Go

It’s been a green lights kind of day.

On my walk to work this morning, I literally hit all green lights (or really, the walk signal).  The rain had already stopped by the time I left, and I didn’t hear a single car horn my entire commute, which is extraordinarily rare.

At work, I actually had moments to breathe (and not in a it’s going to be a deep breaths kind of day).  To think and to review some big picture needs.  To prepare for some asks.

So today’s the day.  Prepare, leap, ask, dream – the universe has given the go ahead.  I’m working on mine.  Where’s your green light taking you?

Words Matter

A few weeks ago, I found the words of a small child (or children) written in chalk along my walk to work.

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As you can imagine, I couldn’t help but smile and take an extra moment to look down as I hustled past in my usual always-running-late mode.  I actually stopped on my way home to take this photo, which means these words stayed with me throughout a horrendously busy day.

What power.

These words have made their mark even though they were written in chalk.  Today, I noticed that while mostly faded, the hope of a good day was still visible.

These children may never know the impact they have made on all the strangers, neighbors, and family that pass by.  I hope they realize it brings us adults a good reminder to take a moment, that intentional acts of kindness can be this simple, that there are always people around who care, and to listen to youth.  I hope that these kiddos keep their kindness as they grow up and keep sending positive messages and heart.  It really does make a difference.

New Start

The wonderful thing about life is that you can always change things that aren’t working for you anymore.  You can always get a new start – and sometimes it’s as easy as setting the intention.

My newest start is with apartment gardening.  I’m so inspired that I’m growing herbs from seeds… with very little effort.  Since I don’t have a yard, patio, porch, or apartment greenspace that would appreciate me repotting plants and starting from seeds (or at least that I can tell from observation alone), my gardening adventures started with what I had: old soil.  As good as I grow things, I have become a flower killer.  So I finally pulled out some old, dead no-longer-flowering plants and threw some seeds in the pot.  I added a touch of coffee grounds and water.

Then a week happened.

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You don’t always need something fancy or brand new to create change.  You’re enough.  If you want a new start, it could be as easily as replacing something that is no longer serving you with a good idea, a sunny shelf, and a little hope.  Just add water.

Take More Time

This weekend, I made kimchi.  And the thing about kimchi, it’s a slow process.  There’s no fast-food-fermentation; there’s no cheating the time it takes.  Time is literally an ingredient – and an essential one at that.

First, like many whole food dishes, it takes quite a bit of time and chopping to prep everything.  All the garlic, ginger, radish, carrots, and napa cabbage.  Then there’s several hours that you need to let the cabbage sit with salt.  There’s no getting around this quiet time to soak in sodium and release whatever it needs to.

Once a few hours has gone by, it’s time to put it together.  This is the stage where all of your parts meet and form patterns of layers.

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Maybe you’ve been doing this for years, or maybe this is the first time you’re trying.  If you run low on garlic, ginger, carrots, or radish, it will be fine.  It will just be different, and you will continue to layer because you need to fill the space.  In addition to the vegetables and herbs, the other essential is the Korean hot pepper powder.  This is personality.  This is the crucial flavor that makes kimchi distinct from other culture’s fermented cabbage dishes. You get to decide how hot or mild it is.

And the liquid you see at the bottom of the jar?  This is life experience – the emotions, the raw stuff you carry.  You will start with some from the beginning, with the salted cabbage, and you will gain much more as you ferment.  It needs to filter through all your parts to help the process.  You need to flip the jars so that it reaches all the spaces.  You need to turn it upside down.  Over and over.

And you need to let it sit.  Take more time and notice the magic in the air.

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Sometimes it just takes 24 hours to change.  I’m venturing into the 48 hour range with this batch.  Some people ferment kimchi for a week (or even longer).  But already at 30 hours, you can see such a noticeable difference.

Maybe you are a fermenting wonder, too.  And you just need a little more time.

 

Love

I am proud to say that I’ve been with someone that I love for a decade.  It’s a strange thing to say when I realize how young I still am.  Ten years of intentionally sticking together – all chosen and three officially married.

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Love is about intentionally choosing love.  Love all the moments – messy, unkind, sweet, hilarious, unfortunate, exhausting, exhilarating, embarrassing, and everything else there is.

Life sometimes is about putting one foot in front of the other to just make it through.  Love is about putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes kicking or tripping (in a loving way) the other person along the way, and knowing there are always more places to walk, hike, or run together.  The direction may change, but it sure is nice to have someone alongside me.

Age Out Loud

May is Older American’s Month.  This month’s national theme is “Age Out Loud.”

Why is this important for everyone to be aware?  Because everyone is aging.  You are literally getting a little bit older every day, so you should care about those who are ahead of you.  If you are lucky, you’ll get to be that old one day.

Why else is this important?  We all need to remember to share our voice and our stories as we get through this thing called life.  Getting older can allow for perspective, and it’s a perspective that we younger people should seek out.  To learn from those who have been through more life than us.  To learn about history not just through books (but yes, keep reading, too) but from the people who lived through those times.  To help us understand that we are connected by so many of life’s experiences and we are not alone.  And of course, to hear stories of others who have lived lives very different from our own.  To create more awareness and to create space for those to share.  To share and create meaning – and to share and create connections, person-to-person.

So whether you are participating in an Older American’s Month celebration or just take some time to talk with an older adult in your life, I implore you to intentionally carve out a little time this month and read, write, share, or listen to the life stories of those around you.

The act of caring by asking someone about their life and the time to actually listen can be a powerful thing.

Play

Don’t forget to play.  To tap into your creative side and poke your inner child.  That kiddo is still in you, and likely bored and frustrated that you work so hard.

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I went to a meeting today that was over lunch, and this is the decor I found.

How amazing.

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Not only did I feel the instant transfer of adult obligation to attend a function to mischievous child, but I could see that these centerpieces sparked something in others, too.  Staff of all ages were taking photos, chuckling, and engaging in conversation with anyone around them.  Having a moment to play cleared our head space and allowed something new to enter.  It also put all different levels of staff at the same level – curious, delighted individuals who needed to find out if that really was a black-eyed pea for a Eggplant penguin’s eye.

How will you play today?

 

 

 

A Moment

It’s been a hard couple of weeks for me lately.  Life’s been upping my workload, pulling me in about eight directions unexpectedly, keeping me so busy that I haven’t had enough time to rest and recover – and when I meet all the demands, somebody dumps a bunch of their own stuff all over me again to deal with.  It’s exhausting.

But the positive is that I have to get better, so I’m seeking change and grounding.

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I’m finding it within myself again to figure out what I need.  And today, it was nature.  It was sunshine.  It was fresh air.  It was to get out of the office and look up.  But mostly, it was to get out of the office – the physical space and all of the mental space it takes up.

So even if you’re stuck, you can find a few moments to unstick.  Maybe you have to go back to whatever it is that’s leaving you drained, but you can still seek out those moments.  Moments build.  Moments will inspire you to continue seeking out more grounding moments, bringing intention back into your day.

Appreciation

According to the internet, today is Thank-You Thursday.  I got an email about this a few days ago, so I’ve been walking around with the idea of thank-yous.

They are so important.

I think it’s really important to take the time to thank people for what they do.  We could not do this whole life thing without others – no matter how fiercely independent you are.  Just think about any time you used a public restroom – if it was at all remotely clean, you have someone to majorly thank.  A person you may never see, who is severely underpaid, and who literally deals with crap all day.  All so you can attend to your basic needs for the 30 seconds to two minutes you’re there – and then never think twice about the service another person provided for you.

I’m also realizing more and more that it’s really important that you receive thanks or appreciation for all that you do.  I think that’s the hardest for me – to do so much for work and others, and not always receive acknowledgement about it.  It starts to add up.

So take some time and say thank you.  To someone’s face, in a card, over the phone, even via social media.  Honor others who make your life easier, happier, fuller, funnier, or all the small things that easily go by unnoticed.  Take a moment to notice them and spotlight it.

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Today, I went to a volunteer appreciation event after work – showing up when many others did not. I don’t have enough time in my night to thank everyone that has impacted my life, so I just wrote three thank yous to friends that are recently in my mind.

Who wouldn’t want to receive that?

I’m going to keep walking around with the idea of thank yous and appreciation.  I’m going to keep intentionally thanking people around me for all that they do and all that they give.  What’s harder for me, I’m going to try to figure out what kind of appreciation I need for all that I give.

Thank you to all of you that read my blog.  All leaders need followers; all writers need readers.  I appreciate your time and hope my words impart some joy, knowledge, curiosity, and even a laugh in your day.

Spotlight on Rae Hoffman Jager

For my sixth spotlight piece, trying to highlight others that inspire, I would like to share the poet, Rae Hoffman Jager.

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I met Rae in college.  I’m sure we had some creative writing classes together.  Post school, no matter the job, she always continued writing.  And publishing her poems.  And taking hilarious photos of her dogs.  I am so proud of her and her upcoming chapbook of poetry.  I am inspired that poetry is still very much alive and well and funny, and that young people are still able carve out a path to write as a career.

May she inspire you to enjoy reading and writing again, too.

L: When and how did you start writing poetry?

R: I can safely say now (since I recently found a poem I wrote when I was 6 about a “hamstr name Lucy”) that I started writing much earlier than I originally thought. When, I’m not exactly certain, but I remember writing rhyming songs in my bedroom and recording them onto cassette tapes. I was a very prolific lyric writer at the time, creating volumes of stuff that filled up Lisa Frank notebooks by the dozens (stuff I’m sure would resonate with any 6-7 year old–what’s for dinner, why I have to go to grandma’s on the weekend, why my brother wouldn’t share his “hamstr,” and predicting what I would get for a Hanukkah present). I continued writing rhyming poetry for years–through middle school and even some of high school when I got my first poem published in the school’s magazine. In college I discovered Li-young Lee in a beginning poetry class. I was forever transformed by how good poetry could be.

L: Where can we read your poems?

R: You can read my poems on my website, where I link recent work to the online magazines they first appear in. Not all of my work is online, so you can also find links to buy the physical literary magazines I am in–if you’re into that kind of stuff. You should be.

You can also find some videos of me reading work on Youtube, but that might take you down a rabbit hole of old song covers,  a dedication video to Poptarts, and more. I know you’re tempted now. So sorry.

L: What are you working on right now?

R: Oh, where to begin? I am wrapping up a chapbook that is going to be published by Five Oaks Press in late June/early July (check them out. Lynn Houston is the founder/editor, and she’s incredible and so dedicated to what she does). This small collection will house a lot of interesting poems featuring Krispy Kreme, Snoop Dog, Omaha, LARPING, and more.

Aside from that, I have started on a collection of football poems. I know what you might be thinking, “wait–what? You like football? Since when? how? Who will your audience be…….WHY?” The answer is really complicated. I am fascinated by football fans –their vocabulary, rituals, and interpretations. I want to understand and demonstrate just how complex the relationship is between fans, players, and owners. There’s so much more that I won’t get into. Long story short, I think I can honor both die-hard football fans and football haters. It’s a lofty goal. In defense of my own new dedication to football (which you might be suspicious of), I can say I wrote a poem about the Immaculate Reception. Doing so required extensive research. I watched three hours of footage from that 1972 game. THREE HOURS.

L: What’s something most people don’t know about you?

R: I really like making visual art too. I’m by no means a pro, but occasionally I’ll grab some colored pencils, chalk pastels, charcoal, and go to town on a brief project. Those normally end up on Instagram and sometimes Facebook, if they’re appropriate (sometimes they aren’t.)  Some of my work has found its home on my website.

L: What inspires you?

R: So many things–contemporary art, walking, smelling, interacting with people I really care about and people I don’t know that well, collaborating, music, more walking, sitting under blooming or unblooming trees, eavesdropping on strangers, talking to kids, but most importantly walking. I admire Wordsworth for all the walking he did. Overall, I have a pretty child-like wonder and old-lady-like respect for the world and it’s infinite mystery.

L: What has been your most recent act of kindness that either you gave or received?

R: I started volunteering at this really great nonprofit called WORDPLAY. They help kids/teens in the nearby neighborhoods with literary afterschool and on weekends. If you have an extra twenty dollar bill lying around or you find a couple $5 bills in that old winter coat from two years ago, you should donate it to them.

L: April is National Poetry Month.  How are you celebrating and who are you reading?

R: I am creating 2 vlogs to celebrate the first two weeks of poetry month, hosting a poetry book giveaway for week three, and a surprise for week four. The videos are supposed to be funny and mildly informative–geared towards teenagers and exposing them to poetry. I want young people to know that poetry doesn’t have to be boring or inaccessible, and that it doesn’t need rhyme or adhere to any meter.  What these videos are actually turning into is a platform for my pug, Athena Beyonce, to meet the world. The poetry giveaway is an opportunity for one of my followers to win a collection of poems by a celebrated contemporary poet. What happens the last week of Poetry Month on my blog? You’ll just have to wait and find out!

 Want to continue to see what Rae is up to?  You can follow her website  and check her out on social media:

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp5lptLT8_6N1qYxMPbVyoQ

Twitter- https://twitter.com/RaeHoffmanJager

Instagram- https://www.instagram.com/RaeHoffmanJager/

Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/66160480-rae-hoffman-jager

And if you’re interested in supporting her work, you can pre-order her poetry chapbook One-Throne here.

www.riverdaleuniversity.com