Monica Bhide | Recipes, Stories, Inspiration http://monicabhide.com Nourishing you with tales of food and culture Mon, 09 Nov 2015 10:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Be Gracious http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-22/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-22/#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7978 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

 

BE GRACIOUS

 

“Oh, this has high-fructose corn syrup in it, I don’t think I can eat this.” remarked a business associate when I presented her with some beautifully packaged home-made peanut brittle that I had purchased from a woman who had just started her own brittle-making business. At first, I was taken aback by the reaction. But then I was just annoyed—it was a gift. She could have taken it, said thank you and then thrown it in the trash when I left; that would have been gracious. But no, she made a point to turn the package around, read the ingredients list on the back and then scrunch her face and make a rude remark. (And no, she is not allergic to corn syrup.)

Webster’s defines graciousness as being good and courteous, and to a point I agree but I think there is so much more to it. Graciousness brings with it a certain polish, a charm that touches us. Gracious people are not just polite and kind—their share an attitude that spreads abundance of a positive spirit. Let me give you an example (or two).

When I lived in Cleveland, Ohio, several years ago, my husband and some friends and I went to a restaurant downtown for dinner. As we were waiting to enter the restaurant, it began to thunder, and rain looked imminent. A kind, tall and very handsome gentleman who was ahead of us in line to get in stopped, opened the door and held it for all of us to go in first, and said, “Please, come on in.” We smiled at him and entered. It was kind, you say? Polite? The man holding the door was a superstar, a renowned basketball player. We had no idea who he was until he entered the restaurant and heads turned.

Which brings me to my second example—I grew up in the Middle East, one of the most hospitable places in the world. I must have been about 16 when my parents, my sister and I were invited to a dinner at a friend’s home on a Thursday night. So we showed up at seven with hostess gift in hand. “I don’t see too many cars outside,” my dad commented, “I guess it is a small gathering.” When the hostess opened the door, wearing sweats, we knew instantly we had made a mistake in the date. Totally embarrassed, my ever-polite and gentle father said, “I am so very sorry, we thought the dinner was tonight.” To which the hostess smiled and said, “It is now. We are blessed that you have been sent our way this day. Come in and we will celebrate being together and eat whatever I can get out of the fridge.” It was one of the best evenings of our lives. Her graciousness touched me in so many ways—if her reaction had been merely polite, it could have made us feel like fools. As we were getting ready to leave, she thanked my mother warmly for the flowers we had brought. “You don’t need to bring a gift when you come, just your friendship is gift enough,” she said.

 

I end with these words that someone wrote in my memory book in high school. I don’t know if he is the original author of these lines or if he “borrowed “ them from somewhere. So with all due respect to the author of these lines, here you go: “Be a gracious person, for graciousness is a charm, that no friend can ever borrow and no foe can ever harm.”

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Be Grateful http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-21/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-21/#respond Mon, 26 Oct 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7976 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

 

BE GRATEFUL

I was about seven when a young, newlywed, gorgeous Indian woman with a serious UK accent invited me to her house for a “special celebration.” It did not sound tempting till she told me I could not only bring friends but that she would serve my favorite foods.

A few days after accepting this lunch invitation, six of the nosiest, giggliest girls you would ever meet showed up at her house. Barely had we stepped in when we were asked to remove our slippers and then move onto a large balcony. There, her husband, an eye surgeon, came out and with a large steel pitcher in his hand and then began to wash our feet. I was mortified. My friends did not seem to care as they giggled and wiggled. Not me. Was he implying we were unclean?

The lady noticed. “Come, Monica, let me dry your feet and then we will eat.” I could smell the toasty cumin and hear the sizzle of the bread frying in the wok. It smelled good enough to forgive her husband’s thoughtless task. She used a small towel to dry off my wet feet.

We were then asked to sit in a circle and she began to hand out presents—a dozen red bangles, a red stole and a silver coin. We were restless as she tried to explain the reason for the gifts and the significance of each thing. Where was the wonderful food that we could smell?

She must have sensed it. She went into the kitchen and came back with tiny silver platters filled with black chickpea curry redolent cinnamon and cloves, golden semolina pudding dotted with sweet raisins and crunchy cashews, deep-fried balloon bread scented with cumin, lentil wafers, a mild home-made mango pickle and even a bowl of sweetened yogurt. As we ate the hearty and nourishing meal, she began to tell us a story about Kanjaks. Our group pretended to pay attention as we gobbled as much as our little mouths could hold. Kanjaks—young pre-pubescent girls—are revered in various parts of India as incarnates of Goddess. Girls are the very essence of purity and bliss, she said. The washing of the feet, the giving of the gifts, feeding us such a lavish meal—we were being treated like Goddesses, she said.

Recently when I was reminiscing with my mother about how great this lady’s food used to be. My mother turned to me, surprised that I had not understood the real meaning of what her friend had been trying to do. In India, where killing a female fetus was considered “normal” and boys were thought of as the more desirable offspring, she was reviving this age-old tradition to give little girls like me true self-esteem. To ensure, I think, in her own way, that when these Kanjaks grew up, they had the same pride about bearing daughters as they did sons.

 

And I thought I was there for the food.

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Be curious! http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-20/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-20/#respond Mon, 12 Oct 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7974 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

BE CURIOUS

Ah, boredom. When my kids are home for the summer, it takes about two hours for them to come running to me with a well-used complaint: “We have nothing to do, we are bored.” What I have learned is that there is only one antidote for boredom: curiosity. I introduce them to things they know nothing about. Can they build me a kaleidoscope using my broken bangles? Can they learn how to plant mint? Can they learn to say six new words in Chinese? Yes, it keeps them busy but it also makes them smarter. One summer, my older son learned card tricks by watching YouTube. He is quite an expert now!

Curiosity is one of the most important skills we can obtain, and yes, it can be learned. To nurture your curiosity, begin by always asking questions. You will be surprised at how much people don’t know and how much they pretend to know! Go to places you would not normally visit: a hardware store, a bird sanctuary, a temple, a hospital cafeteria. Look around and let yourself absorb the atmosphere. In the great words of Pink Floyd, “All you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be.” So get out there and learn new things, ask loads of questions and, in your heart, be like the four-year-old who keeps wondering why the sky is blue and why leaves aren’t.

I cooked an Indian meal for Chef José Andrés recently, and the minute he stepped into my kitchen, his questions started: “How did you use the coconut in this bean dish? What is spice that I smell in this curry? What is the base for this curry?” Chef Carla Hall is super successful, cooking southern meals around the country and yet, she called me one day to ask about Indian cuisine and how she could incorporate Indian spices in what she does.

 

What are you curious about today?

 

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Behavior http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-19/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-19/#respond Mon, 28 Sep 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7972 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

BEHAVE

My young son, then four, was being very naughty. His books were strewn all over the floor, his crayons all over the counter, and he was whining about not having anything to do. I listened to him for a while and then in my sternest voice, I said to him, “You really need to behave.” He blinked his big eyes at me and then proceeded to whine some more about being bored and wanting to go out in the pouring rain. Again, I admonished him to “behave or you will be going into a big time out.”

This continued, on and off, for about three days. At my wits end, I resorted to the deepest threat I could think of: “You really have to behave or you will be in BIG trouble.” He looked at me with his innocent eyes and said, “But Mama, what does ‘behave’ mean?”

 

That little encounter has made me realize that people may not always understand what it is that I am asking or requesting of them. I have to be clear and explain what things mean. I can’t assume that “behave” means the same thing to you as it does to me. It doesn’t only apply to a little child. If someone is not responding in a desired way, perhaps they just do not understand what is expected of them.

 

Think about it.

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Enrich your life http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-18/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-18/#respond Mon, 14 Sep 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7970 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

ENRICH YOUR LIFE

 

If you have ever heard me speak at an event or have taken any of my classes, you will know that I am very partial to Pink Floyd, in particular these lyrics: “All you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be.” I love them so much that I have a T-shirt with these lines.

I don’t think anything can be truer than these lyrics when it comes to enriching our lives. The more we learn, the more we see, the more we understand the world around us. In fact, I remember years ago, my grandmother used to say that if you are bored with life, change the sky that you see. Well, she meant to travel around and learn. There is so much we don’t know, so much we assume, so much to learn. Travel doesn’t have to take us to exotic lands (although, I have to admit, that is fun) but can just be to a new little city around the corner, to the mountains, to the lakes nearby—anything that helps shift perspective.

I like to read a lot but I used to find myself reading the same types of books—spy thrillers or medical thrillers. I loved them and especially loved reading a lot of trashy novels. So I made a deal with myself—for every book that I read that was trashy, I would read one that I would never have picked. I asked people for recommendations and read books I would not normally touch—books on malaria, a book on the origin of color, a book on understanding the science behind intentions. I find myself more and more curious about life after reading these and, can I tell you, it keeps me humble and makes me realize how little I know.

 

What new thing is on your list to do—all you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be …

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Explore! http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-17/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-17/#respond Mon, 31 Aug 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7968 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

 

EXPLORE

I debated titling this week’s post: The Butt Out Post. Well, clearly, better sense prevailed! But it is what I want to talk about this morning: getting our butts out of our chairs. This is really a big and, sadly, underperformed function that every creative person needs to focus on when pursing a dream project. Especially when the project hits a snag or there is a dull moment and you feel compelled to clean the bathrooms for the sixth time that day instead of dealing with the issues on your project.

 

When I coach writers who are unable to write, I always tell them to leave their writing space—at least for a while. Go out and explore. Pick up your favorite chocolate bar and head to the newest museum/bookstore/clothing store in your area (or even better, outside your area) and just spend some time looking around. It is a great way to nurture the writer side of you that is looking for new experiences to write about. Maybe while wandering the children’s museum you notice the brand-new system installed in the bathroom to dry your hands, or the poor way a cross mother handles her son, or the fact that the entire menu being served at the museum cafeteria is now organic—I am making some of this up, but these are things you would have never known if you had not gone out. One point here: this is something to do on your own, not with a kid or friend in tow. You want to give your mind the ability to think and look for new things, not gossip about Clooney’s new movie or worry about your baby’s diaper.

 

This exploring does something important. It frees your mind to focus on your problem without “worrying about it.” Sounds crazy, I know, but this is the equivalent of I was in the shower, and suddenly the answer hit me!

 

Going out and exploring, finding new sources of inspiration, finding how big the world really is and how much we still have to learn is, in my opinion, a powerful antidote to repeated bathroom cleaning to avoid working on your dream project.

 

 

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Learn!! http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-16/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-16/#respond Mon, 17 Aug 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7966 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

LEARN

 

Earlier this year I took a class on how to be a psychic. I am working on a fictional story where the lead character is a medium and I wanted to learn the lingo. Next week, I am taking a class on travel writing. Ah, you think I am showing off how much I am willing to learn? On the contrary, I am telling you how little I know!

 

When I first embarked on my new dream career, I knew there was a lot I needed to learn, as I did not even know the basics. Once I learned the basics, I thought, I would be on my way. But I would not dream of a taking writing class or learning anything new. (I had several degrees under my belt and my thought was that I was done with learning.)

 

I don’t think I could have been more wrong if I’d tried. As I began to tackle the more difficult aspects of writing, I began to realize how little I knew about writing—or about much else. I recall in my earlier days working on a piece about mushrooms and being ashamed of how little I knew about them. Then I worked on story about sake and realized that I knew even less about sake than I did about mushrooms.

 

I now routinely take classes, read more books than I ever have before, ask a lot of questions, and no longer attempt to hide my ignorance. It helps me be creative and keep the passion for learning alive.

 

If we stop learning, how will we grow?

 

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Be Persistent http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-15/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-15/#respond Mon, 03 Aug 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7964 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

 

BE PERSISTENT

 

A key factor in any endeavor is to pursue it like there is no tomorrow. Sounds simplistic? Common sense? Well—it is. It is as simple as that. I have often said, and met, many people in this world with a lot of talent who can really talk a good talk. But I don’t see their bylines, their terrific companies, their great products, or read the great American novel that they want to publish. Why? Either they have no time, can’t create time, or have some other excuse. I know all their excuses and reasons because I have personally used almost every single excuse in the book about why I was not following my dream. I paid lip service to my dream saying that I would do it all someday.

If I was going to make my dream come true, I had to do, not say.

I began to print sayings on action and hung them on my wall. Post-it notes with “Do, do do” began to cover parts of my worktable.

It is easy to be persistent when all is going well. When the sun is shining outside your window and when your boss says he loves your work, or a friend calls to announce a new baby/promotion/etc. The key really is to be persistence when life seems to be going in the wrong direction and there seems to be nothing you can do.

I was on a plane recently and happened to glance at the SkyMall magazine. I saw the Destiny Tiles they are selling: “Watch your thoughts they become words; Watch your words they become actions; Watch your actions they become habits; Watch your habits they become character; watch your character it becomes your destiny.”

 

It made me realize that persistence needs to be a character trait. But let me define persistence: it is not about following up on things, it is about following through. Persistence is about owning your intentions and not letting any outside force or the stronger inside force move you away from what you need to accomplish.

 

Keep going. It is the only way forward.

 

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Set high standards! http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-14/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-14/#respond Mon, 20 Jul 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7962 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

SET HIGH STANDARDS

Several years ago, I had visited my older son’s first grade class. There was a handwritten sign on one of the walls. A young child had written it, and it has stayed with me since that day. The sign read: “You are always telling me to do my best. I am trying. But what if my best is not good enough?”

 

I ponder this all the time. What if this piece I am writing is not good enough? What if my next book is not good enough? What if I do my best and it is not good enough?

 

The real question to me is: who is judging?

 

I am my own worst critic so my opinion, in one sense, is immaterial. I have created a trusted group of advisors and I occasionally run things by them to see if the project in question is “good enough.” Their feedback, which I trust, has helped me move forward on many occasions. Please remember that this is not random reader feedback, this is the feedback of people who understand and have experience in my industry.

 

And what if they say it is not good enough? Now, that gives me choices (after I weep a few tears)—I can learn how to fix it, I can decide to do nothing, I can move forward as is. The point is that now I am making an educated decision as to what is “good enough.”

 

What do you say?

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Passionate People! http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-13/ http://monicabhide.com/powered-hope-13/#respond Mon, 06 Jul 2015 10:00:00 +0000 http://monicabhide.com/?p=7960 Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of […]

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hope

Last year I ran a successful year-long program called Powered by Hope. The intent of the program is to help you follow your creative dreams by powering your spirit with hope! I am glad the program was so well received. This year, in addition to new posts, I will also be sharing a few of the best posts from the program. From now until the end of 2015, you will receive a minimum of two posts a month focused on hope. I hope you will enjoy them and that they will inspire you to follow your dreams!

 

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PASSIONATE PEOPLE

I surround myself with friends who wear their passions, their dramas on their sleeves and regale me with stories of the exotic, the experiential, the practical, and the mystical. They are always “on fire.”

Let me introduce you to my friend Jim. He used to hold a high-profile position in the Defense Department and now works for a private firm offering creative business solutions to clients. He is one of those people who frequently tell “I caught a fish this big” stories, with one big difference: his stories are all true. Whether he’s been in Baghdad or Philadelphia, when he talks, his stories command attention. His larger-than-life stories are told with the eagerness of a curious child. More than anything else, though, what attracts me to his stories is the passion with which he tells them. Here is a man who has the right to be jaded, and maybe should be, based on all the horrific scenes he has witnessed in war-torn zones around the world. Yet he isn’t. His curiosity about life is contagious.

“I want to travel to Australia and spend time with this tribe on this remote island,” he tells me. Why? It has nothing to do with what he does at work. “The world is so big, there is so much to learn. I want to be out there learning. How do they do what they do? Can it help us? How does biology help us? How does physics? I want to be out there and learn. You never know what a tribe is doing well that could help us deal with the problem of eradicating a disease or hunger or … I want to learn.” And that he does, occasionally running away to Japan, or to Arizona to study the border patrol solution and learn how to apply those principles in other areas. One evening with Jim and you want to fly to the Himalayas and see what it takes to climb them, or to Vegas and see how the Bellagio really runs—he just has a lust for life and its adventures.

If I need the history of anything, I listen to my friend Rami. Janet has taught me how to enjoy nature by learning about the leaves, flowers, and little creatures that inhabit our neighborhood. My friend Nazu, a writer, spends her free time as a clown doctor; her stories always teach me humility. All of these friends have full-time jobs, but that is not what defines them; what sets them apart is their passion—this is what makes them different. Their varied ethnicities and backgrounds lend completely different flavors and seasonings to their tales. Their ardent fervor for life lifts my spirits and refills my creative reservoir with wonderment. They are not all Pollyannas but they do all have positive energy that I find uplifting.

 

It’s true that while just one conversation with any of these people results in the birth of innumerable ideas. More importantly, it reignites my own passion for my work.

 

Who are some of the passionate people in your life?

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