Swimming With Sharks and Taking a Risk

When the movie Jaws was released in June of 1975, everyone was terrified to go in the water. It wasn’t safe. So, instead of going for a refreshing swim in the ocean, beach goers sat immobilized in the sand and sweltered in the hot sun, dreaming of the day when it would be safe to go in the water. If ever.

The following summer, people began to dip their toes in the water. After all, you can only be immobilized for so long before the desire to return to normal becomes overwhelming, and you’re willing to take a risk. Eventually, swimmers went deeper into the water, and they survived. The water was filled with happy swimmers, bobbing in the surf.

But, just when we finally forgot the horrors that lurked just below the water’s surface and began swimming again, Jaws 2 was released. Damn! It was like getting a booster shot of a syringe filled with fear, anxiety and a not so healthy dose of panic as well. Because you just never knew what was hiding in the ocean, waiting to kill you. It was safer to sit on the beach and sweat. Nothing was worth the risk of stepping into the water, not even to get your toes wet.

Fast forward to the present day. We have been through a terrible pandemic. And we have all been locked in our own homes, unable to go to school, work, the hair salon, the gym, bars, restaurants, the dentist and the eye doctor. And this was just a week or two after we were told that we had nothing to worry about. You remember, “Go out just like you normally do…..go to restaurants, bars, socialize, shop, party, and have a good time. There’s nothing to see here.” The people listened.

Then the “experts” told us that we had to stay home and were only permitted to go out for groceries and medication, or to the pot shops and liquor stores. And make sure you wash your hands. A lot. But, don’t wear a mask. Masks don’t work. The people listened, and they complied.

Two weeks later we were told to shelter in place. Just for 2 weeks. Then it would be safe to go out. Like responsible citizens, we did. Two weeks turned into 2 months. Restrictions are slowly being lifted, businesses are opening back up again (at least the ones that didn’t go under during the lock down), and we can now get our hair cut and our teeth cleaned. As long as we wear a mask. Because the “experts” have now determined that masks are mandatory. For everyone. Everywhere. Even when you go to the beach, and in the water, but they’re still not sure it’s safe to go to the beach and play in the sun. So, we should stay inside instead, just to be sure.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s time to get our feet wet. People aren’t stupid (for the most part), and staying inside isn’t healthy. Neither is isolation, especially when it’s forced. Besides, there is always something lurking beneath the surface, ready to kill you, even in the privacy and safety of our own homes. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to go back in the water. And out in the sun. Because I refuse to have the “experts” tell me that I have to live my life in fear, or that they know best. It’s time to go swimming and take a chance with the sharks.

The Eyes Have it

Making eye contact with another person is crucial to the human connection and establishing a relationship. Averting one’s eyes makes you appear suspicious, furtive, unapproachable, and even dangerous. Or it can communicate to strangers that you are insecure, vulnerable, and an easy target for perpetrators.

However, when you look someone in the eye, there is an immediate connection, and an exchange of information. Your brain processes this information, sending electrical, chemical, and hormonal signals through your body how to react. Eye contact gives you an instantaneous respond as to whether this person is a friend or foe, safe or threatening. That’s why it is so dangerous to walk around in public with your head buried in your cell phone.

First of all, it’s not safe. Second, it desensitizes you to the human experience and the human connection. Third, it’s creepy. But a few days ago I experienced something that was beyond creepy.

I went to the grocery store with my husband to pick up a few things. Much has changed in the past several weeks due to the COVID19 pandemic, and we’re all used to the masks, the social distancing, the hand washing, etc. But I wasn’t prepared for what I saw in the store that day.

Just a few days earlier, people were looking at each other, making eye contact, and even smiling at each other. The unspoken message was, “Hey, this is kind of weird, but we’re all in this together and this soon shall pass.”

But on this particular day people were social distancing, wearing their masks, and avoiding eye contact. Many of them were averting their eyes, furtively looking away and even turning their backs when another person walked by them. It was creepy, incredibly disturbing, and dehumanizing. I felt like I was in a store with a bunch of zombies, or maybe even a few mass murderers. People behaved as if each one knew that the other had a deep, dark, horrible secret that they were trying to hide. I couldn’t wait to get out of the store.

On the way out one woman stopped at the entrance to dig in her purse, creating a back log of shoppers behind her. We tried to go around her, but we were trapped. I glanced at the police officer guarding the entrance, but she turned her back on me when I looked at her. So much for guarding the store. Shoppers were trying to get in, others were trying to get out, no one was looking at each other and no one said a word. Not even an “excuse me.” It was surreal.

When we finally broke loose and made it outside I was disheartened and depressed. Is this where we are now as a society? That we are so disconnected from each other that we walk around like zombies or robots, not looking at each other and not speaking to one another?  What has happened to the human connection?

But then magic happened. As we pulled the bags out of the cart, a man walked briskly around the corner, saw us with a free cart, looked me in the eye, gave me a big smile and said, “Are you done with this?” “Yes,” I replied, “Here, let me clean it off for you.” And I whipped out my spray bottle of alcohol from my purse. He continued to smile at me, and still holding my gaze said, “Nah, I’m good!” I sprayed the cart anyway.

That man made my day. Because in that simple encounter, he lifted my spirits, and restored my faith in humanity and human dignity. All because he made eye contact with me. And gave me a smile.

Excerpt from Mara’s Garden

Recently I picked up a project I began working on about 9 years ago. It was shortly after my parents died, both of them, just 19 days apart. I wanted to write about our family and how my sisters and I grew up, in a family rich with Eastern European heritage and culture. But it was just too soon. However, when I began working on it again it began to take on a life of its own, and I realized I had to go back further in time and dig deeper, including the lives of my parents and how they grew up. Here is an excerpt from Mara’s Garden.

“I was born on July 9th, 1930, in Aliquippa, a small but thriving steel town in Western Pennsylvania on the banks of the Ohio River. My parents were both working in the garden when my mother suddenly disappeared. Since it was close to noon, my father naturally presumed she was going inside to prepare lunch. A short time later, when he went inside for his lunch, he found my mother in labor. So, instead of having lunch, he sent for the midwife, and three hours later I came into the world.

At least, this is only one version of how I was born. When I was a little girl, my older brother Brownie told me the “real” story about my birth. Brownie was three years older than me, and was always full of helpful information. It took me many years to realize that most of his information was made-up, and even longer to discover his penchant for playing tricks on me. Regarding the details of my birth, Brownie carefully explained that he himself was brought into the world by a doctor carrying a big black bag. But I came into the world into a far different way.

According to Brownie, he and my parents were walking along the bank of the Ohio River when they spotted a big, ugly fish defecating on the river bank. It was during this process that I suddenly popped out, landing squarely on top of a steaming pile of excrement. When Mama saw me, she picked me up, cleaned me off, and wrapped me in a towel. She and Tata (my father) decided to take me home to live with them and be raised as one of their own. Of course, I believed him, just as I believed everything my brother told me.

But for years, every time the subject of where babies came from came up, I would clam up and never say a word. I didn’t want another living soul to know the true story of where I had come from, and Brownie was kind enough to swear never to tell the story to anyone, and to keep my deep, dark secret between the two of us. He even went so far as to reassure me that he would never even mention it in front of our parents to spare me any embarrassment. Although Brownie could torment the hell out of me, he could also be very considerate when he wanted to be.” 

Not Your Nona’s Lasagna

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting recipes. But when I saw a recipe for pumpkin and kale lasagna, I shuddered and moved on. However, it kept calling my name and I looked at it more closely.

It certainly intrigued me. After all, I love pumpkin, and I love lasagna. I even love kale, with certain reservations. But the recipe was loaded with heavy and calorie-laden ingredients that seemed unnecessary, and kale sauteed in garlic added to pumpkin was too much for me to even think about.

I had a few other misgivings as well, so I incorporated a few of my sneaky ninja moves, as well as substituted almond milk for whole milk to come up with something that might be palatable.

One weekend afternoon, it was time to test it. However, before tying on my apron, I warned my husband that we might be doing take-out at the last minute. We didn’t. The lasagna was delicious, and we ate the entire pan in 3 days. It’s not your typical Italian lasagna, which is why I call it “Not Your Nona’s Lasagna.”

2 15 oz cans 100% pumpkin puree

2 eggs

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp white pepper

10 oz fresh baby spinach, chopped

2 TBSP butter

2 TBSP flour

2 cups unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp ground nutmeg

8 oz mozzarella cheese

1 cup Parmesan cheese

2 1/2 cups sliced almonds

About 8 ready-to-bake lasagna noodles (Or, you could boil traditional noodles, but who’s got the time)?

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. In a small bowl, combine the mozzarella cheese with the Parmesan and mix well. Lightly spray a large baking pan with non stick spray or olive oil. Spread half of the pumpkin mixture in the bottom of the pan. Top with 1 cup sliced almonds, followed with half of the spinach, and then half of the cheese mixture. Add a layer of ready to bake lasagna noodles.

Spread the remaining pumpkin mixture over the noodles, followed with 1 cup of sliced almonds, the remaining spinach and then the rest of the cheese mixture. Add another layer of noodles.

In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk well. Slowly add the almond milk, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Add nutmeg and white pepper, remove from heat, and pour evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to taste and remaining sliced almonds. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350 degree over for 1 hour. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Chicken Dijon

I was going to name this recipe after my favorite mustard, Grey Poupon, but my husband advised me not to. He said that Poupon Chicken didn’t sound very appetizing, and I guess he had a point.

After doing diligent research, I discovered that Grey Poupon is a dijon mustard and has a small amount of white wine in it. No wonder why I like it so much. I also learned that the word poupon means little baby, or baby doll. Who knew cooking could be so educational? 

I used a few of my ninja tricks to combine a few recipes, cut what I didn’t like, kept what I thought would work, used my imagination, and came up with a variation on a theme. So here it is, my Chicken Dijon, and Poupon too!

6 thinly sliced chicken breast fillets (I buy them already sliced thin. No need to pull out my sharp knives, especially if I’m in one of my moods).

1 TBSP light butter

sea salt and pepper to taste

2 TBSP chopped shallots

8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms

1 TBSP Dijon mustard (I use Grey Poupon. Of course I do).

1 cup chicken broth

1 tsp dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the chicken and pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. In a non stick frying pan, melt the butter on low heat, then increase the cooking temperature to medium.

Cook the chicken fillets until slightly browned on each side, careful to not overcook or the chicken will be tough. Place chicken in a baking dish, cover with foil, and put in oven to keep warm.

Add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until soft. Add the chicken broth to the shallots and stir in mustard. Add mushrooms, parsley and cook until mushrooms are cooked thoroughly. Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover with the foil, and cook for an additional 15 minutes to blend flavors. Enjoy!

Patience, Perseverance, and Number #1 Best Seller

Patience and perseverance are two valuable principles I learned in my martial arts training. It means that our focus is on the journey, rather than the end result. And it explains why the students that come to our dojo with their primary goal of becoming a black belt are usually gone in just a few months. Because everything takes time and effort.

The same applies to every aspect of life. Focus on the journey, put in the time, the effort, and see what unfolds. That’s exactly what happened when I published my first book. I just focused on the journey, even though it was incredibly labor intensive.

When I heard that the “real work” in writing a book begins after it’s published, I found it hard to believe. After all, it took me two and a half years to write it. In reality, it actually took a lifetime, since it was the result of a culmination of life experiences, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.

When the book launched, I was delighted with the number of sales I received, as well as a few great reviews. And I was over the moon when I received two awards.

But then, sales dropped off. I spent hours of my time promoting the book, giving endless talks and presentations. I talked until my throat was raw. And I sold a few books, here and there.

It was frustrating. It was discouraging. But I never gave up, because I truly believe in my message. Patience, perseverance. Time, effort, mindset. Persistence. Incomparable stubbornness. I just knew that my target audience was out there, waiting to hear my message.

Finally, three years after the book was launched, my persistence paid off when I became a #1 Best Seller on Amazon in EIGHT categories. It was amazing. It was humbling. It was a miracle. But it took patience, perseverance, and a little help from my friends. Especially from the incomparable Polly Letofsky, who is the master of focusing on the journey. She is the first woman to ever walk around the world, and no, I am not kidding or exaggerating.

She also is the founder and owner of My Word Publishing, a company that helps newbie authors like Yours Truly get their work out into the world. And she certainly does it well. Thanks to Polly along with a healthy dose of patience, perseverance, persistence and unbelievable stubbornness, I am now a Best Selling as well as an award winning author. And, as you can see from the photo, I owe her lunch. And that’s one tab I can’t wait to pick up!

Episode #54: Awareness, Intuition, Trust, and Self-Worth

Meet Nicole Jansen, Business Breakthrough Coach and Behavior Specialist who has helped thousands of clients transform their lives and achieve extraordinary results in business. However, her greatest accomplishment is her own personal experience in overcoming adversity through quiet introspection to regain physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Download this episode to hear Nicole’s secrets in this gentle, uplifting, and enlightening interview, and how you can apply them to your own life. You do not want to miss this!   

 www.DiscoverTheEdge.com

LeadersOfTransformation.com

https://www.facebook.com/nicolejanseninc

https://www.facebook.com/DiscoverTheEdge

https://www.facebook.com/LeadersOfTransformation

https://twitter.com/nicolejansen

https://twitter.com/DiscoverTheEdge

https://twitter.com/LeadersPodcast

https://www.instagram.com/nicolejanseninc

https://www.instagram.com/leadersoftransformation

The Best Defense

As a practicing ninja, I know a thing or two about defense. Most of the time, the best defense against an attack is usually the simplest and the most obvious. Just don’t make yourself vulnerable.

It’s cold and flu season, and I’m a germaphobe. Not an over the top crazy kind of germaphobe, but a sensible kind. After all, I spent forty years working in health care, so I also know a little bit about infections, especially how to prevent them.

And it’s so simple….wash your hands. Wash them often and wash them well. You don’t need any special equipment or antibacterial soap. All you just need is mild soap and warm water.

Wash your hands before and after you eat, use the bathroom, blow your nose, sneeze, cough, touch your face, touch commonly used public surfaces, etc., or anytime you feel like you need to wash them.

And please….I am begging you on bending knee, don’t sneeze or cough into your hands. Turn your head and sneeze or cough into your elbow. I actually saw a dancer in ballet class meticulously wipe down the ballet barre with an antibacterial cloth, then promptly sneeze into her hands before touching every surface around her. Yikes!

And you might want to be careful around uncovered food in public. I know, I’m being paranoid. But I once brought freshly baked bread to a networking event and set it on the food table. A young man approached the table, sneezed into his hands, and began slicing the bread. I almost fainted.

Common sense is the best defense, and it really is so simple. Let’s all share the love but not the germs, and let’s make it through cold and season with our health and wellness intact. Here’s to your health!

Episode #53 Pelvic Health and Awareness

Margaret Woodward, one of the leading pioneers in pelvic floor physical therapy health,explains how dysfunction in the pelvic floor can result in back, knee, hip, and even neck pain, and what we can do about it.  Margaret also shares her personal story of facing her own health crisis as well as the proactive steps she took to get her life back on track. 

Download this information-packed and educational episode to learn more about pelvic dysfunction, interstitial cystitis, pelvic pain, and how you can be proactive and take charge of your health. Knowledge is power!

Links: https://www.hopeptlakewood.com/about

https://www.pilatespluslakewood.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pilatespluslakewood/

Episode #52: Alternative Health and Healing From Trauma

In a follow up episode, Dr. Elva Edwards shares more of her personal story about surviving a terrible car accident that took the lives of her mother, father, and beloved grandmother. Although nineteen month old Elva and her four year old sister survived, they were orphaned by an event that turned their lives upside down. 

Many of the details were left a mystery to Elva and her sister, because none of the adults wanted to discuss the details of the accident with them. Download this episode to learn how Elva did exhaustive research to find out what really happened that night, and how she was able to be a voice for the parents she lost all those years ago, as well as her passion to help other people heal from childhood trauma. 

www.drelvaedwards.com