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.

lyra grace-52

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.

Things like…
One princess tent already infused with joy from a birthday of another dear girl earlier that year was lent for fort goodness.

lyra grace-16

One old slip n’ slide that gave many a never-ending slide was shared to double the awesomeness of the new mega slide.

lyra grace-29

A last minute decorating job to a store bought cake made mermaid cake dreams come true.

lyra grace-43

…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.

lyra grace-42

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

profound graffiti collage

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

christmas bliss

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.

crafty christmas collage

…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.

very hammond christmas collage

…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.

christmas family love2-30small

…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.

christmas portrait out take

…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.

wish paper collage

…and you watch the generations of soul love and ritual wisdom being passed down to your kids right before your eyes.

wish paper collage magic

…you remember you still have some sparklers stashed away that you have been holding on to for just a moment like this.

mason sparkler love

…and you can’t remember a more beautiful night.

christmas family love2-65

…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.

melekeliki collage

…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.

all photos by Tisha McCuiston

“I know there are no pictures with you and the kids, are there? I want to do this for you…”

I was instantly so melted. Tisha McCuiston is a one of the best photographers I know and so well loved by her clients and her friends. She reached out to me early in my photography days and extended a warmth and invited me into the community. Mostly I loved her because she never made me feel like a photography poser, and I STILL feel like one most days.

If you can believe it, we have never had any professional pictures taken. I was so excited to have her view/shoot our family love, because she holds a certain joy and steady happiness herself…I knew she would see it in a way I couldn’t.


“You know, I was thinking we should have a silly string fight for our family picture.” I wrote.

“Sounds perfect!” she replied.

I am sure most families do not request a silly string fight for their Christmas portrait but it felt completely logical to me.




She was so patient with and reveled in very wound up children.  We laughed hard and went through 30 cans of the good stuff.



She took time with us, after all the rush and goodness…after it was all over, we chatted about the laundry “situation” covering my dining room table and how we hustle to make ends meet. This woman works hard and happily. I really respect that.


Less than a week later, I went to check her website and found this. Tisha’s husband Daryl had been laid off…my stomach sank into my knees. This woman who had just shown me so much kindness, the woman who lives a life of giving was now facing all this 3 weeks before Christmas. *sigh*

I was trying to think of something, anything I could do to help. Even if it was small, just so she would know there were people behind her, to offer her the same goodness she has given to others so many times before.

I thought of our community…we have something here on Kindnessgirl to share- our voice! Tisha is offering Holiday mini-sessions for $300 ( this includes 20-25 digital copies AND session fee). I can’t believe she is offering this and hope it spreads far and wide- that her books are filled. For any mom that knows the juggle to keep things going and carrying the weight of trying to keep your family afloat, please pass on this post and Tisha’s info. It would be so wonderful to me if she knew in this moment how much she is loved and how far community can travel and rally.

There are so many more good pics to share…and Christmas cards full of silly love and goodness! Hope your holiday is sweet!

You can also read Tisha’s re-cap of the day here– she articulated it all much better and has more pics! So grateful for her!

the holiday of…

November 25, 2012


it was the holiday of…

a new made-up zombie game

chasing the taco food truck


another really lovely introvert’s dream thanksgiving

a feeling of contentment

but really, this holiday was all about the river…we live just blocks from the James River and everyday, we some how found ourselves by the water, rock hoppin’ or exploring Belle Isle. I figured out I may just be my happiest when I am with my family in nature…the kids were so blissed out.



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.

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.

this week…

July 11, 2012

actually this week…this is a first. …some vacation moments.


July 7, 2012

Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest. -Ashleigh Brilliant

big hits on vacation so far… palm trees (kids are fascinated), actual TV (we only have Netflix at home) and big fluffy beds that you can jump on…this crew is easy to wow.

Hoping you can find rest today…it is more important than I realized.

There is kindness there.

this week…

June 18, 2012

well, last week, but you know…

Don’t forget the Summer Kindness Challenge for Kids starts today! It’s a week of kindness and family love for our Dads. Would love to have you join us!

I didn’t know…

June 17, 2012

last year’s Father’s Day gift

I knew you would be a good father, you were playful and kind…

but I didn’t know how tender you would be…

how you would see things about them I couldn’t see…

how wise you would be about all the parts and stages of growing up…

how deeply connected they would be to you…

how you would ground our family, be the foundation of love…

how your integrity would guide us…

how each child we had would make me love you even more…

just how proud and honored I would be to be partners in loving these dear people together…

happy father’s day Jorge

“How did it go? Are you okay?” I asked as he walked into the waiting room.

“It was okay, it was definitely weird, but I’m okay.” he replied.

The lovely woman lead me back her office to hear the results. She was extremely gentle and kind as she explained exactly where he fell on the bell curve.  Careful to express his strengths and gingerly tell me the places where growth might be needed. It was an intelligence test.

I finally relieved her.

“Dr. _________, I have to tell you, I totally appreciate what you do but I really do not care about this test AT ALL. I just want him to feel loved and be kind and grateful.” I said.

“Ohhhhh, well that is music to my ears.” she replied. She looked a little shocked and delighted at the same time.

…and a few days later, it was time for an awards dinner for this same boy who called the intelligence test weird, a lovely award…the only in his school. Awards are sort of a mixed bag because the truth is, you love your kid and are hella proud even if no one ever gets a plaque with their name carved in it, or a paper saying how great you are or how hard you worked. …and then there are moments when awards hold the space to celebrate the part of your kid that makes him or her special or dear.

…but that day I looked around, he seemed unaffected by the accolade…and yet more touched when Jorge helped him tie his tie, then held his face and kissed him…right in the middle of all the grouchy chaos of getting the family dressed up and out the door on time.

…when his brother turned and looked at him with wide eyes of pride every time they congratulated the honorees as if to say, “they are talkin’ about YOU” during the ceremony.

…when his Marmie bought a plane ticket to come see his moment, because she just does that…even if it means she has to work double the hours at her job.

…when it is more exciting to get ice cream/yogurt after than it was to get the actual award. The place is rad and seems the more appropriate place to celebrate any way….more like us.

…when your mom insists on taking a picture with you because she has none…and you know it will mean something to her (and you) when you are old. …and you even let her hold you tight, and too long.

…when your dad wears his bad ass sunglasses and lets you try them on and you imagine what it feels like to maybe be like him some day.

…and you forget what was ever said at that ceremony, or that award but you remember the family pride and deep love that was held for you…and how weird that intelligence test was.

love me like this…

June 2, 2012

“Sooooo, what do you want for your birthday?” I asked cheerfully.

“Ummm, nothin’.” he replied.

Oh my lord. This has been his answer for every birthday and Christmas for at least the last 20 years. And I never listen to him, and then there were the years where I painstakingly listened for clues on which electronic gadget I should buy only to have him buy it for himself 2 days before the holiday.

I still love to argue this maddening topic but I kept it cool.

“Well…how about a backyard party, ya know, just a few people…” I said. Inside my head this meant a Pinterest worthy garden party with 5 different amazing salads, cheeses I can’t pronounce, an insane wine I know nothing about and beef tenderloin or something else ridiculous.   And by golly, there would be a shockingly beautiful table with meaningful touches at every turn…and dancing and sparklers to close the evening…you know, like a wedding but for a guy, on his birthday.

“Yeah, like burgers and beer? You know we have that giant blue plastic bucket, it’s good for beer and we can use the tiki torches. I just don’t want you to, you know, be all stressed out and stuff. ” he replied.

“ME? Stressed out before a party?!! NOoooo….” I laughed and he hugged me tight.

Okay, I’m gonna do it, I’m actually gonna give him what he wants…yes,  I can do that. Well, almost. I started to Pinterest, just a bit and realized it was pointless.  I could settle on pulled pork and beans, corn and slaw,  and summer beer…but I couldn’t totally get rid of pretty.

I spent all day cleaning up the secret garden, and set a table with the colors of his new company and a large picture of he and Lucy, wishing I could put little story starters or notes of love for Jorge at each place setting…but I didn’t, and I didn’t even buy a cake or presents. I only got the slightest bit stressed at the end when our friends started to arrive and I still hadn’t showered.

He walked outside, summer beer in hand.

“Soooo, what do you think?” I asked.

“It’s great babe, it kinda looks like  I died, but I like it!” he said as he looked at the table with the giant picture.

And it did, it totally looked like he died.

“Oh Jorge Salgado, everyone should know how much they are loved BEFORE they die!”

he laughed…and even in my feeble attempts to love him how he wants to be loved I can only almost get it right…

…and yet this  dear man who needs no fan fare, only a cold beer on a sticky night, yummy food on paper plates, kids crawling on his lap and leaving to chase fireflies, a good razzing or story and his family and friends close…it’s all he’s ever wanted and needed to feel loved.

…to be loved like this.

my birthday love song for you my partner and friend:

Are you a birthday kind of person? Do you like them big and grand or quiet and meaningful? Tell me in the comments, I’m taking an unofficial poll. or even better, do you have some one that you care about that you are stumbling through trying to love them right?

ALSO!! Hey RVA friends, I just hid one of these in the back sleeve of the DVD copy of The Sound of Music at Westover Hills Library! If you find it, it’s yours! But take a pic and send it to me at!

let summer begin…

May 26, 2012

Jack was beside himself as he saw his first lightning bug of the season the other night. And speaking of lightning bugs- do you call them fireflies or lightning bugs? …I can’t decide which is more magical these days- lightning or fire! (feel free to weigh in)

There may not be enough money for a pool membership around here, but by golly, there will be outdoor movies, and smores, and shadow games and Adventure Time, and popcorn! Jorge had a lovely techie hook up and scored a very old projector but as long as it plays the The Muppet Movie, I think we are golden.

(AND we figured out it also serves as dance party maker via you tube videos!)

Spill it friends…tell me your Summer on the Cheap ideas in the comments! …and your suggestions for an outdoor movie (both grown up and kids movies- not necessarily together)…AND lightning bug or firefly?!!

I knew it was gonna be bad. Lucy’s beloved kindergarten teacher (the one that totally gets her), Mrs. Hines blew a disc in her back. This poor magical teacher soldiered on for weeks trying shots and meds but in the end she needed surgery. She was going to be out for 4 weeks.

Lucy did surprisingly well the first 3 weeks, the substitutes were rough but she stretched herself. She cried a little here and there but we looked at pics of Mrs. Hines, told stories of her goodness, counted the days until she would be back and Lucy pressed on.

The fourth week came, we were mad excited and then the bomb got dropped. Mrs. Hines would not be back for 3 more weeks and the substitute was awful. Luce started to fall apart. Mornings and nights of crying, stomach aches, my girl was down right almost depressed.

“I’ve just been waiting so long mom!” she said.

“I know baby, I know.” I replied, not really knowing what else to do. *sigh*

About a week later, she came to me one afternoon about to cry…and to be honest, I just didn’t have it in me to do it again. I sent her to Jorge thinking he could put in a few Mrs. Hines coping hours. Apparently we were all done with the situation because a few minutes later she came back.

She sat down hard in the chair, tears rolling down her face.

“Mom!” it was the tone of pain, and I instantly looked up.

“Mom, I am not getting the support I need!”  I sat shell shocked by her honesty and ability to call it in.

Her shoulders slumped.

“Mom, I need a lot of love to get me through this. ” She said while heaving.

She is six. And I was in total attention and awe…that she could say what every person on the planet feels and so desperately needs in the middle of something that feels so big. Why don’t we all do this? Just lay it out.

I had done every ritual I could think of…except the kitchen altar candle.

“Oh Luce, the only thing I can think of is when I am really sad and just can’t hold anything more I go to the kitchen altar candle. You know that one next to the sink where I do dishes? I just write down everything I need and what my heart is feeling and I light the candle and let the candle hold it for me. Do you want to try it?” I said.

She nodded her head and promptly filled up 5 slips of paper with her needs.

And when it was time to light the candle I remembered I had something special in the car. My dear friend Suzanne had just sent me one of her sweet sacred strikes. A tiny match book covered in her art with this message:

use these strike on box matches to light a candle in remembrance, as a prayer, a wish, or a blessing, as you strike the match, breathe deeply, breathing in love and breathing out love. breathe peace. breath hope. breathe light and love.

…and I looked at her little face as she breathed deep, following each instruction, taking all of it into her heart. I let her light the match and candle and we sat quietly for a moment. Together.

she asked me to take a picture of her face so she could remember

The next day she carried the tiny piece of art that came with the matches in her pocket to remember someone and something is holding it for her…and that the love you need to get you through is possible.

Maybe we just have to ask (but why is that so hard sometimes?)…or call it in the place of vulnerability and courage…and light a candle.

The candle is in the comments today my friends…feel free to write on your slips of paper, there is all the love you need…

It feels like overnight I have been dropped into a world calling for active change (besides my kindness work, of course). This scares me…it overwhelms me…I start running around in my head trying to figure out what I should do, where I fit, wonder if I fit, worry we have to start NOW…and in the middle of all the tizzy, some tiny bits of clarity have been miraculously somehow, even despite my crazy head, been floating to the surface. So look for a few posts on the subject in the near future…today, all change reminded me of was chicken nuggets.

I remember, so long ago, I was at a Valentine’s Day party when Josiah was just in preschool. We were fixing food plates for the kids and I looked down at the heart shaped red plate and staring back at me was a slice of pizza and chips. That’s it. I looked over at my friend who was quietly slicing up cucumbers and cutting down tiny broccoli trees right next to the pizza and chips for her son.

I started the terrible parent dialogue in my head, you know the one…

“OMG, when did we become the family with the chicken nugget and macaroni and cheese kids? I thought we were totally gonna be the sushi and crab bisque family? ”

You know the kids that eat and try magical and delicious exotic dishes because their parents introduced just the right foods at the right time from the start? And I tried, oh I did and still do…I made baby food and listened to foodies, and watched organic food commercials and went on food kicks….but somewhere along the way, I got another job, and laundry piled and had another baby and  went out to eat and had drinks spilled on my lap from reaching/fast said baby and just wished the freakin’ french fries would  come so my kid would eat and I could finish telling my man about the very important TED Talk I watched 10 minutes of about toxins in our food. And I felt slightly justified that my kid still loved fruit…and tried to ignore that fact he hated anything green and that I was a shitty parent…

…until the Valentine’s pizza plate because I realized slowly but surely, I had given up on any hope of change. Because it was too far gone, or took more energy than I had to give, or that it was easier in some strange way to claim bad parenthood than to try, because my kids were doomed to a life of poor nutrition…and it was all so dramatic, as mothers seem to get, even busy, harried mothers, it’s what we do. (or if you are just me, and your life is dramatic and care this deeply about EVERYTHING-peas, injustice, and the right ribbon on the ding dong ditch flowers)


But something about that day and my friend cutting up tiny broccoli trees, (and she was indeed going to point out the wonder that broccoli looks like tiny trees to her four year old) shifted something inside of me about change. She had a chicken nugget kid too, but she still offered a green thing on that plate, every time. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

She never knew when and if or what he would try…but she believed it was worth trying. It was small and insignificant but consistent and hopeful. I realized the whole world of problems is like a giant plate of nuggets, we may not be able to solve it all in one fell swoop but the world is worth offering some broccoli to, over and over again. Almost everything good starts some where with someone believing it may be possible…and believing in the people around them, seeing and claiming something no one else has yet.

So I am happy to report that over time some members of my family no longer gag at the sight of something green on their plate and others will even take a few bites (some with a bribery of dessert) and the entire family will now eat chicken ceasar salad slathered in dressing and fluffy croutons for a real main dish dinner…and there are less chicken nuggets in the repertoire  and more whole foods all around.

But  that one simple quiet act by a wise mother created change in me… I know now it all matters, each step we take, no matter how small. It leaves the world and all we hold a beautiful place to start.

*Lyra shockingly started eating the bag of peas in our photo shoot, I know, who knew?! 

“I don’t do this anymore, it just isn’t part of my life…it used to be though.” I said to my dear friend Christa as we sat and watched our kids play on the beach.

“What? sit? or just be?” she replied.

“Both.” I answered.

It was an impromptu trip, an idea you say out of loud to a friend but not really expecting it to happen. You know, the “You know what we should do? we should…” …but this time I just said yes. So we booked a cabin in a Virginia Beach camp ground for a couple nights. I didn’t really have money, time or energy but all of those things are short these days and some times you just have to call it in. Since money was tight, my friend did what any good girlfriend does, she slipped me a $20 and her dear husband Cris went out and hooked us up with a mad amount of groceries…then he sent a lasagna. And with way too many bags (plus some christmas lights)

and even more children, we were on our way.

We arrived and within minutes someone named the cabin, and it turned out to be a very fitting name- The Magic Cabin. I slipped a sign on the door, one invitation of kindness and the magic began. We didn’t really have a lot planned, a little, but not a lot. I was just too tired to do all that making memories stuff, but I am starting to think the best stuff just happens on its own anyway.

It started with a failed and messy Pinterest craft…but no one seemed to care.

and a sweet dinner…with the question answered- “What one thing do you want to do before you grow up?”

then there was nature woodsy stuff…

and vacation surprises and candy…

and beach treasures and kite goodness…

…and there were visits from a kind Granny, and kid conflict, and frolicking, and eating way too many clementines, and chai tea with homemade maple syrup whipped cream, and scary bugs, and laughing so hard your side hurts, and snoring, and exhaustion from packing and unpacking and packing again…and epiphanies about your parenting.

The kind that was so gentle, and unfolded just so, so you could see it on your own, without judgement and surrounded in so much love. I could see just how much my kids need me in an intentional way to hold experiences of kindness for them, and just them at times. For so long I have secretly feared my kids will grow up and feel like they didn’t get enough while I shared and invited kindness for the whole world…and I realized how open they are and how little it takes, and how over the last few years, little by little, I have lost bits and moments of family kindness.

And it was so sweet to just be, to be in the place where it all started, and to be in the only place that matters…and to know you can always call it back and decide to be a new way…and to be a little sad for how you lost your path and yet so hopeful and happy to know what you can do to find it again.

So the last night, we decided to give the kids a blessingway. (a blessingway is a ceremony rooted in Navajo culture and history as a way to “bless the way” of someone walking into a new part of life. Women often give them to pregnant women about to have a baby.) After about the million I have been to over the years, it never occurred to me to have one with my kids.

So we made a fire and gathered a circle with candles and decorated with the left over defunct Pinterest art that Josiah made into a nest. It was perfect. We called the kids in one by one, and whispered by name, “We are glad you are here ______.”

They sat with wide eyes as Christa explained what a blessingway was and the history behind it…and how we wanted to bless them as part of our families together. Over the weekend, the kids had been learning about animal totems and trying to figure out which animal best represented them and their spirit. Some kids knew and others weren’t sure. So we gathered some items from nature to represent the animal we chose for them. We presented the items and told each child the things we saw in them and the blessings they hold.

Josiah was a deer, Roman a buck,  Lucy was a bird, Jack was a wolf…and I watched as they soaked it all in. And one we were totally wrong about and have to still figure out. It was almost as if the little guy knew himself, knowing who and what he is so clearly…but we didn’t have the match right. It was a lesson in the value of struggle and finding your way to your kids, to listening and honoring each other in the process. It was the beauty of the kid bs meter, and that it’s worth it to be real and true, whatever that looks like. (and that s’mores can right almost any parent screw up)

It was finally Lyra’s turn and Christa started her blessing. She explained how Lyra was playful and engaging like a dolphin…inviting connection and love. And I watched as Lyra nodded her head in total agreement, while she whispered “yes” as she sat in my lap and listened to Christa’s wise words. Her eyes sparkled, it was as if someone just saw all of her for the first time. I was shocked by her response and how deeply she felt the connection, even at the age of three. It was a true soul experience, for all of us. She hugged and thanked me 3 times after we were done, and asked if we could turn her dolphin shell into a necklace. I don’t think it has left her neck yet.

I walked away once again amazed by how capable kids are, in their minds, in their hearts, in their souls- the magic they are..and how much they hold and have to offer…and amazed how magic comes in so many forms, the magic of not knowing, the magic of struggle, the magic of being discovered and blessed and mostly, the magic of just being.

you can see the rest of the pictures from our adventure here.

It was a two hour trip to DC. I was just praying we would narrowly miss the Friday commuter traffic. It was a cousin weekend and the kids could barely contain their excitement because we all know, there is nothing better on the planet than cousins. They are like siblings but with out all the drama and everydayness. Not to mention the meet up and drop off point was IKEA, this meant meatballs and gravy while watching School House Rock and sitting on a bright green ergonomically correct chairs.

We rolled up to the family parking and started to pile out of the car. Jack hopped out with no jacket on and hands dug deep in his pockets, it was about 38 degrees.

“Jack! Where is your jacket buddy?” I asked. There was already that tone in my voice.

“I don’t know, I thought I brought it!” he responded acting shocked.

I don’t really know exactly what happened after that moment but a rant of sorts started. It wasn’t really yelling, it was the kind where I  made him feel  like total crap for this forgetfulness. I knew it was not just about this moment. It was the four jackets lost before, the four Columbia jackets I had so proudly found at the thrift store, the 57,000 reminders to put on a jacket, to pick a jacket up, the pleading to hang it on the perfectly designed mud room/station hook to make it easy, it was the whole entire spring when this child was three and jumped in every puddle known to man, it was old…and A LOT.

As it was happening, it was almost as if I was out of my body looking down on myself.  I knew it was wrong, I could feel it…but I just could. not. stop. This may have only been about 4 minutes of ranting but it felt like 100 minutes or maybe a 1,000 to Jack. I muttered something about everyone getting back in the car and we were going to buy a new jacket.

And then she spoke. That Lucy girl.

“Mom, I am gonna tell you something right now.” Her voice calm but firm.

“Mom, we are a family of love, and you are being too harsh on Jackie-boy right now, and it hurts his feelings mom, it is just a jacket mom, just a jacket. …and jackets don’t matter mom, love matters and I just gotta tell you that.”

And I turned around and looked at Jack, his eyes watering, having just been rescued and righted by someone so small yet so wise, and said,

“You are right Luce. You are right. I am sorry Jackie-boy.”  *big sigh* “Oh dear.” and that was all there was to say.

And I felt like a total jerk and so proud at the same time…because on some level there was space with these dear souls for rants, love and truth telling.

We bought a new jacket and I held it as he slid his arms in.

“Maybe you guys are so good, all that is left to complain about is stupid jackets.” I said while I hugged him so tight. He hugged back even tighter.

And two days later, he opened the car door at the car pool line and said, “Oh mom, I know it is some where…” his brow furrowed and eyes wide. I sighed and half smiled, because there is this sort of surrender and calm that comes after the freak out has finally been released.

and because…

We are a family of love, and lost jackets.

waiting for baby…

October 25, 2011

A sweet, sweet family…waiting on the next addition. It’s amazing how much you can be loved before you are ever even born. Thanks to Monique for breaking up the chaos of my life lately and spending some time with you all in such a beautiful place…it was lovely.

i swear…

October 14, 2011

We were on a staycation this week…well, it ended up as a bit of a disaster, I’m calling it the workcation, but there were some truly lovely lazy moments. I swear some of the best family times happen on lazy mornings when everyone congregates to one bed and hangs out…doing a whole lotta nothin’. (except the climb-over-the-rail and fall on the bed trick)

lots o’ dinners…

October 11, 2011

We had our first dinner with Jimmy by candle light last night….my, was it lovely. Jen made to die for manicotti and salad, Vic and I made bread. Lillian (age 7) proclaimed that she only loved our cooking, the mothers in her life. It was joyful and sort of peaceful, even in kid chaos. There is something about intentional gatherings, bright orange pepperberries at a pretty table and comfort food on a fall night. We ate way too much, I think Jimmy would have been happy by the fullness all around.

…and your moments are coming in, daughters coming home from college for meatballs, the sweetness of preschool grand daughters who still can’t say the word spaghetti, homemade marinara being stocked up for the winter,  large casserole dishes of lasagna shared with gaggles of kids and friends…thank you for joining in on this kindness mission. I think it may be one of my most favorites yet.

Our simple love and kindness holds so much…

You can still join us!! This mission ends on October 18th! Send us a picture of your dinner with Jimmy to or upload on your facebook page and tag Guerrilla Goodness, or put it on the GG page- any way you want to share! All pictures and messages are being forwarded to Dolores and her family.

Hope you are enjoying your fall with the ones you love!

Kindness for YOU starts on October 31st so don’t worry if you haven’t signed up yet or were wondering where your e-mail is, it’s COMING!!

creating kind spaces…

October 2, 2011

Fall found her way to us this weekend so I pulled a folding table out onto the front porch, well, that and the laundry has been folded so nicely on the dining room table (thank you Jorge) for over 2 weeks now. Who knows when the clothes will find their way to the drawers?

So our family is about to take on a new adventure. It’s the kind that will require a bit of sacrifice from each one of us. I have to be honest and say I’ve been dwelling on the sacrifice part all weekend long, with a touch of worry thrown in. I find when I get stuck and need to be in a new head and heart space, the best place to start is my home. Maybe it’s because hope is cultivated in the places we find rest in, our haven.

A dear friend brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the farmer’s market, I carved pumpkin and gourd votive candle holders, we made homemade pizza with pepperoni stars and I wrote messages left on each plate.

The kids took turns reading their messages, the energy shifting little by little, someone made a toast and then Lucy decided we should all make a wish on our pizza stars. Most members wished for more pizza and voila!- more appeared. We talked about all the things that would suck about the changes ahead and all the parts that would be great.

My message said- Our LOVE is BIG and can hold and fuel our dreams!

Boy, is it true. I wonder why I don’t do this more. Invite our worry and uncertainty to a giant beautiful table of humanity and love, with space to voice our concerns but meet them with intentional hope and goodness. I think this may be the way to do hard and great things, along with some pepperoni wishing, of course.

What helps you when you are worried or facing something big? I usually start with a freak out and end some where in something beautiful, eventually.

love, love, love…

August 31, 2011

There’s nothing like a hurricane to make a wedding memorable…although I’m pretty sure the love of the new Mr. & Mrs. Waters is plenty fierce and strong all on it’s own. They beat the storm but just by a hair. What a sweet day friends! Thank you for including me…here’s a little preview:

this week…

August 24, 2011

well, it was really last week…but, you know…

we should all…

August 14, 2011

we should all do some more couch diving…with brightly colored head bands on.

first day chalk– don’t worry it’s coming soon…

Something new is always a little bit scary and exciting.
The first bag lunch of the year is always the best.
You look GREAT!
Some mom, grandmother, papa, dad, auntie is looking at the clock and thinking of you all day long, wondering how you are.
Everyone is learning and growing.
Making a world outside of your family or the familiar is good and also may take some time, but it’s worth it.
If something pops up that is hard, it’s okay, you will find your way…you will do this over and over again, all the way through life.
You are not alone.
Love is everywhere.
You are so loved.

the royal protectors…

August 9, 2011

To say my family is addicted to technology may be a bit of an understatement. TV isn’t so much the problem, no cable, not even an antenna…but computers, movies streaming, the internets? Yeah, well, there lies the love. Surprisingly, these children also share a deep love for art, the outside and other lovely things. Even so, in order to attempt to balance things, we have what we affectionately call Media Free Mondays.

The first hour of every Monday, children complain, walk around in circles while they detox, then they moan. If I can survive the first half of the morning, something wonderful happens- the real play starts to unfold. I’m not sure how but last week someone thought fort making would be a good idea, and before I knew it, there was a castle in my dining room. The royal subjects asked for a snack, their ever so humble servant delivered.

They were mostly excited about the royal goblets.

While they were busy constructing a royal library, setting up castle bedrooms, fixing secret entrances, I overheard this conversation:
Lucy: Well, I have to go to a royal meeting!
Jack: Well, who is gonna sleep with the baby? All good parents sleep with their babies!
Lucy: Hmmm, true, we need a babysitter!
Jack: Well I can’t, I’m a knight!
Josiah: That is what a knight IS Jack, a royal protector.
Jack: You’re right, I will sleep with the baby.

I laughed in the other room…while I know loads of good parents that do NOT sleep with their babies, I believe the next time Jorge or I head to a royal meeting, the other will now be called the royal protector.

this week…

August 5, 2011

lazy, lazy summer days…

The First Secret Garden Supper of the Season…

On the menu:

(by Papa Cris and the Party Wagon of Kindness)

Watermelon Mojitos
Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
Spanish Rice with Chipotle Sour Cream
Personal Nachos with Cheddar
Caramel and Chocolate Ice Cream cones

and a truckload of super family love…and a few fireflies.

sitting in kindness…

June 23, 2011

We sat together after everyone had left…sitting in the aftermath of kindness. It is the kind that isn’t always so easy, it is heavy and sometimes sad.

He cried a little. I know that cry, when you all of the sudden feel the pain of another, you don’t even know quite what to do with it because you know it is bigger than anything you’ve ever known or walked or held. And you can’t quite imagine living with it, and yet people do, with gnashing and fight and grace and beauty and strength and vulnerability and shame and pride and pieces all over, lots of pieces. …and we find our way.

“I don’t think we are supposed to fix it, I don’t think we can. I guess we just have to be in it with the people we love, stand by them, offer our love and feel theirs.” I said.
He nodded, somehow comforted by these words…and I think of all the years it took me to figure that out.

…and I wonder if other people are having these kinds of conversations with their 11 year olds. I wonder if I have brought my kid into this life that I feel lost in myself so many times, a life that constantly requires me to find new parts, heal old parts, choose courage again, even when I would rather not. …and yet I don’t really know any other way to be. He is stuck with me, in all of this broken kind life.

and it isn’t about rescue or being a good person, or passing some big value on…it’s just one human to another, one struggle among many being shared, one call that you are drawn to over and over again like a moth to a flame, one moment of seeing each other, one trust to let it pour or trickle out, and almost every time, there is no preparation, no chance to guard your heart or put the shutters up for the storm…it happens over making macaroni out of a box, or carrying laundry up the stairs, or one look when someone walks through the door.

…and we will sit, listen, talk and sometimes cry when that someone leaves…and then someone else will sit, listen, talk and cry when we leave…and later we will look up to the sky and see the moon shine, in all her glory…in the dark.