December 1, 2013
November 29, 2013
October 8, 2013
I’ve written no less than 10 posts…and hit delete or save draft every time.
There is so much I want to say, and yet I have no idea where to start. I wish I had written all along, but alas, I did not.
So instead of trying to catch up, let’s start right here.
I’ve been battling a stomach bug for the last 36 hours, yuck. …but the good part is I am resting, watching mindless television (hello Scandal!!) and it gives me time to make a small offering to you (and myself) today.
So if you are plagued with a stomach bug, or too many bills, or family shit, or general sadness, or had a fight with your partner, or have a hard work sitch, or are an exhausted mother, or have no idea what to do with your life, or on the verge of something big or hard, or nothing is wrong in particular but nothing is right either…we have an audio message for you, from one of us, or from a kid.
Text NEED SOME LIGHT to us at: (804) 426-2357
Tell us in a sentence or so what’s going on…and we’ll text you back some love…and kindness…because kindness changes everything…and we can be together in the dark.
(audio messages are available until 12am (EST) on October 8th- but don’t worry, we are going to do this again and soon!! )
September 11, 2013
My dear friends… whew, so much has happened to get us here. More than I ever could have imagined…in so many ways I don’t even feel like the same person after doing this project.
I have been humbled on like a bagillion levels, discovered the beginning of perseverance, and been cracked open by the dark. …and now it’s time for the light.
Tonight we will light the kindness lights,there will only be a few lit- it’s our job to get the whole wall shining. You may want to find your light that night, the one you will light with your act of kindness.
AND then we will be able to interact with the togetherness part of the wall. (thanks to the brilliant crew at the Martin Agency) Put one hand on one of the touch points on either end column at the wall, then join hands with a friend or stranger to reach another touch point in between. Watch the wall light up, changing colors and patterns in a display of human connection. The more people you connect to, the longer the chain, the bigger light show will be.
I can’t wait for you to see and be part of it…it will only happen if we do it together. It doesn’t work any other way.
Thank you to so many that have loved me through all this…and been my light in the dark more times than I can count.
Much love to you all,
August 12, 2013
Stories of HumanKIND is a community art event on 8/17/13.
Join us as we kick-off The Light of Human Kindness mural installation by hand writing and painting the stories collected at www.thelightofhumankindness.com on to the kindness wall at the old GRTC Depot as part of the RVA Street Art Festival.
Hamilton Glass will start painting the mural over parts of the stories on 8/19/13.
Feel free to come and go through out the day. We will be there with paint and markers covering the 80ft. wall with stories of dark and hope.
If you have ever wanted to be part of a mural installation, here is your chance!
Kids can chalk on places on the wall while the adults/teens paint and write. All supplies will be provided.
Rain date: 8/18/2013
August 7, 2013
The stories are rolling in…and they are more beautiful, dark and hopeful than I ever imagined.
You can read them here: http://thelightofhumankindness.tumblr.com/
The Light of Human Kindness is a cutting edge light + mural project installed on an eighty-foot wall in the city of Richmond, Virginia.
The stories shared at The Light of Human Kindness go on the wall and inspire others to commit to intentional acts of kindness around the world.
Do you have a story to share?
Tell a story about needing hope or light during a dark time and what kept you going. Share a memory of someone important to you who gave you something to hold on to at just the right moment. Share your story here.
August 5, 2013
I have about 57,000 stories to tell you about this project, but for now I’ll just say this…it’s here, *big sigh of relief*, and I can’t wait to do this together because…
everyone has a dark story
everyone holds a light
everyone needs kindness
the light is coming…
you can follow our project on:
July 3, 2013
Hey friends! I am working on an e-mail to privately share my latest kindness project with the hopes of gathering some much needed soul support (oh man!) AND grass roots magic before it gets released to the world.
When looking over my Guerrilla Goodness mailing list, I realized I am missing some of my nearest and dearest ones…SO if this calls to you at all or you have done a project with me before or you would like to be included, can you e-mail me at email@example.com with “secret GIANT kindness project” in the subject line?!
We put a red heart on our door to celebrate the SCOTUS decision with our beloved friends!!! Want to join us?!!
Hash tag all door heart pics with #lovewins on Instagram/Twitter
share your photo on the Guerrilla Goodness Facebook page!!!
dog doors, office doors, business doors, garden gates…any door will do.
June 3, 2013
June 2, 2013
You can read the story about the wheel was created here.
*also, for all those looking to make your own kind wheel, ART 180 is working on a short how-to page, soon to come.
May 31, 2013
I have a new mission for us to do together… below is a video explaining…and I hit publish before I chickened out or went to try to put myself together and re-record.
The MOTHER of all Journals Mission:
1. Leave a comment for me today to share in the journal before we send it out into the world- tell me something you wish someone had told you, your fears, your best (and worst) parenting moments or stories, something funny or shocking, anything you wish you could say but don’t always feel like you can, a note of kindness for another…anything really! The comment can be anonymous or you can send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. I’ll write them in the journal and then leave the journal in a public place where I think a mother might find it.
3. When the journal is full, on the last page we will leave the journal’s fate entirely in the last person to find it. They can decide whether they send it back to me to have the collection shared as an art exhibit or online, or they can keep it, OR they can bury or burn it!
4. If you want to start a community journal in your city, here is what we are are writing on the inside and back page to help explain this project:
Inside: The MOTHER of all Journals found you! (yep, you) This is guerrilla kindness project is a collection of advice, confessions, joys, failures, encouragement and kindness from mothers all around our fine city. You can add to it, just read it, curse or bless it, cry in it, yell at it, kiss it, put it next to you like a friend, it’s totally up to you- you know just what to do (and so does it)…the only thing we ask is that when you are done, you leave it in a dry place for the next mother, sister, friend to find. If you aren’t a mother, that’s cool too… you can leave a message to a mom, or tell us how you wish you were one, or share what you think!
Last page: YOU ARE THE LAST PERSON TO FIND THIS JOURNAL…oh my lord, this is so exciting. You get to decide what happens next. Please do one of the following:
1. E-mail email@example.com to find out an address to mail this journal back to. We will then share all the content online and in an art exhibit- anonymously of course!
2. Keep it for yourself or give it to someone you love as a treasure find!
3. Bury it, burn it…destroy it in a grand and beautiful way!
Whatever you choose, it will be awesome…and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love you last finder! Kindness Changes Everything!
Jokes, secrets and poem journals are next…if you want to hide one, hit my e-mail up…OR if you start a journal in another city, let me know too so we can tell our friends in that area to be on the lookout!
*update*- LOTS of goodness is coming into my e-mail box for The Mother of all Journals …lookin’ for a few funny and light lines or stories if you got ‘em! patience@Kindnessgirl.com
May 5, 2013
photo by Marc Cheatham
When Betsy from ART180 asked my good friend Marc Cheatham (of the famous RVA blog The Cheats Movement) and I to facilitate a program at Atlas, their new art center for teens, I was super stoked. Oh, how I love ART180, so much. I love their intention and process, their values, how they do things and hold a certain kind of space in the world.
To be honest, I was also a little worried about the whole thing. I had no idea if we had enough ideas/material to teach a 6 week class on Guerrilla Kindness…or rather what the approach should be so that it would be meaningful to teens. I knew teens hold all the power and goodness to access their call to kindness but I didn’t really know what the path would look like or how I could help exactly.
…but the best part of art, kindness and facilitation (not so much teaching really) is the teens really led the way. After a few weeks of connecting, talking, a few missions (remind me to tell you how they kindness bombed a city block) and a brainstorming session, the teens came up with THE MOST BRILLIANT KINDNESS PROJECT.
I was out of my mind listening to them and watching the project evolve. I loved how bold and creative they were, how they each stepped into kindness in their own way.
I give you The Wheel of Kindness my friends:
Nic Cossitt, a good friend to ART 180 built the giant wheel of kindness with the help of the kids’ design and idea, then we all got to paint it together.
So here’s how it works:
1. A player spins the wheel and lands on a particular color.
2. They are given the same corresponding color balloon.
3. The person then pops the balloon (this part was SO much more exciting than I thought it was going to be).
4. Inside the balloon was their very own kindness mission rolled up on a scroll to be completed that day.
It was so, so thrilling!!! We set up the wheel in front of ART180 on RVA’s First Fridays Art Walk and in conjunction with the
photo by Marc Cheatham
The kids invited folks walking by to play, I was amazed how many different kinds of people joined us…and I wish we had more pictures of their faces. It may be almost impossible to walk by a giant rainbow wheel and not want to spin it. You find yourself yelling things like “Come on!!! Big kindness, big kindness, no whammies!” and cheering for someone, anyone to land on the double dog dare GOLD triangle of kindness.
It’s kind of wonderful when we let kindness lead even if we have no idea where it will go or how we will get there…when we invite joy, wonder and simply listen to each other…and when it all starts in friendship and connection. I think this is the magic of ART180- making space for all of that.
Early in the class, Marc asked the teens if there had ever been a time someone was kind to them, their faces went blank. I then asked them if anyone at ART180 had been kind to them, they all spoke at at once and on top of each other. My favorite answer was from a young man that really had not said one word all day… “They respect me here.”
photo by Marc Cheatham
If you are in RVA, you can still see the Wheel of Kindness at The Big Show on May 15th at 6pm at Planet Zero (0 E. 4th Street) along with art from kids across the city.
Hope to see you there or hopefully on some street corner in the future spinnin’ the wheel!
May 1, 2013
A guest post from our dear friend Nicki Peasley:
A couple months ago, I posted a story about my friend Jen and her hero’s journey through one kidney transplant… and the looming imminence of another.
I am sad to report that Jen’s health issues have become more complex and urgent. The doctors have discovered a growth on her pancreas that needs to be removed before a kidney transplant can be considered. And with her kidney failing at a more rapid rate than anticipated, Jen and her family are struggling to remain hopeful in the face of fear and the unknown.
That’s where we come in.
Today is May Day, a day when the veils between the worlds are thin and anything is possible. A day when all the forces of the Universe are working together to bring Light to our world. A day that invites us to connect heart to heart and experience deep compassion, sacred unity, divine oneness.
And so tonight, I invite you to a light a candle at 7:30 pm. To hold the Cave family in your heart. To pray (in whatever way you pray) for Jen’s healing and her family’s peace. And in the sanctuary of your heart, to know that you are not alone, but united in a Love effort with the power to create miracles.
See you tonight, in the Light.
For more information about Jen’s journey, go to her facebook page… Sunshine for Jennifer Morris Cave.
Share this with fellow mothers, families, friends and please feel free to send pictures of your candles lit on the page too. It would be so powerful to light up Jen’s wall and the world with hope and love.
April 28, 2013
Sometimes when there is too much around me and I am just not sure where to start or what to do in my life, I head to the vault. It’s a collection of pictures, a group of moments I keep buried in my files waiting to be held, processed, finished somehow…At times the vault tortures me as I can never seem to get to the task and at other moments I think of it as the vessel where little bits of treasure rest, where stories wait to be told or the reminder of how sweet things were resides.
I often wonder how many small moments of our lives are still there waiting for us, hanging out in the back of the vaults of our hearts…places for us to escape back to with a more gentle and kind view of our lives…maybe this is the best part of leaving things undone, unfinished, and not exactly having it organized the way we think we should.
As I looked through the pictures of Lyra’s birthday last September, all I could see was what it looks like to be loved and adored.
The love started by Jen offering her back yard for the party and I was reminded that no mother should ever do birthday parties alone… and how love doesn’t always look like a Pinterest page and is often more of a modge podge of simple kind offerings.
One princess tent already infused with joy from a birthday of another dear girl earlier that year was lent for fort goodness.
One old slip n’ slide that gave many a never-ending slide was shared to double the awesomeness of the new mega slide.
A last minute decorating job to a store bought cake made mermaid cake dreams come true.
…and each person shared what they love about Lyra on magic rocks that she will keep in her own heart vault to pull out when times are rough, or she loses her way, or just to know what it feels like to be loved and adored…again and again.
And it isn’t so much about perfect parties and picture moments but how each little part, each little offering adds up to something bigger …and that when we love each other and share whatever we have, the circle of love and adoration grows wider and wider, including us all.
April 25, 2013
April 24, 2013
April 23, 2013
April 22, 2013
What change asks of you…
change reveals what you care about the most
change checks your perceptions and judgments
change makes space for you to fall apart, then asks you to get it together
change shows you the path to grieve
change asks you to take a chance or risk
change calls us without our permission
change invites you in… and out
change asks you to stretch in ways you never planned or imagined
change asks us to honor our needs
change invites power or let’s you be the victim, it tells you to decide which one
change surprises you
change leaves no where to hide
change knows our secrets and even the parts we haven’t discovered yet, like our resolve and tenacity
change asks you to widen your heart
change connects our shared humanity
…and whether we survive, celebrate or fight it, it always wins…and where we find ourselves and souls in the midst of it is up to us.
April 18, 2013
April 14, 2013
“Mom, you just said something nice about the new house, I am so proud of you!” my new teenager said.
“Oh MY GOD, I did?! I didn’t mean it, I take it back.” I replied.
I am finding it’s one thing to make hopeful declarations and another thing to have to actually live in the Old Trashy House. There has been more than one Hollywood tantrum (as my sister calls them) this week…and maybe a few Anne of Green Gables “depths of despair” crying moments as well. I know it’s one of those times that I will return to years from now and wonder how I ever could have been such a brat, or maybe I’ll be evolved enough to remember myself in kindness and love that dear girl because everything made sense after all.
I wake up every morning and desperately miss the view of the sun rising and watching the pink light creep up the walls to fill the old magic house so easily, with no effort at all. I keep looking for the light here, both literally and figuratively. I see how much the old place and people kept me going, how the light was held for me… and this just isn’t that. Even so, while I kick and scream, I am discovering there is something about the dark.
It’s the kind of dark where you finally say you don’t think you can do something and you acknowledge the need for a light that carries you in a new way, or you must sort of struggle and sit in the dark before the light comes to rescue you or you find your own. Or maybe no rescue is needed at all, maybe the dark is the way. The need or the one thing that makes you unlovable may just be the thing that takes you where you are meant to be or go. It may be in this honesty with ourselves that we find the way…and each other.
…and I am finding that our kindness doesn’t have to come from the best part of ourselves, it can come from our pain, our healing, the darkest places of who we are…because those are the the birth places of our humanity and the exact places we are all connected.
In some strange way even while it’s still shitty and hard, this lets me sigh, a deep sigh…as I make friends with the dark.
March 28, 2013
March 17, 2013
Office Depot guy (big burly man): How are you today?
He said to me while I wandered the store aimlessly…
Me: I’m…(pause)….I’m alright.
I said with a pathetic half smile and a disheveled braid.
Office Depot guy: (belly laughs half for a hot second) Ummm, are you okay?
Me: (laughing back) No, not really…but I will be. But I think I am actually just a little bit better now…since you came back with that second run through and all, you know, after I told you the truth.
Surprisingly, this man did not appear to think I was bat-shit crazy.
Office Depot guy: Ohhhh good, sometimes that’s all it takes.
And in one instant…we were together…completely connected, this guy, for just a moment, was my community.
And the best part is, we may never see each other ever again.
And he has no idea that I have been crying for 2 days over having to move and from the outside looking in, it all seems kind of ridiculous to be so sad over moving 5 miles away…but from the inside looking out, there is a wave of reflection and grief because now I know what I am losing and how this place changed me…and how deep it runs inside of me.
I used to be a nomad of sorts, moving from place to place, setting up my shop of goodness for soul business. I offered an array of love and kindness, standing behind the counter dolling out the goods, then I hid and retreated when I was tired or had nothing left to share… but I rarely received, I am not sure I always even knew how to or knew I was even worthy.
I believed there was some kind of nobility in ultimately standing alone, that it exhibited some inner strength and honored some ancient familial legacy. I was verbally honest and occasionally vulnerable but had trouble taking the one last giant step…asking for help, or being seen in the one dark moment where rescue was sure to follow.
And it is a lot less dramatic than it sounds…it’s rather small and everyday actually…it was needing a ride for my kids to school, or a tiny bouquet of flowers left on a door, or one song sent my way, or one conversation (or 30) where one kind friend tells you the truth about yourself that you can’t see while kids run around and interrupt 57,000 times.
…and I was afraid of true community, because it meant my soul being all out there and others finding out just how much I do not have my shit together… and it meant I might need and depend on people, it meant that I might be rejected or that people might fail me, but it also meant that:
community carries us to the next place of learning, growing understanding
community shows us how pissed we are at each other when something just isn’t right among us
community asks us to hold space for each other when we can’t hold it ourselves
community tells us to try again, or have a do-over
community asks us to add yet another seat at the table, and makes sure everyone is there, to find the others
community requires that we look inside ourselves and own our own shit so we can love and build what we know it is meant to be
community reminds that we are better together, that we find relief in leaning in, and in turn our hearts swell with a great gratitude that keeps the circle going
community melts us, and is messier than we imagined or hoped
community calls us to do what love asks
….when it is joyful
….especially when it is hard.
and the truth is, we are all “the others”, wanting to be found ….and that community can take time to build and can also be as simple as just one moment, one exchange but it requires us to take a step outside of ourselves…sometimes that step is the easiest you’ll ever take, or like crossing a freakin’ marathon line and other times it feels like stepping off a cliff…but it doesn’t change that we have to do it, because we need each other and
…because we were never meant to stand alone. We are meant to find…and be found.
March 13, 2013
If I told you all the things that have happened in the last 2 weeks, you would shake your head, smile, have a furrowed brow, be angry, be proud, be sad, hold hope, and then maybe you would sigh. …because these are all the things that life is made up of.
To be honest, this is usually how my life goes, it isn’t really so peaceful in the way I sometimes wish it would be and yet a peace still resides at the bottom- in between the laughing, cursing and crying, of course.
…because our humanity brings us together…even the crappy parts of us and hopefully the tender parts where we need each other to live and be okay…the moments we lean in and the places we stand up tall because someone else shared their power and support.
Today there isn’t really a huge triumph or epiphany, it’s more of a survival or gut through sort of day…and on those days I read this quote from my friend Maat- even if it doesn’t stick, it’s the truth and the law I want to live.
It is our responsibility to deal gently with one another.
Goodness is the rule.
Kindness is the standard.
Humility and love are the guiding principles for every interaction.
I want to live by this law.
February 22, 2013
I have moved 10 times in 15 years. I know, I know…it’s a little bit crazy but we sort of love it. Finding the next place, meeting new people, clearing out for something different to learn, following wherever we are called to next. We moved while I was pregnant twice, LOTS of times with babies and just once from south to north. It wasn’t until we moved to the magic house that things sort of changed for me. Our big green house brought us out of a time of darkness and into a light brighter than I ever imagined.
Each house previously served as a haven of sorts. I always had an old lady neighbor to walk with and dote on my babies, or a wise friend that sat at my kitchen table, but other than that, it was just us. I lived so much of my life out in the world with kindness missions that I didn’t mind to have one quiet place to return to…one that was just about my family.
I thought when we moved to our big green house things would be much the same…but the house had a different story and plan for us. From the moment we walked in the door, the door just never closed. People and friends dropped by in a way they never had, neighbors and kids were drawn to the swing and secret garden.
Neighbors spent more time talking in the street than in their houses…this told me community was brewing hard and all that was required was to give each other a space so it could grow…so we did. Just the tiniest suggestion, a “…you know what we should do?” sent the plans into full motion. “I can bring this…” and “Yeah! Let’s do it!” were the forever answers. We had chili-cookoffs, beer tastings and girl power tea/tattoo parties, gave out free cotton candy, we celebrated kids birthdays and had one magical hurricane that left us holding the street (and each other) together in a deeper way.
We ate soup together while trees fell on some of our houses, and before we started helping each other with the great clean up, we cleaned out powerless refrigerators and and had a giant breakfast in the middle of the street together.
These people reminded my kids that the world is kind, even when they started to doubt. When their 2 beloved bikes were stolen off the front porch, a knock on the door just a day later opened to a the whole street standing together with 2 more bikes…and I cried like a baby.
It wasn’t long before kids past our street started coming over, mostly just to hang out and look up their Facebook pages or heat up a bag of ramen noodles…but then there were kindness projects to be done so they sat down at the porch table and started painting magic wands or helping me write notes. The house became an unintentional recreation center, one time I counted 17 children in my back yard.
All of this went on, and just became a way of life. I knew it was special but I didn’t think too much about it because we were so busy living it.
Then the phone rang Monday. It was was my very kind landlord who never once raised my rent in 3 years.
“”Patience, we have to sell the house.” he said.
My heart sank but my knee jerk reaction was to be positive. I knew, knew, knew he wanted to sell the house to us and I knew instantly we would not be able to buy it. I could feel how hard it was for him to make the call, for he knew the magic of the house too…he chose it, he called it out, he started his family here and had a baby right in the very bedroom where I now sleep.
“It’s really okay.” I said. “I’m not afraid of change, it always takes you where you need to go…I really believe that.”
And it was one of those times your soul speaks something into being that it knows to be true but your heart hasn’t exactly caught up yet. …but you have to say it, you know it is true, and you know you will follow it either way.
I got off the phone, looked up a hopeful song…played it on repeat and cried.
The next day I jumped on craigslist and worried about my kids. Where are we going? What will happen next? …and I was sad and all I could think about was Lucy mostly, for she is the keeper of family and community…and she feels things the deepest- loss, joy, fate.
My own questions about the future got the better of me that afternoon. I wanted to just drive by a house I saw listed. I didn’t tell Lucy too much information just that I was going to check something out. She was way too smart and intuitive for such a move on my part.
“Mom, why are we looking at a house? ARE WE MOVING?!” she asked.
I don’t know yet baby.” I lied.
It was as if she and the rest of the kids somehow already knew everything on some level but the energy returned wasn’t anything I expected. They were strangely hopeful.
We rolled up to a very sad looking house. Very sad. Lucy was the first to weigh in.
“OH MOM! I LOVE this old trashy house, I just know we can make it magical!” she said with so much hope in her heart. All the rest of the kids immediately piped in with the same sentiment.
“We have each other mom, that’s all that matters… and there is a SUBWAY right by this house, that is so great! SUBWAY! “
“We can do this mom, we can make it here! There is a park right there for me to film my movies…”
I forgot. I forgot this was always the mission of our family, to trust the change, to go where we are called…to take with us the magic that the people we love so much have taught us and pass it on…to walk boldly into the next chapter…to make the trashy house magical.
…and I don’t know what will happen next and I am still incredibly sad but I know I have to follow their lead. If for no other reason than to encourage this hopefulness in the world…that in a month or two we may all be crying in our cheerios missing everything we lost but will still find our way…knowing we have each others’ backs.
…and follow all the kindness waiting for us there.
Lucy’s note to the next family lucky enough to live in the magic house…
TONIGHT!!! Don’t forget tonight I will be hosting and telling stories at the Richmond Famous Richmond Comedy Coalition show at Gallery 5 at 8pm!!! Early tickets ($5) still available here: http://richmondfamousps.eventbrite.com/
Show up at the door and pay $10!
200 West Marshall Street, Richmond, VA 23220, USA
Hope to see you there!!!
February 20, 2013
So grateful to have my friend Nicki Peasley once again carry this blog along. There are days when I want to say things, but I just can’t. …and every time this sort of happens too many days in a row, Nicki pops up, like somehow she knows…because we are in this together, because this blog belongs to her and her heart, the same way it does to all of us who love and want to follow kindness. Enjoy her tender wisdom today…
photo and essay by Nicki Peasley
I have been living in a medley of metaphors this year. Reality seems an illusion. Its noise hushed by some mysterious universal rhythm. It is from this transcendent place, which in the past would have caused me great anxiety, I am beginning to discover the life that flows beneath life, the sweet poetry available to each and every one of us on our collective journey to wholeness.
I’ve been teaching and co-creating with children around the African philosophy of Ubuntu. Which means, we are each of us brilliantly unique AND we are ONE. And each time I experience the “story circle” that brings this idea to life, I can feel my bones and my heart and my spirit expanding to more fully hold the paradox of the individual and the collective, our difference and our sameness. My brain, on the other hand, is working double time to keep up. The challenging mental chatter… How can I be in my unique power AND surrender to the simplicity and comfort of oneness?
I’ve always been more at home in the ethereal world than in my own body. My energy worker (brilliant alchemist that she is) smiles when she tunes into my chakras. There’s very little going on below my heart, but at the heart and above is big and bold and untamed energy, a lot of it. So my task (one of many on my healing path) is to harness that high vibration and embody it. To redefine power as love and co-create from that human place.
Hmmm, what’s a girl living outside of her body to do, but take a whole-hearted leap into some purple (and floral) Doc Martens. Bring some Heaven into my feet. And dance though the hallway of life, not banging down any doors, barely even knocking, just being accessible to possibility. Waiting for a door to open, an invitation to be extended, an opportunity to practice being in my power AND creating oneness with the world.
And guess what? It’s working. Somehow though this frivolous shoe metaphor, I am learning to embrace my humanity. To love the messiness of being in a body. To expand my definition of purity (that I always equated with divinity) to include the shame and fear necessary in the organic unfolding of human being.
“The house” has a big place in this discovering process, as well. Bear with me as I mix metaphors. We spend the first half of our lives (which, according to Richard Rohr, has nothing to do with age and everything to do with human development) building our identity and putting some thick walls around it to protect it. We tuck shame away in the basement and show the world our pretty faces. Then one day, through some crisis, the house falls down. And we are living among our demons, and scared out of our pants.
So, we frantically start to rebuild our house, our identity. Until we find some courage to take a risk, to gently lean into the fear to finally uncover the bliss of true freedom, outside of those walls that we thought defined us and protected us.
As we move through the world in this raw and vulnerable way, we have no choice but to name and expose and finally love our personal shame. To admit that evil may exist AND, because we are All of it, we have the capacity to be evil, just as we have the capacity to be pure. And we learn to love each other, not despite our darkness, but because of it.
And somewhere on our individual hero’s journeys, we come upon a perpetual campground filled with other people whose houses have fallen down. People who have also entered the second “half” of life, who are dancing the sacred dance TOGETHER. People who have stopped trying to be special and have started to just be. And we understand that we don’t have to build another house. We are already home.
I’ve connected with some amazing people on this campground. And experienced the true spirit of oneness. Prayers for Ubuntu answered.
I met “Angel” about a year ago. She sits on the rail and takes care of the cats. She has no home (literally), yet she is always joyful and grateful and kind. Our encounters have been serendipitous, filling each other with the necessary comforts of real time and the necessary wisdom of REAL time.
Last week, we went to an RV lot to explore the possibility of a home for Angel. I went in a bit blind, without the important information I really needed to act as her advocate. My husband’s caution ringing in my head, I ignored it, choosing to let Love lead. And lead it did.
We were greeted by a woman at the shop who was busy preparing for the big RV show at the fairgrounds. Her humanity took up the whole room. She introduced herself as Shelby and then apologized for her shoes (she was trying to break them in and evidently she didn’t think they went with her outfit). I directed her attention to my purple floral boots, which certainly didn’t “go” with my outfit either—but did “go” with my personality. She liked that.
Shelby shook Victoria’s hand, looked her in the eye, and said, “How can I help?” Victoria handed her an ad from 2011 for a very reasonably priced used RV. Shelby smiled and said how honored she was that Victoria had held on to the ad for so long. Then to Angel’s obvious disappointment and embarrassment, Shelby said she no longer had RVs in that price range.
“But let me show you what we have. Let’s see what might suit you.” For the next hour and a half, Shelby showed us every model on the lot. She shared her story and listened deeply to ours. She stepped out of the RVs to give Angel privacy to “feel the space.” “Lay down on that bed, Lady. Can’t buy an RV that you’re not comfortable in.”
Back in the office, Shelby ran some numbers. She completed a loan application. She called her personal banker to ask questions.. She held us with compassion and respect…and a deep and sacred sense of our shared humanity.
Ahhh, what is possible when we stand in our purple boots, in our unique power AND in our sameness, our oneness!
A parting metaphor as my mind still struggles to hold the paradox of power and surrender.
We are in a canoe, together. I am in yours. You are in mine. We are flowing through the river of innocence. So in tune with the ALL of it, with the life beneath life. We know when to exert our will, when to row; and we know when to be still and let the river hold us. We are in the flow of life. Embraced by the mystery. Living Ubuntu. Living Love. Together.
Nicki Peasley is a student of life and a teacher of love. In the past, she developed curricula and worked (played and learned and told stories) with elementary and middle school youth. Now, she is living in the question of what’s next. Perhaps just being human is more than enough.
February 18, 2013
If you have never been to a show, you especially HAVE to go. AND if you have been before, you have to come so there are lots of friends around to celebrate as wicked wit and kindness come together.
Richmond Famous (just one of their many shows) is a show where the RCC invites a local friend/host to come and share a few stories, and then the actors improv-the-hell-outta that particular story. It’s ridiculously fun.
I am SO excited to be included, and really happy to announce that Jennifer Lemons-Driskill (a.k.a The Check Out Girl) will be joining me for a Ukulele Sing-a-long during the show AND I will also be revealing a new kindness mission that night!
GET TICKETS ($5 now/ $10 at the door): http://richmondfamousps.eventbrite.com/
Get a babysitter, take the bus, whatever you gotta do… but just come on out!
February 11, 2013
He can’t speak anymore but it doesn’t even seem to matter in some ways. His eyes, his expressions, his soul tells us everything we need to know about his heart.
Jorge and I just returned from a whirlwind trip to spend some time with my father-in-law in Southern California. He is one of the kindest men I have ever known. It was hard to see so many parts of himself lost as a result of this disease, but I was also so amazed by how much of who he is, the beauty, the gentleness, the grace, is still so deep within him.
…no matter the brain shrink, those things live in his soul…and can never be taken away.
We return exhausted, sad and yet full from being with sisters that are a little older but still so much the same, from watching little nieces giggling from wild dress up sessions, from chit chat about the goodness of dogs, from trying to understand how the disease works and what’s ahead, from reconnecting with those you love…and bonded over caring for the man that cared for the man I love so much.
…and trying in the middle of it all, to just let your soul speak for you.
February 4, 2013
I am so honored to have my friend Nicki share the love story of our dear friend Jen…this is what living a life of deep love and kindness looks like, in the face of incredible mountains…love looks ahead, while we hope and pray.
A Love Story…A Life Story
by Nicki Peasley
Old friends remind us of who we were in our innocence. And give us the space to grow in wisdom, to become who we are meant to be. Old friends don’t see our wrinkles or our extra 5 pounds; we are forever 16 in their eyes. Old friends love our kids unconditionally because they see us in their moodiness and drama. Old friends hold us close and let us go. They are our home.
Jen and Maury Cave are my old friends. And this is their story.
It all began in high school. They knew of each other, but their circles rarely overlapped, for obvious reasons. Jen was the captain of the dance team, strutting her stuff every Friday night on the football field, while Maury was usually found smoking cigarettes under the bleachers with his tie-dyed tribe.
It wasn’t until the end of high school that they really noticed each other. It was on a warm summer night, at a pool after hours. Maury was wearing a pair of girl’s floral shorts singing, “There are Stars in the Southern Sky,” and Jen was so smitten that she saved the wrapper from the gum he gave her that night. She still has it.
Fast forward to the college years. Jen and Maury had lost touch until one fateful evening when Jen set out with her friends to meet a “mountain man. “ And when Maury, with his shaggy hair, blue jeans, and boots, saddled up beside her at the bar, Jen knew he was exactly who she was looking for.
Maury was a gentleman throughout their courtship. When he’d spend the night at Jen’s apartment, he’d sleep on the couch with his boots on. He was a man of few words, but his actions spoke loudly. So it was no surprise to his tribe of friends (that included me) when he asked Jen to be his wife.
It was a perfect Southern spring wedding, a plethora of pink and plum and happily ever after. Jen and Maury danced their first dance to “It Had To Be You,” Maury crediting his moves to all his years in Cotillion, and Jen, a vision in white, flowing across the dance floor like an angel.
Just two weeks after the wedding, Jen and Maury’s happily ever after was abruptly disrupted. Jen was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease called FSGS, a condition which would ultimately destroy her kidneys. For the next 6 years, she and Maury endured all the challenges that came with Jen’s illness. These were very difficult times for both of them, but they navigated the rough waters with patience and compassion and love.
When Jen’s kidneys failed, her family and friends were tested as potential donors. And Maury was the best match. Not only were they a match made in heaven, but so were their kidneys.
The night before the surgery, Maury and Jen shared a hospital room. Maury slept, but Jen lie awake for most of the night, watching her husband and giving thanks to her angels for the love she’d found with him.
The surgery was a success and Jen’s health improved slowly. She and Maury were enjoying their professional lives and they had a great group of friends, but what they want more than anything was a family. The couple knew that Jen’s body wasn’t strong enough to endure a pregnancy so they decided to adopt.
On August 20, 2005, Maria Cristina was born in Mazatenango, Guatemala. She lived with a lovely foster family for the first 7 months of her life. During that time, Jen and Maury received pictures and video clips of their daughter. They couldn’t wait to hold her in their arms.
Finally, the day came for Jen and Maury to travel to Guatemala to meet their little angel. As the foster mother placed Maria Cristina in Jen’s arms, the beautiful little soul became Gabriella Cristina Fontaine Cave.
That first night on Forest Hill Avenue, Maury stayed awake to watch Gabi sleep. Standing in the doorway of the nursery, Jen remembered the night she’d stayed awake watching Maury sleep, the night before he saved her life. Now, it seemed, they were all saving each other.
Over the next 7 years, Gabi and parents grow together in love, but Jen’s health issues continued to be a central theme in this family’s story.
Many people think that kidney transplant is a cure for all kidney disease. Not so. In Jen’s case, she still has FSGS (a condition that continues to weaken her kidneys). The transplant, which on average is viable for 10 years, only prolongs her life.
Learn more about FSGS here.
Another little known fact is that in order to avoid kidney rejection, all kidney transplant patients must take an incredible amount of medications for immuno-suppression, blood pressure, cholesterol, ulcers, anti-anemia. And these medications have harsh side effects like swelling, bone weakness, and exhaustion, interfering with any kind of “normal” living.
Furthermore, any time Jen gets sick with a common cold or virus, she usually ends up in the hospital, as fever and dehydration can cause kidney rejection. Over the past 10 years, Jen has been in the hospital 13 times for observation or surgeries related to post-transplant complications.
While the physical challenges Jen endures are extremely difficult, it is the emotional piece that causes her the most pain. She is a mother. And she wants nothing more than to play hide and seek with her daughter and to teach her how to ride a bike. But more often than not, she doesn’t have the energy. Gabi is deeply connected to her mother, often suffering from separation anxiety. While she doesn’t understand Jen’s condition, there is never a time when she doesn’t feel safe and loved in her mom’s arms. And, from my perspective as Jen’s friend and Gabi’s godmother, that’s more than enough.
Now we turn the page of this love story to present time. While Jen and Maury have known that the transplanted kidney might only last 10 years, they hoped to beat the odds. But last month, Jen learned that she needs a second transplant. Her name will be put on “the list” this month, the anniversary of Maury’s beautiful gift to his wife 10 years ago.
Jen’s outlook is positive and realistic. Her family and friends will be tested and she is encouraged by the recent kidney transplant trend of paired donation (www.paireddonation.org), in which donors and kidney patients are placed on a national registry to be matched. So, while a friend or family member may not be a match for Jen, he may be a match for someone across the country whose friend or family member, another willing donor, is a match for Jen. Henrico Doctors actually performed an 11-way paired donation. Check out this inspiring story out of Iowa here.
This is truly the clearest illustration of our deep and sacred connection to each other. Ubuntu. I am because we are.
Jen never leaves her house without a smile on her face. Because of her heroic effort to maintain normalcy, few know the extent of her physical challenges. And even fewer are aware of the emotional and psychological impact her condition creates in the life of her family. Beyond this day to day stress, Jen is also wise to the difficult road to recovery post transplant.
Behind her beautiful smile is the anxiety of a mother and wife, a daughter and a friend. A dancer at heart, Jen is choreographing the routine of her life, a sacred flow between fear and hope. Jen is fighter and she knows no greater weapon than Love. And as her old friend, I can attest that she’s got plenty of that… within her and all around her.
Note: Jen asked me to share her story for 3 reasons: 1) to help her friends and family understand her condition on multiple levels 2) to educate the public about kidney disease and transplant, and 3) to give voice to her pain, so that the energy of the “kindness community” can help her and her family heal.
Jen was very critical of the words I chose to tell her story, as she did not want this to read as a plea for a donor. More than anyone I know, she recognizes the fragility of life and the commitment we make to our children when we bring them into the world… or, in Jen’s case, into our family. My old friend is a realist with an enormous heart… and she wants nothing from you but your prayers.
To share some love with Jen as she continues on her healing journey, contact her at email@example.com.
Nicki Peasley is a student of life and a teacher of love. In the past, she developed curricula and worked (played and learned and told stories) with elementary and middle school youth. Now, she is living in the question of what’s next. Perhaps just being human is more than enough.