“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.”
― Hermann Hesse, German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter
“The test of democracy is freedom of criticism.” – David Ben-Gurion
And lest we forget:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
– First Amendment, United States Constitution
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to speak openly – without government restraint. It guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly and the right to petition.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION: It forbids Congress from promoting one religion over another and from restricting an individual’s religious practices. Regardless of the religion. Any and all religion.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: It prohibits Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. Censorship is therefore prohibited.
FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY: It prohibits Congress from denying the rights of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government. The power of peaceful protest is our democratic right.
“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
– Thomas Jefferson
Photo (of graffiti) via flickr.com.
Photo (of press) by Glenn Fawcett [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”
– Emile Zola
Émile Zola (1840 – 1902) was a French journalist, novelist and activist. He was, in fact, the most prominent and controversial novelist of his time (late 19th century France). He wrote a 20-volume series of interconnected novels, called Les Rougon-Macquart (1871-93), following the lineage of a family during the reign of Napoleon III. His writing style was called literary naturalism and much of his work reflected the miseries endured by the poor – a cause that he championed throughout his life. His novels, which were frank and very graphic, were attacked and even banned at the time.
In 1898, fueled by his outrage at what he believed was the wrongful conviction of Alfred Dreyfus (an army officer who had been convicted of treason), he wrote an open letter “J’Accuse” to the newspaper. Incurring the wrath of French officials, Zola was sentenced to prison for libel, but fled to England – only to be granted amnesty a few months later. He died in 1902, from carbon monoxide poisoning, due to a blocked chimney. It is still uncertain as to whether or not his death was accidental or the heinous work of those who wanted him to suffer the consequences of his words and activism during the Dreyfus Affair.
Since his death, there have been many books written about him. Most recently published is The Disappearance of Emile Zola: Love, Literature and the Dreyfus Case, by Michael Rosen (Faber & Faber; 302 pages). If you are interested in late 19th century French intellectual history and literature, this is an excellent new book to check out.
“If you shut up truth, and bury it underground, it will but grow.”
– Emile Zola
Photo Credit: Émile Zola [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
— Ellen Goodman, American Journalist
Much to the wry amusement of my friends and family members, “The best is yet to come” is a mantra of encouragement that I use quite frequently. Especially since the Great Recession of 2008. I believe the saying comes from Robert Browning‘s poem which begin’s with “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be… .”
The phrase is also the title of a 1959 song written by Carolyn Leigh and composed by Cy Coleman. Although it was originally written for singer Tony Bennett, it was Frank Sinatra who made the song famous. He recorded it in his 1964 album, It Might As Well Be Swing, accompanied by Count Basie and directed by Quincy Jones. On the 25th of February, 1995, “The Best Is Yet To Come“ was the last song that Sinatra sang in public and the words were immortalized on his tombstone.
I am a “glass is half full” type of person and so it is not really surprising that this is one of my favorite sayings. I truly believe that there is always something to look forward to and that every problem has a solution. We navigate our lives through a series of peaks and valleys. The valleys are made bearable because we know that, eventually, there will be peaks. And oh how glorious are those peaks! Well worth the wait and hardship. Optimism and Hope. May we all continue to have them in abundance.
2017 is going to be a simply “Mahvelous” year. I feel it in my bones. Or is that my early onset arthritis…? Just kidding.
And please remember to:
Take the time to read (a book),
and, of course, rest assured that
The best is yet to come.
“New Year – a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story ? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.”
― Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe
I will keep this post brief. The choices we make, whether proactive or reactive, set a chain of reactions and events in motion. How we act (or don’t act) and what we say (or don’t say) will play a pivotal role in how we engage with others and in what we hope to achieve in life. Sometimes we find excuses for our own inertia or our bad choices. We play the blame game: “It’s his/her fault that this happened, not mine.” In some instances, this is correct. But they’re the exception, rather than the rule.
Let’s face it, there are times that bad things happen. And it’s no one’s fault. But it’s how we handle the hard times, the tragedies and disasters that determines our forward path. The person who deals with hardship with humility, integrity and grace is the person who will likely also use every life experience – be it good or bad – as a lesson to learn from. True wisdom is hard-earned.
So let 2017 be the year we, each of us, write our own life story. Let’s hold ourselves accountable for our actions and our words.
Let the first chapter begin.
“Your life will be no better than the plans you make and the action you take. You are the architect and builder of your own life, fortune, and destiny.”
– Alfred A. Montapert
“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”
I think I must have been a cat in a past life. I’m not sure whether I’m nocturnal by nature, or simply an insomniac. One thing is for certain: I do not sleep very much. And when I do, it’s a light sleep that is easily disturbed by sound or motion.
Most “night” people (a.k.a. insomniacs) know, in theory, that sleep is essential to good health and well-being. In practice, however, we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re doing some of our best work late at night, when everything is silent and still. Actually, a good night’s sleep will boost overall productivity by a much greater degree than a sleepless night will.
5 simple reasons why sleeping through the night is a good thing:
- It improves your memory
- Boosts creativity
- Gives you more energy
- Makes you feel younger
- Makes you look younger
“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.”
5 medically-proven reasons why prolonged bouts of not sleeping can kill you:
- May cause inflammation which, in turn, may result in high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, premature aging and death
- May cause your metabolism to slow down and your weight to increase
- May make you accident-prone
- May contribute to depression and/or mood swings
- May adversely affect your immune system – making you more susceptible to colds, viruses, pneumonia
“Your life is a reflection of how you sleep, and how you sleep is a reflection of your life.”
Did you know that approximately 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 sleep disorders? I kid you not.
So, how much sleep do we really need? Although it depends on the person, the general credo is that 7-8 hours sleep (for adults) is ideal. The National Sleep Foundation has provided a chart showing the ideal sleep duration per age group, including the ideal time to go to sleep – see below:
Personally, I intend to make an effort to sleep more (and earlier). The odds will not be in my favor, if I don’t make this critical life change.
To all the insomniacs out there: please, please get some sleep!
“And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new created.”
I stared at the man.
‘How many tins of sardines did you eat, Jeeves?’
‘None, sir. I am not fond of sardines.’
‘You mean, you thought of this great, this ripe, this amazing scheme entirely without the impetus given to the brain by fish?’
[From Very Good, Jeeves, (c) 1930 by P.G. Wodehouse]
How many times a month do you eat seafood? And, more importantly, why should you care? Well, according to a recent study¹ published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, it was determined that weekly consumption of baked or broiled fish is associated with large gray matter volumes in the areas of the brain that are responsible for cognition and memory. Fried anything, let alone fish, is not healthy (although it sure is tasty!).
Another study² published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) on February 2, 2016, reinforced what many of us suspected all along: that, mercury levels aside, fish is really good for the brain. In fact, eating fish regularly can actually reduce the risk of dementia – more specifically, Alzheimer’s Disease. Furthermore, the researchers concluded that as we age, we lose a critical lipid in the brain, DHA, and that “fish consumption (therefore) may be more beneficial with older age.”
But why wait until then? We should be proactive and start consuming fish regularly… now – well before we reach our golden years. I intend to significantly increase my intake of seafood in 2017. In fact, I ate salmon on January 1st and today (January 4th) I ate a phenomenal serving of spaghetti with sardines. It was the tastiest spaghetti that I have had in a long time. Now I have never posted a recipe on this blog site. Ever. But I will today. That’s how fabulous this recipe really is. You can add your own elements to it – but whatever you do, don’t leave out the sardines!
Spaghetti with Sardines
- 14 oz spaghetti (I use Rao’s homemade spaghetti)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic clove, crushed
- pinch of chilli flakes
- 8 oz can chopped tomato (or the equivalent amount of chopped fresh plum or Roma tomatoes)
- 2 cans skinless and boneless sardines in tomato sauce (or in olive oil)
- 1/3 cup of pitted black olives, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp capers, drained
- 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
- Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water, according to the instructions on your package of spaghetti. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium pan and cook the garlic for 1 min. Add the chili flakes, tomatoes and sardines, breaking up roughly with a wooden spoon. Heat for 2-3 mins, then stir in the olives, capers and most of the parsley. Mix well to combine.
- Drain the pasta. Place the pasta on the plate. Add the sauce on top or and mix well (your preference). Garnish with the remaining parsley.
Yield: Serves 4
¹ Raji, Cyrus A. et al. “Regular Fish Consumption and Age-Related Brain Gray Matter Loss.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, Volume 47, Issue 4, 444-451.
² Morris MC, Brockman J, Schneider JA, Wang Y, Bennett DA, Tangney CC, van de Rest O. “Association of Seafood Consumption, Brain Mercury Level, and APOE ε4 Status With Brain Neuropathology in Older Adults.” JAMA. 2016;315(5):. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.19451
“Cutting out drama… Healthy mind and body choices… Intent followed by action… Keeping real friends and letting go of the pretends… Livin’ clean for Twenty Seventeen!”
― Steve Maraboli
“Losing weight” almost always makes the top 5 list for New Year’s resolutions. But here’s a revelation for you: losing weight is more than just pounds and ounces. Physical health aside, most of us carry around a lot of emotional baggage or dead weight. Like a grudge or a misunderstanding or a worry that keeps gnawing at you. Do you know how much time, on average, we spend worrying? Approximately 5 years of our lives, according to a study conducted by UK healthcare provider Benenden Health. 5 years!
Worrywarts of the world (myself included): Let it go!
And speaking of emotional baggage, how often do we find ourselves on the wrong end of an insult or mean-spirited comment? We spend so much time nursing our hurt feelings, reliving the experience over and over in our minds, while anger and resentment start to fester. Rather than holding on to toxic emotions, simply Let it go! And steer clear from people who are mean and negative. There are a lot of haters out there. Let them form their own club. Misery loves company.
And finally, a word to those who are too hard on themselves. Don’t dwell on past failures or mistakes. That’s simply counterproductive. Learn from them, but don’t let them drag you down. Let it go!
It’s a new year. It’s a new day. Look forward to a fresh start.
I’ll close this post with the lyrics to (yes, you saw this coming, didn’t you?)…. Let It Go! If you click on the title below, you can sing along with Idina Menzel as she belts out this Disney blockbuster song.
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation,
and it looks like I’m the Queen
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in;
Heaven knows I’ve tried
Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway
It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand
And here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back, the past is in the past
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway!
Song Written by: Robert Lopez Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Emanuel Kiriakou
Song Published by: Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Walt Disney Music Company