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Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Smokey Mountians

“Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly. ” ― Roger Ebert

Today I am feeling a bit off my center because the internet was out most of the week and I am playing catch up on many tasks that had to wait for connection. One of the many late summer storms that rolled through our area, tossing the trees, shaking the earth and sending jolts of electrical currents scrambled my modem and killed it. I was stunned by my feelings of being lost because I depend on internet connection for so many things from working out in the morning, to paying my bills, to writing projects, to working and checking my email.

The internet is stitched deeply into the fabric of my life. So while I had more time to read books, write in my journal and have longer dinners with Jay with conversation stretching to bedtime, I was not able to whittle away at my to do list for my creative writing retreat coming up in November. I was not able to complete my midweek post about my experience at the AWA training in Chicago last week.

All of which brings up issues of expectations and why I constantly have to be doing something I deem productive to be, well, good enough. Ah, the pesky good enough feelings from the past. The ones that sound and feel so true but are a mirage of my mind, habitual thoughts not based on fact or reality. The ones that cause my heart to beat faster and my stomach to clench.

What the lack of internet gave me was more time on my meditation cushion, more time to slow down, more time to digest the impact of the training last week and to formulate just how I want to fold the AWA workshops into my life. It gave me time to meander on the page about what I can offer other writers in the coming year. It gave me balance and way to continue the slower pace I experienced in Chicago at the training.

This morning I sit in my office with a cold wind rushing through the trees. I hope to ride my bike later today. My bike riding days are getting fewer and fewer as the fall presses in. I have a long list of writing projects to attend to plus I have to grocery shop for the coming week and pay those bills.

But before all of that begins, I am going to sit on my meditation cushion, I am going to have a long breakfast with Jay and I am going to take things slow. I am going to remember I am not my to do list, I am not what I accomplish. I might even turn off my internet, for it is also a huge distraction for me as much as a tool that helps me connect with the rest of the world.

My time to search for links for this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart was minimal but I still did find some links I wanted to share with you.

The News Worth Telling by Beth Kephart- I love this so much. I can so relate as I am stumped every time someone asks me “What’s new?” I never know what to say. Beth articulates why. 

Our Queer Little Hybrid Thing by Ned Stuckey-French- This is a great piece about personal essays. Worth the read.

An MFA for the Rest of Us- I have to admit I go back and forth about getting an MFA. 13 years ago I told myself I would go back to school five years after I finished my BFA. I am still on the fence but I think this MFA is the right one for me. I personally can’t wait to take, CW 4300 Pretending You’re Talking to Terry Gross When You’re Alone in the Car. I love this so much and how super cool. I can lose hours playing around on this site. A good example of why I don’t need the internet.

Kandinsky- Concerning the Spiritual In Art via Brainpickings- I fell in love with Kandinsky at the Chicago Art Institute back in 1995 and this book was my constant companion in my studio while in art school. I think I have three copies floating around my house.

May you find space with out the internet in the coming week to cultivate peace.~ Kira





Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Lincoln Park Morning

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus

I am resisting September. I want to linger in these last days of summer. I want evening light, golden and pink, to cascade across the green lawn while crickets chirp with joy hidden in over grown weeds deep in the garden beds. I want to sleep with the windows open and wake to those crisp damp mornings drifting in to tickle my nose. I want to go ride my bike through the woods after dinner and listen to the crickets get ready for the night.

And yet, a gaggle of geese just flew south across the sky, honking wildly to let me know they are leaving. I am clinging to a cup of hot peppermint tea while wrapped in a thick pink bathrobe and wool socks are hugging my feet. The windows are all shut, and I hate to admit it, I just turned the furnace on.

It seems so early, I want to stand out on my drive and yell up to the sky, wait I have five more days of summer. And yet it is here, Fall has seeped in quickly this year. I noticed it last week up in Traverse City, many of the trees were deep purple and orange. I attributed it the northern latitude, but even in Chicago, there was no mistaking, the trees were turning towards dormancy. Fall is settling in.

This Fall means new beginnings for me. I just completed my Amherst Writers and Artist Workshop Leader Certification and I am going to offer my first creative writing workshop this November. I have much to prepare for this and I feel a bit overwhelmed. I know I am up for the challenge. I have much more to say about the amazing training but that will have to be for another post. For now I will just say it was profound and for the first time in my life, I did not feel like I was pretending or an imposture. Yes, that powerful.

I share with you this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart. A short collection of links and resources I found this past week that inspired me in some way.

How to Reset Your Happiness Set Point- I find the notion that we all have a happiness set point so fascinating. It means that no matter how crappy things get, after a spell of adjustment we generally bounce back to a set point, which for me is relatively damn happy. I generally feel good most of the time and have most of my life, no matter how deep I dove into depression or grief, I always bounce back.

On the Nightstand: On Deciding What to Read Next- Oh, I do the 25 page test, the book stare and many other of these techniques for deciding what to read next. I can tell you, never once in my life, have I ever not had something next to read.

Ethiopian Lentil Stew with Teff Chickpea Crepes- I am so making this, maybe this weekend. I once tried to make injera and it was a grand disaster. I think I can manage the teff chickpea crepes.

A Requiem for Trees- A beautiful post about trees, grief and the power of change. Out on the trails and in the parks I return to again and again, the trees become my silent companions, stilling the anxiety inside of me and holding my grief. I miss my trees when they die, or worse, are removed.

Underwater Puppy Photography via Boredpanda- I sometimes wonder what is wrong with me because more and more I am finding myself taking pure delight in cute puppy or cat photos and videos. It is like I need a break from all of the stress and seriousness in the world. I need to just laugh and feel that warmth of watching a cute kitten fall out of a box. These are also stunning photos.

May your coming week be filled with yummy food and yes, pictures of puppies and kittens, for they really do make the world a better place, if only for a moment. ~Kira



Inspiration To Open Your Heart

Amherst Writers and ArtistI am sitting in a hotel room next to an air conditioner unit blowing cold air. The room is stuffy and I am hoping the air will clear it out. This afternoon I drove four hours north to Traverse City MI. This is “up north”,  the land of vacations and relaxation. When someone in Michigan says they are going “up north”, you think of white pine, miles of hardwood forests, small towns and endless miles of beaches on one of the Great Lakes. I, however, am here for work. Tomorrow I am speaking at a homeless summit about collaboration within communities to end homelessness.

I go home tomorrow night and then leave for Chicago super early on Wednesday morning for the Amherst Writers and Artist Leadership Training. A busy week for me and as I rode my bike through the woods last night when the full moon was rising, my mind kept looping around what I needed to pack, going over what time I have to leave for the airport, wondering if gluten-free food is going be available at the training. An endless stream of thoughts and worries.

My mind also kept conjuring up horrible situations that could happen to make me not be able to go to Chicago. The dreaded waiting for the other shoe to drop thinking. It happens often, right before I am about to take a big step towards something I have dreamed of doing. The fear and doubt creep in. I hear those nasty thoughts that say “Who do you think you are to think you can be happy?” “Do you really think this is going to work out?”

I am not sure if my mind wanders over this well-worn path in my brain as a way to protect myself from disappointment or if it is just another method of sabotage. I do know these thoughts are not real. My fears of falling off my bike in the middle of the woods and breaking my leg, or of my son M. getting hurt and needing me so I could not go to Chicago is unfounded. Sure these things can happen, but the likelihood is super low. It is nothing but a waste of energy and time to worry about the what if’s.

I know this is resistance to doing something new, something that is a bit, if not super, scary. Also hidden in these thoughts is the notion, I don’t deserve to do something to make me happy. It seems selfish somehow. So I do the only thing I know how, I pay attention to the thoughts but I don’t take them seriously. I meditate, I write, I move my body to drain the anxiety.

And I keep moving forward towards my goals. I get in my car and drive four hours north to speak about collaboration. I will get on that plane on Wednesday and attend the AWA leadership training. I will put out offers and run my first creative writing workshops later this fall (more to come about that). I will keep doing and trying because really, what else can I do?

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.

An Essay About Essays by Megan Stielstra- Ok, I know yet another link from Megan but I had to share this one. My favorite line “… and Dear American Educational System! Please stop fucking with the essay!” So worth the read.

Let’s Make Fun of Anthropologie Furniture by Liz Galvao- Here is a different and I will say realistic look at the marketing of Anthropologie. I was laughing so hard reading this I could barley breathe, thanks Liz.

White Trash Buddhist by Brent R. Oliver- This is an insightful look at how American Buddhism is becoming out of reach for the poor.

At the Close of a Most Wonderful Year by Pat Schneider- In honor of my up coming training I thought I would share more about the AWA writing method. Pat is the founder of Amherst Writers and Artist. Here is a blog post that gets at why I love the AWA method.

How Amherst Writers and Artists Was Born- Video of Pat Schneider speaking about AWA with Cary Tennis. This really says a lot about why this matters to me.

May your coming week be filled with moments to keep trying despite any fear. ~Kira


I Am In Love

I-80 Wyoming

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ― Dr. Seuss

I am in love. It’s not a secret but I don’t talk about it much. Two years ago my partner Jay and I drove across America from Portland OR to Detroit MI in a rented Dodge Caravan jam-packed with the contents of Jay’s 180 sq. ft. apartment. It’s hard for me to comprehend we have lived together in the same city for two years—it still feels fresh and new. Jay and I did the long distance thing for over a year and a half, talking on the phone every night for two to four hours, flying across the country every few months to spend precious moments together. It was hard but not. I am really glad we live together now.

When people ask us where we met, there is always an awkward moment, where we both pause, look at each other and sheepishly smile at one another before one of us, usually me, says, “We met waiting out for David Bowie ticket at the Pontiac Sliver Dome.” Normally there is a look of confusion before I continue, “I was 16 and he was 18.” Still more confusion. “We dated but it didn’t work out and we lost touch for many years. We found each on Facebook back in 2011.” Yes, I am one of those people, reconnecting with lost flames from high school on Facebook. It seems too textbook now a days but for me it is always amazing.

Living with Jay is like wearing your favorite pair of sweatpants after a long day at the office. There is nothing constricting, binding or pinching. Everything fits well, not too loose nor too tight. Everything is soft, known and I can let it all hang out. There is no pretending or trying to be glamorous. It is me, my hair pulled up, makeup washed off, laying on the couch in my sweatpants reading a book.

As someone who has been married twice, it is hard to admit, but this is my first grown up relationship. I hate to sound sappy but yes, Jay is my first true love. I didn’t know it when I was 16 and frantically searching for anything to take me away from the instability of my home life. As most 16 year olds are, I was not ready for a wonderful or big relationship. So I am not sure why at 18, I thought getting married made sense. But that is another story altogether.

I am grateful for my two previous marriages and other relationships, they helped me learn how to love like an adult. I once heard someone call their previous marriages practice for the real deal. I think this is true for me. I can let go of the shame of my failed marriages, they served me well.

I feel honored I get to experience what true partnership is and how to be open, real, and vulnerable. I get to experience reciprocity. Every time he says “I love you.” I look at his clear blue eyes and with glee and pure joy say, “Yay!!!!” He shakes his head, laughs and pulls me in tight. Yes, I am in freaking heaven.



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




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