The Bad the Ugly and the Good…

It’s not often that posts on social media include the bad and the ugly it’s mostly the good- the shiny bits of our lives. So, here’s a bit of all of it. Recently on the way to work with the bees this just poured out of me and I’m posting it before I change my mind.

This is part update, part honesty, part things I’m in love with and part resources I hope you find helpful. The form this takes just came out this way - so I’m sticking with it. Could be a throw-back from the computer programming years :).

1. Monarchs are coming back to my yard which means my new larger capacity butterfly netting will be getting used. 26 butterflies were released last year from our nursery and I have high hopes to top that number in 2019.

2. Winter was difficult for me this year. I’m still trying to shake it.

3. Mental health fluctuates and requires more monitoring than I realized. Check on each other.


4. Our dog is aging and so is her bladder…enter the death theme here.

5. A lot of our bee hives died over the winter and that sucked. See # 6.

6. Pesticides and herbicides all suck. I wish everyone would plant native flowers and trees in place of grass and let them grow, grow, grow.

7. Care for your soil, let something in your part of the world go wild. This brings diversity and is essential for life on the planet. Truthfully, it’s what will keep us all alive  - diversity that is. See # 2, 5, 6 and 8.

8. Plant a tree or 10. If this scares you call me. Go here to find local native plants wherever you are.

9. The body does indeed keep the score. Get Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book by this name. Read anything that helps you feel what’s happening in there.

10. We bought 4 nucleus hives from Isaac @ Honey Run Farm to replace our losses and I’m so grateful to know him. This brings us back to 6 hives. Perfect number for now - until there is another swarm. Follow his blog, you won’t be sorry you did.

11. This is my third year with the Harmony Project and this organization is a huge gift to the Columbus Ohio Community and to each of us that serves in it. It has been a lifeline, and it has also been uncomfortable and challenging. See # 30.

12. The work of restorative practices that I teach in the schools and in the community is a whole new way of thinking about life, relationships and all the systems that govern our lives. Many of us don’t think about these systems and their impact - I learned this is privilege.

13. I love chickens. See #’s  6 & 7.

The chickens on the farm

The chickens on the farm

14. Understanding how white supremacy lives in me has been one of the greatest gifts I have stepped into this year, and it was uncomfortable and horrifying. Disarming all the ways white supremacy has made its way into my thinking, living and understanding of the world is a lifetime of work. Naming it is the beginning. Go do it.  Layla F. Saad wrote the book Me and White Supremacy. It will be available in February 2020. Go get it. See # 30.

15. I love blackberries. See # 6.

16. Reading Radical Dharma by Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams has been a game changer. Spending time with her at a Radical Dharma camp and women’s retreat, listening to her words and work with  leadership and power were life changing. Rev. Angel is a superhero. Get her books. Go see her. Just do it. See # 30 & 32.

17. Milkweed is amazing. See # 6 and 10.

18. Restorative practices are easy to teach and much much harder to embody and practice in my every day actions- this is the heart of it. I’m committed to bringing RP to anyone that will listen. Perhaps it pushes against our underlying, deeply entrenched systems which takes me down to # 30.

19. The Columbus Care Coalition is the most amazing organization I have the privilege of serving with. An entire community can become one that is trauma responsive, relationship focused and centers the needs of all those that are marginalized. Columbus, Ohio is leading the way in this area.

Brand new natural comb

Brand new natural comb

20. Ticks suck and they are a part of our environment. It’s been a journey to learn how to live with them, be aware and stay healthy.

21. I love honey bees- but you likely knew that.

22. The mites on the honey bees are similar to ticks which humans struggle with. The question I’m settling into is this: how can we support the honey bee to boost their immune system to fight them, and live with them? Same for us.

23. It hurts when I get stung. Every stinking time.

24. My favorite thing is being in the natural world- without talking. Most people who “know” me think I’m an extrovert. I’m not sorry that I disagree with you. I don’t believe any one of us are just a certain way. We are indeed changing organisms, as is all of life. Just like you, my body has been conditioned to performance, perfectionism and patriarchy. I’ve gotten good at that. That’s not who I am and I am beginning to disarm the above in my life.

Kale in our small garden

Kale in our small garden

25. Community care is what I’m thinking about now. Not just self-care but an awareness of care that takes care of me so that I can extend into the community and support others. Community care includes everyone. Especially the marginalized.

26. I love my garden. I’m more alive when I’m growing things. If you don’t feel particularly alive try planting a garden. I know you are telling yourself…I don’t have enough time, not enough land, not enough knowledge, it’s too hard and it doesn’t matter; Well it does. It’s good for all of us to get connected to our food system so that we can make changes to how we impact the world and our bodies. Also go back to # 25.

27. Johnny’s seeds are the best. If you want to feel successful at your new hobby get Johnny’s seeds, get row cover, get started, make mistakes, go back to the beginning of this sentence. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do this. See number 6, 7, 8 & 26.

28. I love circles more and more and more. Circle up with each other. Check in, share what’s working, what’s not working. You will be amazed at what you can learn about and from each other. It might also help when things aren’t so smooth. You know, when conflict happens. See # 30.

29. Practice listening. Real listening. You know the kind of listening where you don’t interrupt, fix the person or think about all the ways your life is worse. That kind of listening. See # 26.

30. I’m recognizing when I’m uncomfortable and doing more of it. It happens often, is challenging and I recommend it.

31. I learned this year that white supremacy causes white people to suffer too. Like really suffer. If you are white, get close to how white supremacy has caused you to suffer and stay separate from others. This was intentionally created by people in power, history and a culture of oppression. It’s radical to disarm it in each of us. In order to do that we have to feel it.

32. I’m Looking around at the spaces I find myself in and asking the question: Who’s missing? Is there a variety of age, race, gender, sexuality, immigration status, physical capacity? If not, why not? Think prairie here. If the whole prairie was all coneflowers wouldn’t that be boring? Oh and none of the pollinators can thrive on one type of food. None of them. Go back to #30. Repeat.


33. Spikenard Bee Sanctuary in Floyd VA has been so much more than a place to learn about honey bees. Over the last 8 years, it has reconnected me to the very essence of service- giving and receiving. Nature is an excellent example of a community of care. Go to Spikenard if you ever get the chance. Check out this cool swarm of bees.

34. I’m reading from diverse authors - meaning, ones that don’t look like me. See # 30 and 31.

35. Real matcha is the bomb. Thanks to Rev. Angel I found out about Breakaway Matcha. Who knew cold brew matcha even existed. Who knew matcha could taste this good?  And it’s good for you too.

36. Death happened this year. Much more of it than I’m fond of. I was lucky to grow up on a farm where I saw the life cycle firsthand; Birth and death. Sometimes in the same day. But, this year has been particularly challenging in the practice of acceptance- real full on acceptance of death.

37. I’m learning that power, leadership and love are all okay for women to possess (think your favorite superhero) and can in fact co-exist in the same body. I’m leading from my power with more love.

38. Gathering is one of my superpowers and I’m owning that in hosting honest dialogues about race conversations. See # 30.

39. Building a rain garden has been eye opening. The number of species of insects, plants and animals who have made it their home has expanded our habitat for wildlife 10 fold (and that’s saying something if you know my yard). Return some of your land to the wild. See # 41

Front yard rain garden after 1 year

Front yard rain garden after 1 year

40. Teaching embodied mindfulness, self-care and self-awareness to teachers, students and administrators is the foundation of community care. I learn something new about my own self-care and awareness every single time I teach. I want to support a culture that lifts up all of us in self-care and gives us the ability to ask for what we need and just be better humans. See # 26.

Free Library

Free Library

41. Climate change is real and I get really down about this. I’m focusing on doing something right where I am. I’m building an ARK (Acts of Restorative Kindness)  in my own yard. A place where wildlife, insects and native plants can thrive. This website called - We are The Ark - encourages this very thing and has great tips on how to get started. See # 12.

42. I still ferment things often. This is where the wild theme comes full circle. We all need diversity in our life especially in our gut microbiome. Go to a farmers market, get some local veggies and start fermenting. You won’t regret this and your body will thank you. This is another radical act. Come see me at the Clintonville Farmers Market.See # 6, 7 & 26.

My partner just finished this beauty (little free library) to add to the ark we are building in our neighborhood. An ark of relationships and interconnectedness.

I’d love to hear from you. I want to know your bad and ugly right along with the good.

Living Compassion Retreat with Robert Gonzales

As I was thinking about Robert Gonzales's upcoming retreat in Columbus, Ohio, in May 2018, I wondered what the best way would be to describe the retreat and the work of living compassion. Over the past 10 years of knowing and studying with Robert, I haven't experienced him as a teacher, a guru, mystic or spiritual leader, but as a companion on this journey of discovering how to live life more fully activated and free.

An image of a spelunking journey down into a cave came to me, with Robert being one of many that shines his light so that we all can more clearly see our internal and thereby external relationship to the world. His commitment to living compassion and sharing what he has learned along the way has had a significant influence on my life. He continues to bring my attention back to an ongoing inquiry: What is my relationship to life? Where is my attention? How do my habitual patterns of living life show up in my body? Do I tend to live from fear and judgement?

Just as we don’t go caving alone and navigate the myriad of difficulties without support. This work of living compassion requires us to enhance our community-building skills, create a variety of support networks and strengthen our embodiment and consciousness to create a lasting impact on our day to day lives.

“To fully empower our place in life, our engagement in life, we must first find, cultivate and strengthen the center from which we engage with life. The center where our values lie, our heart center, the center of our life force energy as it flows through us. When we act from our center, fueled by love, we start to harness a force that is beyond what we’ve known as possible.
— Robert Gonzales

I don't know about you, but my own early training in relationships, community-building, communication and compassion (both for self and others) was limited. In fact, our education in North America is steeped with messages of independence, self-consciousness, blame and shame, and right/wrong thinking. We are trained to analyze, label and diagnose, and we are conditioned to disengage from our body’s energy and rely on our thinking brain to solve all of our problems. All of these habits, behaviors and thinking take us away from "what is" in this moment and distract us from feeling the truth of our experiences and seeing our shared common humanity.

Things happen in life, and my experience has been no different than many others. The serious illness of my 5-year-old daughter, the traumatic brain injury of another, my own health crisis. This work of living compassion is the recognition that no matter what is happening in our inner life - whether it be fear, joy, anger, or grief - it is an aliveness that is pointing to something that matters to us in relationship to life itself. As Robert mentions, the illusion of a separate inner and outer life is quite strong in our culture - we are always in relationship to life. There can be no separation.

If you have been wondering if there is another way of engaging in the world during this time of social and political divisiveness that is empowering instead of reactive, this retreat will inspire new skills and consciousness. Robert will offer a variety of exercises on how to recognize when you are stuck in fear, protection and judgement and restore your capacity to choose to engage from a grounded, value-centered place. There will be opportunity to explore and co-create with a community of learners, to strengthen the very muscles we all need to live life more fully activated and free.

Give yourself this time to explore your relationship and engagement in your life through attending the upcoming week-long retreat with Robert Gonzales in May 2018. This retreat will be filled with opportunities to work in dyads, group opening and closing circles, journaling, art expression, movement and silent integration in the natural world.


This past Fall, Susan Cunningham and I began offering Urban Zen Integrative Therapy™ (UZIT) one day a week to the teachers, staff and administrators at a local elementary school in Central Ohio. The commitment in this school to progressive education and caring for the whole child is taking root in a new way. The administration’s support of UZIT says loud and clear to all of the staff of the school—you can’t take care of the children you serve unless you also take the time to care for yourself.

Through a generous grant from local donors, and as a community, we are setting down new self-care patterns at work. We are creating a place, within the workplace, for teachers and staff to pause and take 10-20 minutes out of their task-filled days of service to children to tend to their own well-being, which has shown remarkable results.

This week as I walked down the hall with one staff member to our small room next to the often-lively library, she reflected; “I associate work with stress and anxiety, and it is wonderful to have a place at work to come to that is relaxing and neither stressful or anxiety producing. Thank you for being here, it’s making a huge difference.” This client noted pre-session stress and anxiety levels of 7 on a scale of 10, and left after our 15-minute session with self-assessment numbers of 2 and 3. Changes like this in our nervous systems are central to the possibility of changing our work environments, transforming this critical workplace, which serves our children, to one that cares about all people involved, as well as the purpose of their work.

It takes time to undo our cultural training to overextend ourselves in our work and home life. It’s a challenge because our North American culture tends to value being busy all the time and carries busy-ness like a badge of honor. Therefore, we need to make it a conscious part of our daily life to pause, set down the to-do list and the phone, breathe, listen and be quiet.

The messages in our heads are often very loud, “I need to be in crisis to ask for help,” “I have to work harder in order to be valued or worthwhile,” or, as one teacher mentioned before our session, “Well, I guess I’m really doing OK, maybe I don’t need to take the time….” It’s radical to make self-care the norm so that we know when we are out of balance in the moment.

How would it be to have 28 pairs of children’s eyes staring at you and know that you have tools and the space to breathe. That you can come back to the moment, notice your breath and your body, and share your gifts with our youth from a place of wholeness. It only takes a few minutes to shift from overwhelmed and anxious to ready and able to meet the rest of your day.

Life doesn’t wait for us to be ready, it’s happening each and every moment. Building skills of self-care and self-awareness is how we re-tool ourselves to be the best we can be in our lives. As a friend recently told me, “Fold up your super-hero cape neatly in the bottom drawer of your dresser – it’s not needed anymore”.

Janine Harris Degitz lives in Clintonville with her family. For the past 25 years she has deepened her passion for living in harmony with the earth and community through supporting local farmers, fermenting food, teaching and sharing natural and sustainable beekeeping, Urban Zen Integrative Therapy and compassionate communication. All things that bring her back into connection with her own being, the earth, the food that nurtures us and the love, compassion and interconnectedness of life itself.

Janine became a certified Urban Zen Integrative Therapists in April, 2014 and became a staff mentor/ teacher for the Yoga on High Urban Zen training classes beginning in 2015.  Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) uses multiple modalities to address the symptoms and stress of everyday life. The modalities include gentle movements, restorative yoga positions, body awareness meditation, breath awareness practices, aromatherapy and Reiki.


Yesterday it was 2 years since Olivia's serious car accident. I wrote this 18 months ago, a few months after the accident - during the long recovery period. It still holds true for me and seems relevant in today's world. Now I feel ready to share it.

Gratitude Spoke to Me - Don't Rush It

Gratitude. I’ve been thinking a lot about this word and the meaning it has for me. As Olivia graduates from Oberlin College this week I am reflecting on the difficult car accident she was involved in 6 months ago. I can remember the moment I received a call from this girl of mine shown here at her 21st birthday just months before.

When I received a call from the accident scene I could only hear her voice in the distance screaming “ mommy, mommy, mommy”. Released from the hospital that same day with cuts, bruises, strains, and a concussion, she’s been slowly finding what she can and cannot do and how to be gentle with her recovery. Life happens this way. I have preferences for a certain way I would like things to go and the fragility of life keeps showing up.

I noticed in the beginning the rush to gratitude seemed to fast forward me past all of the other feelings present and alive in the moment…Past the fear, grief, love, grace, sadness, tears, mourning and the unbelievable beauty. Maybe for me, these are the threads that weave their way into gratitude. I’m clear now, I don’t want to rush, transcend or bypass the wholeness of an experience. I want to allow and attune to all of life.

I wonder if this word like many others are words from our culture cloaked in a “should”, carrying a “hurry up” or “just be positive” energy. I’m curious if this word is an end-goal, a stopping place, a way of protecting ourselves from feeling all that is - a missing of the fullness of life just as it is.

The grace and beauty that I felt in the midst of the chaos and fear of that day and many days since, came in the form of many perfect strangers that stopped to support and comfort Olivia at the accident scene. These same people spoke to me on the phone when she couldn't and urged me to be careful driving, shared that they were there for her. The police, EMT's, doctors and nurses that cared for her until we could travel the 2 hours away. Grace that others were not seriously hurt. The beauty as friends and family mobilized their love to reach out to her in support.

The beauty of that first hug, the tears of love and yes gratitude. Don’t rush it, it said to me. Don’t rush it.

Sophia and the Embodied Present

Last Tuesday my husband and I met at the farm on a warm, sunny early spring morning to maintenance our bee hives – our first real glimpse of the bees after winter. We had planned to remove the very bottom box of the four boxes on all of the hives. This is not an easy task and fairly invasive for the bees. The first hive (we have named Sophia) we agreed to lift 3 boxes off at the same time so that we didn’t disrupt the bees and the queen. At this time of year in the past, each box is typically light and virtually empty of honey. As my husband carefully lifted the boxes he noticed they were surprisingly heavy and as he lowered them to the ground they quickly tipped over onto the ground. Needless to say this was disruptive and scary. The bees came pouring out of the hive wondering what was happening to their safe, warm home.

We picked the boxes up, put them back together and as we stood there, unable to move, we realized we were in a state of shock. I looked at him and said, “Let’s go to the other side of the barn and regroup.” Not knowing exactly what to do next but noticing the unsettled feelings, we removed our veils and gloves, paused and followed a simple exercise I have been practicing from The Embodied Present Process.  For the past 3 years I've been studying with Philip Shepherd, author of New Self New World. In this situation with the bees, I began to see in real time the impact this work could have in my life.

We took a few breaths, inviting the experience to settle into our pelvic bowl. We felt the spaciousness of our bodies’ ability to hold the experience. After a few short moments we glanced up at each other and I asked, “What would you like to do now?” Slowly and with a more grounded sense of what just happened, we were able to assess how and if we would move forward. We decided to continue to work with the other hives, and it went seamlessly. While Sophia returned to a natural flow of bees coming and going at the entrance. There was a felt sense that we weren’t carrying the experience of dropping Sophia to the next hive or the next one. Some sort of integration of this very difficult situation had occurred.

We were both sad. I could feel the sadness, and I could feel that my husband was disappointed about dropping the hive. What didn’t happen this time is that we didn’t separate; we didn’t enter the separation spiral (which is my new name for what happens when we disconnect from life). We didn’t blame each other or ourselves; we were present to 'what is' in a way that didn’t leave us fighting what had unfolded. We didn’t fight each other either. This is a big change for us. We had been talking a bit more about my experience studying with Philip and The Embodied Present Process, so the offer to actually practice wasn't foreign to him. This simple action of shifting our awareness of our energy to our pelvic bowl enabled us to stay in relationship to life as it is.

There was no lesson in what happened, no learning, no striving, no karma, and it didn’t happen for a reason. I was able to just be present to the bee hive tipping over. Shit, that’s all. We were sad because we love and care about our bees so much. However, the after effects of this experience was not gripping me in the same way it has in the past. Sophia didn’t hold onto it and I don’t have to either.

The best gift of all was when my husband returned home late that evening. He looked at me and said, “Hey, I want to talk to you about what happened today. It felt so different how we handled the experience with the bees. It left me feeling at ease and connected to you even in the midst of a difficult, sad and stressful situation." Those words were magical to hear. He felt the difference too. Hours, maybe days of suffering averted in that one simple choice to fully embody “what is” and “just this.”

Dodge Ball

Walking in to pick up my daughter from Robotics practice last Thursday evening, I noticed many of the students missing from the open area.  Hearing the cheering and laughing coming from the shop even before I entered the door, I could feel my whole body responding to the sounds. I stepped into the cold work space where the work of building the robot happens and what I saw was 40 - 50students and mentors playing all out dodge ball. The energy in the room was contagious. Smiling, laughing, full body dodging and hurling of the ball, cheering, chanting and egging each other on. It was the kind of fun, play and connection that they had been longing for, it was one of the agreements that had been implemented from our circle the night before.

Catching the eyes of many of the students and coaches who attended the circles, I could feel them letting me know…this was beginning to feel like a team again.

Four days after our first robotics team circle, granola bars and R2D2 in hand, thirteen students, coaches and mentors gathered for a second circle. Sitting around a tall table on stools late in the evening, this was the one hour when the team ‘leads’ met each week. Although this circle included team members and coaches who didn't attend the first circle, the feeling was different already. There seemed to be more ease and relaxation and they seemed to fit right in.

We began with each of the students sharing their sense of how the team had changed after our first circle. They reflected: "things seem calmer, there aren't as many disagreements, people are working together and the atmosphere isn't as negative.” I could feel my shoulders relax to hear these words.

One of the main themes that came from the first meeting was the desire to improve how decisions were made. This led me to ask, "What do you think is missing in the way decisions are made?” I noticed the students more readily spoke into the circle, reaching for R2D2 instead of waiting for him to come around. The honesty and vulnerability was palpable, even with the coach present. ”Communication is difficult; ideas aren't respected; listening to each other is hard; there is no follow through on decisions.”

R2D2 seemed to come alive as he was quickly tossed across the circle, students eager to answer: "What ideas do you have for changing the way decisions are made?" The students’ ideas were creative and honest. They looked around as they offered their solutions to see how they would be received by their teammates and coaches. Each wanted to contribute to this becoming a “team again.”

Writing down each of the ideas and reflecting to make sure I was clear, a small list of 7 action items began to emerge. Ideas like:

  • Flexibility in working groups

  • Follow up on decisions that are made

  • Having fun and breaking up the long practices with food and games

  • ‘Leads’ sharing with the rest of the team the outcomes of these circles

In the closing round one student reflected the power of waiting her turn to talk. She mentioned she often jumps in to answer and noticed that when she had to wait, other people in the circle had spoken to what she wanted to say. It gave her a chance to see that this was a different way for her to support her teammates to have a voice and to matter. This was another way to 'lead' together.

Seeing the team engaged in the full on dodge ball game less than 24 hours after our circle it was clear there were changes in the air. Relationships and a different kind of cooperation had taken priority over deadlines, robot parts and coding.

Circle of Teens

It all started last week when my daughter returned home from robotics practice frustrated and in tears. During the 15 minutes it took to drive home she didn't stop talking, not once. It was a solid stream of what wasn't working between the 66 students, 1 coach and 15 mentors on her high school robotics team. After listening for about an hour I was at my limit and started to walk away when she said,"Mom, I think we need what you do. Will you come help us? "

My first reaction was, no, they don't need my help. They won't want to take the time. They will figure it out. Then, after thinking about it all evening, I wrote her coach an email. I offered to facilitate a circle process to bring the students in the same room and create a safe space for them to have a dialogue. Within 10 minutes of sending that email, a reply came back from the coach saying, "When can you be here? I'll do anything to make this a team again.”

Five days later on Saturday morning at 9:00 am with a tiny R2D2 robot in my pocket to use as a talking stick and 5 boxes of granola bars in hand, I walked into the school. Twenty of the team “leads” were expected to join in. All they had been told was that Chloe's mom was coming to do a restorative justice meeting. I gathered the chairs in a circle, put the granola bars in the middle and passed out the colorful 3x5 cards I had brought for them to write on. The students started coming in, tentative and noticeably quiet. All I could think about was, we only have 1 hour. How can we possibly make anything happen, especially if no one talks?

As we all sat on our cold, hard, metal stools, I began with letting them know we were there to explore how we can work better together on the robotics team. I asked for their support in maintaining a safe and respectful place for everyone to share. I let them know they could leave the circle at any time. As more students trickled in, we expanded our circle, added stools and invited them in. What unfolded during that short one hour while we passed the tiny little robot from hand to hand was nothing short of beautiful. Each question, each voice revealed more honesty, openness, vulnerability and creativity. Their truth came tumbling out as they heard their teammates share and as they observed the listening space we had created. Reflecting only when I had lost the thread or was unclear about what was said, the circle served a deep need for being heard and understood.

Themes began to emerge almost immediately with the question of “Bring to mind a time when you were on a team that worked well together, what was one thing that made it work?" They stated almost as a matter of fact; "We supported each other; we shared goals; we cooperated with each other; we were open; we had fun and we played; we adjusted to other people’s needs and everyone mattered.” The students started to see these were the things that were missing. They realized they weren't alone in what they wanted for their team.  By the time we reached the final questions of “What is your commitment to the team?" and "What ideas do you have for going forward?" there was laughter, nodding, eye contact, openness and acknowledgement that maybe they had been a part of some of the difficulties.

This circle won't fix all of the problems the students are having on their team, but it does offer them possibility. Through hearing what they have in common, they have choice in how they move forward as a team. They have new eyes in how they see each other. This experience also woke me up to how I want to use my skills to support this community that I too am a part of. As we ended our circle, one of the students said with tenderness, "I liked you guys before, but now I don't know why but, I like you a whole lot more.”

Leaving the building I got one of the best gifts I could imagine, a kiss on the cheek and hug from my own daughter saying, "See you later mom...and thanks.”

The Wild Life of Fermented Ginger

On a recent trip to the farmers market the vegetables were teaming with color and the fall air was crisp and cool, both reminders that the cold season was on its way. Fermented foods are one of my passions and preserving an abundant harvest through the ancient technique of fermentation adds flavor, beneficial nutrients, and creativity to our diet.

Fermented foods can also play a role in keeping us healthy during the cooler months. One of my go-to fermented tonics is a simple combination of fresh ginger root combined with sugar and water. When left to ferment on the counter for just a few days, a refreshing, slightly sour, gingery, and bubbly liquid forms. Through the transformation of lactic acid bacteria present on the surface of the ginger, additional beneficial bacteria and microbes are formed that strengthen the immune system.

Fermented foods are in direct relationship to self-care that supports our body’s well-being by adding live beneficial microbes to our intestinal systems. Knowing I can make my own healthy tonic in my home gives me a sense of contributing to my wellness, adds creativity and play to nourishing my body, and supports my connection to the world around me.

Ginger Starter

Recipe adapted from The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz

A ginger starter can be used as a tonic to drink as is or mixed with sparkling water, tea, or a smoothie. It can also be used as a simple starter to make other fizzy fermented beverages sometimes called ginger beer or natural sodas.  It’s made from organic ginger (with the skin left on), sugar or honey, and water. You can substitute turmeric root for a different flavor and nutrient benefit.

Recipe yields 1 quart of starter.



3- 4 tablespoons (about 2 inches of root) grated or chopped finely organic ginger root(washed with skin on)

2 tablespoons organic cane sugar or raw honey

1 quart of filtered water


1. Grate or finely chop organic root and place in a quart jar.

 2. Add your choice of sugar or raw honey.

 3. Fill the jar with filtered water and mix to dissolve sugar or honey.

To Ferment:

1. Cover the glass jar with a cheesecloth and rubber band. You can substitute cheesecloth for a lightly sealed lid.  If using a lid, release gas from the fermentation process each day.

2. Stir the contents each day (this step is very important).

3. If the mixture has been fermenting longer than 2 days without signs of the fermentation process (bubbling or tangy / sour flavor) add equal parts more ginger and sugar to the starter.

4. When the ginger starter is sufficiently bubbly and you like the flavor, move the starter to the refrigerator to slow the fermentation process and to drink as a tonic. You can also use this starter in making naturally fermented sodas. During warmer months, this process is usually complete in 1-3 days, and during cooler temperatures it can take 5-7 days.


1. To extend the life of your ginger starter, save a small amount of liquid, add additional ginger, sugar, and water to your first ferment and ferment again. Typically you can reuse the original ginger ferment in this manner 2 or 3 times before needing to start over completely.

2. Use the spent fermented ginger in cooking, making smoothies, or steeped as a tea.

The Queenless Hive - compassion and the return to wholeness

As my husband and I approached our bee hives, a plan in mind of how to support our hive named Josi. I noticed the bees were flying in unusual patterns, I could feel the hum of the hive had a different rhythm. Our intention was to intervene to attempt to save this beautiful queen-less hive. As we gently opened a sister hive sitting very close by, taking down one box at a time, where thousands of bees tend their young, save the precious pollen and honey to sustain their life. I could hear myself saying, "feel your feet", "breathe and stay right here".

Our plan was to place a frame of babies from one of our stronger hives and give it to Josie so that they could raise the next generation of bees to sustain their life. As we began to reach the center of the hive, the bees were noticeably agitated. They came out of the hive hitting our veils, our bodies wherever they could. My hands, uncovered so that I could feel the frames and the vibration of the hive were the first place I was stung. Then through my socks on my ankles they had found another vulnerable place to tell me how desperate they were. Stepping away from the hive so as to protect my husband from the release of pheromones and the increased chance of him being stung. I realized I had a bee under my veil. As I unzipped my veil to release her, many more of her sisters were nearby to continue letting me know this was the end of their life.  This hive was in crisis.

This doesn't match my experience of the past 8 years of working with these gentle beings. Dedicated to each other, and the environment in a way that few other insects or humans are. I first noticed my shock of being stung several times and then I realized, what did they have to live for? Each sting a message, a reminder from the honey bees that we are connected, we need each other.

My body was beginning to react to the 20- 30 bee stings I had just received. Sending sensations up my legs, at each site of the sting, feeling heat rise in my entire body. The physical symptoms may have been manageable except that my brain wanted to figure out why this had happened and who to blame. In slow motion and in conjunction with big tears running down my face I could hear my thoughts, "Why did you let this happen?" "Why didn't you know better", and one of the worst, " you will never be able to be with your bees again, this is all your fault". With these thoughts I could feel my body tense, almost as if I had just added to the speed and severity of the physical reaction occurring in my body x 10.

I began to sense my breath was shallow, my throat was tight my legs burning with such force I was unable to continue to stand. With my thoughts on overdrive, I was leaving the simple experience of 'what is' and plunging head first into suffering and separation. Separation from my own life energy, from the life energy around me and from my deep longing, love and connection to the bees. I believed those thoughts were true.

As we traveled to the nearby hospital, I could feel the grip of my thoughts ease as I slowed my breath and stayed with the sensations of my body. I committed to noticing my habit of when the thoughts were in charge and taking over.  I committed to feeling what I feel, to touching my longings, to staying and reconnecting to my wholeness and thereby staying connected to the world.

Visiting Josie a few days later, after placing a new queen in the hive, the bees in the hive having returned to a calm and easy flow. I covered up fully, veil, long sleeves, boots and gloves, to sit beside her and feel the hum of a hive fully alive, and happy to be whole. My own body recovering from the stings, the drugs that helped calm my reaction and the twinges of fear of not knowing. I felt my breath, focused on my commitment to stay with what is, sending compassion to my fear and feeling the love of the honey bee.



Remembering Marshall Rosenberg - founder of NVC

Beloved Divine Energy

I see it in my dogs eyes, in the hum of the honey bees in the hive.
I see it in my children, in a sunset, in the moon.
I feel it in the presence of another's eyes and vulnerability.
I hear it in a song or the music of the trees.
I sense it in my body while hiking, while playing ping pong.
It’s here now…in mourning your loss.
This love radiating through all beings, through all life.

2/11/15 Janine

As I have been reflecting on the impact Marshall and his work has had on my life I remembered the first time I saw him speak in 2006 and then again in 2007 in Columbus Ohio.  My children were 10 and 6 at the time.  It was a difficult time in my life having just experienced a traumatic health event with my youngest daughter.  What he shared on that long weekend was life changing for me.

Marshall brought my attention to my internal life, one that was made up of feelings and needs, values and longings unique and beautiful and common to all of us.  I discovered through his work and practice that Instead of embodying and allowing these feelings and values to flow, I often tightened down on them, restricted their flow.  I didn’t want to feel some things. I had a preference for being happy, ok, strong, not needy. I had a preference for appearing from the outside like I was fine. I had protected my heart. I didn’t believe I could share these feelings these longings and still belong, still fit in and be accepted in the world. Through Marshall’s work I began to hear my own inner voice. I began to realize how much I mattered to me.

Marshall offered clear examples through playful role play and songs of how I (and others) sometimes mixed up feelings and needs with thoughts about them.  Causing more shame and blame in our relationships.This was learned behavior…It was part of my cultural upbringing, from living in this life. His teaching freed a part of me from those cultural beliefs and brought me home to my body, brought me home to my life energy. He helped me see this life energy lived in others too.

Marshall and many others that I have had the privilege to learn with over the years have challenged me to acknowledge and be responsible for my life energy through how I show up in my relationships and in the world. I was encouraged to move toward life, while being gentle with my own being, allowing and having compassion for this life in me.

Marshall, your authentic sharing of your life, your heart, your joy, your sorrow, your connection to your divine energy will forever be with me. Thank you for not being perfect, but being human. Thank you for planting the seeds of love all around the world.

I’m comforted by remembering you reminding all of us that this is a practice.  NVC is a tool, not the end result. Our beloved divine energy is where I want to meet. Thank you for helping me to connect to my own beloved divine energy.

In some sweet way the impact of your life and work has gone in just a little bit deeper with your death.