Daytrip to Winston-Salem from Raleigh, NC Area

We are a family of homebodies who are perfectly content to stay home almost all the time reading, working in the garden, cooking, playing games. We live in a location where we can walk to almost everything and we really appreciate that. Still, we love to explore the larger world around us whether that is through nature walks or taking in new places that are less nearby. Now that we are 2/3rd’s fully vaccinated (my daughter is almost fully vaccinated herself), we are starting to embark on day-trips where we don’t necessarily have to spend the night but can still see new things. I had been wanting to check out a variety of gardens in Winston-Salem, NC, which is a little under two hours from us in the Raleigh, NC area so on a day that was overcast and temperate we jumped on the chance to take a daytrip/road trip.

Our first stop was the Paul J Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville, NC a few miles outside of Winston-Salem. It is a garden that is still developing but already has a significant amount of plantings on their 7 acres of land located right in the downtown. The sidewalk leading into the garden is landscaped with an abundance of plants and the parking lot is surrounded by a wall of espaliered ginkgo trees which creates the effect of picture frames looking into the grounds.

I loved this combination of evergreen huecera and grasses in repurposed shipping pallets.

Next, we stopped for lunch in the Reynolda Village Shops & Gardens which is an enclave of shops that were once part of the estate of the R.J. Reynolds family. While there we got a hot, made to order doughnut from Dough Joe’s which was decorated like a cozy home with leather couches and perfectly karate chopped pillows (perhaps a nod to their name), gallery walls of vintage art and lots of pendants overhead and natural light streaming in from their windows. We just happened upon it and I think the best trips are the ones where you uncover naturally unique finds just through exploring the place and asking locals if you get the opportunity.

Because we were unaware at the time that the shops connected to the museum and grounds that we were planning to see later we got in our car and drove next to SECCA (The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art) which is just up the road. Next time, we will just walk from the shops (if we go there again for lunch) to the Reynolda gardens and museum that are all on the same property which is also part of the Wake Forest University campus. At SECCA we walked through a surrealist exhibit that mimicked being underwater alongside moveable swimming puppets.

Also at SECCA were a couple of Art-O-Mats. Art-O-Mat’s were started about thirty years ago by Winston-Salem native Clark Whittington who takes decommissioned cigarette vending machines and collaborates with artists to create tiny pieces of art that you can purchase from the machine. There are currently over 100 machines at locations around the country.

Just beyond SECCA is the Reynolda House Museum of American Art and Reynolda Gardens. The “house” is a sprawling mansion that was the former home of tobacco magnate RJ Reynolds and his wife Katharine Smith Reynolds and later one of their grown children. The house was built in 1917 around the dawn of the Arts & Craft Movement / Art Deco period so there are lots of beautiful light fixtures, pieces of furniture and wallpaper evocative of that era. When I was in design school I fell in love with that time period and it’s usage of poster design, wallpapers, fonts, beautiful ornate objects, feminine muses, and the philosophies and patterns of William Morris (he famously said “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”) so I especially loved seeing them in a period appropriate home. My own style is heavily influenced by this time period.

Because the owners were obviously obscenely wealthy in the roaring twenties when cigarette smoking was especially glamorous there are quite a few ostentatious touches, especially the game rooms and bar in the basement. Apparently, guests would roller skate between the bowling alley, the shooting gallery, the billiards room, the bar, etc. and on particularly wild parties the indoor pool would have macaws on display inside bird cages at the edge of the pool. Today the estate houses a collection of modern art inside and in a newly created gallery attached to the house.

On the grounds just beyond the house is Reynolda Gardens a 134 acre garden currently filled with blooming roses and punctuated by dark painted structures and supports and a greenhouse (which was currently closed).

Since I made the trek to Winston-Salem for the gardens there were still more that I wanted to check out. In Bethabara Park you can see the ruins of one of the first European settlements of North Carolina. On the grounds is also the Bethabara Community Gardens which was started in 1759 and is the oldest known and documented community garden in the country and beside that is the first medicinal garden ever planted in America as well.

There are lots of fun things to check out in downtown Winston Salem but on this trip we were only able to check out the bookstore Bookmarks (which was recommended by Jennings of Parker & Otis in Durham who I just happened to run into while she was on her own away trip here). I love this cute little alley behind the shop and like how it brings multiple businesses together with an outdoor gathering spot.

Last stop before driving home for the evening was the gardens at Old Salem. Typically, the buildings here are filled with reenactors but we were able to walk around free of that and the added tourists by going after hours. We walked around looking at old buildings and trudging through the garden spaces we could find.

It is worth nothing that Old Salem participates in the International Coalition of Sites of Conscious. As per their website: “A Site of Conscience is a place of memory – such as a historic site, place-based museum or memorial – that prevents erasure from happening in order to ensure a more just and humane future. Not only do Sites of Conscience provide safe spaces to remember and preserve even the most traumatic memories, but they enable their visitors to make connections between the past and related contemporary human rights issues.”

In a few hours we were back home and ready for sleeping in our own beds.

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

Introducing Gather Voices, The Podcast

After many years of having one-on-one conversations with others that I’ve wanted to share, I’ve finally started a podcast. You might remember a few years back I recorded one conversation from a talk I had with another business owner, well this time there will be more than that.

I aim to release these once a month though sometimes there may be more content than that. You can listen anywhere you stream podcasts just search for “Gather Voices“.⁠⁠

The first episode is a zoom conversation (so there may be blips and some noises here and there!) with Preeti Waas of Cheeni Raleigh. I hope you enjoy it! ⁠⁠You can listen to it below (or wherever you find podcasts).

I’d love it if you subscribe, rate and review and share with your friends so that others can find it too.

Office Spaces Available

A few private offices are coming available at Gather Goods Co within the next few months:

Gather Goods Co which is located in downtown Cary across from the Cary Arts Center and beside the new library and park has a couple of private office spaces coming available soon. 

The building has a total of 7 private offices, a big backyard with a young farmers collective who aims to turn it into a community garden over the next few years, a front classroom/sitting area and a shop showroom for Gather’s online shop

The space is beautiful, serene, cozy and has lots of light. It feels like a home but is instead an inspirational shared office space/building/community space. The location is great as well as the other studio tenants within the space. 

Please let me know if you are interested and I can share more details. There are also a few “open coworking” options for those looking for a more flexible, casual space that doesn’t require a private office.

Masks are required in the common areas. There is also lots of beautiful outdoor space to enjoy and work in as well.

If you know someone who might be looking for space or may be interested in Gather Goods Co’s offerings can you share this post with them? I would really appreciate it!

Gather Garden Update

Last year I reached out to some farmers to see if they wanted to help me turn the back space into a community garden. It was a vision I’ve had for a long time. Growing up there was a business nearby that sold cut flowers from their farmland and I have fond memories of visiting it and dreaming about owning a business like that one day. I also grew up with grandmothers and extended family members (not to mention my own mother) who were extensive home gardeners. I have vivid memories of the columbine’s blooming at my grandmother’s house or the path filled with daffodils next to the walkway at my great-grandmother’s and the smell of muscadine grapes as we sat on her screen porch for family meals. At my own home we had apple trees and a big garden in our yard. I was given my own garden early on where I took an interest in herbs and the magical qualities that plants have for healing.

I am a big believer that nature heals and that we all need safe, sacred and beautiful spaces to retreat to. I think as the spaces around us become more developed, as our anxieties rise, we need this even more so. A few years ago I experienced severe burn-out and I took a year long sabbatical from Gather Goods Co, during that time, thinking I might just open up that flower farm, I worked part-time at a greenhouse and I experienced first hand the deep and powerful healing properties of plants and the value in being outdoors no matter the weather.

With that in mind, I sourced a space for the new version of Gather where I could bring a community garden to it as well as a shared office space, where I could collaborate with others who had this desire and interest (and were maybe looking for land to work) and create a second level to the serene and intentionally nurturing space that is Gather Goods Co. – I am thrilled to have this young farmer collective making this space useful and special and over time I know it will become a truly inspiring and restful space that will benefit the community not just in being a spot to visit but also in benefitting those facing food scarcity and local food pantries.

If you are local and looking to get involved, let me know. For many months now this collective has been working the back space there and slowly growing it and they weren’t yet ready for volunteers, now they are. This year we are hoping to share more behind-the-scenes goings-on. They provided me with this blog recap to learn more about what they’ve been up to this past year:

Gather Garden Update from the farmers:
In the heat of NC summer an opportunity arose. A message from Gather Good’s founder, Michelle, found its way to us via a garden listserv and after many calls and with excitement the team formed. We had a team of six members willing to put time and energy into the garden space. Between the team, we have several years of different types of farming experience (traditional, permaculture, indoor, native landscaping) ~ Devin, Jenna, Steven, Mia, Michael and Helena were taking on this new adventure. Without further ado, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Gather Garden Crew!  

Devin:

I’ve been enamored with farming since I was a teen. I set out on a path to pursue farming as a lifestyle that would bring me closer to the earth. I’ve been able to engage that lifestyle through both paid and volunteer opportunities. Before COVID-19 I was pursuing hands on education through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), a program that facilitates work trade opportunities with organic farms. I was only on the road for 9 months before COVID-19 set in but the experience I gained was invaluable. Since I’ve resettled in NC, I’ve continued to further my knowledge of agriculture and explore the intricacies surrounding food and broader food systems.

Jenna:

I feel whole when I get to interact naturally with this treasure of a planet I am on. Playing in the dirt sparked for me in 2016 when I created a garden at my childhood home and soon after found myself in community with earth centering individuals and teachings that I cherish to this day. I advocate for eating fresh/local as it is a testament to the well being of my physical body, mind and spirit. Supporting all those doing healing work and doing my part to give back in this reciprocal relationship of life and love with Mother Earth is a responsibility and an honour. Sharing tools on emotional intelligence, dismantling white supremacy and taking small steps to homesteading all in community are deep values of mine. My bunny, Carter, cherished relationships with chosen family, birds, the community garden in East Raleigh I have the pleasure to play in, trees and water keep me sane. Favorite veggies: brussel sprouts and mushrooms! 

Michael:

My name is Michael, I first got introduced to farming/gardening through my passion for healing. It became obvious to me that growing your own food and medicine is the best thing you could do to heal yourself, your community, and the Earth. That journey started in 2014, since then I have apprenticed and worked at many farms and gardens learning as much as I could directly from the awesome farmers and communities themselves. Now I still grow my own food but have moved more into growing native and medicinal plants. I am currently trying to increase the diversity of the native ecosystem in our beautiful state by starting a Native plant nursery. As well as working at the Well Fed Community Garden to help increase the biodiversity in their pollinator garden and in their landscape bordering their food production. Build the soil, plant something, and heal all!!

Helena:

Helena Boehling loves people, music, art, and nature! She is currently finishing her bachelors degree at NCSU in Middle Grades Education and Spanish. Her talents include finding free items everywhere she goes and making a meal with random ingredients. Her favorite plant is the Venus fly trap – only found in the Carolinas (: 

Steven:

Steven is a mathematician and musician. His background in gardening stems from volunteer experiences and is always grateful for a chance to get his hands in the dirt. He is passionate about regenerative farming practices, including composting and chemical-free growing. His favorite foods are tomatoes and beets (boiled!) 

Mia:

Mia is currently finishing her Associates in Arts degree at Wake Tech. Her inspiration and ardent love for gardening comes from grandpa Frank who taught her the importance of clean eating and getting your hands dirty. She enjoys yoga, cooking, sun soaking on local hikes, and scouting for vintage pieces at her favorite thrift stores. Her favorite flower is the sunflower. 

Garden Intention & Plan (recap):

We realized fast during a distanced outdoor gathering on a beautiful late afternoon in June that all of us have the desire to nurture a deep relationship with the earth and to feed others, especially those in need, with healthy and fueling produce. Our idea for the garden space takes a permaculture and community-oriented approach and appeals to the triple bottom line ~ planet, people, and profit ~ framework. Our intention and plan for the garden is as follows: 

June 2020 Plan (recap)

  – Companion planting for vegetable production: we intend to use the majority of the space where the beds are to grow fruit/vegetable produce alongside native plants and herbs by following companion planting guidelines. Companion planting is a permaculture technique that provides pest control, pollination, and maximum utilization of space. It is friendly to the environment and increases crop productivity, all while being aesthetically interesting. Our plan for the vegetable production is to give back to the people directly involved. This could include volunteers at the garden, produce for meals at Gather events, and donating to local food shelters. 

    – Cut flowers: we intend to dedicate an area of the space for growing flowers. Besides encouraging the presence of pollinators, cut flowers are an easy way to make money for the amount of work being put in. Our thoughts are to donate it to local nonprofits working to provide food security to our communities and to help cover garden costs. A positive bottom line is an important aspect of sustainability. 

    – Compost: any permaculture project involves composting. Composting is a way to address the problems of soil health and the overuse of landfills. It provides free, nutritious soil for planting. Our plan involves a compost pile with a possibility of educational materials for community members to learn about composting!

I want to take a moment to share some gratitude to the elements and the thousands upon thousands of life forms in the soil that produce and grow miracles every moment. A big thanks to Michelle and Gather for lending your trust and resources to (essentially) a bunch of strangers to share in the abundance behind your shop. To our team for coming together during such a hard year, encouraging one another and pushing ourselves, even on the really tough days. During a global pandemic, social and racial justice uprisings and political unrest, we all deserve a moment of rest and encouragement: Deep breath in ~ give yourself a squeeze and words of encouragement ~ you are doing great and you matter. 

Continued thanks and blessings to those who have gifted the garden whether in thought, monetarily or in items. In 2020 with so much gratitude we received: 

~$100 from Jennifer Flowers

~$10 from Nicole Gulotta

~$25 from Debby and Michael Lim

~Cat litter boxes – which we have used for making soil YAY! – and gloves from Erica and Shawn Dolan

~Bamboo sticks, trays, plants, and table/storage unity from Heather and Paul Dezzutto

In the coming blog posts we will share what happened at Gather Garden in 2020 and provide updates of what 2021 holds! I feel as if I can smell the growth of spring these days, soon approaching. 

Want to get involved? I believe strongly in community participation and giving of time, energy, passing on resources and connections. Some items we could use as donations: Spade shovel (multiple), digging fork, hard rake, trowel (a few), 5 gallon bucket, tomato cages, small enclosure to hold tools and protect from the rain. 

This year (2021) we hope to open up to the neighbors and community more. Want to get dirty in the soil with us? Reach out to gathergardencary@gmail.com, we look forward to connecting with you! 

DIY Conversation Hearts Candy Recipe

If you’re looking for a fun food activity to do at home and are okay with being a little “extra” then this DIY Conversation Heart Candy Recipe is worth trying. Next time, I go about this I think I will try the effect with sugar cookies instead, still, this was a fun weekend project. Below is the recipe my husband and I pulled together from various sources online before trying our own hand at it:

DIY Conversation Hearts Candy Recipe

Ingredients
  

  • 1 .25oz packet unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 lbs confectioner's sugar (though you might need even more)
  • food coloring
  • food coloring pens
  • letter stamps
  • optional flavor extracts (peppermint or almond)

Instructions
 

  • Whisk the gelatin, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt with 1/2 cup boiling water until the gelatin dissolves. 
  • Start beating in the confectioner's sugar some at a time until a soft sticky dough forms.  Have some extra powdered sugar (as much as 1-2 cups or maybe more) handy, and start kneading the dough together, adding extra sugar as needed. 
  • Knead for several minutes until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.
  • Divide the dough (using a bench scraper or chefs knife) into as many pieces as the number of colors you want to end up with.  
  • Working with one piece at a time (cover the others in plastic wrap), add 2-3 drops of food coloring and knead until the color is evenly distributed and nicely pastel colored.  You can also add a drop or two of extract flavoring before this kneading step.  
  • Take a piece of parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.  Roll out each piece of colored dough until it's maybe 1/8 – 1/4" thick, and then cut out hearts (of whatever size you like).  I found it easiest to take the rolled out dough and place directly onto the parchment and then cut out the shapes, removing the excess dough around the hearts.  This way, you don't have to transfer cut hearts from one surface to another, a process which can render the surfaces imperfectly smooth. 
  • Take the dough trimmings and re-roll as many times as you need to keep cutting out more hearts.
  • You can imprint messages into each heart at this stage with small letters.  Otherwise, leave them out to dry at room temperature overnight before writing messages onto them with food decorating pens.

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

Cheeni, Raleigh, NC Indian-American Restaurant

I have been following the Indian-American grab-and-go restaurant Cheeni based inside the YMCA in downtown Raleigh, NC on social media for a bit and their food looks delicious. They specialize in chai, coffee and tiffin.

Today they posted that they have been presented with an opportunity to expand into a full-kitchen and second space, also in Raleigh. This new space will allow them to partner with the YMCA to teach classes that will make people employable: Barista Training, Baking, ServSafe classes, etc. Their goal is to raise $40,000 to help cover their operating expenses.

If you’d like to support their efforts you can visit their website here. They are offering subscription food packages of Cookies, Chai and Biryani to raise money for their venture. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Images via Cheeni’s instagram

Seed Starting Schedule, When To Plant Seedlings To Get The Best Results

One of the most important factors that leads to success when starting seeds is timing. You really need to set aside time (a weekend, a week) to plan out when your seeds need to go in the ground, or if you need to start them indoors. All seeds have this information on the back. You first need to determine when your average last frost date is which you can do by looking it up on tools such as The Farmers Almanac website (or you can find it in the physical copy too which also includes moon phases, an ancient practice of timing your plantings to the ebbs and flows of the moon). It’s also helpful to have a calculator that adds and subtracts weeks as well since that is a big part of the planning as well.

Here in Central North Carolina that date is approximately April 6th give or take some days. The date moves as the planet warms up and it is important to watch the weather to see if a freeze is slated for the next week or two closer to that date.

Because it can be such a time-intensive task I created a guide below for the seeds that are sold in the Gather Goods Co online shop. Below you will see when to plant them either indoors or outdoors. Some plants like zinnia flowers and cosmos can be planted directly in the garden after the first frost but also started ahead, other seeds prefer one or the other.

The following seeds in the Gather Goods Co online shop can be started outdoors directly in the soil / garden on the following schedule:

8-10 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means January 26 – February 9th:

Rembrandt Snapdragons – Long Blooming Flowers that have tall stems and an unusual flower shape
Brilliant Beet Blend – Gorgeous deep red-hued vegetables that are fun to grow

Early Spring (as soon as the soil can be worked), in Central NC that means as early as Valentine’s Day, maybe earlier:

Sugar Magnolia Snap Peas – a sweet pea that is delicious raw as it is cooked. It is great in salads or eaten straight off the vine. Kids love these snap peas for their taste and accessibility.
Radiant Radish Mix – a mixture of radish varieties. Radishes have a slightly spicy flavor and are also good when added to a salad.
Breadseed Poppy Mix – super pretty and dainty early blooming flowers. These are perfect if you are itching for Spring blooms as soon as possible.

4 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means March 9th:

Ultimate Salad Bowl Mix – a variety of different colored lettuces that can be sown throughout the season for greens throughout the growing season.

The following seeds in the Gather Goods Co online shop can be started outdoors directly in the soil / garden on the following schedule:

After Last Frost, in Central NC that means April 6th:

Flowers:
Tiger Paw Aster
Phoenix Nasturtium – An Edible Flower!
State Fair Zinnia – Big Blooming Flowers All Season
Sea Shells Cosmos – Another Great Cut Flower Pick With a Double Petal
Snapdragon Mix – An Assorted Mix of Snapdragons. A Favorite Cut Flower.
Velvet Queen Sunflower – A Deep Red Sunflower
Coral Fountain Amaranth – An Interesting Texture for Any Bouquet

Vegetables:
Double Red Sweet Corn – Beautiful and Delicious
Red Swan Bean – Red Colored Beans
Dark Star Zucchini – Because Zucchini is a garden staple
Emerite Pole Beans – An abundantly producing green bean
Honey Drop Cherry Tomato – A sweet cherry tomato similar to SunGold
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin – An pretty and edible pumpkin
Danvers Carrots

The following seeds in the Gather Goods Co online shop should be started indoors (though some can also be sown outdoors – see above):

8-10 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means January 26 – February 9th:

Rembrandt Snapdragons
Paul Robeson Tomatoes

6-8 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means February 9th – February 23rd:

Tiger Paw Asters
Snapdragon Mix
Bumble Bee Cherry Tomato

4-6 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means February 23-March 9th:

Honeydrop Cherry Tomato
Purple Tomatillo – A vining plant with a fruit that is perfect in salsa and guacamole

3-4 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means March 9-March 16th:

State Fair Zinnia
Strawflower – dries really beautifully

2-3 Weeks Before Last Frost, in Central NC that means March 16-March 23rd:

Dark Star Zucchini
Honeynut Squash

Seed Starting Schedule for Central North Carolina

You can find all of these seed varieties in the Gather Goods Co online shop here.

Radical Love in the Face of Extreme Emotion

So last night before bed I did something weird… In response to all the violence at the Capitol, all the negative feelings and bafflement at what is currently happening, I played out a little exercise in my head. I decided that instead of projecting all my frustration, my negative feelings, my confusion and upset, and energy toward those emotions I would instead try to reverse it radically toward positivity.

So, I tried to imagine these people who feel so different than me as little kids who were upset, but that was too difficult and not really helping, so I started thinking of them as just a person reacting to constant bullying and being told over and over that they are wrong, and so instead of making better choices they just keep leaning into the worst because what’s in it for them to change at this point? But then, I thought what if I just loved them despite and because of their insane choices and actions? What if the world is so full of toxic energy that it needs to be rebalanced with more positive energy? What if no one is sending “positive vibes” toward and to them and that to start to neutralize that toxicity, there needs to be more love. I’m positive at this point I’ve lost some of you. That’s fine. Still, for those who are still reading, I’ll continue down this path further.

For the past year, there’s a parenting trick that I’ve been implementing with my teenage daughter. And yes, I am 100% THAT mom which I am okay with. My daughter is full of big emotions, she is fiercely independent, and like any growing, angst-ridden, hormonally-charged but not fully developed human, life can feel really hard at times. She can fly off the handle in weird ways at weird times overreacting to the littlest thing despite also being the kindest, most empathetic, emotionally mature teenager at the same time. I know that every parent of a growing child can relate to these maddening paradigms and parenting challenges.

Anyway, she’s never been a cuddler but like anyone needs physical touch so I have to devise sneaky ways to get that in, like squashing together on the couch during movie night. I know that when she is in a confused emotional rage that she needs it then too, maybe even more so. So when she starts spouting insanity and flipping her lid I’ve implemented the worst of all “punishments”, a 20-second hug (which is a really long time) followed by eye contact and each saying “I love you” to one another. Horrible but awesome, right? She knows that if she goes insane, I’m coming for her. She resists it at first but then melts into it and then her emotions feel more accessible to her, she can start to process what she is feeling, we can talk about it together, we can diffuse the situation.

I believe in body autonomy. I am only advocating for this if ground rules have been agreed upon ahead of time (not during a heightened emotional tug of war). Yes, it will probably cause your child to roll their eyes severely at you being “extra” and annoying and “the worst mom in the whole world” but then they might at times also tell you that you are the best mom like mine does at times too.

Why the 20-second hug? Well, research shows that when it is done between loved ones, it is proven to lower reactivity to stressful events and that each of us needs between 5 and 8 hugs a day to be happier. And why the eye contact? Because research says it creates a “calming, connected state of being” as well.

So, back to my positive visioning exercise, before drifting off to bed, I started imagining the faces that I had been seeing in articles, the faces of these people who confuse and upset me with their opposite values, who seem to be acting out in a crazy rage and I imagined hugging them for 20-seconds until they melted into it. Then I imagined looking them in their eyes and telling them “I love you”.

Crazy, right? But leaning into more positive feelings and love did make me feel a little better. What if that’s what we need to do to both remind ourselves that each of us is only human but also to re-balance all the stifling pressure of hostile emotions at present?

I’m absolutely advocating for change, advocating for taking agency and ownership and using your voice and I am 100% not okay with what is currently happening. This is in no way suggesting that all these hippie-dippie feel-good exercises replace accountability. Still, when it feels like the world is focused on anger, confusion, and resentment, what harm could it do? What’s the harm in trying especially if it makes me feel more compassionate overall? Maybe in some alternate universe or even this one, those energy waves reach them and help to disarm the insanity even if by only a micro-level. Who knows? I’m open to the possibility.

And there is another thing I say to my daughter that applies here: I’ve taught her that when she goes temporarily emotionally insane and bursts out into anger over seemingly nothing that she is afraid of something but maybe she doesn’t know what. That when each of us reacts this way at times they are like a “bull in a china shop” breaking everything around them because they are spooked. I ask her to consider “what is she afraid of”?

So, to this, I wonder what are the people who are making audacious, overwhelming, anarchistic choices that make no common sense afraid of? And to me, it feels that the answer is that they are probably afraid of change, that they are probably reacting to a sense of unfairness in their own lives, a shift in power dynamics that don’t benefit them anymore or haven’t for a long time so they are trying to reclaim it at any cost. They are afraid of losing control. Ironic right?

As Newton discovered “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So what would happen if we reacted in a different way?

What is A Vision Board & How To Make One

A vision board is simply a visual collage of inspiration that you have collected and put together into a new assemblage. The goal of a vision board is to tap into your most intuitive self and let your feelings and the things that you are naturally attracted to resonate with you and remind you of a part of yourself that is not always easy to access.

Some of us are naturally more intuitive than others but all of us spend a lot of our days consuming other people’s content and reading words, and trying to make sense of the things we are taking in. And for all of us our intuition can get buried when we are stressed and overwhelmed. Though we take in a lot of stimulation and process a lot of thoughts, we are less often curating our own worlds based on the things that move us deeply.

Some people believe that creating a vision board will help you to manifest your dreams and wishes and while I will leave that up to you to decide, it is undoubtedly true that when we see the things that move us and are reminded of them, we are more likely to pursue them and seek them out for ourselves and bring them into our lives.

I like to go about making a vision board loosely and not overthink it. My vision boards are oftentimes filled with colors and textures and sometimes words, but mostly they evoke a feeling. Seeing a finished piece with all these things that feel good in one place will make you feel more aligned with yourself. Somehow the act of curating visuals in this way feels like a roadmap back to yourself. It unlocks an intuitive appreciation in a way that is hard to articulate, that exists more on a visceral level. And even if all of this sounds too esoteric for you, it is a relaxing and enjoyable activity to start a new year and a good way to get out of your head if you’re stressed and overwhelmed with the news and just the state of things in general.

To make a vision board all you need are old magazines or visuals, a glue stick or tape (or any way to attach the images you cut out to the paper), scissors, and a piece of paper or poster board (or cardboard – use what you have on hand). Once you’ve cut out an assortment of imagery, words, textures, colors, etc. that inspire you, repaste them onto one piece of paper or poster board collage style. Don’t overthink it, just feel, just do, just use your hands and see what emerges.

If you don’t have access to supplies and want to create a digital version, Pinterest is a great resource as well as the graphics program Canva. I still prefer to do this exercise by hand as I think the tactile making process is more satisfying.

There are various ways people use vision boards and you could create more intentional ones as well related to specific goals: finances, your home, etc, but for me the exercise is as much about tapping into the intuitive as it is about “seeing” the future.

When you are done, stick the vision board somewhere where you will see it often and be reminded of what you are drawn to. Alternatively, or additionally, you could take a picture with your phone and save it as your phone or desktop wallpaper.

That’s it, super easy. You are done with this very low threshold activity, you have made your first vision board! You are now one step closer to manifesting a more aligned future or at the very least having created a craft that is contemplative and soothing.

This is a great activity to do with a group of friends. The pictures above are from the beginning of last year when we were able to congregate together at Gather Goods Co in-person but this idea could easily be replicated virtually. Just grab your friends, some snacks, some magazines, and gab and collage at the same time. And, if you do decide to host your own virtual vision board party, send me pictures or tag me on Instagram. I’d love to see!

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

When Silence Is Betrayal – Why It is Important To Speak Up About What Matters To Us And Make The World A Safer Place

I shared these thoughts about last night’s events of the storming of the Capitol on my personal facebook page this morning but felt that it was worth sharing them here too:

My friend Ahmed put it eloquently: “But the ones that deserve the most blame are the ones who voted for him. Every single one of you knew this would happen and knew this group of violent extremists would be brought out front, and you were fine with it. We told you this would happen, that this is what he’s really about, and you were still fine with it.” This gets to the root of my feelings about the election, that no matter what else, voting for Trump is/was saying that this rhetoric, this culture, this POV is not just accepted but literally endorsed.

And while the people who stormed the Capitol with their wooden gallows and confederate flags may have been outliers, they are still representative of the party as a whole being willing to not just accept but incite this thinking. 147 representatives (almost all white men) STILL voted to overturn the election results even after and probably because of yesterday’s actions. If the people storming the Capitol were outliers, these representatives believe they should be the voice of the party, regardless.

I believe a third party or a new Republican Party is necessary for our democracy to sustain itself and that without it, this extreme, theatrical, violent, and domineering ideology will only escalate. To associate yourself with it in its current form is both shocking and disturbing. It was before and it is even more so now. If you believe otherwise and are willing to own up to your vote, message me privately, but as it stands, I can’t see any other perspective, and that’s frankly saying a lot from me.

Courage means being willing to look at our own blind spots and values and stand up for what’s right. It means having to draw some hard lines in the sand and pick some values over others as more important right now in this current moment and for the future health of others. It means breaking away from things that are broken and wrong and using your sphere of influence to accept, acknowledge and admit to yourself and others that you were wrong, and that you are willing to change, that you are willing to make hard choices for the betterment of the world and not just for yourself.

History repeats itself. We have a violent and disturbing past to use as a guide but even in our sordid past, this has never happened before. At what point will standing up for what’s right be too little too late? Our leaders must be held accountable. We as individuals must be held accountable. As Martin Luther King, Jr said “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”