Celebrate: Express Yourself Day

Although I’ve always had an affinity for poetry, I have not penned many verses nor am I well-educated on the topic. In many ways, poetry feels like a lost art to me—sequestered away to lyrics on a page or the occasional public reading.

My Great-Grandmother, on the other hand, adored poetry. She tucked away hundreds of lines and verses into the corners of her memory and could recite her favorites with ease well into her 80s. Any short string of rhymes I can conjure or quick facts on Emily Dickenson I can recall are byproducts of her influence.

This week, in an effort to make space for both celebration and expression (i.e. – Express Yourself Day on March 7th), I wrote a few lines instead of journaling.

Across the Highway

There are places I claim,

but they don’t claim me.

When I left, they left me.

Tried to store both away,

the memories, the momentos. 

Yet time stole me away.

From every lamp post,

from every sunset,

from every cherished thing.

Although I’ve never lived outside of the country or made a cross-country move, the smaller relocations—whether a few states or a few ZIP codes away were rather difficult for me. Because these changes didn’t seem major at first blush, however, I didn’t let myself grieve. I didn’t let myself process. Essentially, I didn’t let myself feel.

At the time of each move, I simply thought the change was more parts excitement than challenge. Try as I might, however, each time I relocated, the feelings slowly came rolling in. Scratch that—they came barreling in.

More often than not, I got angry. I made snarky comments about a picture a friend posted when, in truth, I was hurt because she went out to one of my favorite local haunts, and I couldn’t be there. In this murky, sensitive place, I typically assume the worst in everyone. I feel forgotten and dismissed.

Everytime I move, I vow to handle the transition a little better. I plan to be a little kinder to myself and others. Yet, as a creature of habit, I let the ignore-anger-sadness cycle inevitably ensue.

I wrote these few, meager lines as a way to let myself know it’s okay. It’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to admit that things are hard. Although we haven’t all experienced the same changes, we all have experienced the sour pill that is transition and that, essentially, is life.

Through connection and creativity, I pray to be more patient with myself and others as life ebbs and flows. And who knows? Maybe a taking a few cues from my Great-Grandma and Emily Dickensen would do me a little good as well.

Taking Ten

Art doesn’t simply happen. Stories don’t write themselves. And lately, I’ve been thinking about my desire to create and the ebbs and flows therein.

Although I’d describe myself as a fairly scheduled, organized person, creative pursuits seem to fall out of mix when I plot out the minutes and hours of my days. Because art is more fluid and abstract in nature, I somehow assume that it just is. It just happens. And I can’t put reins on it, so I just let my mood take control.

However, if I wait for inspiration, for illumination to come to me, I find the proverbial canvas blank, more often than not. So lately, I’ve been thinking of ways to carve out time for art, music, and writing—to take anything I would consider procedurally organic into something intentionally planned.

If I set aside even ten minutes a day to hand-letter a card, to cross stitch, to add content to my blog, to sing in the shower, to journal, the content might not be noteworthy, but the change in my mood might be. It’s not a particularly novel thought, as any pursuit demands time and practice, but I believe all too often we consider output over input–negating the inner benefit creative pursuits provide.

So, this post marks my first #artten. If you’re like me and find yourself saying, “I’m not particularly talented, artistic, or gifted,” yet secretly love and long to create, consider taking ten for art. I’m looking forward to what this new variety of an #everydayholiday will bring!

New City, New Bridges

Happy #bridgeday readers! Admittedly, this might be a bit of a stretch, but I’m going to seize this holiday to share a bit about my recent trip to Atlanta. I mean, I crossed exactly two bridges over the course of this four-day excursion, so it counts, right??

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During the days, weeks, and months before the trip, the most common question I fielded was, “Why Atlanta?” Well, for starters, my mom and I share a tradition of spending Labor Day together. This yearly practice has consisted of travel in one form or another, as we’ve lived anywhere from 400 to 1,000 miles apart. Because plains, trains, and automobiles are major players in our planning regardless, some years we go to one another’s homes, sometimes to another family member’s abode, and sometimes to a brand-new city. Cue Atlanta! (Okay, cost of airfare helped cast the deciding vote in this year’s planning process. And yes, I am aware that Labor Day is in September, but work schedules made October the way to go this year!)

Over the course of roughly four days, we saw many places that are unequivocally Atlanta-eque, while also making time to get off the beaten path a time or two. To that end, one of the first things about Atlanta that surprised and delighted me was its murals.

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According to our segway tour guide (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it–THE best way to see a new city), neighborhoods like Cabbagetown, Inman Park, and others frequently commission artists to fill city streets with eye-catching wall murals. The one above features the classic “butterfly” symbol of Atlanta’s Inman Park. In the upper-right hand corner, you’ll also see a plug for King of Pops. Killer popsicles! I humbly suggest ordering the blackberry lemon ginger pop. Places like this make you dream of frivolous things like suitcase freezer compartments.

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Aaaand, everyone needs a little liquid refreshment, right?? My mom was brave enough to follow my lead a far spell from our downtown hotel to Urban Tree Cidery. After train-ing, busing, and walking, we narrowly dodged a rain shower to grab ourselves each a flight. The seasonal variety, shown above, was a solid collection of tasty apple cider brews. Our MVP? Cheery #3, of the cherry varietel.

Beyond snacking and drinking, we also took in some local jazz and Shakespearean theater. (I take that back, we did munch on peach cobbler and tomato basil soup, respectively, at these establishments.)

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Although commonly and most deservedly visited, Martin Luther King’s gravesite, childhood home, and Ebenezer Baptist Church were historical highlights of our time in Atlanta. Because the MLK National Historic Site is currently undergoing renovations, note that the eternal flame and gravesite are not currently visible. However, sitting inside his church, while listening to King’s prophetic, inspired speeches on repeat, is quite impactful and well-worth the time.

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On our last full day in the city, my mom and I started the day at Olympic Park before heading over to “Share a Coke and Smile,” “Open Happiness,” “Taste the Feeling,” and [insert your favorite slogan here]. In our humble opinion, it was definitely worth the price of admission to try Coca-Cola products from every continent and to sit on the American Idol couch…just for old time’s sake.

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As we approached a trip total of roughly 25 walking miles, we pushed our aching feet over to Ponce City Market for a little shopping and, you guessed it, snacking. One of our best meals of the trip was a simple paneer tikka wrap at Botiwala. Their specialty is Indian street food, and the shop shares the same chef as Chai Pani. Although we didn’t leave with a basket of Georgia-made goods (I mean, we did have more walking to do!), I did sneak up to the forth floor of the market where Stuff You Should Know is recorded to see if I could sneak a peek on my husband’s behalf. Alas, the definitive word “private,” paired with clouded glass, prompted me to turn the other way. And, after a quick video, I did. (Fast fact: Pinterest is also located at Ponce City Market.)

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During our time in Atlanta, we were also able to make our way (aching feet and all) through Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Center and Library just before closing time. The grounds were lovely and peaceful–a very fitting way to frame our 39th president’s time in office, as he was and, still is, a man deeply committed to peace, human rights, and disease eradication.

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After a bit of vegan soul food and several episodes of Gilmore Girls, the Ploeger Girls found themselves on an airplane and back in Kansas City. And this day of bridges, I am so glad to have connected with a new, wonderful U.S. city, while reconnecting with my mother as well. 🙂 Thank you, Atlanta!!

Although I just attempted to end this post with an impressive, abstract mural, I know what you all (or y’all) really want. Alright, alright, here’s a picture of us on segways…

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Wicky-wow, wicky-wow: Vinyl Record Day

From the invention of the first phonograph in 1877 up to the creation of Apple and Google music memberships today, recording and playing music can range from a highly technical, involved process to an unconscious, daily habit. And for those who prefer tickling their ears with the sound of vinyl records specifically, this day is for you!

You may have your dad’s, you may have a refurbished one, or you may have an Urban Outfitters model, but whatever your record player’s origin, you likely swear that certain albums sound best on vinyl.

My own brother, B.J., is one such avid vinyl listener and, for this Everyday Holiday, I picked his brain for a few recommendations of albums he finds are especially good on vinyl:

  • MF Doom — Mm…Food
  • Joy Division — Unknown Pleasures
  • Pixies — Doolittle
  • The Beach Boys — Pet Sounds
  • Pink Floyd — Wish You Were Here
  • The Smiths — The Smiths
  • John Coltrane — Blue Train
  • De La Soul — 3 Feet High and Rising
  • Elliot Smith — Either/Or
  • Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin III

As a disclaimer, B.J. did share that this is a small sampling from the records he owns, and there are several more he’d like to check out in the future. (Might I add, after marking the 44th anniversary of the invention of hip-hop yesterday, it’s a stellar weekend to revisit some of your personal favorites or even a brand new album.

Because all celebrations are better with music,

Kelsey

Name Day, Birthday, You Name It!

So, Matt and I finally took the plunge and started watching Game of Thrones. Yes, we realize we’re six years late to this party, but hey, we finally found our way. Over the course of two weeks, we’ve moved with lightning speed from season one all the way to season four. It’s like we’ve got the magic of the dragons moving us or we know winter is coming…

Although characters come and go in this series (let’s be honest, it’s mostly go, and it’s mostly violent), there have been one or two fairly jovial “Name Day” celebrations. Akin to birthdays, such events consist of celebrating a day of the year that is associated with one’s given name. Often in the Christian tradition of old, there is a saint or other noteworthy patron associated with a name, and either their day or birth or death is a name day–one of great merriment and feasting.

This week, I’ve been celebrating the name days or birthdays of a few good friends, both near and far. I love a good, old fashioned birthday bash or even just a quiet lunchtime rendezvous.

Over the course of this Everyday Holiday experiment, I’ve had many people inquire about “freebies” and special birthday deals. Although there are some sites that share this information, sometimes the deals are hit or miss. To aid my fellow readers in the search for birthday bliss, here are my top five b-day freebie recommendations:

  1. Liberty Hall – If you’re in the Kansas City/Lawrence area, it’s definitely worth your while to head over to Liberty Hall in Downtown Lawrence. This cute, quirky theater offers birthday celebrators not just one but two deals. First, you can see a movie for free AND you can also take home a free rental from their adjoining video store. (Bonus deal: La Prima Tazza, the coffee shop next door, doles out free b-day drinks!)
  2. Wendy’s – Love me a good frosty. And, to my knowledge, you can grab a free birthday frosty without signing up for an email or rewards club. (As you’ve probably noted in your quest for birthday freebies, most places require membership to a rewards program or subscribing to an email list serve before you are awarded birthday spoils.)
  3. Papa Murphy’s – Speaking of joining rewards clubs, well, you do have to join one for this deal. However, the Papa Murphy’s Dinner Circle sends you excellent text coupons you can use all year! And you get free “dough” (not the green kind, rather, the cookie variety) on your birthday. The best part about the dough is that it freezes super well. So, if you’re already on sugar overload, you can save this treat for another day!
  4. Caribou Coffee or Dunkin Donuts – Two places, one entry here, as you can get a free beverage at either, and who doesn’t need java on their birthday?! You can either get the coupon in advance by indicating your birthday online or you can go in store and sign up.
  5. First Watch – This establishment is the brunch place of choice for me and my extended family! If you join their Sun eClub, you get a BOGO entree deal just for signing up, and then a free entree offer will arrive in your inbox by your birthday!

Other freebie favs? Please feel free to share them in the comments section and, let me be the first to say, Happy Birthday (Name Day) to you!

– Kelsey

Real Talk

This past Wednesday, July 12th marked Simplicity Day. Originally, when I contemplated what to post for this Everyday Holiday, I thought about how sweet and simple it would be to share a picture of blossoming flowers or a flowing river. I mean, the holiday was originally created to honor Henry David Thoreau #fastfacts. Suffice to say, it was not on the top of my list to post a picture of myself, sans makeup.

So I hesitated. And I wrote words. And I changed words. And I posted it. And then I regretted it.

Eventually, after the dust of the remains of my ego settled, I was okay, well, better than okay. I felt deeply connected to people–some whom I know well and some whom I know distantly–in a oddly profound way. The complements and words of encouragement were difficult to receive, as I didn’t want the post to be  gratuitous or self-serving. But beyond the niceties, there were real, powerful words exchanged between people, and it was beautiful.


The internal and external meet in a swirl of perceptions when it comes to self-concept and self-worth. I’m trying to remind myself that how I talk about who I am and how I look has a direct, profound impact on myself and others.

Rewind back to college, sophomore year to be specific. I was again contemplating my understanding of beauty and, of my own accord, decided to quite literally “peel back the layers,” one by one. Each day for a week, I wore one less item of make-up until, by the end of the week, I was bare-faced. I thought the slow process would help me ease into a more natural state, while taking stock of my feelings daily to see how the process was changing me internally as well.

As the week started to wind down, I shared what I was up to with a friend. With audible shock in her voice, she said, “Not even mascara?! You can at least wear mascara.”

Of course, I was bucky and determined enough to not wear mascara that final day. It was, however, the last item of make-up I willingly left off my face. To this day, almost 10 years later, mascara is still the one thing I must have on my face before going to the grocery store, filling up my car with gas, or attending a yoga class. It’s funny how words and presuppositions stick.

Mascara, or any other additions or subtractions we make to our appearance, are not evil in and of themselves, of course. If we like how our our skin feels with a certain product or enjoy curling our hair, why not go for it! However, if some derivative of comparison, shame, or obligation comes into play, pumping the breaks might be in order.

I believe true, character shaping moments come when we ask ourselves not if we need these things but why we need these things.  It’s the simple difference between, “I feel awesome after a facial. Clean, refreshed, and more confident,” versus, “My skin is a train wreck. If I don’t get a facial at least once a month, it’s game over.”

Self-talk matters, whether it’s spoken under your breath or at the top of your lungs. A simple, yet challenging truth I don’t think I’ll ever fully grasp. If this week has taught be anything, however, it’s that I’m not alone. We all see ourselves “through a mirror dimly” at times–blurring out the best and brightest of who we are and what we’ve accomplished.

So, my friends, here’s to simplicity. Here’s to self-care. Here’s to a better vision of beauty.

Graham Crackers Galore

Happy Graham Cracker Day!

Whether camping in the woods or crashing at home, I always enjoy a good, old-fashioned graham cracker, primarily, in s’more form.

To make the day a little sweeter, here are a few recommendations for some tasty combinations with crunchy grahams:

[PB&A S’mores] Take one part graham cracker, a spread of peanut butter, and a slice of apple, then top it off with a toasted mallow. Another fun idea? Switch traditional honey grahams for the cinnamon variety.

[Strawberry Nutella S’mores] Break a graham in half and spread Nutella, topped with a few strawberry slices on top of one half. Finish off with your toasted marshmallow and place the other graham half on top.

[White Chocolate Raspberry S’mores] Replace the typical milk chocolate bar with a white chocolate bar and spread either raspberry jam or chopped raspberries on one side of a graham cracker. Add your toasted marshmallow, along with the other graham cracker half, and crunch away!

[Dark Chocolate Almond Coco-mores] Make your s’more in the typical fashion, but enhance the traditional flavors with a piece of dark chocolate, a sprinkle of coconut, and some slivered almonds.

Have a merry–and extra sweet–Graham Cracker Day!

Kelsey

*Photo Credit: kevinandamanda.com