Fireworks are Beautiful Explosions

This fourth of July was one that stuck out in my mind. I can vividly remember what I was doing last year, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that every part of my life is different now. It has been the most challenging and celebratory, depressing and hopeful, heartbreaking and heart-rebuilding year.

I have talked before about how Save the Kales! was created as something to bring me out of the darkest parts of the past 12 months. This project has been something so personal and dear to me, a symbol (and reminder) that when we put in work and effort, we see results. We affect people in a positive way. We change our own minds and hearts in a quest to help others learn.

I was left with nothing in terms of emotional, physical and tangible things, and when I look back now on all the hard work (and that’s what it took – hard work and actions, DOING SOMETHING for once instead of just feeling entitled to greatness) I realize the power it takes to manifest the courage to jump back into life and start over.

Look out, life, I’m comin’ to get ya!

The work never stops, though. Sometimes the tiniest thing sends my brain into a jumble of “what if this is not enough, what if people don’t like it, what if this turns out to be a mistake, what if what if what if...” And then I try to remember that every other person on this green and blue ball of earth wonders the same things. The most important thing is to try to live the best way you can. If you do that, it’s impossible to fail, and no bad situation or negative person can steal that.

Just now as I was about to crawl into bed after another long day, I found this absolutely beautiful essay that so eloquently supports the act of beginning again, albeit scary, lonely and unsure. We can all do this, any day, every day. And on my end, I’m rooting for you.

PLEASE GO HERE TO READ THE ESSAY, AND VISIT THIS WONDERFUL, UPLIFTING SITE.

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The Best Gifts Don’t Come in Boxes.

I have been the deeply grateful recipient of a random act of kindness, and I hope this inspires you and reminds you that something so seemingly small on your end can mean the world to someone else.

Yesterday was so exciting and so positive, and only got better when I got home to find an absolutely incredible e-mail from an old friend.

John Sico is a nice boy I met many years ago, though we had lost touch for a while save for becoming MySpace (remember that?) and more recently, Facebook friends. (One summer day my senior year of high school we left town and went to the beach and rode the ferris wheel when the sun was setting on the ocean. So cute!)

Out of the blue, I received this from him yesterday:

Hi Jaime!

I know we haven’t spoken in forever, but I’ve been reading your blog enthusiastically ever since I re-tracked you down here on the Facebooks. It’s so great! You’ve got an awesome voice there.

So with that said, perhaps I’ve overstepped a bit, but I keep visiting “savethekales.com” to find your blog…and not getting there. Just out of curiosity, I checked if it was available, and it was…so I bought it, so no one else could grab it from you. I know how much of a bummer it is to not get your own domain name.

If you want the domain at some point, just let me know, and I’ll transfer it over to you! In the meantime, I’ve just redirected it to your WordPress blog.

Hopefully you don’t find it weird that I did that…I just didn’t want to see it get snatched before you could register it!

– john

This is, literally, one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever done for me.

I still can’t the words to express how very much a gesture like this means! The fact John thought to do that, not to mention actually went and did it, humbles me to the core.

So, help me send a thousand warm wishes to John, because Save the Kales! is now a regular dot com website! (Sort of. I’ll be working with a designer soon to spruce things up a bit.) But go ahead, try it! Type in http://www.savethekales.com Isn’t that wonderful!?

(“A Little Reminder” print, Studio Mela on Etsy $20)

Political Optimism.

I’m under the weather today. Ideally I would have made a new video (the first in so long, the first in my new place!) but getting off the couch is a bit of a chore. I’ve been mostly reading and taking advantage of the instant watch feature on Netflix, and just finished watching No Impact Man.

A brief summary: This is a documentary about a man and his family as they attempt to live as green as possible for a year. They live in New York City, have an enviably cool apartment (the chairs!!!), and what seems like a wonderful and communicative relationship. Over the course of the year they cut out buying anything in packaging, begin to compost inside their apartment kitchen, give up toilet paper and other throw-away products, make all their own soaps, and forgo electricity.

I recommend the movie! But aside from just the basic message of the film – live comfortably using as little of the earth’s resources as possible – the filmmaker has such bright outlooks on the drive of people to make direct positive impacts on the world.

“If just I change, it’s not going to make much of a difference. But the hope is, if a lot of us as individuals change, it’s going to inspire everybody to change. So I believe the most radical political act there is is to be an optimist.

All of us are interconnected, and on many levels. If you’re religious, you understand that at a religious level. But even if you’re just practical you can see that we’re interconnected. If I splash a puddle and you’re standing next to it, it splashes you. If I make pollution, you have to breathe it in.

My mind wants to tell me that I’m the only one that’s important. So I have to keep teaching myself over and over again that that’s not true.” – No Impact Man

What we do affects others. Every day we make choices, no just in what we consume, but in our way of going through a day that it completely tied to other people we encounter in person and those we never see.

Holding a door for someone. Letting someone across the street go through a stop sign before you. Complimenting someone on what they are wearing. Engaging in conversation, even for a minute, to make a connection to someone else as a human being. These are all small ways where kindness and optimism can become contagious.

I remember when I was in college (round one, ha!) and one of my professors told us about his former job working for Crayola on the line for the paper wrappers that go around the crayons. And I remember thinking, “Wow. That’s someone’s job. Someone makes their living wrapping the crayons I have used for many years of my life.”  This man supported his family,  bought a home, and got up every day to go to this job most people don’t think about, but so many have directly used. Isn’t that incredible to think about?

When we back up and try to imagine that in the larger scope of our lives, we are affected (and in turn affect) hundreds and thousands of people, every day!

I began to watch another film, which begins with this quote:

“If one pulls on a single thread in nature, you’ll find it attached to everything else.” – John Muir

Interconnectedness is certainly abound. What timing! And on a personal and incredible level, I just checked my email and got a wonderful message from a new reader who told me a great story about how she found out about this blog. Her daughter was getting dental work done, and she was asking a woman in the dental office about what kinds of foods her daughter could eat while she was healing. She was especially curious as they are a vegetarian family. Turns out the dental employee had come to my cooking class, and told this woman and her daughter all about Save the Kales!

Now I’m going to be working with her in person as a nutritional case study for school. It’s so wonderful, and directly ties in with this whole idea that we can become a part of someone’s life without even knowing it!

Today, take notice of the products you use. Think about the folks who work hard every day that have some hand in creating that product. Say hello to a stranger. Look at items and food that you buy and consider how it impacts the earth and other people. And do it with the joyful knowledge that we are all in this together.

And I believe that really can change the world.

Turn That Frown Upside Down – Party Time

Friends and Readers (one in the same),

I am equally overwhelmed and humbled by your support and absolutely beautiful, candid responses to what was a very negative situation. Sometimes I forget that not everyone reacts to adversity with calm and understanding, and the events at the beginning of the week were difficult to comprehend. I don’t have much of a backbone, though I think if it can be said any good has come from this, it is that my backbone is strengthened and (don’t mind if I say) I’m even proud of myself for staying true to my morals of respect and open-mindedness.

There was a 48 hour period when I had contemplated shutting down the whole thing, feeling deeply disheartened that my attempt at doing something so good – and doing it with humility and vulnerability along the way – had been subject to so much harsh criticism.

BUT… I soon learned that anybody that’s ever done ANYTHING has faced opposition, critics and sometimes just plain mean ridicule. I tried to see the situation as what can be considered, perhaps, complimentary that my message is reaching enough people that’s even worthy of such a reaction. (They always say, the day you become a sketch on Saturday Night Live, you know you’ve “made it”.)

The mission of this blog – beyond cooking, beyond screenprints of corn and eggplants, past the rambling videos – is to put forth a message of living your truth, and doing it with compassion. It’s so easy for something like this to turn us hard, bitter, to make us want to quit. In the end, it’s simply not worth it. “You just can’t please everybody.” But it fills my heart to know I have pleased and even inspired so many of you.

“Thank you” is merely eight letters and cannot begin to convey how much your kindness has meant to me, but thank you. Thank you, thank you. Times a million.

And to help close the case in the most celebratory way…

THIS SUNDAY is the Save the Kales/Remember PICNIC IN THE PARK!

Here are full event details as per Andrew’s Blog, Remember:

“I have rented pavilion number three at Cedar Beach Parkway for this event. THIS IS A LINK FOR DIRECTIONS FROM ROUTE 22 TO THE PAVILION.

Now, the main event will be a Cook Off which I announced on here yesterday evening. Entries will be accepted from 2 until 2:45 with judging beginning at 3. After the winner is crowned, everyone eats!

Around 4:45, Jaime and I (more to come) will be giving short talks about sustainable eating and sustainable parks with a question and answer session.

Following that, local musician Joe Tkach will be playing an acoustic set.

And then, straight relaxing until the sun sets!

Bring Frisbees!, Bring Friends!, Bring Family!, Bring Dogs!

Most Importantly, Bring yourself!


Leave a comment or send me an email (andrewkleiner@gmail.com) if you want to bring food for the contest or help out in anyway.  There will be a lot needing to get done over the next week as the event approaches.

Jaime and I are really excited about this and this is promising to be the exact kind of day you will be remembering down the line.   We hope to see you there!”

CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS ON THE COOKOFF!

To sum up:

  • FREE event! Family and pet friendly
  • Save the Kales! is providing several vegan dishes for tasty noshing
  • Sign up for the COOK OFF, or simply bring a dish for everyone to share
  • 3:00 judging of cook off entries
  • EAT, HANG OUT, LAUGH, PET DOGS
  • 4:45, Talks about sustainable eating/Local environmental efforts by me and Andrew
  • An acoustic set by the super-duper talented, Joe Tkach

We’ll say the unoffical “start” of the picnic is 2pm. We have the pavillion til dusk. You are welcome to come and go as you please – in the end, this is an excuse to get together with great people and spend a day outdoors. (We also like nature and eating, so we’re working those in too, of course.)

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS, just ask me here or: savethekales@gmail.com

I’ll see you there and we will hug and high-five each other!

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Cooking Class

The cooking class was a huge success! It took some extra planning since I didn’t have access to a full kitchen, but what a fun challenge to take on! I balanced in my yellow heels and vintage apron and we cooked up 5 meals and 1 dessert.  Everyone left full and happy, and I left feeling accomplished and proud of myself.

When I started Save the Kales! a few months ago, it was more of a personal outlet after a truly difficult time in my life. Without getting into the fine details of that situation, cooking and talking about food became the only thing left that was “mine” alone. I could do it, and I was good at it. I was hoping a few people may read the blog and get a few ingredient ideas, but it has now lead to a complete life reevaluation in the best way, and allowed me to clearly imagine what it would be like to make a living doing something I love.

It’s easy to be afraid of viewing your dreams as tangible goals. For the longest time I didn’t even know what that meant, and felt actual guilt at the thought of asking someone to pay me for a talent. Yet, I never thought it odd to pay a stylist when I got my hair cut, a chef at a restaurant, an artist to make something beautiful for my home. Why is it so hard to believe we  can do something?

Guess what? You can. Really. It’s as simple as that.

Being in a place where you have nothing left to lose is a vulnerable, uncomfortable place. But after the frightening part subsides, you find it opens to you all possibilities – and the most humbling part is they have been there all along.

I love cooking, talking about food and nutrition, exposing people to ingredients they may not have otherwise tried. To be able to teach a class my way, my style – informative, colorful, silly – was reinforcement that I’m doing something right. It made me wonder if the hard times we experience, or the hard times we give ourselves are just a way for us to reassess our thoughts and actions to propel us into greatness.

But take my advice – don’t wait around for that moment if you can help it. You are already great and talented, and people will benefit from what you can offer. Just get up and do it.

(To my first class, I thank you with so much sincerity, and as per request I’m already planning the next class built around tofu as the common ingredient. Thanks to Christa Timko and Lisa O’Brien for the photos!)

MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

I’m sure I’m not the only Nosey Nancy among us. You know what I mean. It’s just another day at the grocery store, and as you pass people in the aisles you catch yourself rubbernecking to see what they have in their cart. THEN come the judgements… “That soda isn’t even DIET soda… Those crackers are so full of crap!… White bread!? WHO still eats plain WHITE BREAD?!…”

Today I was running all over the grocery store and found that this is something I do without thinking about it. And I began to feel really guilty.

When you are living your life in a way you deem “moral” – whether its by pushing extra hard at work, you incorporate spirituality into all you do, or you eat a plant-based diet especially on the grounds of animal welfare and rights, it can become all too easy to cast judgement on others who don’t do the same.

I wasn’t born with the knowledge I have about factory farming. In fact, I am embarrassed and hesitant to admit that one of the first articles I ever wrote and self-published was titled “Why I Believe in the Vegetarians Cause and Why I’m Not One”. (I know, right!?) When it comes to our diets or lifestyle choices, we could stand to be reminded that for most of us, this was a choice that came about after an “awakening” of sorts.

Maybe you saw a gruesome slaughterhouse video, or adopted a pet and made the connection between that pet and all animals. For me, it was when my Dad died when I was seventeen. Suddenly all animal-foods appeared to me as “someone’s dead father”, and when I was suffering so deeply how I could I do that to another being, human or nonhuman?

We have these stories, and it does us good to recall them from time to time to have more compassion for people that live differently than we do. The meat and dairy industries do all they can to keep consumers in the dark about what is going on. That’s why, for many people, once they see a video of the inside of a slaughterhouse, they become vegetarians. It IS gross. It IS horrible. It DOES affect people. But many folks, myself included when I ate meat, don’t make the connection between their grilled chicken sandwich and the pain and horror of what chickens endure. I’m certain no one wants to promote pain and suffering, but when it is so veiled and secretive, people don’t see any reason to change.

Another point is the fact that, for many people, it costs a lot more money to eat healthy, whole foods. I can argue that if you know where to shop and how to cook well, you can eat a vegan diet even on a strict budget. But that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to educate myself and have the time to prepare meals. Even then, sometimes I spent $50 at a grocery store and look into my cart think, “Really? That’s it?” It’s limited thinking to believe that just because we are able to maintain a lifestyle it’s something easily, or instantly, achievable for most.

If we start to live our lives in a way that we feel so self-righteous as to be “better than” another, we have missed the whole point. Vegetarianism and veganism, for most, is about compassion and kindness. Let us all strive to live with open minds and hearts, and find comfort that while we hope to inspire and inform, we can only be responsible for our own choices and actions.

I’d go the whole wide world…

Happy 40th Earth Day! (Or if you’re me, Happy 26th Earth Day plus 14 more!)

It seems safe to say that being in nature makes most people feel good, whether it’s a hike on a footpath through a forest or lounging on the sand in front of a vast ocean. Nature is not only around us daily (if you’re in a big city, it may be harder to come by), but it’s something that inspires us. That’s why so many people seek vacations in exotic places – to see white sands, natural waterfalls or native plants.

I would also bet that most people felt a deep connection with the earth at a young age. Remember how fun it was to plant your first seeds inside an old egg carton, lining your carton along the windowsill with the rest of class, checking every day for the first tiny green sprout?

Most children also have a natural inclination to love animals. They sleep with stuffed animals, they wear animals on their clothing, their favorite story and movie characters are animals, etc… If a child intends to hurt an animal (a pet or otherwise), it throws up a red flag to guardians.

So, at what point in the growing and aging process do these things no longer become important? Why is it when a child loves an animal, it’s sweet and precious and kind, but an adult veg(etari)an is a “hippie, liberal tree-hugger” which is always said with negative intent?

For Earth Day, I ask this of you: Take a moment to think about your values. And then consider what you are doing in your life to work toward living those values with dignity and purpose. When everything is stripped from you (relationships, homes, our stuff, our jobs), and you are left with only yourself and your actions, are you living in a way that makes you proud?

I think it’s a really incredible realization, to find that your actions need a tune-up. It’s not about feeling guilty or bad, it’s about recognizing that sometimes we get so caught up with the image we want of ourselves, who we actually ARE and what we actually DO becomes disconnected.

This is going to sound somewhat hokey and eye roll-inducing, but bear with me when I say: Every day is an opportunity to reassess who we think we are, who we want to be, and plan how to make it all happen. Every single day! That is so forgiving! Your job, your friends, your school or the people in your life won’t give you that many chances. (If they do, keep ’em around.)  Only you can give and then take these endless opportunities. I urge you to do so.

Earth Day is a day that reminds us to consider the health of the planet and all of it’s living creatures. And we are encouraged to change our habits that will help preserve and heal the earth. So I ask you to think about restoring and healing yourself. To look at what habits you can change so they align with what is important to you.

(“Seek Truth” print from Raw Art Letterpress, via ETSY)

If you care about the environment and animals, consider eating more whole-foods, plant-based meals as one of the most direct and monumental ways to help the environment. It’s not about being “perfect” – it’s about doing what’s best for you.

Save the Earth and Save the Kales!