“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.

LAUGHING TIL YOU CAN’T BREATHE: Behind the Scenes of the Save the Kales!

Episode 3 airs THIS SUNDAY NIGHT (July 8th) at 9:30pm on RCN Channel 4 in the Lehigh Valley, PA. It’ll air another 9-12 times in July and be on Demand as well (dates/times to come), so keep your eyes open! And the episode will go online in another week!

They say laughter is contagious. I hope so, and I hope this can help you today, especially if you really need it.

Here’s a short behind the scenes video of a very typical day on the set:

This is why I used to get detention in elementary school. Really.

“Everybody laughs the same in every language because laughter is a universal connection.” Yakov Smirnoff

Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Muppets Movie, and Believing in Yourself

Pardon the lack of updates… My computer’s hard drive came thisclose to completely crashing (and I still needed a new one). I was able to salvage my photos and podcats, and everything else of value exists on the internet. However, I can’t remember our home’s wireless network password, so I’m stealing internet access where I can get it.

But you know, this makeshift workspace has some excellent views…

Bethlehem Steel

Just last week, Ryan and I finally got to see The Muppet Movie, the new one. OH GOODNESS HEAVENS ABOVE, I CRIED SO MANY TIMES. Happy cry, sad cry, nostalgia cry, I-know-what-that-feels-like cry, people working together and isn’t it all so beautiful cry, crying-cause-you’re-already-crying cry… Tears were flowing. A box or two of tissues later, I did find it to be incredibly uplifting, and true to form, some excellent life lessons were tucked in along the way.

The next day, I was reading the new issue of Oprah magazine. Don’t laugh, I think she’s incredible. In 10th grade English class I did a project about her, and my teacher called me “Oprah” until I graduated. Growing up, my mom would always tell me, “Some day when she’s no longer hosting her show, they are going to need a new show to fill that time.” Ahem. Big dreams, that’s all I’m saying. The Muppets can do it, Oprah can do it, I can do it, you can do it. Now, back on track…

I came across an article with an interview of Maggie Gyllenhaal. Don’t you just love when famous women are actually smart and articulate? A rare breed. I’m even more in love with her after reading this, which ties everything together:

“About three years ago, I was in a little off-Broadway play. I thought it was great and was proud of it. But one night after the show, at an audience Q&A session, a guy said, “Don’t worry about The New York Times.” I’d learned never to read reviews, but this confirmed that they must have been bad. And for a couple of days, that slayed me. I’d always thought that if I believed in what I was doing, people would respond well, even if they had different tastes. But at that moment I realized this was simply untrue. Then I thought, Maybe I’m completely wrong about everything. I became so sensitive to others’ opinions that I had a hard time saying, I know I love this, so who cares what everything else thinks?

It took me a while – and it’s an ongoing challenge, to be honest – to stop seeking approval. But one day, and this might sound cheesy, I took my daughter, Ramona, to see the new Muppets movie. There’s a part where Kermit the Frog says, “Maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you, you know? Maybe you just need one person.” When I heard that, I started crying. There’s just so much pressure to be a great mother, wife, friend, actress, or whatever your job may be. If some aspect of you wants everyone to universally love and understand you and approve of everything you do – well, that’s a sad life. You’ll bend yourself into a pretzel trying to be all these things you think you’re supposed to be.

These days, I’m better at saying, Wait a minute. It’s alright if other’s don’t approve, because I believe in what I’m doing. I’ve found some strategies that help. A friend of mine, Emma, once told me, “You’re going to drop the ball sometimes. That’s how it goes.” This is a person who’s not constantly trying to please everyone or afraid of making mistakes – she just lives her life. So now I think, What would Emma do? A year ago, I even did another play at the same theater with many of the same people, and this time I felt so much stronger. I thought, this is my work. I’m doing the best I can. I know not everyone will love it. And that is fine.” 

– Maggie Gylenhaal, as told to Crystal G. Martin, Oprah Magazine 2012

 I can say, without a tiny wavering doubt, this has been the biggest lesson for me in the last year. And I think it takes going up against some sort of opposition before you can learn it. It takes some sleepless nights and sick-to-your-stomach days before you can come out the other side and realize one negative opinion doesn’t mean more than your opinion, and your opinion is that you’re doing all you can to be great. Oh. 

Thank you Kermit, Maggie and Oprah.

I’M HAPPY YOU’RE HAPPY: And There’s Enough for Everyone

I posted this on my personal facebook page a few months ago, but it’s worth sharing again.

“We could all do better not to let jealousy, subjective comparisons, and perceptions of others “perfect lives” and happiness ruin our own dreams. Besides, if people really ARE happy, well.. isn’t that the goal? Couldn’t we stand to feel happy for them and not turn into grouches and insist they must be faking it?

The point is: another person’s success and joy doesn’t take ANYTHING away from you… And we’re all human. Just because someone isn’t blasting the internet with their personal struggles doesn’t mean they don’t have any. Act with love, not fear.”

Let us strive not to feel threatened when others do well in the form of a new job, a new creative project coming to fruition, they get recognized for work, they find a happy relationship, and so on.

Bright Colors make me happy. Photo by ADG Photography

When we aren’t happy with aspects of our own lives, it can be an impulse to look at someone’s happiness and begin to pick it apart to make ourselves feel better. WHY do rational, friendly people do this?

Here’s the thing: the world thrives, we thrive, when we make connections and share in our talents and visions.  There is not, and there never will be (thank goodness!) only one of the best of everything: the best musician, the best writer, the best designer. Someone else excelling in a field that you work in doesn’t mean you should stop doing your work, or that it’s any less valid.

The internet is such a wacky thing. It allows us to literally edit our lives. Sites like Facebook let you decide what to make public or private, what photos to share (the most flattering, of course!), and in the midst of all that sharing we can also leave out the hard times, the times we struggle, the bad days, the I’m-calling-in-sick-and-staying-on-the-couch-all-afternoon moments.

Most of us have had financial struggles, worked jobs we weren’t proud of (maybe even embarrassed of), been through at least one really horrible breakup, worked through self-esteem troubles, etc. Yet we compare and compare and compare and forget the truth: at the end of the day, we are all flawed, we are all imperfect, we all have ghosts in our closet or regrets that became lessons.

Watermelons and summer dresses make me happy. Photo by ADG Photography

Everyone, all of us, deserve happiness. No. Matter. What.

The sooner we can remember that, the easier it will be to focus on having it for ourselves.

SECRETS REVEALED

Okay, guys, the time has come… For two months I’ve had to keep the BIGGEST, BEST, MOST EXCITING, MOST INCREDIBLE SECRET ABOUT SAVE THE KALES! EVERRRRR under wraps…

But tomorrow, Friday March 30th 2012, all will be revealed. Check back! 

And I’m incredibly flattered and humbled to tell you that the blog awards just ended an hour ago, and Save the Kales! won Best Food Blog — AND, holy gosh, Best Overall Blog.

Save the Kales! Best of Blogs contest

Our community is full of people doing incredibly creative things with passion and drive and a desire to show that what we do and say DOES matter, our actions CAN make a difference in our communities, and if you’re lucky enough (I am; we are) you make great friends along the way.

I am incredibly thankful. My vocabulary isn’t advanced enough to tell you how much it means to me. With a full heart, thank you.

*Before anyone has a heart attack, that jacket is faux-leather.

IT GETS BETTER: LEHIGH VALLEY Video Submission

Take a look at what one little idea turned into:

What this project means to me:

I’m obviously an advocate for human rights. All the political aspects and statistics aside for a moment, the part of me that permanently lives in a world of rainbows and kittens and cartoon bluebirds singing in the air just plain doesn’t understand how homosexuality is still a negative issue for many people. I don’t get it. At all. There is not a single thing that anyone can say, not a SINGLE thing, that can justify to me how the love of two consenting adults is less than wonderful.

If one could try, for a moment, to consider all aspects of  life, it may shock most naysayers to realize how many queer people they know personally. What about your bank teller? The cashier at the store? The farmer that harvested your food? The person that drove the truck that brought your food to the store? The person that works in advertising and made the poster you saw for the concert you went to that ended up being the most fun you’ve had in years?

Recent political campaigns have only polarized people further – “us” versus “them”. In the midst of judging people based on their social class, their current job, who they date, what politcal party they belong to, their body type,  if they are religious or not, etc… (and all the while believing ” it’s wrong to judge people!”) we forget this one, teeny tiny fact – We all live on this same big, round ball. All of us. Every last one of us. And we’re all in this together.

When we support one another despite differences, we set an example for others. We awaken a part of people that may have forgot that within us we have enough power to shape our lives and our communities.

I want to mention that the video above came about in 3 simple steps. 1) I said “I want to make a collaboration video for It Gets Better”. 2) I called some local filmmakers to ask if they had interest, and without missing a beat they said “Yes, absolutely”. 3) I talked to Civic Theatre about giving a public space to shoot, and they likewise didn’t bat an eyelash to say “Yes, here is space for the whole day, take as long as you need.”

Done. It was literally that simple.

That’s not to say that things will always be that easy, or that you’ll always know the right people. But it does mean that taking an action – not just thinking “Wouldn’t it be cool IF…”, but taking the steps to contact people and, you know, actually do something, made this come together.

YOU have the power to do that. Yeah, I’m going to use the word “power” even if it sounds a little hokey. Because that’s truly what it is. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for what we can make possible, if we just begin the process.

Today, think about a project YOU would like to do…then do it. If it’s starting a new hobby, reading that book you’ve had on your nightstand for months, getting friends together to watch a film or have a dinner party, or take the time to think through ways you can begin something even bigger – you owe it to yourself to do it. You will benefit, and so will everyone around you. (Isn’t that nice?)

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems” – Ghandi

(“Truth and Love” print, $20 from MursBlanc; “Small Acts” print, $20 from the Big Harumph via Etsy)

You Can Do It! (We Did It!)

Last weekend was the sort of weekend that encourages and supports exactly where you are in life.

I remember meeting with Alison (photographer for WINK Pinup and Magazine, and owner Eskandalo! salon) a few months ago and wanting to plan this cool event for local artists and businesses with an eco-friendly theme. What started with a tote bag became an all-day fun festival with live music, awesome vendors, and community building at the most basic level.

(Thank you so much to Alex for this candid shot of me at my booth! I took pictures of everything but my own table, sheesh!)

The day before I was running around to health food stores and the restaurant supply store for ingredients and take-out containers. I was a woman on a mission, staying up so late on Friday night to make sure my food would taste as delicious as possible.

Once everyone got their booths set up and people came and walked around, my heart felt so full to know that we did this. We created this event, this day. I looked around and saw the smiles on the faces of everyone, friends and neighbors, and it reminded  me just how powerful all of us are in the creation of our own lives.

As for  my food, the biggest compliment came from the people that said “Wow – I have hated tofu every time I tried it, but this is awesome!”, or the people who didn’t believe you could make something decadent without the use of dairy and meat but are now believers! Everyone was so friendly, kind and wonderful. At the end of the day, I had next to nothing left!

That night, I had another dream in which I clearly visualized the future of Save the Kales! A gorgeous restaurant/cafe, a space in the back for cooking classes, an office for nutrition consulting… While I don’t know where I’ll end up, or how my plans will play out, last weekend gave me nudge to keep moving forward with optimism and seizing all opportunities.

The biggest, most heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who came out that day. It means so much to me, personally, even if I never met you before!

Now that my new house is just about in order, I’m going to pick a date for the next cooking class soon! I hope you’ll attend. Til then, enjoy some photos from the weekend:

Vegan Stuffed Shells with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce (stuffed w/ tofu, walnuts, sage, cranberries, other yummy things)

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