the art of wisdom…

November 30, 2012


the studio and table will be open tomorrow… and there is a place for you.

My dear friend and soulsister Suzanne Vinson will have her annual Holiday Open House tomorrow as part of the LGRA Ginter Park Art Show tomorrow (12/1).

Kindness Changes Everything Stickers (and prints) will be there as well as Be Brave and Kind prints too…along with so many other soulful, wise and pretty things.

I am kinda silly excited about these:


I hope to stop by after 2pm some time, maybe we’ll see each other there. Here is all the info if you would like to meet Suzanne and take in the art of wisdom:


Saturday, December 1st

10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

3421 Hawthorne Avenue

Richmond, VA 23222


all photos by Suzanne Vinson


“Be brave, be brave, be brave…” she whispered to herself as she put on her helmet. Lucy was (and still is) learning to ride her bike. She said the little mantra over and over and added a “You can do this” as she climbed on the seat.

I didn’t really know that bravery was calling me this year, until it did. Every situation around me was asking me to step into, or hunt it down or take one step closer.

…and I started whispering my little mantra to myself each time I was faced with some thing big or even something small that felt big… “Be brave and kind, it’s all you have to do, be brave and kind.”

maybe being brave is saying the words that are hard to speak, or to say nothing at all…

maybe being brave is making the next move, when it feels like there may not be any left…

maybe being brave is trusting you are enough…

maybe being brave is holding on, holding hope just a little tighter or by your last finger grip…

maybe being brave is believing what you hope is true, stepping boldly into joy…

Whatever it is, I know we are not meant to be brave alone, even though we face our worlds on our own. I remember years ago when I was very, very pregnant and our family was going through a very hard time. Depression had fallen over our house (for Jorge) and in the way where everything sort of fell apart , everything I knew over the years was looming suddenly became so clear.

While we were finding our way through, my dear friend Heather offered to give me a massage therapy session. During the session, at a point of finally being relaxed after holding so much, I closed my eyes and this very clear picture came into my mind like a giant movie screen.

I was walking up a huge hill, each step taking all my energy, at one weary moment I turned around, and a massive group of people were behind me, rows and rows, as far as the eye could see… holding hands, locked together like an army. It was a walk of bravery ahead, but even in all the darkness, the kindness was behind me.

So when Suzanne and I started to dream of what we wanted our soulsisterhood to be, we both knew Be Brave and Kind would be part of what we wanted in the world (I wrote about it here first). …and yet it feels more like part of our dream is that this art would bring people together like the rows, like hands locked together.

Just yesterday, I reached out to a few people I love, people that have walked the hill and people that have stood behind me, people that know what it is to be brave and kind, people that are claiming it everyday whether we succeed or not… I asked them to be part of this project by collecting each face in a picture.

Suzanne and I would love it if you would join us in making rows and rows of pictures…we would love it of you took a picture with the Be Brave and Kind print and send it to so we can add it to the next row and watch it grow.

There are quite a few choices of prints and stickers you can buy here. Prints and stickers of all sizes.

But even if the print is not something for you right now but you would like to be part of this collective heart and art, send us a picture with the words Be Brave and Kind written on a piece of paper or your hand, or any other creative way you can think of. We would love for you to be part of this either way.

In the next few days, I will be giving clues as to where we hid a 5×5 sticker and just a couple tiny stickers around RVA. (because sometimes you just gotta hunt for that bravery!)

today’s hint: there is one sweet little sticker in the top copy of  The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo at the Broad Street Barnes & Noble on Libbie Ave. on page 243.

And today we offer  one 5×5 Be Brave and Kind Print to one lucky winner,  just tell us one high and one low in your day today in the comments and you will be entered. We will announce the winner tomorrow night by 11pm.

Be Brave and Kind, it’s all we have to do…


Beth from Savour, you are our winner! What a lovely blog you have too! (winner picked by a

i want you to know…

May 29, 2012

I want you to know…

you can crash and burn at trying to be brave and kind…and it’s okay.

it’s a different kind of bravery to decide to care for yourself or lick your wounds

being who we really are brings us much closer together than trying to be something we think we should be

your words and comments stay with me, I think it’s so rad when you guys talk to each other

I am more intense and less gentle than I thought

I am learning so much about myself right now, this is both marvelous and maddening

I am still not done writing notes of encouragement– this pains me everyday, I know people are waiting

I want to learn how to listen as an act of kindness

I am finding my way

This is coming soon, very soon from the soulsisters…and I can’t stop staring at it and holding it in my hands

we can be brave and kind together,

because kindness changes everything.

(and I hardly look like this picture, it’s a really good picture.) 

they’re back!

May 15, 2012

photo by Erin Spengeman

Almost everyday I get an e-mail asking about the Kindness Changes Everything stickers my friend and artist Suzanne Vinson created as the beginning of our Soulsisterhood. I am happy to tell you they are back, along with a bunch of new ideas for more art, more soulful living and more kindness in the world. Suzanne and I keep getting together and we’re all, “What if we did this?”, followed by a, “OOOooooo, YEAH! and THIS….” and I leave each talk with a bursting heart and mind. We can’t stop planning and dreaming…and being late for preschool pick-up. It’s so, so sweet…and I am learning so much along the way.

So you can get them here…still the same price ($3 for 5 and we’ll send 5 more for you to pass on) and all funds go into The Soulsister Jar of Kindness to fund more kindness projects.

The jar is almost full… so today we would love to share with you that for our first Kindness event we will be creating a gathering of women for a time of total soul care…for women that are working really hard and have given every last part of themselves, for those that need a space to just be, for women that need a nourishment they don’t even know about, for women that need to receive what they have given…sound like you? We don’t know who or when yet? but we know where and what it will look like…we’ll keep you posted.

Until then, consider this our invitation:

Welcome to the Tribe…a soulsister gathering of care.

AND…on to the new! We also have a 5×5 limited edition print of Kindness Changes Everything  just like the sticker (but bigger) for those that want to keep the kindness a little closer or leave something a little bigger! You can order it here.

AND we wanted to run something by you all! Someone asked us if we would be willing to translate the Kindness Changes Everything into other languages and go global with our sticker love! We thought it was a fantastic idea and started working on it but ran into a few questions…we thought maybe you all could help us.

For all our Spanish speaking/Spanish loving friends (and anyone else that loves to share opinions!):

Does the translation have the same ring and feel?

If we made this into a sticker, would you want to share it? Is there a need/desire?

What is the first word/thought/idea/feeling that came to your mind when you saw it?

Thank you so much for all the sticker love and friendship! We are so excited to see where this next batch ends up and the stories and kindness that will follow!


Suzanne & Patience

The strawberry field opened this weekend…strawberry fields forever. My soul took a deep breath after the long winter. It’s picking season which means I got to see the Marlboro man and feel the wind and sun on my face while I picked nature’s candy with people I love.

I came home to find this goodness (above) on my front porch. A while ago I reached out to my dear friend, artist and soulsister Suzanne Vinson to ask if she would consider collaborating with me on a project. I don’t exactly remember where or how we met, but I admired her art from a far for quite some time. Besides the obvious wisdom, there is a gentle strength about everything that passes through her hands…and a kind energy.

We traded e-mails and I eventually found my way to her dreamy studio one evening at the table…a place where she holds creativity circles,  celebrations, and gatherings of soul care. I loved it, I loved her. Months later we sat on my green couch and talked until I was late for school pick-up and never even got a chance to pour the coffee and slice the yummy bread she brought. This is how you know you just met a soulsister.

I’m not so good at collaborating. I have lots of ideas but am busy and frazzled. I told Suzanne I wanted to make a sticker with those words I hold so close, the three words that pretty much guide my life…Kindness Changes Everything. I didn’t know if she would want to share her art with me or this project, I wasn’t sure I would have the money to fund it,  but I thought it was worth throwing out there. I knew though that we both held this way of being in the world tight, and that more than anything, we want to be part of a force sharing art, kindness and love in meaningful ways.

In just days she (in all her magic) returned this lovely art and just another week later, the stickers were sitting next to my daisies on my table. I could barely stand it because when art, kindness and sticky-ness collide, all you can think of is littering the city with goodness and power, the power of the kindness…and all the other soulsisters (and brothers) that may come upon the release of the joy of your heart…and that you had a chance to start it all with a friend, well, it’s so, so good.

So here’s the deal friends:

1. You can buy 5 stickers for $3 and we’ll send you 5 more to pass on, share, do something kind! That’s really 10 stickers for $3 (plus shipping) over at the Silver Tree Art store on Etsy. Click here.

2. All of the money will go into a SoulSister Kindness Jar to be used for future kindness missions (more about that later).

3. If you order stickers and happen to leave them some where public, or part of a kindness mission or even in your own space, send us a picture to or upload them to the Silver Tree Art Facebook page so we can watch kindness move and travel.

With so much love,

Suzanne and Patience

(can I just tell you I am dying to leave them on every light post in RVA?! except I feel bad about the kindness vandalism, well… just a little) 

the perfectly imperfect…

November 22, 2011

I don’t even know how I found her, maybe she found me or I saw her on twitter, but I instantly fell in love with her. Her work, her life, her writing, her graffiti…this is my kind of girl in every way. Erika Ray is one of those people you just wish was your neighbor, because you know you could sit at her kitchen table and spill your guts while we ignore children that are deep in lego play in only their super hero underwear.  

I was so stoked when she agreed to guest post for me…thank you new friend. I am so grateful for the art of you and your perfectly imperfect life. 

From Erika to you:

Comparison is evil. Isn’t it?  We all do it.  We all wish we didn’t.  It’s sort of like the last drink at the end of a big party.  You know it’s going to hurt in the morning, but you still tip it back.  Comparison makes you feel like your life could be better if things were just different.

My house isn’t big enough.  It’s in the wrong neighborhood.  Our schools are awful.  Why don’t my kids behave like her kids?  Clearly she’s a better parent.  Why can’t my youngest fall sleep at 7:30 p.m.?  It must be because she’s better at discipline and I’m a push-over.  Why can’t I make more money?  How does she do all of that stuff when I can barely clean the spit-up off my shoulder?  Shouldn’t our son be reading at this level?  Their kid does.  I need that camera and I’ll be as good as he is. Etc., Etc., Etc.,

As I’ve gotten older, I feel like I’ve learned something really valuable.  Don’t do it.  Comparison – not the last drink (haven’t learned that yet).  When you play the comparison game, you lose.  You’ll never even come close to winning.  But life isn’t a competition.  In my opinion, most of life’s goodness is about being happy with what sits in front of you.  It is what it is.  You have to find the goodness even when it’s crappy, or less than beautiful.  Because aren’t most days pretty ordinary?  And if you spend those days comparing your life to someone else’s, you miss out.  Your life isn’t your neighbor’s, SIL’s, brother’s, friend’s, model’s, mother’s, or even that crazy blogger’s.  If you fall into the comparison trap your head is stuck in a future that will probably never happen.

Photography has taught me to slow down and capture life’s ordinary moments.  Appreciate what I have.  Not all of it is pleasant.  There are days I wish my kids didn’t tantrum.  There are days I wish my dog didn’t eat grass and then throw it up.  There are days I wish we lived in a better neighborhood.  But for the most part, photography allows me to find the beauty in what has been given to me.

Golden light at the end of a crappy day.

The tears from my son because he desperately wanted show his independence.

The beautiful light that lives in my bathroom.

I try really hard to accurately showcase the beauty of my life.  I try to write about life in a way that is completely honest and just hope someone can relate.  And I refuse to only share the most pleasant moments of my life. That might lead people to falsely compare their lives to the version I decide to share. That isn’t fair.  My kids don’t always say “Please”.  My youngest jump-stomps when he’s really mad.  And more often than I’d like to admit, I give in.  My husband and I argue more than we should.  But I believe we’re normal, happy, and completely loved by our family and friends.  I hope that my photography inspires people to find the beauty that lies in their own walls.  Because believe me, it’s there.  You just have to stop comparing and put your current life on the pedestal it demands.  It is what it is.  You own life is badass.  Find, show, and live in its beauty.

Erika Ray blogs about her perfectly imperfect life at Erika Ray Photography.  You can find more photos of her bathroom light, shopping excursions, and more ordinary acts on her Facebook page.   And follow her random, sometimes snarky tweets at @erikalray.