“I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient.” – Terry Tempest Williams, “Why I Write”

Inspired by Williams, I wrote this:

I write to convey that which I don’t yet fully understand, to fill in the blanks that wave in front of me, that linger there, that taunt me. I write knowing that I might not fill in all the blanks, that the blanks I do fill in may be wild guesses. I make stuff up sometimes. I try to be true. I write to look for the truth. I dig for hidden treasure, even if all I find are pretty rocks. I write to look for the sun. I write to gather kindling and larger sticks to build a fire — to smell, to dance, to warm my face and hands against, to sit by. I write to live. I write to engage myself with the world, the conscious and the subconscious, the things I know and the stuff I can only intuit. I write to love. I write to envelop. I write to let go. I write to build. I write to make things up. I write to find out more truth than I know on the surface. I write because what else would I do? I write because I find it fascinating. I write because there are rules and no rules. I write to be free. I write to free myself. I write to unclog the stuff between my ears and around my heart and in my lungs. 

Why do you write?

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Overall, it’s really just ok

I like it here. I walked in, nearly unwatched, and made my way through the maze of bookshelves, slants of floor and steps. Saw a table with an empty champagne bottle and four glasses, two unfinished, and I immediately drank them both, half out of need for them not to go to waste and half because I just wanted them. Cara would later say, “What if you get the flu?” 

After finishing the second glass, I slid into the one-seater bathroom and blew my brains into really soft toilet paper, the fancy kind that I don’t see in Asheville much. I was blowing mucus, not brains, really. I’ve been blowing this stuff out for days upon days. Really thick, rich, cloudy, jelly stuff like a membrane or liner of sorts. Like impermeable flesh. Like slime. Goo that slides between my fingers as I blow my nose into them and rinse them clean under the faucet. I watch the stuff slide down the drain.

No wonder I’m out of energy. This goo is slowing me down, clogging my insides, enveloping my organs, closing openings.

I’m not worried about the flu, not when I have this to contend with.

I am ashamed of myself sometimes. At the Dirty Santa party Saturday night, Jodi asked about my mom. I was just beginning to tell her the latest developments when Nathan interrupted us with his shenanigans, took Jodi’s scarf from around her neck and proceeded to wear it as a dress. I was having a hard time being at the party at all just then and continued to look around the room, ignoring the show that was happening right in front of me. Finally Nathan apologized for interrupting and said to go on about my mom. Somehow I thought sarcasm was the best response so I said, “It’s the best years of her life!”

“Really? That’s great! Wow. And rare too.”

“Yep. It’s pretty rare.”

I walked off and found myself across the room at the kitchen sink staring at nothing in particular on the counter. Sue happened to be standing nearby and asked if everything was ok. We then began a fairly normal conversation with me not really going into it. Jodi and I talked later, but neither one of us brought up the previous interaction. We just talked about simple things. Silly things. I was glad for the levity. I thought about asking her about her mom and then just appreciated the lightness of not. 

Sitting here at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, I realize that I like it here. It’s perfect for an introvert. With its nooks and corners and shelves to peer through and steps into other smaller rooms and people talking in whispers and sipping drinks and mulling things over to themselves or to others quietly. The non-interruptions. The carpeted floors. The area rugs. The padding and buffers that soften sounds. It’s polite and demure in its approach. It comforts me and acknowledges my wariness to open up. People are messy. That’s a quote from the first season of Grey’s Anatomy, taken from one of Meredith’s opening monologues. The implication of the story line is that dealing with people may be less than ideal, but it’s better than being lonely. We at least get some sort of comfort from being around other people, some sort of support in being part of the human race togetherImage

Some days all I want to do is watch Grey’s Anatomy, soak in its philosophies and fantasies and drift away. Just drift away for now. Is that so bad?

Oh yeah, for this new year, I ask for peace of mind, adventure and travel, and closeness to friends and family.

And more time at the Champagne Bar.

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New Year’s Eve thoughts

I finally made it to Chris and Raeleen’s annual New Year’s Eve party this time, one that I’d been invited to for the past few years but never attended.

The next morning, I was describing to Cara how we all knew one another — Chris, Raeleen, John, Ailse, Mark, Leah, Rachel, and me. It was really amazing, the tangled web, the pattern that had been created over several years’ time — the intricacies of chance meetings and followup encounters. It seems like too much to write out here, but there are several stories brewing about that time — particularly my first months of living in Asheville in 2005 and 2006. I knew no one when I moved to town. I moved into a three-story apartment building near downtown that had been recently renovated after a fire.

Everyone else moving in was new as well, mostly from out of town or out of state. I made friends with people who had just moved from New Orleans after the Katrina disaster. And through those friends I met John and Ailse — on the day that I locked myself out of my apartment. It was a Sunday, the apartment office was closed, so all four of these new friends helped me break into my third floor apartment. And that’s another story!

John and Ailse lived next door to me and I remember joining them at the newly opened Asheville Brewing Company on Coxe Ave just around the corner from our building. Much later, I remember meeting Chris and Raeleen one night as they and John and Ailse knocked on my door and introduced themselves. I had something strange going on in my studio at the time — like a sheet that I was using to partition the room. And I had fashioned a bed frame out of accordion style closet doors from my grandma’s barn. I threw my futon mattress on top, but the whole contraption was sort of high and reminded me a little too much of a coffin, so I eventually resigned to sleeping on the floor again. But at this introduction, I believe I had these circus-y things going on in the room. I remember Chris and Raeleen peaking in warily.

The next time I saw Chris was at a Brunettes show at the Wedge Building. My neighbor, affectionately nicknamed Crazy Al, who was from Romania and liked to run barefoot at night, and I walked to the warehouse where the show was happening. Chris and I recognized one another. He couldn’t stay late because he had rescued a sick mouse a few days before and needed to go home to feed it. I remember him describing the shoe box he kept it in.

A few months later, I moved to the Bay Area in California for a year. Over Christmas, I visited John and Ailse who had moved out of the apartment and into what some of us called the boat house. It was a house in Oakley with slanted floors. Each room seemed to tilt in a different direction, giving one the illusion of movement, as if on a boat in the ocean.

Many months later, I contacted John about a roommate. I was moving back to Asheville and he knew just the person for me — Rachel Horn. Rachel and Ailse met in college and had been friends since. When I got to town, I was invited to John and Ailse’s going away (from Asheville) party so that I could meet Rachel. Rachel, in the mean time, was becoming friends with Chris and Raeleen through John and Ailse. It was only a matter of time before I would be friends with them as well, after having met them nearly two years prior. I also ended up living with them for a year and a half, during which time I came to know more of their friends from out of town.

This New Year’s Eve was an interesting mix of their old and new friends. I appreciate the spark of memory, the recollecting of images from the past, seeing how they fit together in the present.  photo

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Deliberate to Mediate to Motivate…

Motivation.

Motivating ourselves.  Motivating others.

How do we do it?

My dad once told me that he knew what men were motivated by — money, supporting their families.

He had a management position at Commercial Credit and Ford Motor Credit.  He also said that he never could figure out what women in the workplace were motivated by.  I wasn’t really sure what he meant by that and took the comment as a sexist one even though I know he’s not.  Looking back on this conversation, I assume when he said he knew what motivated men, he was actually talking about one man — himself.  And there are probably many other men and women who value what he values.  But just as individuals have different personalities and values, there are also various things that motivate people.

I’ve had several management or leadership positions over the years (though I would never say that this is my strong suit, and in fact, I feel way out of my element in these roles), and the issue of motivation has reoccurred alot.  As I’m typing this, I’m realizing that part of the reason why I feel out of my element in these roles is that no job or college class has ever trained me to recognize what motivates people.  And why not?  This seems so important.  It could mean the difference between a happy worker and letting that same worker go because of demotivation issues.

I tend to be a task-oriented worker.  I focus on what needs to be done and who can do it best (and who likes to do it).  While this is an ok approach, I’m realizing that a combination of this approach with focusing on what motivates people is an even better one.  In other words, spending as much energy on the people around me as I do on tasks would be a great thing.

What motivates me:  I like to feel productive and see what I’ve completed, I enjoy joking with co-workers and working on projects together, I also enjoy working by myself and problem-solving / tinkering.  Most of all, I need a positive, supportive environment in order to flourish (or else I wilt or leave).

A very important thing for me to remember is not to assume that this is what everyone else is seeking in their work environment.   We all have the same basic needs — food, water, shelter.  But when it comes to work satisfaction, our values vary.  Some people’s primary focus is meeting their “existence needs” by earning money, some folks want to meet their “relatedness” needs by making connections with others, some want to earn promotions and learn new things, meeting their “growth” needs, or any combination of these three categories.  I’ve recently been told that everyone has the same needs, just in varying degrees.

Through my research I discovered this info on what to look for when learning to motivate others (can work for motivating yourself too):

How Do you Know When Staff and Employees are Demotivated
•   Increased sickness
•   Increased absenteeism
•   Late
•   Poor quality of work
•   Lack of communication
•   Attitude
•   Frustration

Why Do People Become Demotivated
•   Lack of recognition
•   Boredom
•   Lack of involvement
•   Not being listened to
•   Lack of encouragement
•   Lack of training
•   No delegation
•   Criticism
•   Too much work

Motivating People with Existence Needs
•   Pay people enough
•   Safe workplace  and good environment
•   Incentives
•   Set goals
•   Treat people as individuals

Motivating People with Relatedness Needs
•   Show respect
•   Delegate – give responsibility
•   Give recognition
•   Communicate
•   Involve people in decision-making
•   Encourage ideas
•   Praise people
•   Get to know people
•   Team building days and office away days
•   Celebrate success

Motivating People with Growth Needs
•   Offer support to complete new tasks
•   Give staff and employees a challenge
•   Work should be made interesting
•   Encourage people to think for themselves
•   Keep people informed
•   Ask people what motivates them
•   Stretch people with new work
•   Offer training where possible

(borrowed from http://www.prlog.org/10065474-how-to-motivate-others-top-tips-on-leadership.html)

I’ve been lucky in the past, having a few managers or leaders who worked with me that were tuned into these things, but it wasn’t because they had classes or job training on motivation.  It was just part of their personalities to tune into people.  But what about the rest of us?  From small businesses to corporations, “how to motivate others” should definitely be something that is taught and learned.  It shouldn’t be something that is looked over or assumed that everyone knows.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because a young, friendly fella at my workplace is extremely demotivated and it brings down the whole vibe of the team.  I know he’s a smart, good-hearted, talented person.  So what do you do in this situation?  None of us know, including the person who’s in charge.  Her solution so far has been to cut his hours.  Last week he was sent home a little early and two of us were left to clean up after he was gone.  The other person mentioned that this was not a good way to handle his demotivation because it just encourages him to get out of clean-up and other not-so-fun activities.  Even though this is not really my problem, I’m interested in a possible solution.  I do know that he enjoys working with me, and I’m guessing it’s because I treat him as an equal, attempt to engage him in teamwork activities, and joke around with him.

This blog post doesn’t really offer any answers when it comes to figuring out motivation, but I hope it’s a conversation starter.  And perhaps the awareness of the motivation issue in general will bring about possible solutions.

Feel free to share ideas, comments, and work-related or non-work-related motivation scenarios from your life.

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Wanna flash mob somebody???

Cuz I do!

A little inspiration from my alma mater:

 

&

 

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A Little Italy in Little Weaverville

The Saturday before last, Cara and I took an Italian cooking class taught by a born Northern Italian lady named Wally (pronounced Volly) Maria Mazzucco Wyatt.  The class was a birthday present to Cara from her mom.  Cara had the choice of taking two classes or bringing me along with her for one class.  She chose the latter.  And I’m lucky she did.

The class was held at Wally’s home, which was amazing, her gardens spread across rolling hills in what I can only imagination was an Appalachian replication of her native Italian countryside.  I’ve never been to Italy, so I’m guessing here.  Cara has been and says that it reminds her of Italy because the landscape around Wally’s home is textured, on a hillside, and composed of very little grass.

Inside, Wally’s home was modern American with the hugest kitchen island table I’ve seen.  That’s where the magic happened — the ravioli dough, kneaded by hand, rolled out by hand crank, and filled with fresh greens, herbs we’d just picked from her garden, and ricotta.  On the stove, Wally simmered a walnut cream sauce.  There were 6 of us, 7 if you count Wally, and we all pitched in and made food alongside her and washed dishes as if we were helping our grandmother prepare a Sunday feast.

In the middle of it all, Wally asks, ” Who wants espresso? . . . I do!,” she answers her own question.  I can hardly believe it, and of course I want some.  How often does an Italian ask you if you want espresso in her own home?

I drink it black (like her) but add a pinch of sugar.  And just as I’ve finished my cup, Wally is poking around her kitchen closet for several moments and finally pulls out a glass bottle filled with a light brown liquid, places it on the table and announces, “Hazelnut liqueur . . . try some.”

Some of us are on our second pour when she says, “Oh, wait . . . you like this? Well, you just don’t even know . . .” and she pulls out bottle after bottle from that same closet, and before I know what’s happening, there are 10 bottles on the table and of course I’m trying every one.  There was pecan, walnut, artemesia, pao d’arc, lemoncello, blackberry, eliser, dorato (bark of chicone tree — quinine), china (pomegranate, blackberry, and blueberry), nocino (orange peel, walnut, clove).  She explains that Italians make liqueurs for health purposes, much as we make teas.  Amen to that.

So, basically, in the middle of our cooking class, we take an unexpected (by all of us, including Wally) hour long liqueur tasting.  And while the cooking was amazing and authentic and all of that, I’ve seen and replicated many of these methods from the culinary program.  But to have the opportunity to prepare these dishes next to such a gracious and hospitable Italian chef was  awe-inspiring.

But the liqueurs!  That’s where the magic’s at!  Wally lit up when explaining her processes and her experiments with making pecan liqueur.  I want to take her liqueur class!  Sure, I could probably play around with it and discover how to make it myself, but the experience of learning from her is what is inspiring!

In case you’re wondering, in addition to the ravioli, we also made baked zucchini with yogurt and herbs, eggplant balls, and a yogurt and cherry semifreddo. Delicious!  We ate family-style at her dining table.  The class was listed as 10am-1pm.  We were there from 10am-4pm ish!  Wowza!  Time flies when you’re making ravioli and drinking liqueurs!  How ’bout trying that at your next dinner party!

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Nutella Buns warm up the party

Last Saturday, my girlfriend and I had a party.  I invited 10 people.  She invited 103.  Of course, not all of them showed up (thank god).  Instead, a manageable 30 people dropped in at various times throughout the evening.

We cooked from 12:30 until 6pm in preparation of, at the time, who knows how many people.  Party people began arriving at 6:30pm and continued to arrive until midnight (even though our party was supposed to be from 6-10pm . . . oh Asheville).  It was great.  Firepit out back, started by Alex K, and chestnut roasting initiated by Noah W.

I picked out the food that Cara and I prepared earlier that day — Black Bean Chili and Nutella Cinnamon Buns.  That’s right.  And, because of our rushing about and last minute throwing together of first time recipes, I forgot to take pictures.

Luckily, we made 2 batches of nutella buns and sent a few friends home with them.  Bethany captured magic with her camera the next morning as she munched on a bun that she took to Clingman Cafe.  Here’s the afterglow:

 

I found the recipe in a new book I bumped into last week — This is a Cookbook: Recipes for Real Life by Max Sussman and Eli Sussman.  The book is inspiring because of how down-to-earth, easy to follow, and yummy the recipes are.  It makes me want to cook.  And maybe write a cookbook.  Maybe later.  I have a blog to keep up with.  You can check out their blog for more inspiration.

The Black Bean Chili recipe came from the editors of Cooks Illustrated.  Soups, Stews & Chilis.  I found some useful tips there like using mushrooms to add a meatiness and umami-ness to the texture and taste.  It called for toasting mustard seeds and cumin seeds = awesome.  Next time I’ll try roasting the red peppers instead of using raw ones.  And I’ll remember to serve cilantro with it — wah wah.  But hey, it was a hit.  I recommend the recipe.  Unfortunately, Cook’s Illustrated doesn’t let you look at this recipe online unless you’re a fancy member, so you have to go to your nearest bookstore and copy it by hand like I did 🙂  It’s worth it.

I hope this was inspiring to you.  If not, maybe next time.

What food/recipe is inspiring to you today?

 

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Hi there!

Today I decided to finally begin that blog I’ve been debating on whether or not to start.  Why the debate?  Well, it seems like I’m not always good on the follow-through.  Oh sure, for  a while I can keep up with things, write posts here and there, call family on a regular basis, and then . . . somethings happens.  Or rather, nothing.

So, a large reason for this blog is to get back into the practice of sticking with something for as long as it’s useful or makes sense.  And I figured that one of the best ways to stick with something is to find reasons to be inspired.  I’m not going to bore you with details, but let’s just say that my past record has not been so proving.  I have a tendency of giving up easily.  And for any prospective future employers, this blog reflects just one of my personas, so please disregard any reference to demotivation.

Yesterday I decided that in order to be motivated or inspired by something, I need to declare it first, and then I can open the doors for inspiration.   And, to allow myself to be inspired, I wrote this on my hand in the park today:

oh yeah

This blog is intended to inspire (if not you, then at least me).  I aim to cover anything or anyone that I find the least bit motivational or interesting.  Some days I might have to make something up.  See if you can tell what’s real and what’s not.  And let me know what inspires you!

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