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Inspiration To Open Your Heart

Summer AfternoonI am sitting with Lupe my elderly grey cat in the hazy early morning light. The air, thick and hot for 5:30 am, is filled with the sound of crickets and beetles singing in overgrown garden beds just outside the open door. Lupe sits at the door and watches black starlings swoop down from the maple tree to the dewy grass in search of worms and other bugs.

Today is my last day of vacation before I return to a daily schedule that overflows the boundaries of my days. The long languid days of Summer are over for me. After 11 days off I feel rested, well fed and nourished—centered and grounded. I admit I had a list of unrealistic expectations about I wanted to accomplish during my vacation. Repeatedly I had to remind myself when anxiety rose up from my belly that all I needed to do was rest and what I wanted, I had no pressing matters. This time was not about achieving but rather about slowing down and wandering where I wanted. I read, I spent extra time with my journal, I read a lot more, I worked on a couple writing projects. I spent extra time with Jay puttering around the house and riding our bikes through the woods that are already turning towards fall. And then I read some more.

I feel a certain anticipation in my body, I am ready for what is next. I woke this morning thinking about the Amherst Writers and Artist training that starts in 10 days in Chicago and an essay I have to turn in later today. I laid in bed thinking I need get the laundry done and go to the store to prepare for the coming week. I need to clean the gutters, I notice there are small trees growing in them. All of that can wait, for now I am still pausing and enjoying the thick hot morning alone in the quiet with my cat.

This week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart is about writing and reading.

Six Strategies for Effective Close Reading- Here is a different take on close reading.

What’s Up With That? Why It’s So Hard To Catch Typo’s- I struggle with seeing my typo’s. I often think it has to do with being dyslexic but maybe not. I thank Jenna McGuiggan for sharing this article with me.

A room of Ones Own in the Middle of Everything by Megan Stielstra- Love, love Megan’s work. I finished her book Once I Was Cool this past week. I highly recommend it.

Calcification- More great reading from Brevity Magazine.

Akira Nagaya- Paper cutting Art- Ok, not about reading or writing but breathtaking and amazing, I know I don’t have the patience.

May you pace yourself in the coming week and find time to read. ~ Kira




In the Direction of My Dreams

Coffee Shop Dreams

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” ― Anaïs Nin

I am sitting at the bookstore with stacks of papers and notebooks spread out before me. I am drafting a fall weekend writing retreat and trying to figure out whats next for an essay. An older couple is sitting next to me discussing recipes and what to make for dinner—tuna steaks with mango salsa? A creamy risotto? Perhaps a skirt steak with a chipotle cream sauce? She is wearing a too big pink baseball cap over her thin grey hair and has large silver and black bangles on her right wrist that sparkle in the light. He is wearing a tweed news boy cap, has a band-aid on the bridge of his nose and flips through a stack of cook books.

I admit I am paying more attention to them than I am to the writing tasks at hand. I have an essay due monday night to Jenna. This is my 3rd or 4th draft of the essay (who am I kidding, it is more like the 10th or 11th draft, I lost count) and it is hard work. I am in territory unknown and wobbling around. Inner monsters are whispering from deep within me, “You can’t do this, you suck. You can’t edit? Who are you kidding? You are never going to have the courage to really say what needs to be said. You are a wimp.” Yes, these whispers are pretty damn mean and getting pretty damn loud. I left the silence of my house and came to the bookstore in an attempt to quiet them and have the accountability of being in public to get something done.

I have also woken the inner monsters because I am getting close to my dreams. In two weeks I will be in Chicago attending the Amherst Writers and Artist Initial Leadership Training. This is an intense 5 day training that will teach me how to lead writing workshops and retreats based on the AWA method. I had the honor to be part of an AWA writing workshop for over 7 years. This experience gave me a safe nurturing space to hear, develop and trust my voice not only in my writing but in all areas of my life. The workshop connected me to a creative community and helped me keep my creative work alive when the rest of my life was demanding all my time, attention and energy. I felt a deep loss when Melodie, the workshop leader, retired and moved on in 2009.

I want to teach others how to access and trust their voice like I was taught. I want to help others feel safe with expressing what is in their hearts. This has burned inside of me for years and now I am doing something about it. It feels scary and pretty damn audacious. Those not good enough whispers are sometimes shouting loudly about how much I suck, or how damn crazy I am. I hear them and I am ignoring them. I am sitting still in this green vinyl chair, my heart beating fast, my breath a little short, watching the all too common not good enough thoughts rise and fall. I am planning, drafting and setting dates for my first online weekend writing retreat for this November. It is going to be another small step towards my dreams and towards the direction of my heart. I can do this.

The older couple just got up to leave, crooked and bent over, they slowly moved past the shelve of tea cups and books about tea to the door. I am smiling because they are holding hands and I think to myself, I hope when I am old, I have my beloved to hold hands with and I still have my spark like they do. I think I have a chance if I continue to write and keep moving in the direction of my dreams no matter how scary.


Inspiration to Open Your Heart

fall colorI am ready for some quiet and peace. The last few weeks have been overflowing with activity and connecting. With being “on” and doing. Very few moments to sit still and decompress. I am one who needs to reflect and allow feelings to arise and fall away. I need processing time. It takes effort for me to understand how I feel and fit into the world. I need time to wander about my journal, take my camera and roam the park, read essays and poems. I need to sit with my partner Jay late in the evening and talk about our days or nothing at all. I need time to not have a goal, time-frame or need to accomplish.

Last weekend I was in Tennessee hiking in the Smoky Mountains with my father and Jay. We hiked out on rugged rocky paths twisting up and down the terrain outside of Cade’s Cove to a waterfall tucked deep in the forest. This past weekend we spent the weekend downtown Detroit on the river front with Jay’s family celebrating his sister’s wedding. It was a weekend of family, tradition and celebrating. We danced, ate and explored the waterfront of Detroit with his nieces and nephews.

Now I sit on the couch and listen to the crickets; end of summer golden light bounces off the wall. Fall is pushing in, I feel it as I ride my bike through the woods. The frantic energy of growing and creating is settling down. A slow ripening is emerging. Leaves are turning and scattering on my path, I am ready for the coming week off of work, which will be filled with space and time to meander and roam. Time for me to settle, soften and ripen from all of this summer activity and growth.

This week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart is heavy on digital disconnection and cultivating space to slow down and hear what is rumbling deep inside.

Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit via Brain Pickings- I picked up Rebecca’s latest book a few months ago in Ann Arbor and I have yet to settle down with it. Perhaps this week I can get lost out on the hammock and read.

Here Be Digital Dragons via Brevity Magazine- An interesting look at the effect of reading online and why it is important to provide a map for readers. I need to learn how to tell more in my writing to help guide readers. If you write creative nonfiction, this is a must read.

Relearning the Value of Boredom- More on disconnecting to cultivate words, thought, art.

When It Comes to My Own Writing I Whisper by Andi Cumbo- Floyd- Andi’s words resonate with me and my struggles to own my work.

A Memoir Is Not A Status Update by Dani Shapiro- I thank Jen Lee for sharing this link in the Indie Kindred Community on Facebook. A sharp and insightful article about crafting a memoir.

What it Feels Like To Be The Last Generation To Remember Life Before the Internet- Not only do I remember life before the internet, I remember typing and retyping my composition and research papers for college on a type writer. I know technology has impacted my life for the better but I need to remember I can live with out it too.

Golden leafs on my path

May you find space to slow down and ripen this week. ~Kira



The Treadmill of Not Good Enough

Open DoorI am out of sorts. It is 5 am, I am sitting in my office writing in silence except for the gray cat purring loudly and pacing back and forth across the desk. She meows every once in a while for me to pet her. I am out of sorts because I feel that time this week is compacted and there is no time for me to be still, let alone connect with myself.

Tonight I have a meeting for work and will not be home until after 10 pm. 12 to 14 hour days are hard but sometimes I have to do them. I am playing catch up from the going to Tennessee to see my father and stepmother this past weekend, so I have not gone grocery shopping or set up things for my week to run smoothly. We have a wedding this weekend I am not ready for—we have to get the gift, I need a haircut, and I need new panty hose. The to do list goes on, my car needs an oil change and is making a squealing noise when I start it, the laundry needs folding, I need to vacuum, I want to make home cooked meals every night so we stop eating out.  My good friend wants me to come over for dinner and I feel bad because I have to reschedule.

Plus I have not had time alone for days. I need to write. I need to sit in meditation. I need to go out and ride my bike and feel the cool air rushing past me. I need to smell the wet earth and ripe leaves getting ready to turn orange and red. I need to sit on my meditation cushion and listen to the rain fall and go back to my breath. I need to hear what my heart is saying.

When I get into these spaces my to do list spins out beyond my reach and before I know it I am buried under layers of anxiety. Everything feels tight, narrow focused and my breathing is shallow at best. I get cranky, snappy and distracted. I don’t like this state at all and it only feeds “not good enough” feelings I know too well. So I tighten my grip, my world gets smaller, the to do’s grow even bigger in my mind. I am on the treadmill of not good enough and it is going faster and faster. I know this is temporary and I also know I have to do something to slow this down so I can get off the treadmill.

First thing, I have to sit and meditate. That alone will help me to give a pause to the rapid thoughts so I can know what is really going on and what I actually need to do.  Next, I have to move my body. Nothing will move anxiety and bring me into the present moment more than going for a walk, doing yoga, riding my bike. Next I have to manage my expectations of what I can accomplish and prioritize what is important. My house is going to be messy, I am going to have to reschedule my dinner with my friend, my ideal home cooked meals will have to wait.

And finally, I have to make time to write. It is only by writing that I understand what is happening, how I feel or what I want. Magic happens when I write. Connections are made. Courage is garnered. Not good enough feelings shrink.

Most importantly, I need to remind myself all of this is temporary and will pass. Next week I have the whole week off from my day job and not too many plans—and I plan to keep it that way.


August Break Moments


August Break 14 Morning dew lighSilence

It has a sound, a fullness.
It’s heavy with sigh of tree,
and space between breaths.
It’s ripe with pause between birdsong
and crash of surf.
It’s golden they say.
But no one tells us it’s addictive.”
― Angela Long

The signs that summer is dwindling are beginning to appear. The kids next door played football in the backyard last night. Darkness comes an hour or so earlier. The daisy heads are withering, the tall grasses are drying up and becoming brittle. I have an extra pink blanket on my bed as a chill is creeping in at night.

August Break 14 quoteI see changes online too, more e-courses are being offered, people I haven’t heard from all summer are starting to show up in my social media feeds again. My mail box is filled with invitations for fundraisers and other events around town. We are moving towards back to school, back to work, back to busy. We are moving away from long languid days, extra time to linger and notice the morning sun dance on the wet dewy grass. I am a bit wistful, I love moving slower and I have yet to figure out how to maintain a summer pace when fall ramps up.

August Break 14 in my bagI want to savor these last moments of summer before the hustle and bustle of fall comes rushing at me. That is why I love Susannah Conway’s August Break, it is low commitment and yet keeps my creative eye moving. Plus this summer has been about writing and deep learning. I need a break. Focusing on what I see around me with my camera instead of my notebook let’s me rest.

August Break 14 Early OrangeMay you find rest and wondrous August Break moments. ~Kira


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