way of poking holes in our pride to make room for humility. Times have changed, and thankfully so has the direct sales business model.

The key to any successful venture is to know what you want. When we find our “reason why”, we find our motivation. I knew I wanted to spend my remaining limited waking hours doing something that would benefit people around me as much as possible, while providing opportunities and income for my own household. I wanted to lay my head on my pillow at night and know I had contributed something worthwhile to my people. And I wanted to do it in a way that wouldn’t take me far from my loved ones for most of the week. Armed with this criteria, it was easy to trim the fat as far as knowing what I didn’t have room to entertain. There are always opportunity costs, taking up one project means putting others on hold, perhaps indefinitely.

After much research (and no small amount of prayer), I settled on the business I now conduct, working alongside a company of souls whose ethos and product line I regard highly. It should be noted that it all had to pass muster with my husband before I actually stepped forward with confidence; no sexism here, no subjugation of the little woman staying in the kitchen where she belongs… my egalitarian husband has a modicum of wisdom, I wanted to be sure he could look over the business model and give it a thumbs up. All business start-ups necessarily bring inherent challenges; the learning curve is only elongated when your life partner is not on board. Miraculously, he approved my new-found entrepreneurial endeavor whole-heartedly, only after careful review of all terms and conditions.

Again, running a business is no cakewalk. A good fit and support all around certainly do make it feel easy. Plus there’s a fun factor as well.

In fairness, the first month was like holding my breath, wondering if I really made the right decision or had completely lost my mind. When the first paycheck arrived, completely covering my initial investment and putting us into the black, I knew we had lift-off. Who doesn’t want to get paid to improve your own life and the lives of others around you? Who doesn’t want to learn and grow and pass on to your family those things you’re learning, with results and income to support it? Who wants to stay in a job simply because of a wage, all the while dodging that sneaky suspicion that you’re not making the most of the daylight? And regarding products, if I could buy what I normally buy, but now from a friend whose values are in sync with my own, why wouldn’t I make the switch? In fact, I was already doing this before ever entering the direct sales marketplace. Peace, love, harmony and all that, yes. But why support multinational corporation’s of people whose values we don’t know (or worse, we disagree with) when we could be supporting friends and family who we know personally? In doing my own homework, the pros fully outweighed the cons.

I like the multilevel direct-sales business model, you can probably tell by now. And I think everyone can make a genuine go of it and attain whatever level of success is desired. There are no ceilings, glass or otherwise, in this line of work. As Jim Rohn (one of my faves) is fond of pointing out, we go for high numbers because of the person we must become in the process of achieving them. We become hopeful realists, we take the initiative to recognize weak points and fears in order to improve and overcome.

If you hear the call already, the only caveat is to make sure that the compensation plan of your chosen company makes sense for the amount of time and effort you will be investing. For me, though I may be thinking of my business off and on during my downtime, I am already seeing acceptable returns even when putting in less than 30 hours a week. Isn’t that something worth writing home about? Why not you?

Up-line Upside

A Day of Preparation

Today was one of many a day of preparations. T’is what makes the Christmas season last so wondrously long!
 
We put up our Christmas tree later than most people. I did not grow up with a tree, nor Christmas exactly. My husband grew up with the tree being placed and decorated Christmas Eve because, “that’s just how it’s done. Case closed.” Today he felled a tree that hasn’t been doing so well, but the top is nice for the house.
We keep our tree up through January 6, later than some, traditionally to mark the Epiphany. January 7 we put up lacy hearts and shamrocks so as not to be caught out. Kidding.
 
This blog has been dormant as I’ve considered whether or not Facebook can replace it. I believe not, so the intention is to get cracking again right here after the first of the year. Check Instagram and Facebook for the decorated tree. Meantime, enjoy these images of my everlove prepping an evergreen.
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A Day of Preparation

Choosing to Losing

For all who’d like to lose weight, the big secret is out!  Eat less and exercise more!  Duh.  It’s like telling a drug addict to just say “no”.  If it were that easy, it would be that easy.  But it isn’t.  Similarly, when it comes to losing weight and improving one’s health, the truth is simple:

1 – Quit eating refined sugars
2 – Quit eating white flour
3 – Take a daily walk

But simple truths aren’t as easily followed, or the world would be filled with peace, love and understanding.  I digress.  If you can’t even accomplish the above three health-ups, you’re in a bad way and you already know it.  Hang in there, you’re not alone.  When comfort eating is in full swing, the most satisfying binge is usually comprised of white flour and refined sugars, even if you’re a salty snacker.  Comfort eating typically is high in buzz and low in nutrients, so the brain keeps calling for more food with the expectation of nutrients…which are not on the train.  So this “comfort” is an exceedingly temporary satisfaction, after which another binge is required…and another and so on.  It’s a similar pattern for heroin addicts, mind you.

We’ve all heard the reports of refined sugars being harmful to us, though most of us don’t really take stock of just how harmful.  There is a saying in wellness circles: the whiter the bread, the quicker you’re dead.  Not pretty, but memorable.  Cutting out these 2 items alone will significantly improve energy levels and improve our mood and mental clarity, primarily by cutting down on the demand for insulin production in the body.  If you’re like me, mood and mental clarity are precious commodities.  But what if one hasn’t even the energy, nor the care, to quit consuming the yummy breads and sugars?  To those in fair health this may seem like a ridiculously rhetorical question; to those on the sofa not reading this because their shows are on and they just opened a bag of cheese puffs…the question is an awful reminder of present reality.  To such a one, the real question might be, “How did I ever get to this place?”  The next question is usually more painful and far less entertained: Can I ever get out of this condition?  The first voice to respond (remember the voices?) usually sounds like this: “Who cares? Pass the ranch dip.”  The bona fide answer, however, is a resounding, “Yes you can get out of this condition!”  It requires some effort, but not as much as you may think.

My husband has struggled a few times with his weight since we were married.  A health-conscious young man who spent his free time cycling long distances and body-surfing off famous beaches, he accumulated 30 pounds in our first year of marriage.  My large dinners for him when he got home late in those days may have had something to do with it, but let’s not point fingers.  We’ll both attest that putting it on is easier and funner than taking it off.  His occupation in our early years together placed him at a desk in front of a computer for 9 hours a day, plus the bus and train journeys back and forth.  The handsome man I married had gained back all his cute baby fat and then some.  Where he was once inspired and inspiring, he became uncharacteristically listless and sarcastic.  Worse was his seeming unwillingness to change back to good eating and exercise habits.  There are reasons people let themselves go, spiritual and emotional; a sinister and vicious cycle develops.  Some habits are often imposed upon us from childhood, and the intention of this missive is most certainly not to weaken my man’s reputation.  It took me far too long to realize that, though willingness to change may have been present, accumulation of toxins in his system had put him on a path to inactivity and dwindling self-esteem.  Depression is the natural bedfellow of these last two, we’ll get to that another day perhaps.

Who can say exactly where and how some habits creep in and usurp the rightful stations of good ones?  The devil, they say, is in the details.  I argue not in this case.  But now I comprehend.  One little habit can nudge us off course, and we’re in danger of being sidetracked in our life goals and callings.  Add one or two more destructive habits and we may be forever tormented by the spread between what might-have-could-have-should-have been and what actually is.  Let us not forget the mind; we are what we dwell upon all day long.  The hope lies in this:  if one bad habit can nudge a body off course, one good one can elbow out the bad until it no longer finds place in our lives.  With prayer and consistency, just one good habit can make all the difference in getting back on the track to abundant living.

If those 3 requirements at the top seem nearly impossible to accomplish, allow me the liberty of a suggestion.  My husband began taking (reluctantly) the Plexus Tri-Plex Combo to jump-start his energy levels, specifically to facilitate a proper blood sugar balance.  He reports that, since beginning the Tri-Plex, those 3 items above became not only easier to do, but ultimately desirable.  Where he began by merely adding Plexus to his daily intake, inconsistently at first, it wasn’t until 3 months later that he actually felt like getting his game on, shedding 15 pounds in the 30 days just passed.

If by reading this you have “heard the call”, felt led to get the back-field in motion or otherwise found that spark of inspiration to get a move on, quench it not.  Care for it, love it.  Throw embarrassment and shame out the door, kick them all the way to the curb if you must; give them absolutely no welcome in your life.  The adage is true, a year from now you’ll wish you started today.  Do not add one more straw to your back.  Make better eating choices today, even small changes.  Begin now to build a new foundation; soon enough you’ll wake up and realize you’re living in a new temple.  The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.  The challenge here is to take it in increments of 7 days, and ramp up from there.  Cut out refined sugars and white flour altogether, cold turkey, for just 7 days.  Take a daily walk; walk a mile or a meter, but walk further than you usually do in the course of a day, enough to break a sweat.  Take stock of your mood after 7 days and then go for another 7…and another 7 after that.  Forgiveness is built into the universe for cheaters, but don’t look for opportunities to bail.  If all you can stomach is half a serving of steamed broccoli a day, resolve to stick with it.  It only takes one serving to start an avalanche, in a matter of days you’re on the slippery slope to excellent health.

Learn more about Plexus Worldwide and their natural plant-based products at http://www.shopmyplexus.com/borarew

 

 

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Choosing to Losing

Fragrant Fermentation

The preservation of food did not begin with refrigerators.  Sunlight and salt were the most popular natural methods used, primarily for desiccation of ingestible items.  Water brings life for organisms, including those that may be designed to render putrid something which might have earlier been a satisfying meal.

Researchers at large have identified what we call lactobacilli, bacteria that produce lactic acid, present just about everywhere living organisms may be found.  With some intention, we can use these bacteria as we see fit.  Our ancestors saw fit to keep food digestible for longer and longer periods, well before electric refrigeration.  As a bonus, we now know that these beneficial bacteria produce beneficial enzymes, thus aiding our digestive flora.  Evidence exists to show that lactobacilli support our immune systems which, as I’ve posted previously, is rooted in our gut.

Sauerkraut, pickled cucumbers, and preserved fruits are commonly recognized at home and abroad.  In my own Korean culture, fermented foods are a staple, left over from generations of traditional pickling of our vegetables for longevity and health benefits.  Below is an abbreviated recipe for my favorite iteration of lacto-fermented vegetables: kim-chee.  All my life, the Korean table was never lacking a dish or two of this vegetable preparation.  At it’s simplest foundation, kim-chee is made by salting a head of cabbage and then leaving it stand for several days in an earthen vessel, sometimes buried in order to maintain a consistent cool temperature to extend it’s edibleness.  Seeing how one might become bored of salty wilty cabbage, Eastern epicureans long-since departed found other ingredients to add to the cabbage, serving up a bit of finesse with each dish.  The addition of dried hot peppers was probably a Eureka! moment for my ancestors and, thus, very few kim-chee recipes omit this ingredient.

 

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Lest you believe all kim-chee to be the same (as does my husband), I should inform you that there exist myriad variations of kim-chee “dressings”.  Yes, the fundamentals must be present, but then a pinch of this and a pint of that leads to subtlety of palate-pleasing expression.  In some parts of Korea, a purely vegetable preparation is preferred; in other parts, salt-cured shrimps or fish is added for a specific flavor.  In actual fact, no matter what speciality a Korean restaurant may be known for, they are judged significantly on their kim-chee.  As polite as we may be on the outside, a plate of bland restaurant kim-chee has caused better Korean noses than mine to curl up and never return.  You don’t want to get this one wrong.

One must take into account that the final preparation won’t really be ready for consumption until after at least three days.  More than a few people have made the mistake of downloading a recipe on the rush-hour subway with the idea of impressing dinner guests later in the evening.  I still laugh when I think of it…in a kind-hearted way, of course.  A very fresh plate of kim-chee is quite acceptable, having just been made, like a crisp salad.  Digging into it too soon, prior to real fermentation, and you get what tastes like yesterday’s salad.  I find this has no appeal.  Once you pass the 3-day mark, you can tell fermentation is well under way, the longer you let it set, the more pungent it becomes.  This is what we come to expect from a serving of kim-chee.


Bora’s Mild Kim-Chee Recipe for the Western Epicure

Serves a small household for a week or two

Ingredients
1-2 heads of Napa cabbage, depending on size
1/4 – 1/2 cup good quality sea salt (or kosher) per cabbage head
3 Tbsp dried hot pepper flakes
1-2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1-3 green onion, chopped or minced
2-3 medium carrots, julienned
1 Tbsp of fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
3/4 tsp sugar to assist fermentation

Preparation of cabbage

Clean and rinse all fresh ingredients

Remove tough outer leaves of cabbage if necessary, then chop cabbage into bite-sized pieces.

Rinse the cabbage pieces fully in a sink of cool water.

Remove and strain w/ collander

Place cabbage in a non-reactive bowl, add 1/4 cup of salt and mix to cover all leaves with salt

Let cabbage sit in the bowl, turning cabbage 2-3 times at 30 minutes intervals

Rinse cabbage 2-3 times

Preparation of filling

In a non-reactive bowl, combine pepper flakes, minced garlic, green onion, carrot slices, grated ginger and sugar.  If you’re not using fish sauce, add as much as another 1/4 cup of salt.  Then mix thoroughly.

Add the above mixture to the rinsed cabbage and mix thoroughly to cover all leaves.

Storing

Pack covered cabbage into airtight plastic container or sterilized glass container; a large Mason or Ball jar works well.

Store in the refrigerator.  If you want to accelerate the fermentation process, let the filled and sealed container remain at room temperature for 24-48 hours before refrigerating.
The kim-chee keeps in the refrigerator for weeks, developing more complex sour flavors.  Typically, once it becomes too mushy and sour, we add it to certain soups for additional flavoring.

P.S. Don’t be surprised at the “fragrance” of the preparation after a few days.  When you open the container, it will certainly announce itself to your nostrils, and to the rest of the house.  Such is the glory of Korean kim-chee!  Enjoy!

 

 

*By the way, the picture above is a fresh jar of kim-chee; compare with the first image further up the page.  That’s the same jar, unopened, after three days, the reduction due to fermentation is clearly evident.  — B. R.

**Gateway to Korea’s YouTube channel has an excellent video for a greater appreciation of the kim-chee process; link below.

Fragrant Fermentation