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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
January 19, 2013
One of my dreams is to be an old lady one day that slinks around in the night leaving notes of graffiti love…today I was grateful for a winter walk after being inside just one moment, one hour, one day too long and for these words. The words were left down the corridor of stairs that lead to the river…we are bound to others.
Came home to find out the words are from Cloud Atlas. (i guess now i must see the movie)
The full text from Cloud Atlas is:
“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future. ” – Robert Frobisher
January 18, 2013
Ohhhh, there are just some nights you will always remember… tell us the ones that are still bright and clear from your childhood on Soul Parenting today.
January 10, 2013
“Remember when I nursed for 11 years and woke up one day and just couldn’t anymore?”
“Remember when we co-slept for 12 years and then one morning I decided it was over?”
“Remember when you worked that exhausting manual labor job to keep food on the table and never complained once and I took care of everything at home and worked side jobs for the first decade of our marriage (and complained a lot) and then we were completely exhausted for like 2 years?” I asked him.
“Yeah, I totally remember all that.” he said while folding the 13th load of laundry.
“Yeah, I kinda feel like that about everything right now. Now that I finally have a vision and plan for KindnessGirl after all these years, I mostly want to hang out, make new friends (especially artists) and take pictures of all of that and just love on people in RVA. …oh, and I want to not really take care of the house at all…like ever again.”
“I think you should do it.” he said. …and in the next breath, “Hey, did you just drop these on the floor?!” as he picked up a clean pair of jeans that I had indeed chucked when I decided not to wear them due to a food baby I have been growing.
“Haaaaa, I think I am turning into YOU and you are turning into ME!” …and that is sort of wonderful for both of us.
…because there have been so many days of way too early mornings, 13,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made, late arrivals to preschool with disheveled children, heart shaped watermelon cuts, late nights of toddler acrobatic nursing sessions, taking on two more writing and photography gigs than I should, looking to find $2.43 in my checking account with 3 days away from pay day, waiting for witching hours to be over, dragging babies and small children to the grocery store in footy pajamas, wishing he didn’t have to work 80 hour work weeks and phone calls to sisters to talk you off some parenting ledge, and crying because it feels too big, just too much…and telling yourself that it’s all okay, because it is.
…and for every one of those parts of life that are hard, there are 10 more that are dear and good. …and some days you remind yourself you come from generations of privilege and tell yourself to shut-the-hell-up,
and other days you just cling tightly to those to get you through
and then other days you swim in everything good and feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
You still carry it all, because you are the mom. It’s your job, it’s the call before you and because you want to do it…you chose it…you really do love it.
and yet many days I felt alone…in the weight, in the beauty, in the warrior moments of love.
…but we will always do what love asks of us…and now I am seeing more and more, so will the people we love, the very same people that we have loved into the world.
It was a hard day all around, I was dealing with a bruised ego from some other life lesson. They seem to never end. I couldn’t quite find the words to say, ” I just feel so shitty about myself today guys, it’ll pass, it always does…”.
Instead I was quiet and sullen. I tried to rally with a trip to rock hop but Lyra had a head first meeting with the iron gate and couldn’t quite recover from a swollen eye and so offended such an object would hurt her. She then stepped in a huge hole in a rock and was muddy waist down, this sent her over the edge.
The whole crew decided they didn’t want what I was planning for dinner and begged for something else. I was too tired to hold court and was secretly relieved to get a trip to the grocery store by myself. It’s totally a new experience to finally have a child old enough to stay at home and have moments in the car filled with silence.
“Mom, can I do anything for you?” Josiah asked. I knew he felt me, even without my words because kids in middle school know the pains of bruised egos and life lessons.
“No…I don’t think so.” … because we are programmed to take care of our children, not our children take care of us. …and this is how it should be. But I pulled the ever the strong, I-can-keep-it-together and everything-is-fine matriarch schtick…which I think is probably a load of crap. …for all of us.
I shopped and returned home to find a bathed Lyra, watching a show quietly on the couch with a calm heart. …and Lucy and Josiah sitting at the kitchen table finishing her homework- he helped her do 2 days worth and write a story. More than I could ever accomplish at one sitting.
…and in that moment, like so many other moments both good and bad in life, I was melted. …because this was more than mother and son and family dynamics, it was about being human. He was helping me because he knew I was struggling, he helped because I wasn’t doing such a good job on my own, he was doing it because we are carrying it together.
He knows this, deep in his heart just because of the beauty of who he is, because of the pain of feeling less than at times, and because of our love, our imperfect and big love.
I feel less alone in some ways as I watch them grow into older, bigger people…and the wave of parental solitude will come again…but even then, I know….we are all human, we all know pain, we all love, we are all carrying it together.
January 8, 2013
If we can find the place…
where our hearts are bigger than our egos
where we step into the joy of being
where we trust the deepest parts of our truest selves
where play is the thing
where all people can love freely and are supported and protected
where everybody’s mama is your mama
where we fall over all our faults and broken parts and keep crawling or rise back up
where we embrace the world for everything she is and is not
where we love big and in messy ways
where we become gentle with our tender hearts and others
where good food and shelter are in everyone’s reach
where we believe in good and the goodness of others
where we hold the space for a change no one around us thinks is possible
where we hold prayers and hope close
where we look with eyes wide open at suffering and can no longer abide it
where we live to create and create to live
where all we can see is all that matters
where we treat each other like blood, like brothers and sisters, even if we get on each others nerves
where we believe we can heal each other
where we hold tight to our shared humanity
…where we stand boldly in kindness
this is where I am going…this is what I want to be part of creating with all of my messed up heart…this is what I want to leave for my children.
…because kindness changes everything.
January 5, 2013
I love art…I love art so much I would marry it and have bunches of creative babies with it. It grounds me, I go to it when I feel lost, I look to art to help me figure out the parts I can’t express or discover parts I never knew were there.
I often say, “I think art may just save us all in the end.”
I believe it will rescue my city…you can feel a shift even now.
This is why I am so blissed out to have access to so many beautiful works of soul and truth so close to me at The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. There are even moments I feel like I am at a mini-MoMA .
I want my kids to know the power of creating, to connect with the artist that lives inside all of us- even the math loving, linear types- art is everywhere, in everything. I want varied art, lots of public and street art to be part of their every day lives. I want museums to feel like home.
So off we went. …and of course there is always the obligatory reciting of the “museum don’t touch” rules first.
Chihuly was here…Chihuly is magic and pretty much how small children see the world I bet.
They didn’t even mind waiting in line for tickets.
It also helped there was a very rad app to play with too. The kids were out of their minds.
Some time to kill means a minute to feed children already way past their lunch time… but these are the sacrifices you are willing to make for art- food can wait but it’s kinda nice when you don’t have to…and there is yummy food to eat and something pretty to look through. AND you discover there will be a My Neighbor Totoro showing at this magical place too!
…and then the Chihuly magic mixed with the art magic mixed with the family magic…it’s a beautiful thing.
They wandered around in awe of beauty and color…I don’t even think they spoke for a bit.
…and then they did. They had questions of wonder and calculation…how does he DO that?
…and then it’s over and you suddenly wish you weren’t walking to the car.
…and you are delighted to hear one kid proclaim that she is going to have a show at the museum some day…which is pretty much the loveliest thing this art lover has ever heard. …and even if she doesn’t, it so nice to know art can light her way.
*just so you know, no one paid me anything, or gave me any free tickets to the museum for this post- just an art girl at heart sharing the loveliest of days.
January 1, 2013
My laptop is full…literally, full of so many moments and kindness missions. Here are a few that we held as a kindness community this year:
It was a wonderful way to start the year, to be connected to each other and offer some respect and gratitude.
the great day of garbage gratitude- thanks Joe, Lionel and BJ!
I started a new gig blogging for The Huffington Post- which has been so weird for me, still never sure what to write about over there and have lots of writer anxiety about that gig…hoping I can get in the flow in 2013.
My dear friend Jen and I started the I Trust Women project…learned so much through that whole experience…about myself and voice in the world. I lost quite a bit of followers from sharing my views and heart, it was hard to know that some would disagree with my decision but also really important for my development as a person and a woman.
A couple of really lovely people in my life joined me in an offer to write encouraging notes to anyone that might need it. True story: I am STILL returning the requests…so please don’t worry if you haven’t heard from me, they are still coming. I just hope it is at the right time, even so late.
I became friends the wise and soulful Suzanne Vinson and together we released Kindness Changes Everything stickers…it was so, so wonderful to watch the truth of everything we believe in with all our hearts on KindnessGirl pop up all over the world. It was humbling and so exciting!
It was the first time I tried one of those crazy ideas I was always hesitant to try. I showed me that our city and people are so ready and open for whatever kindness our heart is calling us to. We can trust ourselves and the path of kindness.
a side note: a few initial negative comments made this article about the project by StyleWeekly go bananas… I was even grateful for those, it (and kindness of course) helped it move in a way I would have never expected. We are guessing there are about 2K wands out in the world.
Suzanne and I also learned about being Brave and Kind when we released this sweet piece of S’s beautiful art.
June brought the I Am Kind campaign after Karen Klein was verbally assaulted on a school bus. So many rallied around this woman who endured something so awful. It exposed all the goodness in the world when people poured a million dollars in care for her and gave us an opportunity to show our commitment as fellow human beings to stand in kindness in a new way in our communities.
We also partnered with our dear friends from American Bear and created Kindness Captured. A nasty storm made for lots of downed trees and foiled our plans here in RVA but I hope to still get a chance to do this project in 2013.
I felt so humbled and really grateful to Bill Lohmann from the Richmond Times Dispatch for an article he wrote about Kindnessgirl and my life of trying to do kindness work. I loved it because he really heard me and the article was so honest, he really shared my heart and hopes for this work mixed with my flaws and broken parts.
I decided to write a book and received so much love and support from you all. After that I promptly fell apart, I was so down…and I am still not quite sure if it was the book or what…but I felt very overwhelmed and had a really hard time seeing/knowing the truth about myself and my life, and this work.
It was quiet, and I spent most of the month trying to get my head on straight again and getting my kids back to school. The sweetest part of this time was that Jorge took care of me. He was my mini-depression doula. He knew just what to do to guide me through…he knew that place himself and I felt safe in his knowledge and care. It was good to receive, and to just be needy…and to know just a little about how he felt and all he went through. This was also the month that we celebrated being married for 14 years and 20 together. 20!!! so crazy…
Gratitude called me back to my work and to my place in the world. When you can start sinking deep into that place, it feels like everything else sort of follows. I made a gratitude wall with my girls inspired by Kliewer family’s wall of goodness.
Ohhhhh, it was reDONKulous….4 speaking gigs, 3 projects and couple writing deadlines all in the span of 10 days. It was the culmination of a very hectic year. I took on way more than I should have and finally learned some huge lessons.
I also launched (with some friends from Shop Class RVA) Tag, You’re It RVA!, a city wide game of tag.
It was all about Soul…in November I started Soul Parenting - a Facebook page for folks to share stories and pictures about the messy love that each family holds. …because I believe we were never meant to do it alone.
I vowed, determined, prayed that all the work was done for the year. Rest was so needed, I think I cried at the drop of a hat at that point…but the universe had a different plan. The first week of December I had 4 different calls and meetings about the development of KindnessGirl and where we are heading. It was brutal because I was asked to look at things I had been avoiding and at a complete loss of what to do.
One really pivotal meeting with Tiffany Jana, Matthew Freeman and Carra Rose from TMI Consulting started the avalanche of clarity. They approached me to help with a project and ended up helping me with something completely different. They were wise and kind. The truth of where I was at was laid out in such a way that I could finally hear it and SEE it…and myself.
An amazing plan and incredible clarity unfolded at lightning speed after all that, and I think I have a really good plan/hope/dream for inviting kindness into our lives in a new and broader way…and to start clearly communicating and standing in all that this thing holds and is about.
I was feeling so content and happy to have a plan and direction…and was thinking the work for the year was really, truly over when the Sandy Hook tragedy happened. *big, big heavy sigh* It was almost impossible to do anything, the grief and sadness were so big and so many were holding it so deeply. We shut ourselves off from the media world for our kids but I knew we were going to have to tell our kids at some point.
And the last project of the year was inspired from that talk, In honor of Emilie…and I learned once again that kindness rises in the darkest moments, that we as a people met the darkest dark with the brightest light…and that the only way to restore any hope and truly honor those lost is to be kind. It was so painful and sad. Still sending so much love to those families…may kindness hold them as they hold grief so tightly. May we continue to honor those they love with our kind acts.
When I started to write this post I honestly had no idea all that was done this year. I rarely even think of the projects and the creating, crafting and promoting once they are done. Everything rises from everyday life and then we move on to the next thing. It’s good to look at it all together, and see all the paths we walked together.
I feel a deep gratitude to you all. Thank you for being part of this with me, for giving and loving, for seeking and finding kindness…together. Your kindness to me means more than you know…
much love for 2013… it will be bold and require bravery my friends. I am excited and a little scared but very,very sure that kindness changes everything.
December 31, 2012
I called months ago… “Mom, when are you coming to my house during your Christmas visit?” I asked.
My parents always divide the time between the kids over just a few days.
“I don’t know, when do you want me to come?” she said.
Lyra shouted from the back seat, “For CHRISTMAS!”
“Sounds great!” my mom shouted back…and that was that.
Because we found each other again this fall and before I even knew it, I invited the whole family to our house for Christmas Eve. I think I re-wrote the e-mail 5 times…wanting it to be right. Still cautious and hopeful as we build our family back together again. I knew it would be crazy and A LOT…a lot of all kinds of things.
…goodness, intensity, magic…but mostly it was a lot of FUN! We needed fun and it was everything New York was but with more people to love.
You know it’s a good Christmas…
…when the new boyfriend in the family insists you go out to dinner alone with your man the night before all the madness, and you come home to balloons, kids holding homemade signs and lots of intention to love you.
…when you have to navigate dynamics before anyone even gets there that would have sunk you before but now is a sister triumph of sorts…and you love each other and yourselves even more at the end.
…when you wake up so early before everyone is up to get your craft on, make a beautiful table with sweet pictures and create something new you are SURE is Pinterest worthy, even if it’s not, just the idea alone thrills you.
…the kids sit at the wrong end of the 2o foot table where all the space is and bring a new card game to play during dinner…and the adults sit huddled together bumping in to each other, close and real.
…the introverts are huddled in the kitchen pouring another glass of wine or jack and coke to make it through, they love it, they love us but liquid courage helps.
…when everyone willingly decides to take a giant ass family picture because it means a lot to your mother…and in the end, you fall in love with all the funny pictures.
…and you pour through the out-takes realizing those shoes are never tied no matter how many times you tie them and sweet moments of family love you missed.
…when one foodie sister is whipping up the best peppermint hot chocolate of your life, the other is breaking out the flying wish paper…and everyone makes a wish, watches it fly and catches it as it floats to the ground.
…and you watch the generations of soul love and ritual wisdom being passed down to your kids right before your eyes.
…you remember you still have some sparklers stashed away that you have been holding on to for just a moment like this.
…and you can’t remember a more beautiful night.
…and just when you think it can’t get any sweeter, your sister performs her Christmas pageant number from the 6th grade while your mother is beaming like a Toddlers and Tiara episode. …and then you dance together.
…it was magical and messy.
…and then you lay in bed for literally 2 days after everyone leaves because you are completely exhausted and because you haven’t done such a thing in like 3 years…and you are happy…and exhausted.
You know it was 7 hours together, and who knows if it was so magical because you know how hard it was before…and you know how hard it still is…but you don’t think about it too much because there was a pretty table, too much ham, wishes and fireworks, small children blissed out with cousins, old people filled with joy, and dancing…and messy, messy love.
December 27, 2012
“That’s just not the way the world works Pache…” he said.
“I KNOW…I know that, I don’t care! …but I am part of creating a new world. ” I said.
It was heated, he was playing devil’ s advocate. He was just trying to protect me.
…but there is no protection from this dream.
He can’t protect me from this. It scares me a little… and I am overwhelmed.
In that moment, I felt a little crazy and a bit defeated…and doubtful.
…but not enough to stop me.
because sometimes to just have to believe in something that seems completely impossible to everyone around you,
hold tight to a hope that the world can be a certain way (or already is),
trust that we can love in the deepest dark,
know that we can change or find something in ourselves that was always there but we just didn’t know how to let it out,
stand crazy bold in that one thing can change everything,
because nothing changes until someone believes it can.
…so today I am trail blazin’ in the dark. …and I am keenly aware of all the work ahead… and I know on a new level the costs of a dream and the strength required…the risk of creativity and hope…
…and I feel the weight and complication of the world and yet the simplicity and power of kindness.
in the end, the truth always rises… the call is too loud to ignore.
…and I am holding tight to this book today. Thanks Blullers!
December 19, 2012
I am watching Kindness go viral right before my eyes. It seems like the only response to bring honor to those lost and return hope to the world.
Thank you Ann Curry for using your power to call it in in such a profound way.
May we meet the darkest dark with the brightest light.
Much love to you all…
December 17, 2012
I waited to tell her as long as I could…I knew she would take the news deep into her heart.
She is inquisitive.
She is soulful.
She is seven.
I scooped her into my arms, we climbed in bed and I tucked the covers all around us…with some false assumption that we would feel safe there.
“I have something I have to tell you Lucy…” I said. I followed the guide, trying to remember everything it said as I carefully laid out the story to her.
When I was done, she was quiet. We sat for what felt like an eternity…until she spoke. It was almost a whisper.
“Mom, that is very, very sad.” she replied quietly.
“It is baby, it is.” I agreed. Just a moment later she spoke again.
“Can you tell me the kid’s names?” she asked.
I went through the list of children I remembered…then I stopped when I got to Emilie.
“There was a little girl who was six and she loved art, she carried her crayons and paper every where she went so she could make pictures for people.” I explained.
“I love to do that too.” she said.
“I know. I am wondering if there is something we can do to honor Emilie.”
I proposed we sew tiny art coloring books like we have so many times before . The little books kept children busy in restaurants and car rides, it seems all roads lead to art in my house…and in Emilie’s. I asked Lucy if she wanted to take the books and tie some crayons up with them in packages and leave them at the park and library, places where kids could find the small gift in honor of Emilie…in honor of a fellow 1st grade artist.
Lucy liked the idea and asked me what I thought the other children liked. I said I didn’t know but maybe we could find out.
My heart was breaking, thinking of how long the list of likes must be…of simple things like art and cars and games.
…and how there won’t be any new drawings from Emilie on a refrigerator somewhere, or no more laying on her belly on the living room floor drawing pictures with her sisters, or a sweet presentation of crayon art to a grandpa or someone else she loved…but I can imagine Emilie, like Lucy would have been delighted to find a little art kit on a playground or on a bus bench.
So this is what we will do, with so much sadness and honor in our hearts, we will talk about Emilie and the others when they rise in our hearts…and we will look for ways to love and honor all the parts of them that brought so much joy to the world.
You are welcome to join us this week. Here’s how:
1.Gather white and colored paper. We used a sewing machine and the fancy stiches to bind the little books together. Kids love to sew and the bright colors make the books so sweet. (please know you can do this project with or without kids)
2. If you aren’t crafty or don’t have time, the dollar store and places like Target have great little crayon sets and drawing pads.
3. Attach the crayons and put the art kits in a basket and leave at places kids might find them. Playgrounds, parks, libraries, bus stops, the gym or music classes. You can also leave the kits places by themselves with out the baskets in random spots.
4. Leave a note with each kit saying, “In honor of Emile. She loved to draw and share her art.”
No more explanation is really needed.
If you plan to join us, you can post pictures on the Guerrilla Goodness Facebook page.
Today, we honor you Emilie…thank you for what you gave to the world.
December 16, 2012
…it’s one of those times I don’t know what to do. I just keep looking at my own seven year old with her deep brown eyes and soulful heart… and wondering how I am going to send her off to school tomorrow. I know logically she will be fine but I can’t shake the feeling of a safety gone or being undone at the core.
…and there are no words.
…and we draw closer and hold tighter to those we love.
…and we wonder and wish there was something we could do. anything. ..because the sadness is so deep and the whole world is grieving.
In the end, we just have each other, our love, our sadness and kindness. Lots of you in the Kindnessgirl community have reached out and wanted to come together in some way. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to plan anything, nothing feels like enough, and I just wanted to hold my kids on the couch and watch movies, read books. Then I realized I could lean into you all and your ideas…that our love could be simple and quiet… that even in our grief, we are in this together.
So here are a few ideas from our community, you will know the one meant for you:
1. If you are looking for something to do with kids and other family members for the Sandy Hook Elementary School Community, please send notes of love to
Sandy Hook Elementary School
12 Dickenson Drive
Sandy Hook, CT 06482
If you are wondering how to talk to your kids about the tragedy, my dear friend Ann Reavey (a school guidance counselor) has a wonderful post full of resources here.
This is also a great article for helping the victims and info on what organizations are doing what.
2. On Monday night, light a candle or leave a candle with a blue or colored bulb in your front window in love for all those lost and the people that loved them so deeply. This can be a sign of our solidarity and support. You can send a picture of your candle or your family with a light to our Guerrilla Goodness Facebook page.
3. Do one act of kindness for a child today in honor of those little boys and girls lost, and the teachers that protected and loved them…you can share your act or ideas in the comments.
3. Just wondering how everyone is feeling today….sometimes just sharing our stories draws us closer together and makes us feel less alone. Please feel free to use this as your community space to grieve and share whatever your heart is holding. The comment section is your seat at the circle today.
May kindness and love lead us now…may we hold tight to each other.
December 14, 2012
re-posting this from April 2007. Feeling so heavy and deeply sad for the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy…I found this piece I wrote after the Virginia Tech Massacre years ago. Sending so much love to every mother that grieves tonight…as we hold our own babies a little tighter.
updated on 12/14/12 to add photo by Tisha McCuiston - Josiah today at 12 years of age
I held a boy almost too big for my arms this morning. Josiah buried his face in my chest and let out a long cry. I assured him it’s good to cry, that feelings like to be free. The ones that are bottled up hate it and find other ways to sneak out.
Today the tears are a result of being scared, afraid that he’ll never remember the 7 facts about squid. It’s been all about squid here- squid art, squid books, even pin-the-tentacle on the squid game. This is just too much for a 7 year old, a 30 minute presentation pretending to be the teacher. The burden weighs on josiah’s mind and heart.
I suggest squid power pancakes as they are magic. If you eat them you will remember all that you need to know about squid and be able to tell anyone and everyone about their amazingness. I kiss these tears and an agreement is made that it is indeed time for the power pancakes can bring.
My puffy eyed boy runs to take a bath and I start my day of 1 million tasks.
I have a hard time focusing. I imagine there is some other mother somewhere not far from me that is starting her day. Only this mother is wishing that yesterday was simply a nightmare and surely her sweet boy is anxious about a presentation he must make for his professor. Instead she attends convocations, picks out a casket, in shock and numb. How will she face today without that boy, how can he be gone?
Even further away yet another mother faces a deeper dark. Her son’s pain and action changed people’s lives forever. The weight is too great for anyone to bear and I can not pretend to know what will keep her soul from drowning.
I can only imagine that these women wish today was the day they were holding little boys almost too big for their arms. The day where pancakes heal the aches of the soul, the day where fears can be conquered with kisses and tears.
The candle on my kitchen altar still glows from yesterday. The holy mother stares at me while I do the dishes. Her face knows great pain and sadness. May she hold these mothers close to her bosom, may she come to them in their deepest dark, may she grant them comfort and peace. amen
for jarrett’s mom
December 6, 2012
When the universe has you and you know it, you see it…it feels this tender, this sweet.
I have had a whirlwind couple of weeks. I thought I was finished with projects and plans for the year and was settling in to hibernate when 2 e-mails and a few calls came in. …the kind of calls that fall into your lap and are very clearly from the universe. Before I knew it, meetings about the future of Kindnessgirl were in full force…humbling, honest conversations that asked me to look at everything and answer questions about things I have worried about and skated around for a long, long time.
Each talk and offering of wisdom revealed all that is no longer serving me, and maybe for the first time ever, I am becoming very clear about how my values will project the future around here. …and all the things that I care about so deeply are shaping a really beautiful and unconventional way of being and doing in the world.
“…because we do this for art and beauty and love.” she said.
yes, yes we do.
and the tiny voice in my head that always wondered if and how we can do this bigger dream is leaving…the fear being replaced with a deep excitement and a kind of relief that comes when you finally surrender to your heart and step into the power that has been waiting for you.
it’s good guys, really good…and I don’t mean to be so vague…but the ground swell of kindness is coming and it’s going to be bigger than any of us imagined…because we all hold it…because we all need it… because we are in it together…because kindness changes everything.
so tonight I am tired, but a good tired…and I will sleep knowing the universe is holding it and we only have to wake up and follow.