VitaSoul – Ruth Renkel

“Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s light somewhere nearby.” ~ Ruth Renkel

VitaSoul – Maya Angelou

“We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends and living our lives.” ~ Maya Angelou

Wag More by Kristen Alexandra

His nose grazed across each leaf so gently, leaving a light brush of snot resting on the surface. All four paws hit the pavement in a unique prance, crushing the crispy, golden fall foliage between between his hairy, padded toes. It was a joyful trot, as always. The tongue, red and juicy, thwacked back and forth like a metronome, following the pace of his gate while he tasted the air and all of its flavors.

Liberating. Independent. Freeing. Pleasurable. Just looking at his hairy muzzle I could tell there is nothing this dog would rather be doing. He was fully entrenched in the moment.

When his friend turned the corner, his tail whipped so fast that if used as a propellor, lost in the open ocean, we’d find land in no time.

A dog, we know, sees the world differently than us humans, perhaps more fully. We are caught in daily responsibilities, stress, surrounded by multitudes of personalities and distractions. It’s easy to lose consciousness regarding simple pleasures in our lives, in nature and in our loved ones around us. To watch a dog is not just a tennis ball bouncing into it’s wet mouth, but the excitement, enjoyment and time spent in the moment. Those with four paws and a tail don’t worry. They don’t have bills to pay. All they have is love to give.

Be more like a dog. Give kisses often, cuddle and hug those you love and just see how wonderful the moment can be.

“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.” ~ Karen Lamb

Why Feminism Is Good For Everyone by Giovannah Philippeaux

By the comic artist Rasenth. Definitely worth a look.

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“A life not lived for others is not a life.” ~ Mother Teresa

New York City: The Premiere Place For Hellacious Halloween Horrors by Brett Myers

The time of year has come when the seasons click and the New York air has forgone the summer humidity for autumn’s crispness. And once the leaves change color and jackets come out of storage, the first thing New Yorkers look forward to is Halloween. In one of the most artistically diverse cities, there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate any holiday here. However, Halloween brings out a different set of desires. Everyone enjoys a little scare this time of year and the city provides more than enough. With unlimited access to technology, creative minds, and actors, New York (in)famously houses some of the best and most horrifying haunted houses in the country. Perhaps more than ever, horror junkies can have their desires met and then some as the city’s best attractions have upped the ante this year, ensuring the most fear for your funds.

Celebrating their 10th year in operation, Blood Manor in Tribeca describes itself as “New York City’s premiere haunted attraction.” This 5,000 square foot sensory attack involves every classic piece of horror imagery one can imagine: Zombies, clowns, meat lockers, rotting skeletons, etc. All organized in an onslaught of in-your-face scares, screams, and flashing lights. Arranged in groups of six for the 20-25 minute experience, adrenaline seekers witness a calculated combination of inventive lighting design, state-of-the-art animatronics, and thoroughly decorated actors covered in fake blood, prosthetics, and colored contacts. On top of all this modern technology, the Manor utilizes old fashioned images like smoke machines, pitch black darkness, and mysterious sounds to top off all of its abrasive horror to bring New Yorkers a classic yet highly effective Halloween experience.

To keep the city guessing, Blood Manor adds new themes, known as “chambers” according to their website, every year to torment fears of all kinds. This year, patrons can expect mummies, doll people, maggots, and cannibals on top of the Manor’s famous collection of horrors. Additionally, each Thursday during their entire run will be known as Touch Me Thursdays where the actors are free to touch the customers (to an extent), adding a new layer of fear and immersion. Along with student discount nights and shorter waiting times, there’s no reason to skip on experiencing one of the biggest frights the city has to offer. Just make sure not to do it alone!

Blackout Haunted House has caused quite a stir these past few years with their ingenious take on what haunted houses can do. Located in Chelsea, Blackout passes on the buckets of blood and overwhelming effects of traditional haunted attractions and, instead, employs minimal décor and realistic situations to scare horror lovers in search of something new. And, boy, do they get something new! Past versions forced their willing victims to go through the warehouse alone, already breaking ground and grabbing the public’s attention/fear. What happens inside can be described as less of a haunted house and more as an immersive and horrific piece of theater. One year infamously involved patrons being fake waterboarded with a bag over their head and forced to bark like a dog to be released. Additionally, rumors spread like wildfire of the actors making them chew on used tampons and saving an actor from being sexually assaulted.

Of course, all of these events have been heavily rehearsed and involved fake props, but their realism really struck a nerve with New Yorkers. In fact, the creators, Josh Randall and Kristjan Thor, have reported their horrified customers running out of the house and almost into the street to get away from their attackers. This year’s edition, Blackout: House, forgoes the solitary experience for a group of one, but they’ve maintained their surreal reputation to replicate the feeling of being held hostage. With several years of success under its sleeve and another location in Los Angeles, Blackout has proved itself a formidable attraction every Halloween and those looking for a truly surreal experience ought to look no further.

For 11 seasons, New Yorkers have been treated to the demented attraction that is the haunted house Nightmare. Coming off two critically acclaimed seasons (Killers and Killers2), the creators of the city’s longest running haunted attraction have tackled the challenge of topping their numerous, past successes. However, this year’s edition has caused quite a stir as it gives thrill seekers an experience that may or may not hit a little too close to home. This year’s season is known as Nightmare: New York and it makes use of all the horrific legends and mythology that haunt this mysterious city. Not only will the citizens of New York witness classic legends such as Cropsey and sewer alligators, but also newer folklore like giant rats caused by Hurricane Sandy’s damage to the subway system will come to life.

In just about 25-minutes tops, patrons will start from New York’s beginnings as cursed Native American property and continue into the many killers and curses that hang over this town, a majority of which most citizens haven’t heard of yet. And, for an extra layer of immersion, those brave enough can ask to be marked with a red “X,” telling the actors that they’re allowed to get even more up close and personal with those adorned with the marking. With an eye for detail and grotesque realism, creator Timothy Haskell has promised to turn the things that make this city great, such as being immersed in history one couldn’t image, into an absolute nightmare.

If you think you’re brave enough, grab a friend, keep your eyes peeled, and head downtown for some of the best frights the city has to offer. No matter what scares you, be it blood and guts or realistic fears, you’ll be sure to find it in the concrete jungle. The question is, though, are you ready to find what the concrete jungle has for you? Happy Halloween!

“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” ~ Sylvia Boorstein

“Love your life because your LIFE

is what you have to GIVE.” ~ Tom Hiddleston

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

Happy Friday by Giovannah Philippeaux

Me in a nutshell…well hamster wheel. Happy Friday Everyone!

roman jones

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lost. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. ” ~ Steve Jobs

“As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Take A Breath by Kristen Alexandra

Breathless, gasping for air despite his oxygen tank around his shoulder, cranked to the highest setting, the phone rang. He was notified that he would be receiving a new lung. Breathless, aghast at the news, he hurried into his car with his wife as fast as his lungs would allow.

Grateful, he was, at the opportunity to live the rest of his life taking deep breaths of fresh, crisp air without the ensuing cough and exhaustion that had tormented him for 10 years. As he recovered in the hospital, he possessed the most enlivening and inspirational philosophy of life. In his own words, go with the flow.

This gentleman spoke and acted upon these words with such ease, such serenity that it created an atmosphere of restfulness and peace of mind, which certainly aided in his healing process. His behavior and conversation among family, friends and strangers was of kindness, acceptance and gratitude.

What is flow but our daily experience with people and events, hardships, achievements and our reactions to them all? Do we ever know where this “flow” will take us? Why fight it? Why worry to the point of disorder? There is no order with flow; it’s a continual flux, an enduring change. Just as a raft advances down stream and battles new challenges each moment, it follows the current, the flow.

For this gentle soul to accept and be fully aware of his circumstances, to treat those around him with love and kindness and to be appreciative of the seconds that seem like gifts, was the best he could live, the best anyone could live in this perpetual, joyous flux called life.

Introducing Our Newest Writer – Rhymis

A hearty welcome to our newest volunteer, Rhymis! Joining us with a love for travel, adventure, and storytelling, Rhymis will be sharing her unique perspective on life. We look forward to her contributions on Minus The Box.

Rhymis is a teacher and writer and spends most of her time looking for fairy dust. She loves to read, listen to, write, and share stories that inspire, encourage, and ignite the human spirit. When she’s not reading or writing, she spends the rest of her time plotting world domination with her cat, Felix.

VitaSoul – Sonia Ricotti

“Surrender to what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti

And Still I Rise-Poetry on My Mind by Carol A

Poetry first came into my life when I was 3 years-old. Amidst a motley crew of dolls, stuffed bears and dragons, a favorite green chair, and a new beloved baby brother, someone opened and read the first page of Green Eggs and Ham for me. I was hooked. As I’ve grown older, I can appreciate this story more: the first-person narrative, the attentiveness that went into using only fifty words carefully, but beautifully throughout the story, the lesson learned by Sam, even the socio-political implications of the book’s banning in some countries. Above all, the whimsical simplicity of this story truly changed my appreciation for storytelling. It was the first of many kernels which began helping to develop my own voice and imagination. Several years have passed since that page was first opened, and the scope of my love for this form of art has grown, from Poe to Baraka, from the Illiad to The Weary Blues. Of course, a few works always stand out to me, especially Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise.

Countless times, Still I Rise has uplifted me through personal challenges. When I first read the poem as a teenager, I was going through a period of fear and grief. Within weeks of starting my first year in high school, my own teenage wasteland, I lost someone I loved to a harsh, debilitating illness. My life was gripped by devastation and sadness that I had never known before, and I did not know how to react. Stunned, I watched as members of my family whose strength kept our lives afloat innumerable times broke down. Throughout this, I was reminded of something a favorite teacher from my past said during a history lesson, “When someone dies, even the strongest and bravest, people cry”. I’d truly believed him, but I’d never seen or felt the depth of such distress until that day.

On the outside, I kept going through the motions of life, trying to keep a visage of calm, of a typical hard-working student/teen. However, inside my feelings and sense of self seemed to dull. Things which would have otherwise excited or bothered me beforehand became insignificant. I pushed people away, even feeling as though I couldn’t relate to some of my greatest friends in the same ways. All of this slowly began to change after an afternoon English class. Sitting in a dim classroom on a rainy day, our teacher began reciting several works of poetry, selecting a few people every so often to continue. I remember Harlem by Langston Hughes (another favorite), and a work from Shel Silverstein being read. Most of the verses seemed muffled, not quite breaking through my forlorn reverie. Then someone began reading Still I Rise.

To be honest, the first two verses went over my head at that point, until I heard my classmate’s voice strengthen and exclaim with stark clarity,

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.

I’ll rise. I’ll rise. Those two words echoed in my mind. Captivated by the passion of my classmate’s voice, the honesty of the prose, I began to contemplate this compelling concept. As the reading continued, I began to feel as though Ms. Angelou was in the room, personally imparting her wisdom and experience to us. I related most to the sense of confidence and spirit throughout the work. Although not all of her words reflected my own experience, I was entranced by the ideas of moving past petty words, scorn, fear and loss:

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise.

Of course, each verse also seemed to imply another sense of turmoil—of fearing punishment, pain and danger when opening oneself to change, the unknown. In endeavoring to weave her personal identity, the depth of her pain and struggle began to transform and be overcome with self-fulfillment to a point where there could be healing.

As a grown woman, these words are ever present, ever resonating. Each time I come across this work, I revel in them, greeting them like an old friend, and with each reading, I discover something new within myself.



From And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Reprinted by permission of Random House, Inc.

Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014


Langston Hughes, “Harlem” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” ~ Audrey Hepburn

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