SEPTEMBER SOMETHINGS: The Start of Autumn, Bethlehem Vegfest, and a Writing Retreat

This morning I woke up to a familiar feeling: that first September morning that feels comparatively cold, my body heat cocooned under the comforter, the dog serving as a fuzzy makeshift foot-warmer.

The Fall season is upon us, and I couldn’t be more grateful. I know about science and weather and seasons, but every year at this time, it feels like a gift just for me.

I never get sick of photos of pumpkin drinks and flat boots. Post away. Here's my first contribution.

I never get sick of photos of pumpkin drinks and flat boots. Post away. Here’s my first contribution.

The other day I read something about September being “an alternative New Year’s Day” as a time for reflection and transformation, personal promises and fresh starts. This resonates so deeply with me. A month ago we had a week of chillier, end-of-summer temperatures and I swapped my summer dresses out of my closet, trading them for cardigans and boots. I’ve sorted my book collection so the creepy, haunting novels are on the top shelf, Shirley Jackson and Thomas Tryon ready for consumption. (Surely I’m not the only one to read fiction according to season?). I sleep in short sleeves knowing that on gloriously loungey mornings like this one, I will wake up just a bit cold and get to burrow inside the bed a little deeper.

Let me tell you about a few things:

Bethlehem Vegfest is tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 7th) from 11am-6pm. Has it really been a year? This year, raise your hands to the sky and rejoice because it is (finally! FINALLY!) all vegan, just as it should be. It’s been rebuilt a bit on the inside, making the festival a little smaller but more… Vegfesty. I wish for all the speakers, vendors and patrons to have a truly wonderful time and to continue to keep the festival a positive, friendly, and inspiring event for all. Go here to view all the details.  (And I was quoted for a little newspaper article, thanks Express Times.)

stk vegfest

Later that night, I’m heading to Philly for the Emmys! Very excited about my beautiful dress, though competitions make me sick to my stomach and I’ll feel better when it’s over.  Hopefully Matt will tell tales of new fatherhood and we can talk about how his one year old daughter and I get same-level excited about Ikea selling giant plush vegetables with faces, or something.

And then! It’s off to a Solo Writer’s Retreat.

Sunday morning, I’m smooching Ryan goodbye as he heads to Canada for work (he’s going to the Toronto International Film Festival, poor thing, what grueling work) and I head to northeast Pennsylvania to drop off Chubby dog at my Mom’s house, then continue on to a small cabin in the woods.

“Writers have long known that the most reliable cure [for writer’s block] is to get away from regular life and in a different and undemanding environment, simply allow the words to come. They can be awful. They will be awful. But out of awful comes literature — or, in my case, self-help books that, if I do my job right, read as well as literature.” – Victoria Moran

You see, for months I’ve been talking about secluding myself in a cabin so I can get away from obligations (and, um, the internet) and just write. I got the kick-in-the-butt I needed after reading this blog series from Victoria Moran about going on her own writing retreat to work on a new book proposal. Maybe it’s the romance of the idea, or that I know I tend to get distracted at home, but I’ve found a perfect little cabin just for me and whatever woodland creatures I meet and befriend.

It’s on a lake. It has a fireplace. And electricity to keep the computer charged. Beyond that, I’m just taking some reference books, good campfire food, and my coffee pot. Maybe some rations for vegan s’mores.

As you can see, this is a popular idea.

writingcabin

I’m turning 30 at the end of the month, and that milestone birthday is deserving of it’s own reflection. I don’t have a lot of the things our culture has determined you are “supposed to” have to mark adulthood: marriage, “normal job”, home ownership, a child. Though, I’ve learned so much about myself and if I want, or will ever want, those things. What does it mean when society places so much value and credible experience on things that may not be a part of someone’s life? What do I want my life to look like?

What do you want your life to look like? Have you ever thought about it? Really?

I hadn’t. A few years ago I was in my therapist’s office and he said, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and it was like a boulder was thrown at my head as I realized I actually hadn’t thought about it before. At that time, in the middle of deep depression, living day-to-day was enough. I’d wake up every morning with paralyzing anxiety because I didn’t know how to fill the hours of the day, painfully aware that I didn’t have a sense of purpose, and desperately wanting to find one.

Snoozing dogs = four-legged mental therapy.

Snoozing dogs = four-legged mental therapy.

The novel idea that in five years time I could potentially have any life/lifestyle I’d want (theoretically, within the realm of reality and not “Become Queen of the Jungle”, or invent the new Facebook) was impossible to wrap my head around. It may have sounded simple, but in that hour I found I’d be very content and truly happy if my life involved: an inspiring apartment, a loving relationship based on honesty and respect in which we maintained separate identities while supporting each other’s dreams, a small circle of friends you call when your world falls apart/when your world explodes with joy, a dog (absolutely), to do work that leaves the world better than I found it and goes beyond “me”, and… to write.

So.

Off I go to get out of my head… or perhaps, into my head. I’ve always thought it easier to figure things out with a blanket across my shoulders and a campfire flickering through the trees.

xo Jaime K

living forest

living forest

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“Pause in Our Pursuit of Happiness”

justbehappy

There’s been a lot of living going on: quiet reflections about “what I want” (these things tend to change over the years), travels to big cities for work and friends and (when I’m luckiest) both at once, runs in the thick humidity of July, re-organizing the book collection – ever an ongoing process, filling my phone with photos of my dog sleeping upside-down (little legs sticking straight up in the air BE STILL MY HEART), enjoying time spent with families and loved ones, and some unabashedly lazy afternoons.

 

And there’s a post a’brewing.  One that I feel I need to get up before I can post anything else. I’ve been writing it off and on for months, never feeling quite satisfied it’s quite right. The irony, of course, is part of the post expresses the uncomfortable feeling of trying to get something perfect, or as close to “right” as possible, and never quite getting there, thus abandoning it entirely. Art imitates life?

I love this paragraph and somehow it sums everything up:

“It was like the classic scene in the movies where one lover is on the train and one is on the platform and the train starts to pull away, and the lover on the platform begins to trot along and then jog and then sprint and then gives up altogether as the train speeds irrevocably off. Except in this case I was all the parts: I was the lover on the platform, I was the lover on the train. And I was also the train.” 
― Lorrie MooreA Gate at the Stairs

All of this to say I’m still here. And I miss you (really). xo

Sweet Relief + Forks Over Knives Giveaway!

After three days of a stomach bug, I’m finally feeling human again. Thank goodness, just in time for the Color Me Rad color run this weekend in Bethlehem – will you be there?

To celebrate eating food and feeling healthy (heck, just normal), I’m giving away a blu-ray copy of Forks Over Knives! Cause health feels good.

Grateful to have a morning full of banana ice cream.

Grateful to have a morning full of banana ice cream.

To win:

Leave a comment telling me what you’d like to see on an upcoming episodes of Save the Kales! TV show, and/or a written post here on the blog.

You can leave comments on –  Facebook or Twitter

I’ll use a random number generator to choose a winner in June!

Being sick after such a wonderful few weeks was a drag, but I got to sleep for a hundred hours and catch up on goofy paranormal ghost reality shows. You know, the important things. Looking forward to getting back to work and filling you in on cooking for Joan Jett, being featured on Our Hen House, and writing an article for the next issue of a beautiful magazine. 

Be well. xo

What Is Your Mission Statement?

mis·sion state·ment

Noun.  A summary of the aims and values of a company, organization or individual.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the mission statement of Save the Kales!, which leads to a hefty dose of self-reflection. Much of this ever-evolving work is so personal, so deeply rooted in where I am in my life and the evolutions taking place. I feel like I’ve been having revelations every day. I shoot out of bed at night to run an idea past Ryan, needing to hear the words come out of my mouth which makes thoughts feel real. I cross the coffee shop and interrupt a friend in the middle of his work, forcing him to take out his ear buds and close his laptop, because I need to talk about this right now what do you think about this oh my gosh I never thought of it this way before!

As the show prepares for it’s launch in Seattle, I’ve found myself trying to concisely explain what Save the Kales! is for blurbs and cable descriptions. And I’ve found I can’t develop the mission statement of all of this without asking what it is for myself.

mission statement.jpg

Developing a personal Mission Statement (or manifesto! or motto)  gives you a tool to guide your actions and decisions when you aren’t sure what you should be doing, not just in the grand scheme of life and careers, but (seemingly) smaller things, like how to spend a free afternoon or how to make a list of priorities of tasks you need to finish.

Is your mission to be of service? Do you feel a calling to help others? Do you want the mark you leave on the world to be about bettering the world?

Do you value alone time, or free time? Is it more important that you make it to yoga class or spend time watching a movie with a loved one than to stay at work until 11pm, finishing up just one more thing? Do you spend the week in a hazey blur waiting for the weekend to arrive so you can read a book, tend to your garden or take a glorious nap on the sofa with an SVU marathon lulling you to sleep?

Do you crave inspiration and stimulation? Do you look for new social groups to participate in, belong to online book clubs, enjoy going to conferences or get fired up about volunteering to help plan an event? Do you love the thoughtful insights that come from being around others with similar passions?

Do you want to be the one to inspire? Do you feel a deep-rooted drive to light a spark in others with your compassion, encouragement and genuine desire to motivate?

Is creativity an inherent part of you, and do you want to do work that allows you to express and explore it?

If you have the internet and eyes, you’ve likely seen the (truly brilliant) Manifesto by the Holstee company:

holstee manifesto

You can find great examples and resources from Gala Darling.

As I continue to work on my own, I’d love to know… what’s yours?

“Belated Valentine: A Work in Progress” — a poem by Steve Marsh

The past several weeks have been the longest I’ve gone without blogging since the birth of this site. Now, the month of it’s third Birthday, I find myself in a new home with a new four-legged family member.

(When we first viewed this place, I found myself thinking, “I can write here.” A few weeks later we’re all moved in and I can’t seem to find enough notebooks and pens. Our environments can affect our creativity so deeply, yes?)

The moving process always feels so vulnerable. Your hands touch every. single. thing. you own, and that moment determining it’s value can feel equally oppressive and insignificant.

The best parts have been purging so much to make room for only what I really love and what supports my ideas of beauty and inspiration (I can’t even remember what I’ve gotten rid of), the paint samples and furniture arranging and lazy nights giddy to just stare at the walls and all the other joys of nesting, and uncovering so many beautiful things I forgot meant something to me once.

belated valentine by steve marsh

I can’t remember where I first found this poem, but I’m so happy I scribbled it down years ago, and happier to have found it just in time to share with you today. It’s a long one, but worth the read for those lines that punch you in the gut with their beauty. Happy Valentine’s Day. xo

Belated Valentine: A Work in Progress by Steve Marsh

I woke this morning with that shadow feeling I’d
been dreaming
significant dreams
strong and powerful,
richly full of meaning.
But I was unable to recall them no matter how
hard I tried.
Chasing them only makes it worse,
like groping for the other tennis shoe
lost under the bed
just beyond reach
closing my hand on something
to discover it is only
so much dust and dog hair.
.
I closed my eyes,
breathed deeply,
and reached for that familiar place.
.
But the Universe asked me a question:
Why do I continue to love you?
.
And I began to answer immediately because
confidence is the feeling we have before we
understand the situation.
.
Why in the face of all we have seen
and failed to see in each other
do we persevere?
.
I begin to understand it is a matter of pride
and pride is, after all, what we have.
Vanity is what others have.
.
So, in pride or vanity I offer:
I love you because I have
always loved you.
.
And the Universe knows this is not the whole truth.
It knows it like it knows we can’t pray a lie.
.
I try again.
I love you because of all we have been through together.
And the Universe does not like this cliche any better.
It asks, with all the Aristotelian logic it can muster:
Do you not manifest “all that you have been through together”?
The Universe knows and will not let me get away with half a truth.
We have been through “all that”
because we have put each other through “all that”.
.
It asks another question:
How can you assert love after all you have seen?
.
The helplessness after surgeries;
The weakness in the face of adversity;
The cowardice in the face of confrontation;
weight gain,
hair loss,
reduced libido,
nakedness at forty,
nakedness at fifty?
The knowledge that the final solution does not involve Bean-o.
.
And I begin, in answer, to list the qualities I admire in you:
Tolerance,
Patience,
Trust,
Faithfulness,
Forgiveness.
But the Universe will not allow this equivocation either.
And because the Universe is a big believer in the Socratic Method,
it asks,
Why do I love my dog?
.
I confess to perceiving a similar list.
.
The Universe sends me the Spring songbirds
early
who sing, and feed,
who show me community in bright red colors
and high energy.
The birds know nothing of our sorrow.
.
And the Universe asks again:
In the face of this sorrow, why do I continue to love you?
.
It is not because Mothers are better than Fathers.
It is not because women are better than men.
It is not because teaching is better than poetry.
It is not because daughters are better than husbands.
.
And slowly, the answer,
or rather the understanding that there is no
answer,
begins to reveal itself to me.
.
There is no aetiology for love.
.
I do not love you because
I do not love you in spite of
I do not love you since
I do not love you in so much as
I do not love you for the reason that
.
There is no reason.
No logic,
no syllogistic proof.
It simply is.
I love you.
It comes about without cause.
And with luck it is returned
without cause.
.
That is why love fits more aptly into poetry than paint.
It is not revealed to the mind through the eye.
It comes to the heart, through the nose and the fingertips.
.
The old poet had it right.
“Do not go gentle…”
Even here in this moment of doubt
I do not give up,
I do not go gentle,
Down by two in the bottom of the ninth,
two out,
two on,
two strikes.
I will take one more goddamned pitch!
And even if I fail
we will play again tomorrow.
.
The story of my life is told between parenthesis
which you open and you close.
And inside those parenthesis is one word.
It is (Hope).
.
vday1
vday2
.
… Whether you’re in romantic love or in love with life or in love with your own heart, recognize how very special that is. Love is hard work (worth it). It’s there every moment, a small vibrational hum, the ambient sound of day-to-day life: we notice it when it’s gone. Don’t take it for granted.
With Love, on Valentine’s Day,
 Jaime K

“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.

Left Brain, Right Brain and The Art of Doing Nothing

In October, the air smells like cardamom and everyone has changed their playlists over to softer sounds. Scenic back road drives look like watercolor paintings, you question your choice of outerwear.

I’ve been neglectful here, it’s just that I’ve been spending my time living off the internet instead of just writing about it. There’s comfort in starting a good movie at midnight, huge pots of chili, and library books I never remember to return on time.

It’s not good enough to seek happiness. We have to revel in what things make us happy when we find them.

left brain right brain

Recently a doctor told me about “left brain clutter” – when all of our obligations and goals and stresses and to-do lists make us so overwhelmed it’s hard to see any of them clearly, or do any of them well. She recommended (dare I say, “prescribed”?) at least 1-2 hours a day of just doing what makes you happy.

No agenda. Just doing the things you like because you like them.

This isn’t a presumption that all of us have the luxury to sit on the couch all day in our pajamas (though, if you can do that one day a week, I say do it unabashedly). Being “busy” doesn’t always mean being productive, and can in fact cloud our creativity. We can confuse busyness with being effective by default.

Explore your library. Take a day trip. Cook one big,  laborious meal and eat it when it’s finished at 11pm. Take the prescription to just enjoy your time without needing an outcome beyond joyfulness. That may be the best medical advice I’ve ever heard.