Today’s Solutions: May 16, 2022

The Optimist Daily is all about solutions — those that make big impacts in the world as well as those that enhance our daily lives. As solution-seekers, news readers, and good-for-the-world-and-soul product searchers, we often feature discoveries that promise to make our lives better. This week, we’re exploring five things that our Chief Content Office Kristy Jansen says have moved her or made her stop and think.

Kristy is a lifelong learner, deeply intrigued by the tension between individual and community needs, a co-parent to her beloved son along with other kids she’s helped to raise, and a collaborative leader at The Optimist Daily. She is always seeking new inspiration, looking for themes and innovative ideas that bring new positive energy into the world. Here are a few recent people, podcasts, books, and ideas that have been satisfying her outrageous curiosity and desire for beauty.

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I was thrilled for the chance to share some topics and resources that have been feeding my curiosity and sparking my imagination lately.

Interview with Poet Mary Oliver (On Being with Krista Tippett) 

April is National Poetry Month in my home country, the United States.  It is a month to appreciate just what a powerful means of communication poetry can be, from haiku and sonnets to epic tales and poetry slams, it taps into our emotions, the present moment, and timeless knowledge all at once. Among my favorite poets is the late Mary Oliver. In the darker days of my late adolescence, reading her poem Wild Geese helped me let go of my deep sense of failure, and embrace my unique journey with joy and openness. A recent replay of On Being with Krista Tippett’s 2015 conversation with Mary Oliver delves into Oliver’s incredible career, her intimate connection to nature and beauty and language. I listened to it on repeat for the first week of this month as it reminded me of so much that I love about writing: words, poetry, and the joys of our natural world. It is worth listening to.

Listen to the interview: Mary Oliver – “I got saved by the beauty of the world” 

Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Confirmation to the US Supreme Court

With Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court, four out of nine of the Justices serving on that highest court of the country will be women, and two out of nine will be Black. While Justice Jackson’s appointment does not shift the ideological balance of the court, it dramatically shifts the gender balance, as well as the racial make-up of the court. She also brings a different background into the mix, having served as a public defender early in her legal career. With her elevation as an Associate Justice, the next photograph of the sitting Supreme Court Justices will reflect broader American experiences better than at any time in the Court’s 233-year history. I am thrilled to think about that picture. Just as diverse ecosystems are more resilient, a diversity of experiences on corporate boards, in leadership roles, and in politics brings broader thinking, more creativity, higher problem solving, and generally better outcomes.

Watch: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s full remarks after confirmation
Morning Protein Berry Smoothies

When I committed to a food lifestyle that included more plants and less of a reliance on animal products, one area I struggled in was getting enough healthy protein in my diet. I began this dietary transition to a fully focused vegan lifestyle amid the pandemic shutdowns, a double whammy of change that led me to reach for more comfort foods, especially sugary treats topped with a daily glass of wine. No surprise that my waistline was expanding while my mental sharpness dulled. As I am a big fan of expansive thinking, I really didn’t want to invest in a new wardrobe or go back on my climate-conscious diet, so I had to figure something out. After talking with a friend who also happens to be a registered dietician, I discovered the joys of starting my mornings with a high-protein vegan berry smoothie.

Starting each day with enough protein and other nutrients to keep my blood sugar stable, my brain functioning, and my body never feeling like it needed to store nutrients worked for me. After a few weeks of this morning routine, my clothes fit better, and in general, I felt more energetic all day long. Turns out high-quality protein early in the day can work wonders for cognition, as do the berries, seeds, and leaves I’ve been adding. It’s also delicious!

Read on to the end of the article to make Kristy’s Protein Berry Smoothie Recipe! 

A Podcast & A Newsletter

Ok yes, I am putting two things in this section, so consider it a double bonus, but things I read and listen to make a major difference in my life. As the leader of the editorial content at The Optimist Daily, I consume a lot of media feeds and there are some I return to frequently. Curating a list of meaningful and inspiring resources simply does make my life better.  These are two of my favs…

1. Outrage & Optimism podcast 

One of my regular sources for what’s going on in the world of climate activism is the Outrage & Optimism podcast hosted by the incredible Christiana Figueres (one of the architects of the Paris Climate Accords), Tom Rivett-Carnac (Figueres’ co-author on The Future We Choose: The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis, as well as a fellow climate activist), and Paul Dickinson.

I was particularly enamored with the last two episodes: 148: THE FUTURE IS INTERSECTIONAL WITH LEAH THOMAS, which also featured the fresh voice of Abigael Kima, a young energy expert and climate activist from Kenya, sitting in as a co-host, and Episode 149: PRESENTING: ‘THE WAY OUT IS IN’ WITH CHRISTIANA FIGUERES, where Christiana Figueres is in the interview seat, sharing her wisdom with Jo Confino and Brother Pháp Hữu of Plum Village, founded by the late Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.  This episode is a sharing of a Plum Village podcast production, and it’s wonderful.

You can find Outrage & Optimism on their website or subscribe via any podcast player.

2. The Marginalian Newsletter – Maria Popova

If you haven’t yet discovered the beautiful musings of Maria Popova, and you appreciate the brilliant curation of timeless ideas, you have been missing out. Her twice a week newsletter “The Marginalian” (formerly called “Brain Pickings”) combines snippets of thought from literature, poetry, philosophy, art, and the sciences curated around different themes, breathing new life into the words and images that may otherwise just be gathering dust in library stacks.

One particular favorite letter is from October last year, titled: How (not) to love, or unbreaking our hearts by breaking our patterns; Ursula K. Le Guin’s love poem to life, death, and trees; the art of solitude. In this lovely musing, Popova writes on growth and decay, pointing out,

“We don’t always know what needs to be shed, or what the optimal direction of growth is. This is where the “blind optimism” of a tree is helpful — there is consolation in trusting the quiet workings of chemistry and the primal instinct for orienting to the light.”

It weaves together Walt Whitman and images of trees, and turns a spotlight on Ursula K. Le Guin, with links to more Mary Oliver, Amanda Palmer, and Jane Hirshfield. Lovely, timeless, luxurious.

To subscribe to The Marginalian, Click Here

And last but not least,

Hydroponic Gardens

When the pandemic first started, my co-host of The Optimist Daily Update Summers McKay and I frequently shared stories about our gardening endeavors on the podcast. I was deeply committed to figuring out how to grow food that my family and I could enjoy. People all over the world were like-minded as Climate Victory Gardens have gone wild! However, I was limited in available sunshine in my small yard. Many of you may remember my tales of my sad attempts at growing cilantro last spring.

My hydroponic garden has changed all of that. I purchased the Harvest Elite model of an Aerogarden when it was on sale at Costco last October, and added a second unit bought directly from the company’s website about a month later. Over the last half-year, I’ve invested the time and energy required to begin to help it flourish.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck with tomatoes, and I was surprised at the incredible fecundity of Thai basil which took over its side of the mini garden and has limited use for me. (Note, it’s frequently added to the aforementioned smoothie). Once I got the balance right of what grew well and how to use it, this has been a delicious tool in my kitchen. And I’m excited to report that a tiny baby cilantro plant has just sprouted, and I am hoping one day will add great flavor to my lentil tacos.

Now, on a nearly daily basis, I am trimming and munching on greens and delicious herbs and increasing the variance of green things I eat….. It is a meditative hobby with great nutritional benefits.

We hope you’ll enjoy tapping into these sources of wisdom and beauty and keep reading The Optimist Daily for more!

*****

Protein Berry Smoothie Recipe

Basic Smoothie:

16 oz. unsweetened vanilla almond milk

2 handfuls (about ¾ cup) frozen mixed berries (or fresh if in season)

½ frozen ripe banana

2-inch slice of a nopal cactus leaf

Clippings of lettuce, basil, parsley, kale – whatever is growing in my hydroponic garden (it’s a great use for lettuce that’s gone to bolt, and all the Thai basil I can’t figure out how to use)

2 scoops (1 serving) of plant-based protein powder (aim for 20 grams of protein) 

1 Tbsp. chia seeds

2 Tbsp. hulled hemp seeds

1 scoop fiber supplement 

Optional add-ins:

1 in. chunk ginger if your feeling spicy

2 Tbsp. pecans or walnuts, if you’re feeling nutty

A little of anything in season from your garden or your produce drawer.  Avocados, cauliflower, spinach, chard – mix it up!

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