happy thanksgiving…

November 22, 2012

Feeling particularly full and happy this Thanksgiving morning…and so very grateful. It’s the kind of quiet, deep thanks where all is well in your heart.  Hope you have all you hold dear around you today and if not, that kindness finds you when you need it most.

Much love to you all…

what gratitude can hold…

November 21, 2012

It’s starting….the gratitude lists, the thankfulness trees, the season of giving. The time when we take stock of all that we have. When we weigh and score it, and go back to recognizing that our most basic needs are met.

We remind ourselves that we have food (even if it’s ramen noodles), and shelter (even if we always pay the rent late) and are healthy (or mostly healthy, except for that annoying eczema) and it’s true, it’s all so very true and good and important…

…but why is it that this time of year also reminds you of everything you don’t have and shows the craters in your heart that need filling more than you want to know.  Your awkward conversations with your family drive you to liquor up for the 48 hours ahead… or that you shopped at the thrift store of food, the grocery salvage….or that it feels like everyone is in love around you and ridiculously happy…or you want to have your old family together and wish you didn’t have to travel between parents and be with your annoying stepmom…or you just wish that you had a baby to pass around or sit on your hip as you make the green bean supreme and 100 other side dishes.

It feels as though Gratitude asks us to stuff that shit or put it down completely, be GRATEFUL, damn it…and you do, you are, because we want to grateful. …but I wonder if Gratitude never asked us to choose in the first place.

I wonder if she can hold both, because she is that deep, she is that strong, because she knows all of our heart….

I wonder if she is strong enough to hold:

your sadness that your mom isn’t here to cook with you

your clarity of all that matters to you even if it’s sort of messed up

your confusion over why your family is so hard to be with or not together at all

that one prayer your dad still makes everyone pray that means so much to him

your anger for that really old thing that is still wounding you

your souffle triumph

your longing for something more, something whole, a love you haven’t experienced yet

your crazy aunt with all the cats

your frustration that the effin’ turkey is dry every year and no one wants to dress up to come to the table

your deep wish to be in another place in your heart all together

your small moment of happiness when everyone is full and happy after the meal

your kids that can’t sit still and want to bring the DS to the dinner table

your exhaustion from trying to make things special, and will maybe never been seen or acknowledged

your hope that maybe some day, you will be okay on a holiday

your grief, your messy love, your trying


I wonder if we let her hold it, it will make space for all the good things we do not see or think we are supposed to see and feel…and maybe just maybe, they can rise and sit together. Side by side, our everything hard and good…and  maybe that will be okay.

…because sometimes, just okay is okay.

maybe then, we can breathe…and let her hold us too.

her gentle depth and view…

November 20, 2012

When I started Soul Parenting, I knew I wanted to include images of everyday life as they help us see our life as a whole. Pictures that honor the beauty and the mess. Aimee McNamee came to my mind in .02 seconds. I have admired her work for quite some time now and was so excited when she agreed to be part of this project. She has a grace and gentle depth about her, she is wise and kind…and I love her soulful view of her girls, her family and the world. Welcome Amy, we are so grateful you are willing to share your goodness with us.

You can find Aimee’s images weekly on the Soul Parenting Facebook Page and daily on the Aimee McNamee Photography Facebook page. 






About Aimee:

Aimee is a self-taught photographer and a former middle school Language Arts teacher whose life also includes stacks of books next to her bed, good food cooking on the stove, a love of art, warm friends with hearty laughs, the need to be outdoors, a glass of red wine at 9 p.m., and a penchant for road trips. She believes People Watching should be an Olympic event. Married to her favorite boyfriend of ten years and the mother to two beautiful little girls, appropriately nicknamed “Turtle” and “Rip & Tear”, she feels like a blessed woman. Aimee is available for lifestyle family/children photography, portraits, and small events.  Her website is under construction, but her facebook photography page can be viewed at: https://www.facebook.com/AimeeTMcNameePhotography

Hi! If you found us through the Kindness story by our friend Sabrina Squire on NBC 12, welcome!  We teamed up with The Cheats Movement and NBC12 for a day of kindness tag. You can find out how Tag, You’re It RVA started here.

We hope you will join us in the city-wide game of kindness!

You can find the game cards at Garnett’s Cafe (thanks Kendra!) and at World of Mirth (thanks Thea!), you can also download the cards and then print on your own! download- (front and back).

Follow along with us and read the kindness unfolding in RVA on our Facebook page here.

Happy Thanksgiving friends! We are so grateful for the good people of our kind city!

photo courtesy of Marc Cheathem

listening to the trees…

November 18, 2012

My dear friend Nicki Peasley guest posts for me today…I often lean forward when she speaks, just waiting for her wisdom and goodness. She holds space in a really tender way, you can read more of her soul magic here and here.

Listening to the Trees

 I have been hugging lots of trees lately.  In gratitude for their unconditional love for us crazy humans.  No matter how careless we are, the trees continue to offer us their beauty, inspiration (literally), solace from the rest of the world… their lives.

Trees have no ego.  While I sense their acceptance of human appreciation, they don’t expect it.  They don’t need it. They are here to watch over us.  Still and all powerful.  Yet so very vulnerable.

Before Hurricane Sandy came through, my kids and I went around our neighborhood hugging the trees, infusing them with our compassion and wishing them strength through the storm. And once again, even on the brink of what could have been their destruction, they offered us their compassion, their strength.  No fear, only this amazing sense of calm and acceptance for what is, what will be.

There are conversations among the trees.  And if we listen with open hearts, we can even hear them speaking softly to us.   This is what they tell me.

“Slow down. Take a moment to stop. Plant your feet in the earth.  Intermingle your roots with ours.  Extend your branches and feel yourself filling with the sun pouring in through your crown. Allow any leaves that are no longer serving you to fall to the ground. And hold loosely the leaves that still adorn your being.  For they too will fall in time.  Trust… and surrender. “

I carry the tree’s wisdom with me throughout my days.  I watch the world through the eyes of our wooded friends to see the endless human race and all of its dynamics.

The champion, leading the pack with easeful and brilliant stride; those determined to be the champion, passion in their eyes; the walkers, who just keep moving, unattached to any outcome; the cheering crowd, dancing and merrymaking on the sidewalks; the injured, defeated and hopeless… and those tender souls who care for them.

We have all played each of these roles at some time in our lives, perhaps even several at a time.    But unless we take time to stop (even the champion can stop for a moment) to honor the raw vulnerability of every human experience, we are missing out on the message of the trees.

I’ve had a cramp (to extend the metaphor) the last few months. And while it has loosened its grip on me, I am still not quite ready to start running again.  Often, I veer off the course entirely, finding myself in the woods… with the trees.

And then I return to the streets, to the activity of living.  The people run by me, toward their next achievement, their next accolade, the crowd cheering for them. And I notice the volume of my ego increasing.  “Get moving, girl.  You’ve got stuff to do. You’re wasting time.  Make your vision a reality.  This just being isn’t enough. Go. Go. Go.”

But I am quick to catch myself in this destructive pattern. And I am learning to find great contentment in being the tree. Appreciating each season of release, stillness, rebirth, and awakening.  Watching and acting with intention, without attachment to ego, and manifesting simple gestures born of Spirit.

At the beginning of the month, I started a Grow Gratitude movement at my youngest child’s school.  I experience gratitude as the purest and most profound way to connect to self and other.  To focus on what’s right in our lives and in our world, instead of what’s wrong. To appreciate others not for a gift but for being the gift.  To open ourselves up to all the little miracles of every moment.

And to see this understanding unfold at an elementary school is nothing short of magic.

Ms. Campbell’s Class, getting primed for a whole school Gratitude Gathering in which they use their voices and sign language to express the community’s collective appreciation.

On the playground making gratitude chains (to wrap around the cafeteria) and gratitude bracelets. What is making your heart sing in this moment?

A lucky ladybug joining the Lovefest.

“Fox Rocks,” hidden around the school.  When you find one, express your gratitude to another and pass it on… (these rocks had been soaking up the wisdom of the trees forever… and agreed to leave the woods to spread some love among the humans)

For faculty and staff, a message attached to a love stone. (Suzanne Vinson’s amazing art work)

Love leads us to beautiful places when we allow it to.  And on that journey, we are wise to stop every now and then to hug a tree and listen to the message it has for us.  Then, when we are ready to start running again in that crazy human race, it will be with joy and ease and Heaven in our feet.

A meditation to do with your children on Thanksgiving Day…which is really any and every day.


Close your eyes or look down.  You may place your hands on your heart or rest them on your legs.  Take a slow deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth so that a very soft sound is made.  Picture yourself surrounded by beautiful light.  As you breathe in, inhale the light and feel your body filling with it.   And as you breathe out, exhale all the yucky stuff that has taken up space in you—any pain, any anger, any worries.. let them all go in your breath. So that you feel completely at peace in your body, in your mind, in your heart, and in your spirit.

Now imagine yourself in a safe and happy place.  Maybe you are on beach, in the forest, in a cozy room, on a mountaintop.  Sit comfortably in your special place and feel the peace it offers you.  Now, as if you are watching a movie that is your life…

See all the places that bring you joy (your home, your school, the swimming pool, the beach…) What places make you smile?

Now see the things that bring you joy (pizza, your bike, your computer, your favorite stuffed animal…)  What things make you smile?

Now see all the experiences that you have enjoyed in your life (vacations, soccer games, birthday parties, holidays…) What experiences make you smile?

Now, most importantly see all the people you are grateful for (your parents, your brothers and sisters, your friends, your teacher, your coach…) Who makes you smile?

Allow that smile to show on your face and feel the gratitude that is bursting out of your heart.  Offer the sign for thank you.  Give yourself a hug.  And slowly, open your eyes.  May you hold this feeling of peace and gratitude in your hearts always.


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.

what i see now…

November 16, 2012

“Oh God, please tell me I am cuter than that right? right?!” …this is my standard sentence after looking at a picture of myself.

There are no full length mirrors in my house for a reason. …and I have always felt 100% more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. It’s hard to be seen, it’s difficult to allow someone else to see you, and maybe the most challenging to see yourself.

Claim vanity or blame a completely screwed up view of beauty in the world, or maybe it is just the heinous double chin…but I am getting closer to letting it go. You see, every time we are with our friends Dan and Ashley, I just want to take pictures of them- they are dear and there is a newness about them (and their love) I feel should be documented ALL THE TIME. I see their hearts and tenderness every time we are together.

And always, it never fails, Ashley always insists that she take pictures of us. …and part of me always dreads it…and yet something inside of me (maybe it just starts in a place of wanting to be polite) decides I will just let her do it. I am anticipating seeing my belly fat, my wrinkles, a full face…because my eye has been trained to see all that is wrong with me.

…but something weird and magical happens every time she takes our picture….I see all those things, they are totally still there and part of me still cringes at first… but I have started to see something else too.

I see:

eyes that have seen all of that partner, all of the darkness and light, and are still full of love

years of struggle and joy in togetherness

a super bad hair growing experiment

people that needed that break so bad and are full of relief

friends who are eating way too much buffalo chicken dip

tired faces from finding our way through

people that have a boatload of kids and need more time alone

all the reasons we dig each other

a splash of courage to not care in the moment and may have total picture regret to put it all out there in the morning

the beauty of still not knowing how it all works

…and part of me started to let go and wonder if…

maybe your worst side is actually your best side

maybe your moment of vulnerability captured is your secret power

maybe what really is IS more beautiful

maybe how we feel and love each other is the sweeter memory anyway

maybe we don’t have to wait 30 years to be kind to our 35 year old self

maybe if we all let ourselves be seen, we may all feel a helluva lot better about ourselves and the world

maybe our lives are more beautiful than we know

…and yes, my ass was inspired to go running the next day to take better care of myself and Jorge promptly cut his hair that night…and I still feel so locked up in the ways I see myself but I also feel this tiny bit of new freedom…to let it be, and that the moments of love and goodness and doubt and ugly and triumph and family should trump it all.

I want more than anything when I am old, to remember and see how we tried to love. …double chin and all.

love me like this…

November 10, 2012


They sat just like this for close to 4 hours, opening their eyes only during the contractions to help find their way through. He never moved a muscle. I got home and poured through the pictures in total awe of all they held… together.

I pulled just this one picture and took it to my husband to show him…”Look at this love, THIS is a serious love.”

“I love you like that.” he said plainly. …and I knew he did, he does. I walked away from this birth inspired to try to let him and others love me in new ways. …in times that feel long like a birth and my soul is exhausted or moments when I am vulnerable, because there is incredible strength there.

Megan and Matt taught me so much in their birth, in the ways they care for each other, how they worked together…they were wise beyond their years. It was an amazing birth, I am so honored they allowed me to be there and that they are willing to share, because it was powerful and profound.

What a blessed little boy…what a sweet family.

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soul parenting…

November 7, 2012

She was unkind this week…in a way I have never seen her be…but her walk to making amends was so sweet- showing me all she holds inside.

Part of me was embarrassed and perplexed by her meanness and other parts of me knew the vulnerable place you stand when you make a decision you know is just not good. Not good for you or the other person…but sometimes you just do it anyway.

I was  hard on her, she was tender and contrite…and then I took this picture of her and saw her little soul…no, her giant, too big for her body soul…and then I felt tender and contrite.

And we just aren’t that different from each other, kids, parents, families…we are all doing our best to care for each other while we make our own way in the world. Nobody knows what they are doing most of the time, but there are moments when you do, your intuition is bright and wide…and you grab the hand of the person behind you and you lead the way.

Sometimes it’s your kids, sometimes it’s your partner leading, sometimes it’s a bum on the street or the checkout girl.

I want to be a soulful parent- one that isn’t afraid to make mistakes and try to sort them out with my kids, one that can come in and save the day the way only I can, one that leans into family love, one that freaks out when no one is picking up their clothes off the floor, one that makes space and trusts others to lead the way, one that says sorry, one that is confused but cares, one that holds tight to her partner (even when we are on each other’s nerves), one that holds hope, one that makes space for everyone to be themselves, one that gathers, loves and believes.

So, I created Soul Parenting … it’s a page on Facebook 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.

It’s a place to tell us about your shitty day or parenting survival, the ways you find your kid’s heart, the things that surprised you, the parts where you have failed and totally triumphed…the real deal of everyday life while holding the intention to carry each other as we seek to be soulful parents and families…together.

I am trusting it to unfold as it is meant to. I will only post when I have something to share or a question to pose…I hope you will do the same. …because lord knows everyone’s soul could use it.


no matter how we vote…

November 6, 2012

…to the woman standing in the long line with her 8 week old in 35 degree weather to vote before work…thank you.

I don’t know how it happened exactly, it just did….maybe we couldn’t  really see each other’s heart or pain, maybe it was just too hard, maybe we needed time, maybe we were angry, maybe too much built up without the words,  maybe we loved each other too much, maybe we were just tired.

Some where along the way, my family of origin sort of fell apart. The bones were there, some little pockets of connection held tight quietly, others grew…my parents still loved us deeply. It was painful and sad…because under it all, my family loved each other fiercely.

I pulled away, I said hurtful things, I showed up when I shouldn’t have and didn’t come when it mattered…I couldn’t find my voice or way. So  I left, we all sort of did in our own way…and at moments that felt okay and required but after awhile you forget that you can go back or you don’t know how…and there are parts of you that are still wounded and you don’t know how that will work.  …and you wonder if anyone else has changed like you have. Maybe we are more fragile than we know.

But it is this fragility and deep tenderness that holds the love, the misunderstood messy love that holds families together, even when it looks like they are in pieces.  After enough time, healing, and a quiet hope brewing, a sort of courage starts to emerge. My mom must have held it or seen it in all her wisdom, or perhaps she just refused to ever let it go…but she asked me and my 3 sisters to meet her in New York City to surprise my dad for his 70th birthday.

My mom never asks us to do anything…ever. It was so easy to say yes to her…but I was nervous. I didn’t know after 2 years of almost no contact with my sisters what it would be like. Actually, I was scared….and there was never any outright fighting, it  was always all the things unsaid, all the things we felt and held, and the tension of trying to love well. …and knowing we had failed each other.  …but the love was bigger, we could handle anything for 72 hours for my parents (with a little liquor help), we would be on our best behavior. I thought I was on a mission of survival.

I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

My sisters, one by one, came bounding into the hotel room with an open heart…I wasn’t prepared for their kindness. It was awkward and sweet…and so very familiar. There was more space to be who we were, there was careful and calculated respect, there were a few tense moments, there was still dysfunction and the family dance, there was great healing, there was humor, there was soul relief… there was so much joy.

My parents were delirious…we all found each other again.

Despite ourselves and after probably a million prayers by my mom.

We went to the opera at the Met. We listened to the life stories of taxi drivers because this is the family superpower- strangers and everything unexpected.

We walked Bellevue and saw the spot where my dad proposed. We heard the pain and joy of all that place held. It was the beginning place of our family.

We ate crazy amazing food. We saw a Broadway show. We went on a hunt for the best street gyro. We shopped. We started a Twitter account. We partied (well, some of us did) and helped with hangovers.

I have never seen my parents so happy…and then we said goodbye and left. Not everything was back to normal, because it can never be that way again but there was a building of something new. Each of us in a new place. …and it all feels like a sorted miracle.

You just never know…

how you can grow.

where your pain can take you.

how the other person might miss you.

how deep your love went.

how much you still need each other.

how important it is to hold on to hope, no matter how small it is.

what can happen next.

I don’t pretend to know how to fix anything or how to heal…I just know you can find each other again…even when it feels like that may never happen. It can. It does. It will.

ain’t love grand…

October 31, 2012

Is it weird to become friends with your student dentist? If you met Julia, this would not seem strange at all. There was never a moment in our entire time together that she made me feel crappy for my lack of flossing…but she did give me a very firm yet kind speech about the virtues of dental hygiene.

In all our afternoons together (unfortunately there were lots due to a very messed up mouth) we spoke of love and boys and faith and photography…and somewhere in all that goodness and a couple crowns, Julia found love too. Brandon is also a dentist- I can only imagine the lovely teeth their kids will have. He has a wise sort of way about him…and you know if Julia chose him, there is something very real and true about him…and good.

So my gift to my dentist was an engagement session…I have mad respect for all you portrait folks, it is so out of my element …but it’s also so sweet to get to be there at the beginning. I always feel this attachment to the babies I have seen be born. To be  allowed to witness the beginning feels so sacred to me…blessings on you J & B, I think you are going to have a sweet, sweet life together.






hurricane prep for kids…

October 28, 2012

It may be a little late, but I am digging up an old post from last year, just in case you have some anxious kids that could use a a little kindness while waiting for the storm. Stay safe friends!

message thrown in with today’s breakfast on the couch along with some cartoons for a dear and worried family member…

I was always a worrier, as long as I can remember. The other side of this sensitivity has taken me down a really beautiful path but the worry part?  Well, that can be tricky at times. Here are a few ideas to help some kids in your life if they happen to be sensitive souls that tend to absorb a lot.

1. Turn the TV off!  Some of us need the information to form a plan or process, most kids? Not so much. Grab your info on the internets, a constant stream of scary language like high winds, flooding and the like only revs the anxiety up. Simple explanations are plenty for kids along with a plan of action to ease the mind and heart.

2. Get your kit on! Let kids be part of the preparing process and make space for a few extras. The Spiderman flashlight is great distraction and awesome for shadow games later. Buy extra batteries so they can leave them on for as long as they want. Being part of a solution always empowers and helps us move our fear to an action place. Kit prep also gives us an opportunity to talk about what may happen after the storm so kids aren’t caught off gaurd.

3. Make a Kid kit too! Besides all the boring stuff like candles and water, have kids put together a small kit of things they love and activities for the storm and after. Now is the time for Bendaroos, small art kits,  sticker books, filling up the Ipod with books, special kid snacks, etc.

4. Make a worry box or candle! Sometimes our worry is just too big to be covered by talking and preparing, sometimes we just need someone else or thing to hold it for us. Take an old shoe box and decorate it with words and pictures that bring us comfort and peace. Make a slot in the top and invite the kids to let the box hold their worries for them for a little bit, leave small squares and markers next to it. Kids don’t even have to be able to write yet, a picture works just as well. I’ve seen many adults drop a note or two in the box too!

We have a little candle on our kitchen counter with some strips of paper and a pen. The wax drips over them, reminding me I am covered.

5. Go Guerrilla with your worry! Parents- leave little notes of love and safety on bed posts, bathroom mirrors and inside the pantry. When kids are tired of talking, it’s nice to have something reminding you in a less direct way.

Kids- If one kid is worried, it probably means others are too. Kids can write their own messages and leave them for other kids  to find in the supply section of the grocery store, at a park or even at the gas station. Sometimes thinking of others makes us feel less alone.

6. Party it up! Kids can only worry or hold heavy thoughts so long. Now is the time for Family DJ Dance party in the living room, or a Monopoly Marathon by candle light, movies and popcorn till the power goes. Enjoy the party and chance to be together in your home for a bit, slowing down can bring all kinds of gifts.

Do you have any ideas that work for you or your kids when the storm in your heart kicks up? Tell us in the comments!

words on repeat…

October 26, 2012

The words on repeat in my head until I believe them…you see, I told you all I am going to write a book. The funny part is right after I let the words hit the air, everything sort of fell apart. It’s kind of hard to take on one of the biggest dreams of your life when you are exhausted, when you have painted yourself in a corner in every direction, when you still suck at saying “no” to projects and commit way over your head*…when your head is telling you all kinds of untruths about yourself, when parts of you really need some healing.

…but apparently, I am told by my writing doula Chris, that this is often how it goes…it’s the perseverance mountain climb of your entire existence and you just have to keep showing up. So I tried in the beginning but I was just still too into all the projects I said I would do…so I did them and cried a lot, and my husband (and the mother superiors in my life) helped me sort through the untruths and a really low time wondering what the hell I was doing, then a few small miracles happened… and now here I am.

Things are still sort of rocky, and I am still very soul tired…but the beautiful thing is that kindness can find you wherever you are…even the places that feel so unreachable in your heart.

A while back, my friend Kaycee offered her home to me so I could write…I jumped at her offer and completely forgot about it.  Before I knew it, I was driving here…alone for 3 days- that is the longest I have ever been by myself in my entire life. 

So much kindness and beauty was waiting for me here…so now I show up…for myself for a bit…in the quiet…hoping the words will come.

p.s. i have missed you all…thank you for being my friends. 

*i really wanted to do all those projects…i just said yes to too many at one time. 

She’s back…oh, how we need her bravery and kindness. My dear friend Nicki Peasley guests posts for me today as I recover from a crazy run of kindness stuff, just trying to follow her lead in love. You can read more of her goodness here.

Love is my favorite 4- letter word (although my children would tell you I have a fondness for many others).   If I had to claim the skill set of which I am most proud, at the top of the list would be kindness, compassion, and gratitude (and the ability to share these gifts authentically and creatively with others).   Yep, my whole life, I’ve been pursuing the art of being human, well on my way to becoming a master “love teacher.” (Yes, I’ve really introduced myself that way).

But as it turns out, my love train was missing a critical source of fuel. While loving others kept my engine going for a long time, I had forgotten the most important ingredient in navigating the journey through life…loving myself.

About 6 months ago, I began to spiral into a dark hole of depression and anxiety.  Despite my obvious unraveling, I kept practicing Love with a vengeance, (there’s an oxymoron)—desperately seeking to defeat the spiral with kindness, compassion, and gratitude—for others.  If I could just do a little more for the world, I would be ok.  I would be enough.  I refused to listen to the voice within that was crying out,  “Stop.  Rest.  Eat a bag of Cheetos. Watch a Desperate Housewives re-run!”

Until Self refused to be ignored any longer.  And she went on a sleeping strike.  Now, when you mix a case of insomnia with a biochemical imbalance (that I’ve managed since my early 20’s), a type A personality (I can always get one more errand, one more e-mail, one more chore in before car pool), extreme tendencies toward perfectionism (Damn, I forgot a comma in that blog), an excessive need for approval (ask nicki—she can’t say no) and my own soul story (which includes a martyr, an empath, and a warrior)— you’ve got recipe for big batch of breakdown brownies.

I should share, too, that 9 months ago, I gave up my 18- year affair with anti-depressants.  I thought that at 40 years old, certainly, I had all the experience and wisdom and skills and tools I needed to keep myself thriving.   And, of course, Love conquers all, right?  Wrong.

Back on meds, my mind is beginning to settle.  I am seeing some light again—within me and all around me.   And there are still times when I feel as if my body has electric currents running through it.  While I once resisted this feeling with every cell of my being, I am now able to greet it with softness, curiosity and acceptance.  Knowing that it will pass, just like all emotions do.

I read a passage by Pema Chodron (a brilliant teacher of loving kindness) in which she described her experience with anxiety.  When she went to her teacher for solace, he told her that what she was feeling was actually a form of spiritual bliss! And its intensity, albeit painful, was nothing to be feared.  And as she learned to lean into the pain, she discovered the bliss.

Amazing how a shift in perspective can allow one to hold the human condition (whatever it is) is a whole new light. Could it be that anxiety is really Love in disguise?  A painfully deep and beautiful connection to self and other, to the earth, to Spirit, to the light and dark of it all?  That, perhaps, there is great power in raw vulnerabilty?  Hmm…I’m open to the possibility.

Like all challenges, this episode in my life has come with a huge gift.  The gift of learning to love myself.  To practice kindness and compassion and gratitude—for myself.  To bathe in the healing energy of the sun, listening deeply to my true voice, whispering sweet nothings (that are really everythings), “May I be safe.  May I be strong. May I be healthy. May I be happy.  May I accept what is.  May I be free of suffering.  May I be at peace.“

And it is from this place of being peace that I can easily set aside my infatuation with goals and to do lists and high self-expectations.   And realize that it is my imperfections that make me beautiful.  That my presence is enough.  That my worth is not defined by my achievements.  It is defined by Love.

Love that is made manifest in the contemplation of a leaf; in the mindful eating of an apple; in a roadside conversation with a homeless woman; in a meal prepared for a neighbor; in some early morning snuggling with a beloved child; in coffee and tears shared with a friend; in the embracing of a tree; in offering a simple smile to a stranger.

And it is from my meditation for self- healing that I send on the wind loving kindness for the world. “May all creatures be safe, strong, healthy, happy, free of suffering, at peace…”

I am a work in progress. There are many times when I find myself shifting back into old and destructive thought patterns… and I have to begin again.  To hold my heart with gentle hands.  To breathe.  And watch a mindless tv show with a bag of Cheetos.

During this season of stillness, I am learning to live in my body in a graceful and

loveful way. To trust and surrender. To hold fear and shame and anger with as much

tenderness as I hold joy and sadness.  For to be an authentic love teacher,

I must cultivate the courage to hold it all.  And to love myself unconditionally—in

darkness and in light.


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.

sweet magic and sisters…

October 18, 2012

If you ask a pair or group of sisters any question, you will quickly get the real deal on any given subject. This is what I love about them, well, that and you can feel like one at any moment…you can feel sisterhood. Chrissy and Sarah (who are actual sisters) from Sweet Spot in Short Pump are these kind of friends. I think this must be why their candy shop feels more like a hang out…a super yummy hangout.

They are funny, sweet and kind. There are little pockets of their killer style and friendship all over the shop but I was even more drawn to their sense of community and desire to use their space for something good. I think this little shop will be a haven for kindness.

It’s the kind of togetherness that you have to live first, and then hold the space for others to experience. When they contacted me about wanting to do a kindness project for Sweetest Day (celebrated officially on 10/20), I was so jazzed. The ideas flowed and I think there will be more to come but we thought inviting some kindness magic was a really great place to start. Especially since Sarah’s daughter Maggie (age 3) found a Magic Wand that my daughter Lyra (age 3) left near the shop one day before we met.

So come join us (and the sisters), bring your kids (and their sisters, brothers too) and hang out with us as we create a little kindness magic together! If you want to learn more about The Magic Wand Project for Kids, you can check it out here. The Magic Wand Project For Kids is a community adventure where kids can discover their kindness magic can change our world!

See you tomorrow (Friday, October 19th) at Sweet Spot from 4-5:30pm at

2228 Old Brick Road  Glen Allen, VA 23060
(804) 360-7768

Can’t wait!

*just a little fyi, no monies exchanged in this here partnership, just a little more kindness in our town. 🙂

making happy happen…

October 18, 2012

I met Kelly on the first day of a new school, a new direction, a new start for my family. We had just made a huge decision to pull our kids from a really stable, established, old elementary school to a brand new charter school. It was the first of its kind in the entire state. Josiah was nervous, things are always tricky with new…and then there was Kelly, his teacher, she was a force of light…and happy.

The year ended up being hard because trailblazing is,  there were SO many problems/challenges in the school but Josiah was thriving like I had never seen. I knew this teacher was some kind of magic. Her positivity, her grit, her joy was contagious. The year ended and she moved on to her next act of goodness. She started Happy Camper Productions.

From HCP:

Happy Camper Productions exists to spread good cheer, unite the community, and help those who need it most. We work with local causes and organizations to host events, drives and collections. We host our own functions as well as energize existing programs by involving the Happy Camper Nation – our loyal members and overall do-gooders who look to make a difference, but don’t necessarily know how.


At a new beginning again, the Kelly Elias and HCP force is moving, spreading their joy and goodness from the start. The very first Happy Camper Fest is on for THIS Saturday from 12-6pm  at The Canal Turning Basin. It will be an  annual event held by Happy Camper Productions to celebrate everything wonderful in the Richmond area. The primary recipients of donations made through the fest this year will go to The Richmond SPCA has and Communities in Schools of Richmond .

Don’t miss the Canal Run & Walk, Dog trick and costume contests, local artists/farmers, local bands, local businesses, local food /beverages, and much more.

I am really excited because Kindnessgirl will be there with very rad kids from The James River High Guerrilla Goodness club. 2 really lovely students came to me this spring wanting to start the group after some amazing kindness stuff happened there last year…turns out 90 kids showed up at the first meeting last week.

We’ve never done anything like this before but our tent will invite folks to think about happiness and kindness together and there will be a kindness mission for everyone to take away. Also excited to be handing out Kindness Changes Everything stickers (with love from Suzanne and I) AND Tag, You’re It RVA kindness game cards!

Hope to see you all there!

sweet potato love…

October 16, 2012

Maria! Oh, don’t you adore her… and Mwanaidi the farmer?! …because we are mothers…because every mother should be able to offer her children nutritious food. Today, we bring you a love of sweet potatoes from the ONE campaign and in celebration of World Food Day.

ONE  is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies. It was cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African activists and policy makers.

But here is why today and sweet potatoes are special:

There is a great power in the sweet potato, it is a nutritionally dense food that is helping kids gets the vitamins they need so they don’t get stunted. One of the challenges of feeding the world is making sure that bellies are not only full, but full of nutritious foods.

A billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than 2.4 million children will die this year as a result.   Despite major progress in other areas, nutrition is an issue widely overlooked on the development agenda.  Stunting rates have stagnated in Africa over the past two decades at an unacceptably high level of 40%.

Here’s what we need to do to spread the word to help families:

1. We will be tweeting a message at noon TODAY on World Food Day, Oct. 16th that we will encourage others to tweet-

Put nutrition on your political agenda @ONEcampaign #recipe4change


.@StateDept #SecClinton Create a #Recipe4Change. Put global nutrition on the agenda. 25M kids are counting on it: http://bit.ly/QC9zBs

2. We’re also asking folks to sign our petition.

3. Go to http://act.one.org/go/800?t=3&akid=3450.5976426.sTHvZu

  • Write your own short message (we’ll be delivering them to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton); or tweet ONE’s ready-made malnutrition message

The kids and I were trying to think of ways to help spread the word so other kids and families can join in on helping. Here are their ideas:

1. Tell kids to “Watch the video!”

2. Let the sweet potatoes speak for themselves. We made these guys this morning…you can too if you need a little fun fall activity.

If you decide to make some talking sweet potatoes, share them on the ONE Facebook page.

Hope you can join us on this really important day! Our voices (and sweet potatoes) MATTER!

hands on…

October 16, 2012

I have a thing for hands…what they hold, what they do, how wrinkled and rough they are, the stories they tell.

It is with our hands that we make lunches, rub or scratch a back, move furniture, write a letter, create something beautiful, build something new…hold the people we love close. Hands hold and make the change.

So when Hands On Greater Richmond asked if I would be part of their Hands On Day here in RVA, I quickly said yes.  HandsOn Greater Richmond provides a link for folks to join together and engage in meaningful volunteer opportunities within RVA.

Once a year 1,000 people get together for one giant day of volunteering…it’s amazing and lovely. As part of the celebration after the event, I will be part of a kindness experience (along with Hands On and Art on Wheels)  that will hopefully inspire you to take your giving back to the streets and neighborhoods of Richmond.

SOoooo come volunteer for a morning, then party at Hardywood, then go home with a kindness mission! Can’t wait to see you there!


When: This Saturday, October 20th from 9am-1pm THEN celebrate from 1-3:30pm

Where: All over RVA first, register here, THEN celebrate at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery with food trucks and more

Why: because your hands can do something good

You can find out more and invite friends on the Facebook event page here.

One Day. One Thousand Volunteers. Limitless Change.

tag, you’re it RVA…

October 14, 2012

It all started with a ShopRVA class (www.shopclassrva.com) …a group of 40 new friends came together to dream up an idea to crowd source kindness. What could this small army of wanna be city changers create that would make our town a kinder place to be? I pitched an idea and they ran with it.

We decided play is always a great place to start. There is something about play that returns us to the best parts of ourselves. It reminds us of the simplicity and depth of joy, of how it feels to be free, of what we can do when the only motivator is fun.  We figure if play and kindness get together, they might do a helluva bang up job.

We want to invite you to join us in city-wide game of kindness in RVA! Once you get or find a Tag, You’re it RVA card, do one act of kindness and then tag/leave for the next person!

Tag, you’re it, she’s it, we’re all it!!!

photo by emily r.
So here’s the deal:

1. 40 people with 100 cards set out to play a giant city-wide game of kindness tag in RVA.
2. Each TAG card has a number and each player sets out to do one act of kindness and then “tag” the next person to go out to do the next.
3. These acts of kindness may be anonymous or not so anonymous, you may receive the act of kindness and the card or you may just find it. Either way, let’s play. Tell us about the kindness received or offered on our Facebook page, include the number so we can track the city kindness unfolding.
You can also (for a limited time) find cards at World of Mirth in Carytown. (just ask at the counter!)

4. If you want a set of cards here is a download so you can print your own. download- (front and back) …and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tagyoureitrva !

Tag, You’re it RVA! Let’s go!

The back story: so for the first time in my kindness work, this work in the world was not funded by me…it felt so good to know lots of people were part of moving kindness forward in our city. The Soulsister Fund, which is my sweet collaboration with the lovely Suzanne Vinson from Silver Tree Art saved the day when I was just so, so tapped. Those dear stickers, *sigh*, so many stickers that you sent forth are still giving…so thank you. We are so grateful.

AND so much thanks to Liz from Signs By Tomorrow  for helping us print the cards at a super kind deal!

this week…

September 17, 2012

well, last week, but you know…

It started with a duct tape obsession this summer. They made Minecraft figures, purses, hats, anything you could ever imagine with the new craze of colored tape. Josiah asked to be paid in rolls of green instead of money for his babysitting gig. So I asked them one day if they wanted to do a duct tape project together, they were way in. So we made a tree. Josiah covered the top with green, Jack made the cherry hearts…the girls held the scissors.

Shockingly, there was very little drama in the whole project…and you should know there is always a little in every bit of family togetherness. We wrote something we loved about each person in our family on the cherry hearts and put it in the corner. I never know what to do with such things when we are done. I only know they are important to do.  This makes for very un-grown up house decor, but I don’t mind so much.

The tree sat in the corner of our dining room that now has just turned into a revolving laundry station. When the kindness tree project was well over,  I was itching for something more.  Something I could see, something grand…but I wasn’t sure what and maybe it had to be grand and big because my soul was in a funk, it was holding all the wrong kind of reflection. Do you ever do that? Does your soul pick up things that don’t belong there? It was desperately needing some re-arranging. It is usually around this time, when you are funkified that the universe drops something in your lap.

I was looking into storytelling photography sessions (more on that soon!) and I came across Image Bearers Photography …oh such loveliness from Sarah. She had a session with the Kliewer family (Lindsey is also a birth photographer) The session was so dear, but my favorite part was a wall of gratitude that the Kliewer family made in their home. *sigh* It held so much.

This was just the thing. The girls and I got to work, the papers flowed…as fast as we could finish one, someone else was shouting out another to add. “Did you put Myle’s animal noises on there? Those are super funny, so grateful for that!” …what about the trampoline?! Did someone add that?”

We. could. not. stop. I thought it might be a work in progress…but we just kept going until the whole wall was filled. …and we ran out of tape. I ran into the night to 2 neighbors to borrow more.

and then each person, wandered in, mid-papering…smiled, and went to bed.  I was alone to finish the last squares.

…and I stood back, looking up and down each row…and started to cry. It’s hard to not be overwhelmed when you are staring at floor to 10ft ceiling holding everything good about your life. …and your soul can only see the beauty before you, literally. …and you can’t stop staring. It becomes all your soul can hold, nothing more. …because nothing more is needed.

…you have it, you hold it.

of love and light…

September 7, 2012

It was awhile back and I never shared the images from that night…there are lots of births that stay hidden in little pockets of my soul. Some are just too private, some need to be held tightly and others just aren’t ready for the light. Each birth has a path and a call…it is really important to follow it, wherever it leads…it knows just where to go (or not go).

It takes courage to share one of your most vulnerable moments with strangers, with the world. I am always amazed and honored when the dear folks I get to work with decide sharing is part of their birth path. I never expect them to, but am happy if they want to.

J & S leaned into love that night…and held each other and that birth tightly…and now it is ready to be shared. Thank you guys, the depth and beauty of your love birthed that sweet baby. It was an honor to witness.

true love…

September 6, 2012

She introduced the idea gently… “SOooo would you photograph my wedding?” well, maybe not so gently.

“…but Ash, I don’t DO weddings, I don’t have the equipment, I have a seriously old camera, I know nothing about flash, they won’t be crispy clean and perfect. ” I said.

“Yeah, I don’t care about all that, we want you.” she said. And there was nothing in me that could say no, she is just so lovely and dear in every way…and I knew she meant it (but it still stressed me out), I knew she just wanted to marry Dan. THAT was everything, the rest was just details…their love is tender and sweet…and true. This is probably the only kind of wedding I could even attempt.

And there is no way I could ever do justice to that day, there was a warmth and kindness all around it…and joy. At the end, I was the one that felt blessed, to stand behind my camera and fuzzy pictures, to witness that sweet, sweet day.

Thanks Ash and Dan…we love you.

so much love and thanks to Jess Lucia for being my second shooter and wedding photographer doula that day…you were amazing.

mad props to all you wedding photographers…you have all my respect dudes…that stuff is HARD!

finding your tribe…

September 3, 2012

the tribecast girls

A reader and friend Donna writes:

I need people, mainly other moms in person. I need to not have to just take care of myself. I have been doing this all my life as well as emotionally taking care of my childhood family. I am sorely lacking in physical presence community and it feels lonely. Need a tribe. Need community. Not sure why this never seems to happen naturally and I also am not clear on how to make it happen! Ideas are welcome.

I feel you friend…every one needs a feeling of belonging and togetherness (both in the flesh and in their heart). I have had a lifetime of experience with tribes but I find myself still mystified by them every now and then. I was born into a family of four girls, an instant tribe in every way. I also grew up in a faith background that lent itself to groups and community.

Over the years I have formed tribes, called them in powerfully, stumbled into them, killed them totally, some I just quietly walked away from and some still go on today. They are a force of goodness and also, at the same time, can be so hard too as we grow and move through life. I guess this is the human condition, nothing is quite easy but probably worth the work of connecting.

It’s hard to tell someone how to find and join a tribe, it’s kind of like telling a girl to go find a husband. When we strive or long for something hard it all of the sudden takes a much bigger place in our minds and hearts. We lose sight of all the things we hold and all that makes us lovely and instead focus only on our need/quest- which is pretty much what everyone else will see too. It’s okay to have that need, we all do but lasting connection will eventually require that gentle give and take. It is more likely to happen when we are settled in contentment with ourselves. * OR sometimes the universe surprises you and sort of picks you up when you can’t go on- even in all your messy need- THIS is the power of women I believe. 

The best tribes sort of unfold organically…

– 3 moms met at their childbirth ed. class, they shared and bonded over an experience and then wanted to continue sharing their lives with each other.

-a cubicle friend becomes a sister as you both deal with a crappy boss

-roommates in college that still call each other daily

-the unintentional set-up- a friend of a friend introduced you and you two ended up the better friends

BUT if nothing is quite organically unfolding, here are a few things I’ve learned about  tribes over the years:

Some are tips for building tribes that may or may not work and some are just observations. It’s like spaghetti on a wall, you gotta keep throwin’ till something sticks. (or you do)

1. Do what you love! 

The opportunities for making good connections are all over our bliss. If you are doing something you love, there will be someone else that loves that thing too. …and maybe even more than you! This is a really good because it hits both needs- you will feel more connected to yourself and attract bigger connections around you. If you can’t figure out what you love or you are too exhausted- go back to your 8 year old girl self- she’ll tell you. Riding a horse? But it’s been forever since you did that? Perfect timing.

If the gremlin in your head says there is no time or money for such things- tell that gremlin to STFU and then tell yourself if you don’t care for your heart, you will be in much worse shape in 6 more months.

2. Self-care is a journey that requires bravery, don’t wait for the Tribe. 

Lots of folks seeking tribe and connection are in a place of needing care themselves. They are looking to be held and to hold, they want the magic and beauty of both…the best tribes are those where we can learn and grow, teach each other how to love on new levels. The best primer for that is starting with ourselves.  The journey of self care requires bravery and kindness (thanks S for reminding me)…and it’s a long journey- really one that never ends. If you are particularly low, it’s going to take time. One kind act to yourself will require another…and another, one foot in front of the other each day. Don’t wait for the tribe, start now and there will be so many moments in the future when you will know what to do and offer to a tribe member because you stood in that place yourself.

3. Your tribe doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. 

See the beautiful pictures of women holding hands together or drinking tea and lighting candles? (i know, i have taken and staged these pictures) Stories of meals appearing on doorsteps and endless support while you are drowning yourself? It almost seems it has become a WASPy sort of status symbol these days which is crazy because I am sure this was not what the Native Americans had in mind…and I can assure you, killing buffalo wasn’t Pinterest worthy, and you KNOW there was some tribal leader that was bitchy and made everyone pissy and annoyed.

Trust me, not all tribes and friendships are as perfect as they appear, it is just one snap shot of a community. There is conflict, misunderstanding and some times heart break but there is also hope and goodness and truth and mess. Your tribe may not have lavish dinner parties and wine nights…it may be just one friend cracking open a beer at 11:45am while kids dump piles of legos out all over the floor. It may be one friend here, another friend at work, a cousin and all those people together make up “your tribe”.  Those are the people you lean on, the people that sometimes get on your nerves, the people who can hear and love you (all of you), the people you hold dear yourself. There is a spirit in tribe that pulls you together, and at the same time one you intentionally step into, even with the imperfections.

It doesn’t have to fit, you don’t have to be part of gatherings, it just has to fill your heart and be something you can dump your soul into too.

4. Ritual helps.

We are people of schedules, plans and events….or un-plans, whatever calls to you. Walking together to school with neighbors, meeting for coffee in sweats looking slightly like a homeless person, inviting someone into your messy house- all are great tribe builders. Sometimes you have to be the person to call the tribe in, and don’t be afraid to be your authentic self.

Even if you think there are 3 people you are interested in knowing better, or “trying out” for tribe status… Invite them over, ask them to tea, be bold and hold the space for something potentially beautiful to unfold. Some people need agenda, some people need to just hang…figure out what kind of person you are and plan accordingly.

Call it in your way. Not everyone is going to meet their next best friend by talking to the women holding a baby in a sling in the diaper aisle but you may make friends when you see each other at your neighborhood play ground for the 57,000th time. Introverted/Extroverted connecting will look different and may unfold at different speeds of time….but you can do it. Call that tribe in.

5. Be what you need. 

Some of the most beautiful  and powerful tribes I have ever witnessed started with one person offering love to another…and then the recipient passed it on and they found each other through doing, caring, loving together. If you need kindness, be it. If you need love, offer it. Gather women/men/children around you to do something for someone else. We all need to be needed…and we all need to receive love in our most tender moments.

It doesn’t always have to be big either and you don’t have to start it alone. Leave a kind note on a changing table in a public restroom for another tired mother to find- ask one friend to do it with you. Ask a fellow day care mom if she wants to go in with you to take flowers to your kid’s care provider. YOU can drop the meal on the doorstep- you can create the story of how the tribe started.

6. Ask The Universe.

I believe fully in asking the Universe for what we need. Saying the words out loud, lighting little candles to hold the intentions of our hearts. And at times, it’s been sort of a desperate plea and other moments a space to hold my thoughts/burdens so I don’t have to carry them. Think it through…what is it you really need? Is it friends? or even deeper…. To feel loved…to feel connected…to be cared for…to feel part of something…to feel worthy? Sometimes the questions will be answered and needs met in ways we didn’t imagine. Sometimes the tribe may already be around us and we just can’t see it yet. Keep your heart open for the possibility that you may already hold what you are seeking.

I kind of hate this last bit of advice because it frustrates the hell out my personal development self and sometimes makes me feel crappy- like it’s my fault (if I could just get it together then I would be enlightened to see it all!) and then I remind myself that it isn’t my job to fix it- it’s just to be  and I probably wasn’t ready for it then, my heart will show the way at the right time.

I need all those parts of myself to be imperfectly whole, the same way the tribe needs it too. You can be yourself and struggle and give up and find peace in the process.

Tell me in the comments, what do you think of when you hear the word tribe and what would you add to the list? …and we are stokin’ the fire here, come gather round…join us in the tribe.

*That sucks right? I know…learning this lesson right now in other parts of my life.

The gig is hard and we all have a moment (or 57,000) when we wonder what exactly we are doing…or we have hit a limit or a wall. The thing is, we must keep going and it’s so great we have a truckload of love to see us through. Even so, I need someone to get out and help me shovel some out or find it or carry it some days.

Here are 5 things I need when I am stumbling through parenting:

1. Validate, but don’t hate too much. 

Please, oh please tell me, “Of course you are feeling ______!”  “It IS hard, isn’t it?!”  or whatever it is you can see in my heart…and stand in that place with me… “It IS annoying that they ___________!”,  “I don’t know why he does that, my man/kid does it too….”  BUT I don’t need a whole lot of kid/partner bashing. It just makes me feel bad later because I really do love those people… and while it’s so natural and normal to get sick of each other and express it, I don’t want to live in that place.

2. Tell me a story.

Tell me a story of your experience, failure and triumph,  the funnier and more honest, the better. It doesn’t have to be my same problem and there doesn’t have to be a solution but it makes me feel less alone and more connected.

3. Don’t tell me to read the book, just cliff note it for me! 

Unless it’s DEFCON 4 and you just know that book will save my parenting ass, skip the suggestion and just tell me the best parts of the book. I have zippo time to read but am so open to any wisdom anyone has to offer. Also, remind me of all the development stuff I forgot that actually explains everything and tells me my kid is normal- and that I have forgotten it’s all part of growing and learning for both of us. Or tell me parenting books suck and just follow my intuition.

4. Remind me what you (and I) love about my kid.

Remind me of all the magical parts of my kid… “I know she is driving you crazy now, but remember when…?”. Tell me what you love about her, and stand in my gap for just a minute. Offering to take her for a bit so I can regroup will score you extra “being the village”  friend points. It will also makes me want to climb mountains to do the same for you.

5. Believe in me as a parent.

Tell me to take care of myself, remind me I am and want to be a good parent, be gentle with my mistakes but also believe in me enough to give the gentle nudge to keep going, or own my own shit, or ask a thoughtful question filled with grace. I don’t want to be around other mothers to just complain together, I want to be around people that also make me want to be a better parent.

and when in doubt, bring chocolate (or vodka) and quiet love.

*this little list was inspired by christa, jen b. and jen l. who do this for me day in and day out…much love.

What do you need when all is falling apart in your parenting world? or it’s just been a shitty day with lots of mistakes and love/care attempts?

There are some conversations you just don’t want to forget…we were riding in the car on  our way to a cookout and somehow the subject of college came up.

Lyra: I am NOT going to college!

Me: Why not? College is fun, you get to learn stuff AND then go to parties at night!

Lyra: I am DEFINITELY going to college!

Jack: Yeah, I am gonna get afternoon classes so I can sleep in after the parties and then go to class. (this disturbs me slightly that my 9 year old is already doing party math)

Me: So are you going to go to a party every night?

Lucy: Oh no! THAT would be too much cake Jack!

Yes…too much cake indeed Luce!  Cake, not beer, cake.

and while I have you thinking of college, cake and other good things, I have a request! Can you please weigh in in the comment section-

Would you rather read a field guide (of sorts) to guerrilla/family kindness with lots of pictures OR a memoir-ish book of stories about kindness?

Thanks! Hope this Sunday is just what you need…

if you came to my house…

August 25, 2012

If you had dropped by my house this morning…

You would have seen the dark sky and gentle rain as an invitation to spend a day in hibernation.

You would have heard this dear exchange while we cooked breakfast together:

Lucy- I wish I could always be your little girl mom…

Me- but you will!

Lucy- I know but I’ll grow up some day…but it’s a good thing it’s takes a very long time to grow up. Don’t you think? And we need some music right now. PAPA! Can you put on The Beatles?

You would have heard me tell her the sweet memories of my childhood. The best of my girlhood was spent in a kitchen with my mom and 3 sisters making a holiday meal…each person had a place and job…and thinking how far I am from that place today, in so many ways.

You would have seen my husband come into the kitchen and kiss me…and secretly be encouraged I seem more like myself and not hiding from the world watching Downton Abbey under the covers…  maybe also a little relieved to have had a small break from carrying both our loads.

You would see dogs refuse their own food and wait quietly at the feet of a young child…because they know that no one in the house follows the proper animal rules…and there are lots of drops and spills.

You would hear me call everyone to help and set the table at least 3 times because no one ever comes the first time.

You would see me cut the last flowers alive from the beautiful bouquet a dear friend dropped by my door from her daughter’s wedding…the flowers hold memory from honoring the beauty of witnessing a real and true love. …and this friend whose tender heart and spidey sense must have known/felt I needed the power of love and flowers. The smaller bunch passed on for a morning breakfast table.

You would have seen me teach Jack how to light a match and votive candle…and about the 348 matches and tiny hairs singed it took to conquer the skill, but we did.

You would have heard some family razzing, and inspection of a mosquito/spider bite followed by a discussion on Spiderman’s webbing abilities and the latest news of Mars and the Curiosity Rover…and someone trying to remember what the surface gravity is on Mars.

You would have heard me ask everyone to clear their plates and put them in the dishwasher.

You would have heard my small sigh of tiredness and my eyes almost get weepy over a song still playing by The Beatles. You would hear me tell Jorge that The Beatles are the perfect soundtrack music for a mild bout of depression.

You would have seen the delightful child that started the day cooking with me then be annoyed we are not moving on to board games and bummed she has to sit at the table until everyone is done. (and besides, I already gave her all my good parenting in making the breakfast together. There just isn’t a board game in my future on this day.)

You would see everyone eventually mosey on out completely forgetting to clean their plates and put them in the dishwasher.

You would see me clean up half the mess and then go back upstairs to crawl in bed to find out if Anna and Mr. Bates will ever be together.*

You would hear some small child ask about lunch 23 minutes after breakfast was done.

Please indulge me…what would I see at your house this morning? …you know, if I had dropped by.

*this was Downton Abbey chatter- hope I didn’t ruin it for anyone. Please also feel free to share your DA love in the comments.

Two articles, one blog post and 2 podcasts came through my feed and inbox this week, all discussing the subject of mommy guilt. I sort of cringe every time I even hear or see the word mommy coming from anyone but a 3 year old. It feels condescending, who knows why but it does to me.

Pretty much all mothers on the planet want the same thing, to love their children well. Everyone has different interpretations on what that looks like but at the bottom is love. Holding that together with other women, arm in arm, can be super powerful but there are moments when it can become so divisive. We care about this job so deeply, it is primal and anytime primal is part of the equation- shit gets real on every level.

I listened to each story, read each article thinking some of it sounded downright crazy and in the next moment nodding my head along with the mom spilling her guts like we were in church together.  At the root of lots of mommy guilt seems to be that bitch Comparison, she messes with everyone’s head and leaves us all feeling alone.

She rolls in when we are tired, at one fragile moment and BAM! …or even when we don’t see her coming at all. The problem is she asks us to pull apart each part of ourselves and the other mother. We hold tight to the parts comparison wants us to see and not the whole person. It dupes us into thinking we must have it all, be it all to be enough, to love well.

She gives no power to the diversity of our individual parenting superpowers, she gives no power to the gift of our humanity.The truth is we all hold a parenting superpower. …and we need each others.

The blogging mother that does beautiful projects and activities may reign supreme creating memories but may also struggle with unlocking other parts of her kid. …because we all do. Her heart may drop at the idea of her teenage daughter wanting a nose ring. She knows preschoolers, she knows how to set a breath taking table with all the right foods but she may need a sister, a mother to get her through a different stage of growing. And you? You hate to sit on the floor and play with little kids but you can rock a nose ring purchase, and you feel her daughter’s teenage style, you see her rad independence.

Maybe we don’t have to compare our triumph moment to another’s? Maybe we can we all have the one thing that makes us the shit to our kids? …and maybe we can send Jimmy over to the rocket birthday party complete with eco-friendly homemade rocket kits and color coordinated m&m’s and then take her Lenny with us to the park while he climbs to the top of the jungle gym that gives his mother a heart attack. …and smile and cheer for his accomplishment.

And while I tell myself all these lovely things about fighting comparison and the village working together, I am still left with my own haunting inadequacies, the places someone else just can’t pick up my slack, the place where I will fail my children. Because I do, because I will.

This place held such space in my heart because I was already so uncomfortable with my humanity. How do I reconcile THAT?

One spill session to my sister years ago and many more since then revealed some truth I still hold tightly to on bad days.

“Patience, perfect mothers, the ones that never allow their kids to see their humanity raise assholes.” she declared in between the next bite of yogurt.

“WHAT?! What are you talking about?!” I replied.

“They are the sons that forget to call their mothers on her birthday because they have no idea she is a person with her own needs and feelings. They think she’s just fine,  together, they just never knew, she never showed them.” she said.

Every time we screw up or fall short or have to apologize we make space for our kids to see us, to really see us and practice the same compassion and unconditional love we have offered them time and time again. And even greater, my friend Lisa reminds me how our mistakes and all the ways we go about making them right create a safe space for our kids to do the same. Because they do, because they will.

Can we all just have a huge party of our strengths? I’ll send my preschoolers to your activity day and you can send your teenagers to me when they hate you…. we can be in it together in all our goodness, in all our mess.

You are enough, let humanity and tender hearts rule…maybe our kids will too.

love warriors…

August 16, 2012

It didn’t start off that great, it was terrible actually. How do you start your 14th anniversary and 20 years together with a fight? Well, we did. There was a cloud of  disappointment surrounding me and a funk, a deep funk. These are usually the things I write about after everything is sorted out and the beauty of reflection and grace have shared their kind light.

We hadn’t had a bad or so-so anniversary in a long, long time so I figured we were due…because when you have an old love, it’s just part of the deal. You ride high waves and crash in them too, or you climb really big mountains and then lay in the valleys. It just is and things feel less dramatic as you go along because you know you can lean into love, even if it isn’t always pretty.

I was disappointed we never have any money at this time of year, we suck at money and planning ahead and once again we celebrate, but not ever in the way I imagine this love deserves. …and then I feel so ungrateful, like a selfish jerk for not being content with what is. …and Jorge may be the most laid back man on the planet who loves deeply and is happy anywhere as long as we are together. Isn’t that so annoying and so wonderful?

…and of course there was more, more junk in my own heart that has nothing to do with anniversaries, just my own fucked-upness. I kept thinking, “This day can’t be this, it just can’t be.” …but I couldn’t quite recover either. So I didn’t even try, I just cried and laid it all out, all of my own junk on the table. Some of it was about of him, but most was not.

…and he awkwardly picked it up. Each ugly piece. Some he didn’t know what to do with, others he knew just what to say, some he just sort of helplessly stared at…with so much love.

But I realized this is what love warriors do, because you don’t always know, you can’t always see each other clearly…but you keep fighting for your love and for each other…quietly, boldly, fumbling, in all the wrong and right ways, reaching, holding tight.

Then it was okay, not perfect, but a quiet peace fell over me….and I let it hold me.

I love you Jorge Salgado, with all I am and hope to be. 

-your love warrior

Hello Loveful Human Beings.  I’m Nicki and I have the beautiful honor of calling Patience my friend.  When she asked if I would do a monthly post on her soul shaking site (while she is creating magic in hardback), before my voice said yes, my heart sang, “oh yeah!”  So this is me.  Raw. I’m lucky that I get to be raw as part of my job at The Bounce Collective, a leadership development and coaching company.  I do the youth development stuff there and have been known to call myself a “love teacher.”  (not on paper, just in the moment).  Because that’s what it all comes down to. Love.



Ubuntu.  I am because we are.

Everyday, I embody this African philosophy a little more fully.  Because of the village in which I live—the North Side of Richmond.

Last spring, I was sitting in a circle of women at a North Side coffee shop. These girls have been meeting for coffee and conversation every Friday for years.  And I have never been a regular attendee.  Most of the time I miss because life gets in the way.  And sometimes I miss because I just don’t make it a priority.

On this particular morning, sitting at this round table in the window, the sun shining in to create beacons of light over the heads these vibrant women, I was overcome with emotion.   A truth emerged.  I was missing my WE.

I navigate life through a me, we, world lens of relationship.  And at the end of each day, I do a soul check, of sorts.   The big question, “How did I show up today in my relationships with self, other, and community, at large?”

My ME check (just a taste… I dig pretty deep here): How aligned were my body, mind, heart, and spirit today?  What did I learn about myself today? What was asking to be seen in the shadows today?  How was I better today?  How can I be better tomorrow?

And then, generally, I move right into…

My World check:  What was calling for my voice today?  How did I rise to create impact today?  What did I produce today? What ideas are asking to be born in me tomorrow?

And usually (not surprisingly) by this point, my soul needs some rest.  And my WE check gets a glimpse, at best.

Who did I reach out to today?  What did I contribute to their world?  What did they offer me?   What was between us?

On that morning in the coffee shop, I sobbed.   In the safety of my tribe’s bosom, a painful revelation was born.  I had not been reaching out; I was not actively contributing to these relationships; I was not open to receiving the bounty surrounding me; and I was desperately missing the loveful abundance that, despite my neglect, would always exist between us.

My obsessive focus on ME and World was eclipsing my connection to the individual members of my tribe, a tribe that extended beyond this round table to include a whole village of amazing human beings.

And my beautiful friend, Amanda, an aura of white light embracing her, looked deeply into my eyes and said, “You are here. We see you. “

And, in that perfect moment, I realized that the work of ME and World begins with WE.   It is in the faces of individual people that we find our mirrors… and our purpose.

Ubuntu.  I am because we are.

Fast forward to last week, 2 days before my 40th birthday.  I am standing in my kitchen, a deluge of family activity around me.  And, as if it were coming from the Heavens, I hear my favorite song, “This Little Light of Mine.”

“Where is that coming from?”  I ask in dismay.

And then I glance out my window to see Amy and Suzy (of the coolest girl band in town, “Dirty Blonde”) leading a parade of 50 angels– men, women, children, dogs…singing out their light-filled hearts, strolling down my street with flowers and tears and birthday love…for me.

I sat on my front porch in a puddle of tears, drinking in each divine face.  If my heart could have spoken the depth of emotion in that moment, it would have said, “You are here.  I see you.  Each of you, in your unique brilliance.  I am.  Because we are. ”

“Nicki done made me cry… I’m gonna let it shine…” was the last verse I heard and it made a permanent imprint on my soul.  For it is in the reflection of our tribe’s tears that we can truly see ourselves.  That we can heal.  That we can know love.

Huge gratitude to my friend Amanda, who birthed this tribute.   I have no doubt that its ripple will forever impact MEWE, and our little North Side World.



Nicki Peasley-  I am the CEO of my home, managing a team consisting of a 40 year old, an 11 year old, an 8 year old, and a 6 year old. In my spare time, I am the YOUth development director for Bounce, writing curriculums and working (playing and learning) with elementary and middle school youth.