Monday, January 4

Musica Monday: Hope Is On It's Way

The introduction to some of my favorite artists over the last few years have come from Burberry Acoustic:
Adele, James Bay and the Bombay Bicycle Club to name a few. Through the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I find I keep coming back to this quietude of this song. 

Wednesday, December 30

Milk + Holiday Give Together

As our partnership with The Great American Milk Drive winds down, I’ve learned quite a bit about the beverage my husband drinks over a gallon of per week!

1. Milk is one of the most requested yet least donated item at Feeding America Food banks.
2. Contrary to popular belief, milk, dairy products and perishable items can be donated to local food banks and in fact local grocers (the largest giver being HEB here in Texas!) do give everything from organic potatoes to whole wheat bread to the food banks!
3. Over 75% of the dairy farms in this great state of Texas are still family owned and operated!

One of my favorite quotes this year is "A rising tide raises all ships." Growing up, my dad always found creative ways for us to give back to our community, so it only seemed fitting-- this holiday season we've partnered with The Great American Milk Drive and met with Felicia & Patia who work for a local Feeding America food pantry to hear their story! 

Both had influential parents as well that encouraged them to look beyond their own lives and to give back to their local community!

As part of our partnership last week we had the opportunity to dig a little deeper into Milk's story. We spent a morning with Gary and Brian, two brothers that own a local dairy farm which has been in their family since 1957! Since we learned that kids across the country have limited access to milk in food banks, we wanted to understand more about dairy farms-- from farm to table! It's incredible to see the care Gary and Brian put into their farm in treating their cows like their babies! It’s no wonder milk is so nutritious. We even got to watch a day-old calf nurse! So sweet!

There’s only a few days remaining. Join the Holiday Give Together, { } even a $5 donation to my Milk Drive page, gives one gallon of milk to a hungry child in your community! 

Tuesday, December 8

Musica Monday: "The Man" Ed Sheeran

Music Monday is baaaack!

Sheeran writes nothing short of poetry.

I've already shed a few tears during weddings from this song
but this song [The Man] has been on repeat in my headphones for days,
inspired me to jot my own lyrics and 
reminds me that good musicians, poets still exist.

Thank God for Ed Sheeran.

"I'm just disgusted with the skeletons
You sleep with in your closet
To get back at me
Trapped and I'm lacking sleep
The fact is you're mad at me
Because I back-tracked so casually...."

Thursday, November 19

Everybody Needs a Break

Watching this almost 5 years ago changed my life, literally.
What I appreciate most about Stefan is he doesn't just flaunt this whole sabbatical thing in everyone's face like "look what I can do since I work for myself!" He provides us practical approaches to making it happen.

It was inspiration from Stefan that I decided I could work my schedule into taking maybe not an entire year off, but at the very least a few weeks, or a month. That first August of 2012 that I decided to shut off work, Johnny and I also decided to take a trip for our 5-yr wedding anniversary and after a 3 yr struggle, I became pregnant with Emiliana. (You don't think stress has anything to do with infertility? :) Well, that combined with a changed diet and weekly yoga!

This is just the tip of the iceberg on how sabbaticals have impacted our lives here in the Kiene household. The more time we have under our belt the more we realize sabbaticals aren't even necessary to GO somewhere, rather it's truly a mindset.

Everything in life needs a good rest.
Maybe that's logging out of facebook for a few days.
We must begin somewhere. We must slim down our intake to remember what matters most.

Thursday, November 12

The Car Crash | Why We Want Change

[This original post was published Dec 12, 2012. In updating my blog I ran across it and felt it hitting so close to home... not the pregnancy part, but everything else. :) Maybe you too?]

The trees lose their leaves and everything about it has an even bluer hue.
This time of year.
Isn't it ironic that about the time we're uncomfortable in this heat, we're gifted with a reprieve?
The cold.

But it's true, isn't it? We're always seeking that which we don't have.
We're always craving balance in a life where that's only the ideal. We're always wanting to feel... something.

Nearing 3 years Johnny and I wanted a baby. The first three months I was pregnant were the most trying in my life, perhaps because expectations were so high. I had visions of the pure bliss it was supposed to be and the moment I had been given (on a silver platter) what I wanted for so long, I couldn't be content. I felt like crap, my business was crazy busy and I couldn't tell a soul that the reason I was so behind on work --  I had been given a gift I wanted so badly.

Life is full of paradoxes. Irony.

It's deep in our nature to want something other than what we have.

Gratitude solves all problems, my friend.

No matter where we are in life, let's find peace in what we have been given. Find joy knowing that exactly where we are is exactly where we should be. It's no easy lesson to learn...

As I am well into my 2nd trimester I am thankful I rarely battle fatigue or nausea. For every one of you that has gifted me patience and an ounce of your courage, I am in debt to you. My learning curve at this "Mother thing" is pretty steep. The good news for me is I walk on a path well-tread.

The good news for you? So do you. We are never alone. Instead of craving change, let's just be content to tread this tide for a bit. It's right where we are supposed to be...

Monday, October 26

Birthing the Words and Pictures of my Heart

[All of the images in this post are from our PHOENIX shoot.]
The live gallery will be premiering in Austin at the Hacienda boutique on Nov 5, 6-8pm.
I would very much love to see you there.

"It's a relief. It feels both good and frightening. Something you've spent a long time creating is now removed and separate from you..."

The anonymous writer penned so very well what I was thinking. Indeed, putting the final touches on the newspaper for the upcoming Phoenix gallery was no different than birthing a baby. (Around 1:44am I hit "submit" on my first printed publication.) The final stages of excruciating pain, of waiting and waiting and waiting for her to crown and then pushing again, feeling exhaustion, but excitement simultaneously, anticipation for what was to come and I didn't really know what was going to come, I just kept pushing through the pain.

Even now, I can't help continuing the metaphor because it does "feel so frightening. Something you've spent a long time creating is now removed and separate from you and you will have to watch it go out into the world on its own. How well it does it not something you can control, and that's scary. I handle this -- every single time I finish a book -- by trying to put it out of my head completely and focusing on the next one."

Wow... I'm still in shock. It was my goal this year to complete one of my writings. It's not even the end of the year and I did it. This feeling.... I haven't felt it ever in my 31 years of living. In fact, writing has been the beating heart to my existence for as long as I can remember, long before I picked up a camera in my teens. I pushed words away, couldn't share them with the world because they were too near and dear to share with anyone. It made me too vulnerable.

Over the last few years, since Emiliana has been born, I realized that everything I feared became everything that made me feel alive. It was always the anticipation that was the buzz kill. Always the leading up to it of "What if I fail? What if I fail so miserably that I face place and don't want to get back up?" And that was the slow turning point for me. After I faced another and another of my biggest fears -- and I didn't die -- it was the highest highs I had ever felt.

Surfing on the north shore of Oahu far out in the open water.
Speaking in front of 60+ people, twice.
Having a baby el naturale without a trace of painkiller in my body.

I realized that in life, I could never be comfortable. I'd never enjoy the luxury of being "just OK" with making pretty pictures. I wanted to make something, write something that moved people so deeply they went from sitting comfortably in their chair to nervously looking around the room wondering "Is anyone else feeling this way too?" because the truth is that everyone else is feeling that way too.

What we think brings us the most comfort in reality only brings us the most discontent. Art, our potential, un-used , un-lived, just festers inside of us, becomes bitterness and resentment. I could feel that, in pushing away these words all of these years, they would haunt me in the middle of the night. We must choose to wake up and decide to face our fears, breathe in life, acknowledge life by living it.

This is the message of PHOENIX, of life rising from the ashes, of the gallery opening. [All of the photos on this blog post are from the Phoenix shoot :) ] Just when I think I've peeled back all of the layers to what the shoot means to me, there's another clue in code.

I hope to see you there Thursday evening, November 5th from 6-8pm at Hacienda off 2nd Street. While I will be so so nervous, the adrenaline from being around those I love (I sure do hope!) shall supersede my fears.

For me, it's my first live gallery of my images and my first publication, of sorts... If that isn't enough fear right there.....

closer to the moon....

Monday, October 19

To Thine Own Self Be True

Oh there you are” she whispered. \\\ 

Over the last few weeks I noticed an uncanny correlation in much of the literature that crossed my path between seemingly unrelated books and paragraphs.

Here's to the paths of discovering who we are, the permission to be that person and the power for us to live fully in the present.

“To thine own self be true." -Shakespeare
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
- Hillel
“A lot of us first aspired to far-ranging travel and exotic adventure early in our teens; these ambitions are, in fact, adolescent in nature, which I find an inspiring idea... Thus, when we allow ourselves to imagine as we once did, we know, with a sudden jarring clarity, that if we don’t go right now, we’re never going to do it. And we’ll be haunted by our unrealized dreams and know that we have sinned against ourselves gravely.”
-Tim Cahill in “Exotic Places Made Me Do It”
“Would it have made a difference to anyone in the world that I had felt a sense of incompleteness about my painting? Who would have cared about my silent cry of fraud? Only Jacob Kahn and perhaps one or two others, might have sensed its incompleteness. And even they could never have known how incomplete it truly was, for by itself it was a good painting. Only I would have known. It would have made me a whore to leave it incomplete. It would have made it easier to leave future work incomplete. It would have made it more and more difficult to draw upon that additional aching surge of effort that is always the difference between integrity and deceit in a created work. I would not be a whore to my own existence. Can you understand that? I would not be the whore to my own existence.
-Chaim Potok in “My Name is Asher Lev”
“Each of us has an authentic, unique self; an ‘I.’ Hillel teaches us (in the above quote) that if we do not reveal the ‘i’ - the part of my self that is unique - then who are we? What value is there to ‘me’, the persona that operates the world? It is just a shell, a conglomeration of societal elements originating in others....
A man once approached one of the great Sages, who in turn asked him,
‘For what did you come here?’
‘To find God.’
‘Then you came for nothing.’
‘God is everywhere.’
‘Then, please tell me sir, why should I have come?’
‘To find yourself.’ ”
- Yaakov Astor
“I believe that when you step into unchartered territory, you are also stepping into total abandonment, potential humiliation, and a space where nothing is guaranteed; there’s no case study or roadmap. I have so much respect for anybody who will step away from what they can do in order to find what they must do. That’s a hallmark characteristic of entrepreneurs and artists. And it’s scary and exciting as all hell.
Can you imagine if everyone followed their calling? Have you seen Stefan Sagmeister’s talk about this? He defines the difference between a job, a career, and a calling. I think there’s an important journey that each person should go on to at least figure out what their calling is, even if they don’t pursue it 9 to 5. Because it would be a tragedy if we all assumed our jobs were our callings, as that is not always the case. Right now, I’m trying to find my calling.
The reason I went to Bali was because a girlfriend told me that everyone there was an artist. I took her literally. I showed up in Ubud, in the back of a car, like a child, with my hands and nose pressed against the window asking aloud, “Is she a sculptor? Is he a painter?” And by the end of my time in Ubud, an amazing thing happened. I began to wonder, “What if we went through life assuming that everyone actually was an artist? That everyone had an offering to give? To share?” Let’s broaden that up a little and ask, “What if everyone has a gift inside of them, a unique gift to give the world?” I love the idea that everyone has a gift to give. And I believe that the whole world is waiting for us to give that gift to them. What if we could empower everyone to operate out of that place, instead of out of job titles or money or security, even? Imagine a world where everyone gives their truest, most authentic gifts... Wouldn’t the world be such a beautiful place if our callings were our careers were our jobs?” - Elle Luna, as interviewed by Ryan Essmaker
We spend the first 13-18 years of our lives trying to understand who we are, then it takes us another 10, maybe even 20 to understand we were most ‘us’ as we’ll ever be, when we were 13. Think about that for a moment.
When I think back to my 13, no, my 15 year old self, a sophomore in high school, I conjure memories of my autobiography I wrote from creative writing class. “Love Til You can Love No More” was the title I gave it and a haphazard cut out heart on the cover. We had to write the paper as if we were on our death bed looking back at our full (or short) life. We could take the paper whatever direction we chose. Ironically, in retrospection I got three things correct about life: I was a working mom (I was an MD in my paper), I struggled with infertility and I encountered people that were close to me that would require I love them no matter the situation, even until my death bed if they did not accept me as I was. How could I know these things then?
We are born into this world, some destined to become record-breaking surfers that live every day on the pulse of the rises and falls of the tide. Others, surgeons, steady hands, strong stomach. Oh those painters and the singers, those brush strokes and notes so effortless. The sharks and winter waves don’t deter those destined to the meditation of tide. Those lost on the table, flat-lined do not hold back the life-saver, because he can save but one, and isn’t that saving one, preserving an entire generation?
And me? What gift was granted to this soul before it was sent back to earth? Inked fingers from a pen that spills words onto pages and pages. A heart that will break, but will never be broken, that shall live in a thousand winters but never be frozen. But mostly words.
There is a passage in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament that strangely spoke to me growing up. Even now, I hear the words in the back of my head at random moments in my life and only now are they beginning to make sense. In Hebrew: “Hinehni. Hinehni!” Samuel cries when he hears something in the night. “Here I am” he speaks to the voice and the voice ends up being God Himself. “Here I am” in all of my questions and still more questions and yet all I can do is show up and wonder still more... Can life really be so grand? Can I really allow myself this much pleasure when I step into the unknown? The unknown, which is so painful in the present.
At this point, the question than of “who am I?” becomes irrelevant when we begin to just walk. In walking, we become. In living, we choose the person we are. Our fate becomes us. We cannot, in the words of Asher Lev, be a whore to ourselves. Can what terrifies us so, absolutely thrill us to the core, provide fulfillment? The answer is yes and yes, so much unknown and yet still....

Here I am.

Interview of Elle Luna:
Hillel’s Quote :
The Book: “My Name is Asher Lev” by Chaim Potok
The Book: Tim Cahill in “Exotic Places Made Me Do It” as quoted by (the equally amazing book) “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts
// You received this newsletter because you are near and dear to me and at some point over my lifetime we connected. If you wish to unsubscribe, please do so at any time. This will be the first newsletter I also publish on my blog. In an effort to further slim my intake of information I deactivated my personal facebook account. I would love to further engage in conversation with you through my blog or via email.
Real life conversations and letters > social media
yours truly,