“Our Truthfulness Can Change Lives” – On Writing, Blogging, Sharing and the Year Ahead

On the evening of the Winter Solstice, I took a pen and scribbled tiny, torn scraps of paper with the words and ideas I wanted to let go in the year ahead. I was at the home of a friend with a handful of other folks, some I knew better than others, and we shared the very sincere and open experience of acknowledging what we no longer want (writing it down) and symbolically releasing it (burning it to ash). Passing paper and pens around and each of us, silently, taking our turns saying

g o o d b y e

to any negative untruths, what has held us back, or prevented growth.

solstice

If it sounds a little eye-rolling and new-agey, it was. In the best possible way. There’s nothing like seeing your weakness literally turn to dust to give you a new frame of mind.

. . . . .

Last night, I got an email from a sweet girl who wants to start a blog. She asked, “How do you handle putting so much of yourself out there?”, impeccable timing because I have been wondering the same thing.

2012 was the year I put less out there. Moments and experiences and opportunities, and even some of the beauty of the minutiae of day-to-day life, were kept to myself or those I shared them with. It can be so exciting to have these magical tools that you tell anyone and everyone about anything and everything… but before long your life doesn’t feel valid if not enough people “like” it, and you’ve created a weird reality-show version of yourself (albiet unintentionally).

There’s another part, too. While hate-mail and comments are inevitable for anyone with a blog (or anyone doing just about anything, thanks to the internet) and I’ve learned so much about how to handle them when they come, there’s one that continues to stick out and I’ve let it prevent me from blogging some of my most important experiences.

Without glorifying The Meanest Email I’ve Ever Received, one small part of it suggested that Save the Kales! had become what so many other “lifestyle” blogs can become: A perfectly curated illusion of a perfect life with a perfect home and perfect food and a perfect relationship along with perfect clothes, friends, social life and material goods.

Wow.

It shook me, mainly because 1) I know those blogs, I have felt that way looking at them, the way you slink around your house after reading them, feeling ho-hum and wondering how you pulled the short straw in life and 2) I didn’t want to be a part of anything that made people feel bad about themselves. Because life is beautiful, but not perfect.

oasis of health food in Maryland

So I never wrote or shared photos of the biggest experiences of the last year. (Some are too precious, even now, and I like the feeling of keeping the best secrets just between me and the stars.) But in omitting experiences, I omitted the best part of blogging: reflection and appreciation, figuring-things-out and seeing life outside your own mind.

In her book This I Know, Susannah Conway writes on blogging:

“My blog began as a simple space to share my passions and talk about my days. There was no great plan… But as I became more comfortable sharing my feelings online, the healing path wasn’t far behind.

Blogging gave me back my voice after a year of feeling mute, the daily writing as a way to measure progress, the support from my readers such a boon on the days I crumbled, a collective cheer on the days I soared. I felt seen again, that I had a purpose, that my story was helping others, while they in turn helped me.”

Looking forward, I’ll continue to mind the gap between over-sharing and shamefully hiding. Save the Kales! began as an outlet in a time of crippling anxiety and depression, and to look back on how life has changed in almost three years since it began… that really is something. And it wasn’t because anyone handed me an answer — it happened because I worked my ass off to get better and actually got out and did things. I changed my perspective, I changed my life. Easy? Nope. Essential? Oh, yes yes yes.

While this blog will always be a “vegan blog” by default, I’m thrilled to get back to the roots of why I love to write (which are not unlike why I love to read): because through shared experiences we find purpose and connection.

I hope you’ll be a part of it.

Cheers to writing and dreaming and scheming and full-heart-believing.

Happy New year!

xo Jaime K

.     .      .     .     .

in 2012:

ballerinas

For a few months, I worked for an Arts Organization/Festival and have a whole new respect for these types of nonprofits, especially with a small staff (of two) and the faint hint of a budget. The behind-the-scenes work is more than I could have thought possible if I hadn’t seen it first hand. Keep fighting the good fight.

cafe santosha

I had some truly spectacular food.

h20kitchen

Including the fanciest, prettiest, 14-course dinner of my life, with special vegan dishes made just for me. This was edible art from a dear artist/chef who I’m happy to call a friend.

somuchcoffee

… and so much coffee. So. Much. Coffee.

jaimeandryan4ever

I began the fourth year of the dearest relationship to my heart, and along the way learned so much about expectations, commitment, remaining an individual while being one-half of a partnership, and deep, soul-brightening love.

trees

I found my way back to nature, to running, and learning more about what my body (and mind) are capable of.

masonjarlightsinNYC

I embraced concepts of minimalism, and continue to get rid of what doesn’t support my vision of the most beautiful life, tossing everything from spark-dimming ideas to material possessions. Stripped down, there’s a whole lot of beauty.

veria

I found myself in places I’ve only dreamed of, for reasons I still can’t believe are… real. (Sometimes photographs serve as the pinch on the arm, the you-aren’t-dreaming reminder that life is so weird and crazy and good.)

purplehouse

I found my way to new towns.

eastonpa

And rediscovered my own town.

cavetour

And traveled through underground caves.

nycskyline

And navigated the biggest cities.

beach

And went to the ends of the earth.

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Wintertime and Reflection

It’s a time of big transformation and introspection, thinking + thinking until my brows furl up and then letting it all go. I’m wrapping some gifts, and wrapping up the end of a distracting winter cold.

And all the while, remaining grateful.

Wintertime in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania)

Wintertime in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania)

“Spend a perfect day with the simple things. A day in which the greatest pleasures come from humble ideas, be it a new breakfast recipe or bedtime story.

Food, outings, gatherings, cozy homes and easy crafts, lives measured in cups of tea and eccentric collections, the world explored through it’s hidden corners. Urban and rural, we are all committed to nature, while our nostalgia spurs us on into the future.

These are the elementary pleasures that make us happy.”

– Simple Things Magazine

BOOK GIVEAWAY + More: Homesweet Homegrown Book and Organic Seeds for YOU

‘Tis better to give, yes?

The lovely Robyn Jasko, author/gardening extraordinaire, is giving away a bunch of goodies to Save the Kales! readers. Remember when she showed us around the Grow Indie Garden?

(Here’s a little video refresher, check out the first four minutes🙂

Because she’s the sweetest pea in the pod, she’s giving away some books and seeds, and here’s YOUR chance to get them.

THE PRIZES

A copy of Homesweet Homegrown signed by author Robyn Jasko and
Illustrator Jennifer Biggs.
She’s also throwing in one of the Kaleidoscope garden collections,
featuring 20 different varieties of easy to grow, organic, heirloom
seeds!

Varieties include:
Rainbow Carrots (mix of Atomic Red, Bambino, Cosmic Purple, Lunar
White and Solar Yellow carrots)
Summer Squash Melody Mix (contains yellow crookneck, Straightneck,
Dark Green Zucchini, and Bennings Green Tint)
Mixed Radishes (red, pink, purple, and French breakfast mix)
Fall Pumpkin Mix (Featuring White Casper pumpkin, bright orange
Cinderella, Dickinson pie pumpkin and Jack O Lanterns for carving).
Melon Mix (Featuring Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, Orange Flesh Honeydew
and Green Flesh Honeydew varieties)

homesweet homegrown book

This is an adorable and endlessly informative book. The cheerful illustrations will encourage even those with the reddest of thumbs (those would be the opposite of green thumbs, right?), and the tips and recipes help you make the most of your personal harvest. Read the glowing reviews!

HOW TO WIN

1. Head over to the STK! Facebook and/or Twitter page

2. Leave a comment/tweet telling us what plant you’d grow if you could grow ANYTHING, real or imagined. An avocado tree in Pennsylvania? A bush that churns out mugs of hot coffee to folks on the street?

3. A winner will be chosen at random by December 28th (and maybe more than one, Robyn is very generous!)

homesweet homegrown book illustrations

image-104830-full

It’s nice to daydream about warm tomatoes and plucking peppers by their stems as we creep deeper into these dark, sometimes dismal, winter days.

You can learn more about Grow Indie, Homesweet Homegrown and get your entries in!

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MOSTLY-RAW VEGAN PIZZA DIP: Video + Recipe for VegNews TV

To learn more about the Save the Kales! half-hour television show, click hereSTK! is a vegan cooking + lifestyle show which airs in Pennsylvania, and full episodes are available online.

.   .   .   .   .

Three years ago, before I started blogging, I saw a video with the Spork girls on the VegNews Magazine website, and it became a dreamy, warm-fuzzy desire to some day create one of my own.

Well! I’m over the moon with utter joy that TODAY IS THAT DAY!

Enjoy this video made exclusively for VegNews TV:

This is a mostly-raw dish.  It does contain nutritional yeast which isn’t technically raw but has been embraced by the raw community. No matter, it’s 100% vegan and deeeeeeeeelicious.

(RAW VEGAN) PIZZA DIP

1 cup sun dried tomatoes
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (shelled)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (acts as a Parmesan cheese substitute; horrible name, delicious ingredient!)
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley
2 Tbsp fresh basil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor. Process until everything is mixed into a thick spread.

That’s all!

.      .      .      .      .

I swear this tastes like a delicious, fresh Margherita pizza. Plate and serve with bread or fresh veggies. People who usually don’t like veggies will eat them, if for no other reason then that they are merely a vehicle with which to get this spread into their mouths. YUM.

It may turn somewhat brown in color, which happens when you blend red and green. It’s natural. Embrace it. (Though it helps if you garnish with some leftover basil or parsley.)

You can find a trillion other VegNews TV clips HERE.  Thanks to the best production staff ever for helping to create this video!

PLANT-POWERED RUNNING: Starting Over (Again) and Making Progress

I used to run. For a brief glimmer of time, years ago, I even considered myself “a runner”, quotes included because I’m never sure when you’re allowed to claim that title and not sound like a phoney. I figured just doing it fairly often counted enough. I  got in some of the best shape of my adult life…

… Until I fell, hard, on a sidewalk a mile from home. On my knee. Through tears and blood and a long, excruciating limp back home, I realized I may have done some serious damage. To this day, sometimes my knee pops and cracks and feels like a tendon inside will snap. At the time, it simply meant: no more running.

Pretty atmosphere.

Pretty atmosphere.

And I’ve tried to start again over the years, never really committing, instead going for swift long walks and trying to surpress the sadness that my former injury may have really messed up my chances of running for good. (“I’m not even 30 yet! Why me?”)

Last month, while at Main Street Vegan Academy, I was surrounded by brilliant and inspiring people every second of the day, including women who became serious runners.

What I found so compelling was the common thread: before they were runners, they weren’t. 

So when Carla, a sweet woman in her 60s with a charming Minnesota accent and mannerisms, said somewhat nonchalantly that she had just finished her 62nd marathon, I thought maybe it’s never too late to start over. And then Jennifer, a single mom from Long Island compelled to run after the Worst Year of Her Life, told a story about finishing a marathon and being saluted by uniformed troops at mile 22, and I found myself crying into my green tea at the beauty of that gesture. Then Alicia told us about a run she did earlier this year in NYC, crossing the finish line with a sparkly tiara and being surrounded by supportive and loving women in the thousands. And talking to Erin Red who simply said, “Some days, I just need to run.”

Sunsets in the woods.

Sunsets in the woods.

So, a bunch of us decided then and there: we would do a run together in 2013 as a fundraiser for an animal-focused nonprofit. 

… And once I got home, I realized that meant I actually have to learn to run again. Oh.

And so, I’ve been getting back into it over the last month. It’s going to take a long time to be prepared for the race next year (the particulars of which I’m keeping a secret to maintain a little discretion just in case it doesn’t work out), so by starting now I have a long, long time to train and finish with some dignity in tact.

Warm and strong!

Warm and strong!

I won’t be winning awards any time soon, but I have improved my 5K time by six minutes in the last three weeks (edit two weeks later: almost eight minutes!). I feel like my anxiety has been under control, and some lower back pain has improved. I look forward to being surrounded by trees, the earthy smells that come through my nose when I remember to breathe through it, and I treat myself to podcasts on art + design, cooking or new-agey spirituality and wellness. It’s kind of, maybe, almost, a little fun?

Running is perhaps the easiest sport to begin, as it doesn’t require much beyond just running. Shoes are the most important things and if you’re going to put any money into this, they should be your priority. Everything else is optional. I broke down two weeks ago and picked up some cold weather clothes so I’ll stick with it during the winter (still cheaper than a gym membership, and you get to feel like Sporty Spice in your fancy running tights!).

My knee has good days and bad. Sometimes it prevents me from doing more than fast-paced walking. Other days I can go faster and farther than ever. I think there’s a life lesson somewhere in there, the idea that we still make progress overall even if we aren’t making progress every single time.

IF YOU NEED MOTIVATION: Read this brilliant article from Runner’s World magazine, “How to Start Running: Abandon All Reason” by Marc Parent:

(excerpt)

“Here is what I call the abandon-all-reason-and-do-it-now approach to your first run ever. Explained simply, what you have to do is this: Abandon all reason and do it now. Put down whatever you are holding, tell anyone in the immediate vicinity to hang on a second, walk calmly through the nearest exit, and when you hear the door close behind you, take off.”

.     .     .     .     .

(For help with joint pain, I’ve started taking MSM + Glucosamine. Look for a vegan brand. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, Queen’s Nutritional Products has their own brand on sale at the time of this post for $8.99 and it’s vegan!)