Tag Archives: life lessons

Sourdough, Gardening, Life

One of my early loaves made for Valentine’s Day

This year we are planning a landscaping project and deck remodel, so I have decided not to plant my spring/summer garden. I really wrestled with what to do because I just love getting out into the dirt, tending to the vegetables and watching them grow. I also love preparing and eating the fresh zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other assorted crops throughout the Summer and into the Fall. I’m still considering a small container garden.

I have decided to continue my Winter project: sourdough baking. During the cold, dark months my son and I began cultivating a couple of starters. If you’ve been following me on Instagram @barbdab58 you’ve seen some of my efforts. It has been a lot of fun watching this little science experiment literally come alive in front of our eyes! Mix water and flour, let it sit on the counter and lo and behold, it bubbles, ferments and develops a pungent, delicious fragrance! Then we combine it with more flour, water and salt and it bakes into a bubbly, poofy, crusty loaf.

Over the last few months, we’ve experimented with different types of flour starters. We have one made from regular all-purpose flour and one from whole wheat flour. Each has its own unique fragrance, taste and personality. In fact, tradition dictates that we might name our starters and so we have introduced Rob and Laura Petrie, named after the main characters on my favorite TV show, The Dick Van Dyke Show. Rob is the lively, bubbly all-purpose starter and Laura is the more exotic, complicated, delicate whole wheat. We’ve also tried a few different flavors in our bread. We’ve used oats and maple syrup, garlic, onions and one that substitutes beer for the water. We’ve had successes and failures. This past weekend, we had a huge success with our original, classic sourdough. Previously we failed with an oatmeal loaf that was too wet, a whole wheat/regular blend that did not rise enough and a garlic loaf that was too garlicky. Early on, we had some failed starters, as well.

In sourdough, as in life, success depends on planning, patience, experience and that extra something intangible. Maybe it’s luck. But I also think it’s the love and attention paid and the focus and will to succeed. Last week I made my oatmeal/maple syrup loaf by myself. My son was busy and unable to participate. The loaf was tasty, with nice crumb and a toasty crust. But it was somewhat lackluster and rather flat. So this week I decided to go back to the basics, together with my son, and make the classic version. We took the starter out of the fridge, fed it, waited for the perfect timing when it was active and bubbly, and then began our process of mixing the dough, letting it rest, stretching and folding before letting it ferment overnight. In the morning, the dough was fluffy and shiny, with little bubbles just beneath the surface, and it smelled fantastic! After shaping and proofing, my son worked his magic scoring the loaf and into the oven it went. The result was a nearly perfect, golden loaf with a slightly charred crust and inside it was moist and tangy. As we reflected on how this loaf was different, better, my son declared that it was because we made it together, with love, as we’d planned, each contributing to the end result in our own way.

Last year’s garden

My sourdough journey has mirrored my gardening process, too. Nurturing something from the beginning stages, developing patience through trial and error and adding in lots and lots of love. This year has presented all of us with unforeseen challenges and the need to pivot and adapt to an ever changing set of circumstances. We’ve had to take the long view as we navigate our way out of this pandemic. There have been failures and successes and as we begin to emerge from our isolation, it is clear life is different, most likely permanently changed. But hopefully what appears is beautiful, the result of hard work, planning, patience and love. A beautiful juicy red tomato, a fragrant crusty sourdough, a meaningful vibrant life.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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Reflections on a Dirty Martini

There’s not much more to be said of the past year, and since the new one isn’t even a week old, I’d prefer not to comment too much or even try to predict any turn of events.  Life has not felt normal for a long time and frankly, I’m tired of trying to make any sense of things right now.  Instead, I just want to reflect on something small.  A martini.

My dad’s regular drink was a dirty martini.  Medium dry, Beefeater’s Gin, with a drizzle of Vermouth, a splash of olive juice and as the piece de resistance, those gorgeous, juicy, green olives with just a peek of red pimento winking at me.  He’d come home from work, call for my mom to join him upstairs while he changed clothes and they spent a few private moments together.  Then it was back down to the kitchen to mix that perfectly glamorous drink while my mom finished preparing dinner.  I’d hang around, hoping for a taste of the olive at the end.  Year after year he’d simply tell me I was too young, while I watched him sip that tantalizing concoction.  Finally, the day came when he handed over the olive.  Aaaah!  I’d finally made it!  I took the fruit from his toothpick and popped it into my mouth, sucked on it for a few minutes, then nibbled it bit by bit, savoring the tang of the gin with the saltiness of the olive. 

To this day, a dirty martini is my decadent pleasure.  Just the look of the triangle shaped glass with the olives perched on their toothpick inside the slightly cloudy drink of gin and Vermouth, makes me think of my dad driving into the garage in his Chevy Malibu, of our Delta Green shag carpet, our paneled den where I’d watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show, my mom made up, hair done, dressed for going out.  Yep, the late 1960s and early 1970s were groovy times, at least to me. 

In retrospect, though, they were also troubled years filled with social unrest, presidential scandals, assassinations, air pollution and some really groundbreaking protest songs.  As a late baby boomer, I was ill equipped to participate actively in the struggles of my older cousins to move the needle from the heady post-war (WWII) years to bridge the Generation Gap and herald the new age of technology just on the horizon.  But I watched from the sidelines as they marched, protested, chanted and sang about the wrongs they believed needed to be put right.  Those years shaped me, too, just like my dad’s dirty martini.  Part bitter, part tart, a little sweetness and at the end, an olive plucked from that marinade.  Every evening mix and repeat. 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Look For the Signs

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There was a song in the early 1970s by the Five Man Electrical Band called, “Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs.”  It’s meaning is meant, I believe, as a sarcastic protest against the “establishment,” culture of the times.  Certain groups of people were labeled, kept out and otherwise rejected by the mainstream, even in church.  But over the years what has resonated for me is the concept of “signs,” both literal and figurative.  I think when we are open to the world around us, there are, indeed, signs everywhere.

A few months ago, I was shown a sign and thank goodness, I was able to read it.  I was offered a tremendous opportunity to return to my professional roots as editor of a local newspaper.  While my background is in broadcasting, nevertheless someone saw fit to offer me the position.  It was at the very same time I was contemplating my future in the small business I owned for the last several years.  My partner and I had come to a crossroads and I had the choice to become the sole owner or to join her in the sale of the business.  I considered doing both jobs at once and decided that while probably doable, I really wanted to pour myself into just one thing.  Although I really enjoy being an entrepreneur, the thing that feeds my soul and my mind is writing.  At this stage of my life, I feel entitled to follow my passion.  To quote another song, “It’s Now or Never.”  And while it sounds corny, I really did feel the universe was sending me a sign with flashing lights and bells.

So here I am, a month into my new position and there are challenges.  I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know people and processes.  I have felt insecure and anxious.  I have been exhausted by the mental and emotional effort required to learn new things and to restart a part of my brain that had been on hiatus.  At times I’ve felt like a rusty engine that needs grease to get it going again.  But the overwhelming feeling has been relief.  Relief that I’ve found a place that feels like a good fit.  Relief that despite the challenges, I’ve been able to refocus pretty quickly on the demands of this type of work.  And perhaps most important, I feel both relief and gratitude that I was able to read the sign!  And I know this is the right thing for me because despite the exhaustion and jitters, I wake up looking forward to the day and at the end of it, I feel satisfied.  I no longer dread Sunday evenings knowing the new week will feel like a slog.  As tough as this new job might be, I feel at peace inside knowing I’m honoring the passion that has lain dormant for far too long.  And I also feel joy when I sit down to write an article or edit a submission.  The looming deadlines and unpredictable schedule are exhilarating.

I truly believe there are signs all around us.  Most of the time we aren’t looking, and they pass us by.  But if we really tune into our inner voices and give ourselves permission to stop and think, we may just find something we didn’t even know we were seeking.  In my case I was seeking joy, fulfillment and peace by returning to something.  What are you looking for and will you be ready to spot the signs pointing you in the right direction?  “Signs, signs, everywhere signs.”

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at http://www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Transitions 2020

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The new year is only a week old and already I’ve had two significant professional transitions.  The first is that after several years as a small business owner, I have sold my business.  The second is that I’ve returned to my journalism career as editor of a local newspaper.  It’s been a whirlwind of change and learning, and it’s been exhausting, but it’s also been exhilarating.

Life as a business owner was not new to me.  Thirty years ago, in the pre-internet era, I owned a franchise business.  It was fun and challenging and I loved being my own boss.  Most of all, I loved interacting with my clientele.  As an extrovert, I draw energy from interacting with others.  I also was a sole owner and, while the risk was solely mine, so was the reward.  I was also very young and had a growing family, so there were personal challenges as well.  Overall, I’d say it was a wonderful experience.

This time around, I had a partner and we built our business from the ground up.  No consultants to guide us, no corporation to hand us marketing materials and promotions.  Although the risk was greater without a corporate safety net, it’s been fun to see our business grow from an idea into something real and valuable.  A big challenge for me was spending most of my time in my home office.  I missed the client interactions and being alone was depressing at times.  The experience did teach me to be more mindful of self-care and to plan outings and lunches with friends and colleagues.  The partnership also taught me some valuable lessons about myself.  As someone who is a pleaser, I often yield too soon to others’ desires and opinions.  My drive to get along and be liked can be stronger than my need to stand up for what I think and what I know to be a good solution.  I look for compromise or, if there doesn’t appear to be a good one, I’m inclined to give in rather than push my agenda.  And while it’s good to choose one’s battles carefully, I too often choose to just walk away.

I’ve also learned that partnerships can be difficult and challenging, but the best ones are those where both parties feel heard and valued.  Differences of opinion can be a good growth opportunity and as long as there is trust and respect, those differences needn’t become make-or-break.  It is in the struggle that people can draw closer together.  And in the end, the reward was building something of value that we could successfully, and profitably, pass on to someone else.

So where am I now?  For most of my life I have been passionate about writing.  Words fascinate me with their power to move minds and hearts and to effect change.  These days, journalism gets a bad rap.  As with anything, there are bad apples that spoil the bunch.  But for most journalists, the responsibility and privilege to enlighten, engage, provoke, educate and entertain weighs heavy.  It may seem cliché but being a voice for those who have none and providing a check on the powerful in society and government is a calling.  I am excited to spend more time telling the stories of real people and events in my community.  I’m also thrilled to spend more time out in the world, observing and reflecting back what I see and hear.

I’ve been lucky to have several careers in my life.  Each one has led me to the other and each is a reflection of a part of myself.  Writing is the thread that has run through it all and the thing that feeds my soul.  It is the best expression of myself and the way I can best share myself with the world.  So, onward to the future.  I look forward to sharing more of this new chapter with all of you.  Happy New Year 2020!

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  A former small business owner, she is the current Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at http://www.jewishobservernashville.org .

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Happy Hanukkah 2019

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Tonight, people around the world will be celebrating Christmas Eve, to be followed in the morning by a Christmas Day extravaganza of gifting, eating, spending time with family and friends and maybe attending a church service.  For my family, tonight is the third night of Hanukkah, a fairly minor holiday within the Jewish holiday calendar, but one with some significant lessons, nonetheless.

To begin, this year the holiday falls just after the Winter Solstice, which is the day with the least amount of daylight.  As we light the candles, adding one each night for eight nights, it’s easy to imagine the Menorah lighting our way in the darkest days of the year.  And this lesson is the one most often discussed, that even in the darkest of times, there is light.  And it’s a lovely lesson to share.  But there is actually more to it than that.

The story of Hanukkah goes that when the Greeks desecrated the ancient Temple in the first Century BCE, a small but mighty band of Jewish rebels rose up and liberated it.  In preparing the Temple for rededication, there appeared to be only enough oil to light the holy lamp for one day but miraculously the oil lasted for eight until more could be prepared.  The Hanukkah festival was created to remember that miracle.  But here’s the thing: there’s no actual proof the miracle happened and the history about the events that occurred is a bit murky, according to Jewish scholars and historians.  But that’s the case with many biblical era events, isn’t it?

For me, the veracity of the story is less important than the symbolism.  In addition to lighting the candles in a special candelabra, or Menorah, there is also a specific order for lighting the candles.  It all starts with the Shamash, or helper candle.  This one is lit first and is used to light each of the other candles.  They are placed in the Menorah from right to left, with new candles being added each night.  The Shamash starts lighting the newest candle first, continuing until all are lit for the night.

So many rules, amiright???  Yes, lots of rules for even the smallest task.  But think about it, when there are rules it forces one to be mindful, to consider what is required and to remember.  Each year my family discusses the order for lighting the Menorah and each year we discuss the meaning of the lights and we remember the story.  We remember our history and our place in it, our place in today’s world and our place in our family.  As we light the Hanukkah candles, we think about that small band of rebels who stood up for their beliefs and we are reminded that each of us can make a big difference it the world.  And just like the Shamash, we need to help each other to be a light in the darkest of times, wherever we are and whatever is happening.

So, here’s wishing you all a season of joy and charging each of you to be a light in the darkness.

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Recovering from the flu: Lessons Learned

flu

As I sit here writing this post, I am finally feeling more like myself than I have in a couple of weeks.  Two weeks ago, after a lovely weekend getaway with my husband, I got hit with a terrible bout of the flu.  I am not someone who picks up all sorts of little viruses from everyone I meet.  When I get sick, I REALLY get sick.  And this time was no different.  I had the fever, body aches, upper respiratory congestion, all of it.  And while my sweet husband tried valiantly to help with hot tea, soup and sympathy, there was pretty much nothing he could do to make me feel better.  My daughter, god love her, even sent an order of chicken soup from Whole Foods, along with a massive box of saltines.  And honestly, that was about the most helpful thing someone could do.  Mostly I just lay in bed trying to get comfortable.

So why am I engaging in this self-pity?  Well, this is the first time I’ve been sick while owning my business.  And that changed everything for me.  Much like a mom being sick while trying to care for small children, I had all the guilt and shame of not being able to care for my business “baby.”  Thank goodness I have a partner who could shoulder some of my tasks and was patient while I convalesced.  But honestly, no one could have been harder on me, than me.  And while I tried, I really did, to carry out at least some of my duties, I could barely lift my head off the pillow.  And as the week trudged on, I just kept beating myself up for not being able to do much of anything.

The second week of this flu, my fever broke and I felt less achy.  But the weakness and exhaustion continued for several more days.  I tried to do one big thing each day, and then spent the afternoon in bed.  I even tried to work out a bit, take a Pilates lesson, anything to get my body moving.  I haven’t felt that fatigued since I had mono as a teenager.  One day, I met with my partner, then had coffee with another business contact, and proceeded to go home and fall asleep on the couch.

Okay, I’m whining, I know it.  And while I’m also aware that my business can certainly survive a week or two of my absence, it was the unplanned nature of the absence.  Both my partner and I take vacations from time to time. But those are planned for and expected.  And of course, the randomness of getting sick also makes me feel out of control, and who likes that feeling?

So here I sit, feeling pretty normal except for a lingering cough, trying to figure out what I can learn from this situation.  Of course with any luck, I won’t be sick again for awhile, but there are other unpredictable situations that come up in life.   I guess for me, the biggest lesson is that it’s okay to be…human!  Getting sick is part of being human.  So is a family or pet emergency, a household repair or car breakdown.  In short, living life brings unexpected situations, both good and difficult.  Being a business owner surely complicates things, but if I’ve built a solid infrastructure, it can withstand these bumps in the road.  And I’m pretty confident that if I’d been a bit kinder to myself, I may have recovered a little quicker, or at least I wouldn’t have felt quite as fraught with worry.

So, here’s to a healthier body and a calmer, more forgiving (of myself) spirit.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

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Summer In My Garden: Reflections

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This past month has been a challenge in many ways and I think my recent gardening experiences are particularly illustrative.  As you may recall, I began the season by planting four raised beds consisting of: broccoli, edamame, cabbage, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, spaghetti squash, eggplant, jalapenos, bell peppers and three types of tomatoes.  I know, I got carried away.  To date, the edamame has finished its growing cycle, the cabbage and broccoli were eaten by critters and are now gone, the cucumbers jalapenos and bell peppers are producing well, as are the tomatoes and I have a few gorgeous eggplants almost ready to harvest.  Unfortunately, the pumpkins and squash were attacked by an infestation of stink bugs and I’ve been fighting that battle the last few weeks.  I have managed to salvage five pumpkins and three spaghetti squash, and for that I am grateful.

I first noticed the nasty pests a couple of weeks ago during my daily maintenance.  I’d spotted a couple here and there, but that particular day, there was a total infestation.  I was, of course, completely grossed out and heartbroken.  Until that point, the garden was my best one yet, and everything looked gorgeous!  I researched some websites for help and information.  That same evening, my husband and I were out to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant and who wanders in, but my next-door neighbors who have lovely gardens!  I lamented my plight and they recommended a pesticide they’ve used that they swore would work.  When I returned home, lo and behold these lovely friends had left a can of the stuff on my back fence.  The next morning, we went to work applying the poison.  I crossed my fingers and left the yard.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve sprayed, weeded, removed dead leaves and had to make some tough decisions about what to save and what is beyond saving.  I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that the promise of my beloved vegetable garden will not fully be realized. I’ve learned to take pride and joy in the small successes, like the five healthy pumpkins and three small but beautiful spaghetti squash, and I’ve focused a lot of energy on the crops that were not harmed, like the tomatoes, eggplants and peppers.

So, like in life, not everything turns out as planned, but everything has its own season.  I can stew (no pun intended) on the failures or give attention and love to the things I can control.  I can grieve over what might have been, or revel in the successes that came my way.  In the end, I can take satisfaction that I gave it my best effort, learned some new things and know that this will all come around again next year when I will have the chance to start fresh.  All in all, this year’s garden is still my most successful one to date and that is something to celebrate.

 

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a small business owner, journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the proud owner of Nashville Pilates Company, a boutique Pilates studio in Nashville’s Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood.  Check it out at  www.nashvillepilatescompany.com.  She is also the creator of The Peretz Project: Stories from the Shoah: Next Generation.  The Peretz Project, named for her late father-in-law who was a Holocaust survivor, is collecting testimony from children of survivors.  Visit http://www.theperetzproject.com.  If you are, or someone you know is, the child of survivors of the Shoah, The Holocaust, and you would like to tell your story please leave a comment and Barbara will contact you.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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