group 4!!! women: raw. honest. loved.


Terrifying is the word that keeps entering my brain when thinking about the ladies’ feelings about being a part of this group.  Prior to the evening taking place, “terrifying” is the word that kept coming up when they would enter any sort of conversation discussing their upcoming participation.
And “terrifying” was the word that kept being used at the beginning of the evening.
But, ask any of these ladies now, after they have participated and felt what the whole experience is about, and I feel like you will get some words other than “terrifying” to explain it.
I have heard words now like: relieved. accepted. understood. affected. touched. loved.

I must admit that this group was the first one that made me a little bit nervous…
I’ll explain.
The first group we did (if you’re only familiarizing yourself now with the project, visit here to find out the backstory and how the night evolves: was done, not with the intent of it becoming a project…not with the intent of it being anything other than a night of peers discussing things we are not prone to discuss, just to see how beneficial it might be.  It was a group of my own friends/peers who participated, not knowing what they were getting themselves into…nothing to base this on.  And it was awesome.  And it convinced us to do a teen group.
So, we did a teen group (…with girls who really didn’t know what the project was about, but were interested in the concept.  And IT was awesome.
THEN, we did a 55+ group, ( to see what the differences/similarities would be…with women who, for the most part, weren’t really aware of the project much, but were also interested in the concept.  And, guess what, it was ALSO awesome.

So, because each group was beneficial, it was decided that the project should continue.  And so I opened it up to a mixed group – of just interested women, in general.

The main, super noticeable difference?

These women all knew what the project was.
These women all were affected by the previous women’s stories and wanted to share their stories.
Well, wanted to and didn’t want to…but felt like it was something they needed to do.
In their own words, here are some comments they made when sharing what brought them to the project:

“It was terrifying, and so I thought I’d better do it!” – Michelle

“Becca’s photo came up on Facebook…I read the blog and I thought it was super cool and not something I would ever do.” – Liz

“I would never do anything like this.  When Liz asked me, it was like a five minute decision.  It was like, “Are you insane?!” as I’m reading the email, “there’s no way I would ever, ever do that.”  And then I finished the email and I was like, “You know what, that’s just dumb.  I should just do it because it’s something I would never, ever, ever do.  Why not?”  And then once I said I would do it, I couldn’t really back out.” – Nicole

“Becca’s picture popped up in my news feed and I read it and thought, “How brave of people!  That’s beautiful!  I wish I was brave enough to do that, but I’m not,”  and then you were like, “Oh yes you are!” and I was like, “Oh crap!  I’m doing this, I guess.” And then I committed and tried to back out twice…and my boyfriend was like, “Oh nooo, if you back out, so help me god, I’m gonna tell your mother!” And then he did…and she called me up and was like, “Ana-Elizabeth, do not make me fly out there!  I will fly 2000 miles and drag you there myself!” And I was like, “Now I really can’t back out.  Crap.” – Ana

“I felt totally voyeuristic, reading the blog.  I was like, I’m kinda embarrassed reading this about people exposing themselves, but it’s such an honest thing and such a brave thing that I thought, “if my friends can do this, I can do this. I shouldn’t be such a wussie and hide from things.”
So I just thought it would be a good way of stepping forward into being a more brave person and a more consistent person.” – Char

“I saw Dawn’s post on Facebook and right away I thought it was a divinely inspired project – that there needs to be healing amongst all of us and the more women your project can reach, the more healing can occur.  So, I wanted to be a part of that.  I’m honored to be a part of it.  I’m terrified,
but I think it’s exactly what I need right now and I think we’re all meant to be here right now.  That every single one of us is meant to be in this room.” – Karin

So, yeah, that is how we started the evening.  Terrified.  Doing something they’d never, ever do.   Wanting to back out.  But, committed.

But there were so many good things to come…
All of the sharing/relating/bonding with other women.
All of your feedback (as friends and family) on why you love these women like you do.
All of these things that you possibly would never say, not given the opportunity.  The stuff of eulogies…when the person is not around to hear the words anymore.  Here was your opportunity to say them, and say them you did.
They are inspiring words. They are loving words.
They are words that have instilled newfound strength and confidence in these ladies, and for that, I can’t thank you enough.

As you read these ladies’ stories…please think about all of this.  And when you’re done reading this, go tell at least one person why you love them.  In detail.  Even if they look at you like you’re nuts.  🙂

Now, meet the ladies.  Be inspired.

(I will also likely be releasing each lady’s story individually, as I know this is terribly long, and I want them each to be considered.)


 Sylvia ~

“I am a coward. Well, that might be a little harsh, but sometimes that’s how I feel. Like a big puss. A spineless wimp.  A scaredy-cat.

I have a really hard time with conflict. I hate it, pure and simple. I cringe when I’m around it, and I especially detest being involved in it. The thing that sucks the most about this is that it stops me from standing up for myself, expressing my feelings, and worst of all, standing up for the things I believe in or even sometimes for the people I love. It blows. It makes me feel week and awful.

The weirdest part is that I don’t even know what my dang problem is. I honestly don’t know what I’m afraid of. What do I really think the consequence is going to be if I let go of my fear and start approaching conflict with confidence? I mean, I honestly don’t really think that if I say “Hey, what you said hurt my feelings.”, that my friend would end our relationship or scream at me. I don’t foresee that if I said “Hey, you can’t talk to my friend that way.” , or “Please don’t talk like that in front of these 27 children. You are at a water-park, sir…” that I’ll get sucker-punched or stabbed or something.  But for some reason, I have an almost physical response to stuff and my mouth just can’t say what it wants to. It just stews in my head and I get more annoyed, or angry, or sometimes even resentful. It’s only when things get pretty messed up that I’ll finally say something, and sometimes even then it’s watered down and tapered.

The other weird part is that I’m not a watered-down person. I have a good sense of humor. I like to laugh. I like to be social, I like to be around people, and I love having a lot of different friends that I maintain relationships with.  But, often, I feel like I have to be on my best behavior so I’m not doing anything to make waves. I try really hard not to be offensive, rude, disrespectful, too loud, or too annoying, so there won’t be any reason for me to have conflict with anyone. While I’m proud of being polite (most of the time), having good manners, and thinking of how my actions affect other people, sometimes I am so concerned about the impression that I make that I let myself (or others) down by not being strong and vocal when I should be.
Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m worried that someone is going to read this and think that I’m never honest with them and they’ll be upset with me and we’ll have to have a conversation that will be uncomfortable for me to have, which might result in an argument and then that person will be mad and upset, and I’ll be mad and upset and I’ll bitch about it and think about it, and hopefully it will either resolve itself or get swept under the rug or…blah blah BLAH.. Sheesh. It feels crazy, and tiring. I’m aware of it, and working on it, and have gotten better at it…but I have a long, long way to go.”

Sylvia’s family and friends:

“*beautiful inside and out *funny *patient *caring *A best friend *honest and loyal” – Angie.

“It’s hard for me to believe that I have known Sylvia for over 15 years now, it makes me feel old!  We met our Freshman year of college and right away we had an instant connection. I think that Sylvia’s witty sense of humor is what made me like her so much.  In all my years of knowing Sylvia there has never been a time when were hanging out that we didn’t end up with a hilarious story, even something as simple as going to 7-11 would make for a huge comedy in our eyes, even if others didn’t agree!  I don’t think the amount of fun memories we share could fit into a book, the number of ridiculous singing phone messages we left each other is too many to count! Sylvia has been a part of my life through all of the milestones, births, marriage, death, and just figuring out life in general.  I can honestly say that my life is better because I call Sylvia my friend.   When I think of Sylvia there are so many things that come to mind but here are a few.

My friend Sylvia is………………

An amazing Mom
funny as hell
too strong for her own good sometimes
a free spirit

I Love you my beautiful brown sugar simply caramel angel!” – Etema

“As a person – Sylvia is one of the kindest I have ever met! She genuinely cares for those that are close to her and always tries to be positive. Sylvia is one of those people that make you feel right at home – after meeting her, you feel like you’ve known her all your life.
Sylvia underestimates her physical beauty. She has a very unique face, not your average “Barbie” doll face. Sylvia has an absolutely amazing smile with beautiful teeth and a very infectious laugh. She has a beautiful caramel skin coloring – and some of the prettiest kinky curls!! She has fascinating eyes – they tell a story with just a glance – you can tell a lot of what she is feeling by just looking at her eyes.
Together with her incredible inner beauty and her exotic outer beauty – Syl is an AMAZING person! She’s absolutely hilarious too!

I hope this helps with your project. I know that she is totally excited about – and I can’t wait to hear all about it!
Have fun and good luck!” Jessica

“I am extremely impressed with what a beautiful, intelligent and caring young lady Sylvia has become.
She doesn’t lament about how life is unfair, hard, etc., but makes a plan of action to handle the situation should one arrive.
Sylvia is very concerned about peoples’ feelings, whether they’re family, friends, or those she comes into contact with briefly.   She is so careful to not say or do anything to hurt anyone.  She will often call and inquire whether I took something she said the wrong way.
She is always honest.  Not in a bad way, but in a way which does not cause any problems or misunderstandings.
Sylvia is great in expressing herself.  She has a great vocabulary, uses correct English, and explains herself well.  I’m sure she is a great trainer.
She is understanding of others and not judgmental.  She never jumps to conclusions, but considers all options, backgrounds and situations; not to justify or condemn, but to understand.  She accepts everyone where they are in life.
Sylvia is a wonderful listener and never interrupts.  If she is not sure of what was said, she will ask questions, so there is no misunderstanding.
She has a great sense of humor and is fun to be around.  She does not take herself too seriously and is always able to laugh at herself.
Sylvia is gentle with people, especially the young or older.
She is concerned with everyone feeling comfortable in any situation.  She will engage those who are on the fringe and make sure to enjoy everyone.
Sylvia is the most remarkable mother I have ever seen.  She has gone to extremes to take the proper care of Zander,  including changing her diet dramatically because of his allergies so she can continue to nurse him.” – Justine

“SYLVIA is my sister and my friend and I admire her and look up to her in so many ways…her strength of will, her laugh, and her warm and happy attitude are infectious! Her genuine love of those around her and her openness and honesty are so refreshing to anyone who knows her. She always stands up for what she believes and holds dear but will always listen to views and ideas that are opposed to hers and give her thoughts from the heart, never out of anger or a sense of needing to be right. Her storytelling ability is magnetic! Whenever she starts to recount an event or bit of news, everyone will listen because she gives the craziest things a new vibrant life.
Sylvia is beautiful, and if she knows it she is never arrogant about it. She has a natural beauty that also comes from being positive and the exuberance that she produces out of her love for life. She has an energy that, if her aura could be seen, would be golden. She is always up for adventure; from living on a cruise ship for two years to climbing through the Ape Caves and adding her vocal talents to a song on the underground punk/rock group Botch’s album “We are the Romans”! Even though she has a strong love relationship, so many friends, family,  and acquaintances…Sylvia always finds time for a chat, a visit, a kindness to whoever needs it! She is always surprising me with her strength and great attitude and now that she is a mother, has shown that she will do all that it takes to be the best mother there has ever been! Sylvia knows her mind and can do whatever she sets her focus on… she is like a gorgeous great tree that braves all weathers and stands through time, shimmering and beautiful and sheltering and strong! I love you, Sylvia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” – Chelsea

“Sylvia has been my best friend for 20 years. Throughout those years I’ve watched her grow into a woman who is loyal, loving, sensitive, wickedly smart, disciplined, creative, thought-provoking and craaaazy funny. She makes sure to speak with kindness and thoughtfulness even when faced with confrontation and most recently becoming a mother, Sylvia has shown another side; an even softer side with even more warmth and joy and unconditional love for her boy. She is dedicated and inspiring and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known both inside and out, I couldn’t love her more if she were my blood.” – Kate

“I apologize ahead of time for my writing as I am not good at just writing a list of synonyms of someone’s qualities, so it is more like a story. Since it is storyish, I have included myself so I can give my fresh perspective but in no way is it meant to be about me, only Sylvia and her traits.
When I was originally asked to write something about Sylvia, I immediately felt honored. That I, of all people, was given the chance to be able to talk about her – someone I not only hold very dear, but absolutely treasure. It is an extraordinary feeling to be involved in writing my deepest, most honest feelings about my good friend for this powerful group she has taken part of.
It is hard to try to find the words to start, so I will start at the beginning…
When I first met Sylvia at Marlene’s we were mere acquaintances, but her beauty and the confidence she exuded immediately astonished me. I would see her at work around her co-workers and I could tell they all adored her. When I saw her at the bar with her boyfriend, I was bewildered at how he just worshipped her. It was clear to me that Sylvia wasn’t just ‘cool’; she was the real deal. She wasn’t trying to impress anyone, she was just herself always. I never saw Sylvia be phony. She had something that I didn’t – she radiated an inviting aura. I was so drawn to her, not only because her smile was like a welcoming mat, but also because I was so interested in how she had such a charming appeal without even trying. Naturally, I admired her from afar as I was incredibly intimidated.
Then a very special thing happened – after months of working together and saying hi, we went from acquaintances to great friends. In a dirty booth at Magoo’s we started talking and didn’t stop. It wasn’t just the kind of fun time where you look back and go, “she was amusing, maybe I’ll see her around,” it was the kind that bonds you. A bond that you know was made for a reason. I know the reason is because we complement each other. To this day I can truthfully say, I don’t know what she needs from me, but I know I need her. I would feel lost without her. Sylvia is everything I wish I was, and being around her makes me a better person.
Oh and talk about a sense of humor, this girl is one of the only people that can make that real hearty laugh come out. She can be a smart ass, she can be silly, and she can just be herself and it is all delightfully funny. The woman has a powerful laugh too. It’s like ‘Contagion’ because it is very hard to escape without finding yourself infected and giddy. I not only admire her personality and her life experiences, but everything about her. There is nothing that woman can say to me that doesn’t make me feel blessed to know her. Since she has a tendency to withhold her emotions or hardship, it is a very special and unique experience to have her open up to me. I know she has had a lot of tough times and it seems easier for her to hold it in then exert the energy it takes to let it out, but even when she is opening up, she is still such an admiration.
I envy her willpower and capacity to take on all the nonsense she has to deal with. To be so cool and collected and reach out when necessary to the people she trusts, instead of turning in to a hot mess and dwelling herself into a dark place. It is a respectful quality and she should always treasure her strength, because, even when she has had emotional moments, I still only see her as a woman who can never be broken and I believe that to be a badge of honor. Especially when she doesn’t feel strong ‘cause in all the years I have known her, I have never seen her appear weak. This is not to say that she is withdrawn or reserved about herself. Quite the opposite. She is an open book and when she speaks about herself she does it in such an eloquent way that even if it was out-of-the-ordinary or what some might consider too personal, it’s not at all. It’s fascinating and, like I said before, you feel like you have been graced with the most awe-inspiring conversation. When it’s not just a fascinating tidbit about her, she is captivating you with her talent for amazing storytelling.
If her sense of humor and conversation topics weren’t enough to hold someone’s attention, than an adventure with her would be, because just about anything is an adventure with Sylvia. I could list many of our adventures that I still remember vividly but this would turn in to a novel. It’s more than the adventure, it’s the memory. It’s the drive home from Tiki Bob’s with the windows rolled all the way down, or helping check the trunk of her car that had been broken into for a dead body, or the Christmas party at Hank’s where I got roofied; or “let’s pretend we are rich valley girls and act it out in this bathroom”; or “I wish I was a little bit taller-I wish I was a baller-I wish I was skinnier”; or “can you please stop sleeping on my back I’m really hot”; or dressing up for the nutcracker only to look like lushes chugging wine during intermissions; or that phone-a-friend with the big question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen right now!”
All in all, I have never seen a more desired woman in my life. Men love her and women want to be her. She may have insecurities because she is human but she doesn’t need them. They are just weights around her ankles that don’t belong there because no one else sees them.
To wrap this up with my straightforward truths and what I see in Sylvia, is this: Sylvia, you are the bestest friend I could have ever asked for. That is not a cheesy superficial junior high statement. It is the truth. You have stood by my side even when I didn’t deserve you. You have helped me when you needed to help yourself more. You have given me time you didn’t have to give. You have been strong for me when I wasn’t and it made me believe that I could be. You have always supported every smart and stupid thing I did because you wanted me to be happy.
You give me hope when I feel hopeless. You, above anyone else, I trust to be my cat’s, dog’s, son’s godparent and you know that is not something I take lightly. Why do I keep you around? Well…. I don’t know who I would be without you because you have become such a part of me. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not the only one who feels this way. I guarantee every person that loves you can repeat these same words and many more. I am so proud to be your friend but, mostly, I am just so proud of you and everything that you are.
I wanted to write something that would show you exactly what I thought of you but I don’t think this even grazes the surface. You are so remarkable and superb, how do I put that into words? I could write forever about you but instead I will just end with this: I love you with all my heart and no matter what happens, I always will. You are family to Fox and I because you belong in our lives. I couldn’t be more thankful that you are my friend and Fox’s godmother.” – Leah

“Things about Sylvia…

I thought of when Sylvia and I first met and what it was that attracted me to her.  I tried to focus on things she has become good at after years of effort.  I thought of concentrating my efforts on her natural talents and gifts.  I also tried using what I’ve heard of her from others as a guide.
Then I thought of the purest, most-removed way of showing who she really is:  All the things that make her a loved person to those around her are the same things that make her an amazing Mother.  They are traits that sneak quietly from inside her, past her awareness, and out to the world.  They aren’t things she learned or some “mothering instinct” that so many people love to mention.  It is a collection of traits she has never had control of; beautiful, quiet, shimmering little stars that wait to explode and fill the universe of each person she meets.  Becoming a Mother has magnified these things and revealed even more.  She was born to be a Mother and born to bring joy to the lucky people around her.
She is selfless.  As a Mother, she has filtered her diet down to nothing to meet the dietary constraints of our son.  She could have decided to feed him formula in order to bypass all of the foods he is allergic to – but she didn’t do this. She has taken the hardest route possible for no reason other than to give our son the best start in this world that he can have.  She is no different to the rest of us.  She hurts when she senses others are hurting and puts her own comfort to the side in an effort to secure the comfort of others.  There is no formula for her.  She lives for our happiness and success.
Sylvia has a memory like hieroglyphs on an Egyptian stone wall.  And I don’t really think this is something she puts much effort into.  I’m the one that asks for help remembering the name of someone we just met (that was probably wearing a name tag).  She’s the one that paid attention and caught their favorite pasta noodle, pet’s name, birthday, and pet’s birthday.  As a Mother, this translates into appointment times, doctor names, shots, allergies, and a running count of changed diapers.  As Sylvia’s friend or partner, this means having someone in your life that remembers the little things.  Sometimes it feels great to know that someone cares enough to remember our pet’s name… or even our doctor’s name.
She is amusingly insane.  She sings songs that make no sense, with music that makes no sense, while doing dances that make no sense, to a son that thinks she is the greatest thing in the world.  To myself (and maybe some lucky friend) she’ll sing songs that make no sense, with music that makes no sense, while doing dances that make no sense.  I think she is the greatest too.  She can turn a bad day into a confusing day, and sometimes that’s just what I need.  It can be this singing of hers, a new animal sound she’s created, or an impersonation.  She keeps a child’s perspective on the world, just enough to keep a person from taking life too serious.  It’s something  I hope my son and I keep with us every day.
Lastly, Sylvia is brave.  I have seen her hair fall out and knew, without asking, that it was one of the most devastating things that could happen to a girl. She never complained as much as she deserved to.  Instead, she styled her hair strategically and went to work each day, or to the store, whatever, and held her head high.  I know she wanted to curl into a ball and hide.  But she didn’t.  What she did, and has done in many ways, was teach me that there are many forms of bravery.  As a Mother, she will have much to teach, and many traits to pass on to a son that will become a great man.
Sylvia is a one hundred foot tall Mother that sees eye-to-eye with her son.  She is the heart of a whale in the body of a field mouse.  She is a great leader dressed as a peasant.  She is truly the better half of me.
I love her more than I love myself and never want to know a day without her.” – David


Ashley ~ 

I am a controlling bitch.

I like things done my way, and I like it done in my timeframe. I tell my husband how he should do simple tasks and what he should do for a career; I question my friends decisions when they do something I wouldn’t do; I give my opinion at times I really shouldn’t. I try to keep my thoughts to myself, but if I get carried away, I tend to sound really judgmental. I have gotten much better over the years, but the people closest to me have fallen victim to my ideas of right and wrong many times.
I wish I was a nicer person.”

Ashley’s friends and family –

Amazing friend
Great mom
Fierce (in a good way)
Supportive.” – Jenny

“Hi Alana!

My seeeestah, Ashley, is:
STRONG AND DETERMINED: she wants what she wants, doesn’t need anyone’s approval, and she’ll go for it!  I wish I could be that sure of myself.
INSANELY NURTURING: when we were growing up it was pats, and hugs, and snuggles for the cats… whether they wanted it or not ;).  Now, it is Hayden.  It breaks my heart that there are people that would openly criticize and question her mothering, especially because I know that she’s going at it perfectly, but she DOES hear them, just in case there is a way to improve (even though the naysayers are totally wrong), because she cares so crazy much.  Hayden is so smiley!  And funny!  That only happens when you do things in the way that is right for HIM.
BRAVE:  well, she willingly had a kid, for one.  But supporting her husband’s choice regarding military service is something that I KNOW I don’t have in me.  I’m scared shitless for them!  I don’t know how she is doing it?!?!  It’s amazing.
PRETTY!!!  She has that perfect skin tone that doesn’t get too pasty in winter, and browns up super nice in the summer.  She got the interesting Eyes with No Particular Color.  Her teeth are the perfect size, too!  And her eyebrows are awesome.  And she got the rack 😉
My husband, Darrin, says that Ashley is OPINIONATED BUT UNDERSTANDING: she knows how she wants things and people to be, but when they aren’t, it’s not really a big deal, and she’ll get along with you anyway.  Different is okay.
There’s a picture I have from EndFest in 2000.  It’s goofy as hell; we’re in Mom’s minivan and we’re all sweaty after the concert, and we both have ginormous smiles.  We look the most like sisters as we ever will in that photo.  Mom gave it to us years ago in “sister” frames.

The frame says:
“Sisters love, sisters share, sisters fight, sisters care, sisters laugh, sisters understand, sisters come together at different times in life.  Sisters are the precious sunshine giving meaning to so many things not understood.  Like stars in the night, sisters are forever.

To Ashley,
We are more different than a lot of sisters we’ve known.  We have definitely had our share of fights, but I think our years of caring and sharing are starting to make up the bigger chunk of the last 25 years.  Sisters really do come together at different times in life, and they wouldn’t always choose to associate with each other if not required by blood.  I think we’re becoming more and more compatible as we go through life and that’s freakin awesome!
(I attached a copy of my fave pic of us in the frame)” – Lauren

“Ashley has been a good friend of mine for many years now. We have had our disagreements but we have managed to stay close… as close as we can with me being on the east coast lol. She is very strong willed independent, and determined. She is also very stubborn. While some see that as a negative quality I see it as a positive one. It means she is not willing to give up and will keep trying for whatever it is she needs or wants. When all options are gone and everyone is telling her to give up she ignores everyone and keeps going until the job is done.” – Christina


I have tried to write a synopsis of my younger daughter. Started over several times. I don’t want to define her by any one slice of her life!
Ashley has always been independent and ready to tackle everything. She rarely takes “no” for an answer.
Stubborn – As a new mother, I have seen Ashley stick to her beliefs as to how her son will be nurtured along. She is so in love with that little guy!
Moral – Ashley married her high school boyfriend. They have grown up together and continue to evolve as a team in life. She believes in her husband.
Loyal – I worried that Ashley wouldn’t be treated well when she started her career. She was so much younger than her peers, but her confidence and professionalism won them over.

So I ended up with a few slices of Ashley after all. She is so much more, and anyone who knows her will agree.”  – Teri (momza)

“Ashley’s :

Impish pixie, but not naughty.
Brave, but not overly bold.
Bright, & intelligent
Thinks ahead, and behind
Intensely emotional
Forgiving, & unforgiving  (be careful)
Caring, for those close and far
Her tolerance level towards ignorant, lazy people is still nice and low, but she’s less emotional about it as she matures.
(Understands the cathartic benefit of having “Ally McBeal” moments, and defuses herself when she might want to escalate an situation.)
She’s growing up, but not away!
I love her and her family dearly, they make me very proud.  I’m glad I contributed to who she is . . .  and to who they will become.”- Norm (Dad)

“Who is Ashley to me, in short she is my atlas holding up my world. She represents all the stability, fortitude and mental endurance in my life. I am a very unconventional person in the way that I never live the same day twice. I have no routines and no plans to develop them anytime soon. I thrive in chaos or at least I thought I did. This is where Ashley comes in; she taught me how to slow down, to stop constantly reacting to my environment and most importantly to relax and find comfort in the things you can control. She patiently, through years of resistance on my part, helped me set goals and showed me how to achieve them.
Ashley leads by example, when she wants something in life, nothing can stop her. A good representation of this is her car. When we were teenagers she picked out her dream car. A practical and reliable Ford Escape. I remember when she first showed it to me. She said this is the perfect vehicle for her. It was rugged enough to go anywhere received high ranks in safety and gas mileage but most importantly, it had enough room for a family of four to sit comfortably. We had already been dating for almost five years (2005), but kids was for from the equation, but that was her always looking to the future and meticulously planning for what lay ahead. Fast-forward to the present and damn was she right. The car is perfect for our new son (now almost two), and has provided us with many memories, i.e. road trips and camping. At times it’s hard for me to see what she sees. She has the ability to gaze into the future five or ten years ahead and to make sound decisions affecting that future. Without her I would still be living in chaos with no future to look forward to. Thank you for all the guidance and sound advice and thank you beautiful wife, loving mother, for the amazing future you will undoubtedly provide for Hayden and me I look forward to growing old with you and watching our children thrive.

Love, Your Husband Mikal”


Dawn ~

“Stunted by my insecurities, I miss out on opportunities to grow. My lack of confidence and my propensity to worry too much mingle throughout all my insecurities.
One of my early memories is worrying about being too fat for my ballet pictures when I was 5 or 6, so I quit. I’ve seen pictures of myself at that age…I was nowhere near fat! Where did that come from?!  As a teenager, I had a passion for acting. I took one acting class but quit because I was too shy. Now I wonder how that opportunity would have changed my life. From a young age until recently, I had very large breasts; which I was definitely insecure about & that infringed on my relationships with men. They brought me, a shy person, unwanted attention and changed my behavior – making me feel trapped. Currently, being overweight is something I fret about and work on much, but with little avail. My body image is one of my insecurities but I believe people should be appreciated by who they are inside and how they treat others – not what they look like. A poor body image is there for me, it’s just not at the forefront or top of my list. There is always going to be one imperfection or another. Sometimes I think I don’t care enough about my appearance; leaving the house without looking in the mirror and coming back home to realize, “Oh yeah, I was waxing my eyebrows before I left the house and I have pieces of blue wax on my face. Oops I guess I should have looked in the mirror before leaving the house…”
I waste my time worrying. I worry about how my insecurities will make me miss out on healthy relationships. And how my lack of confidence & passivity will make me lose out on advancement at work or business opportunities. I feel alienated & worry people don’t like that I’m too emotional, too honest, too weird, too awkward, too passive, too introspective…but these are all things I love about myself.
Ira Glass once said something on an episode of This American Life that I related to: “I’m married to somebody who …I totally feel like every day I have to prove myself anew. That’s totally my personality. For me, I think that something went wrong when I was a kid, where I think that other people, they just accept that they’re “in”. They accept that this other person likes them, and they don’t have to keep proving themselves. Whereas for me, it’s entirely temporal. I’m constantly judging the whole thing moment by moment, and it could always fall apart. For me, it never ends.” (This American Life, episode 314:It’s Never Over)”

Dawn’s friends and family –

“My friend Dawn is a strong woman, a resourceful woman, a confident woman and a great friend. She is a beautiful lady, inside and out. 
Dawn has such a big heart. While I was working at VRads, she always had a hug for me on a bad day and gave me support without bias during a difficult time. 
She lights up when she talks about her special little kiddos and I love watching her interact with each of them 🙂 
She is a hard worker and has strong convictions.
Dawn, you have a great style that shows from within and your sexy savvy is sassy, Sister! I love you!” – Sasha

“I would describe Dawn with these adjectives;
stylish, smart, cool, honest, loyal and crafty.” – Eric

“Dawn… I’m not sure where to begin.  She and I have braved the mile-long friendship test that is IKEA and came out Laughing. We lost track of each other in the lamp section, and after about 15 minutes I was convinced she was pulling a fast one on me, like when kids hide in the center of clothes racks to freak out their parents.  Or, in this case, Mom hides in the clothes rack, and kiddo is left wondering which way he came from and how anybody could hide in all this extra light.  I remember her finally walking up, grinning and a little frazzled, asking “HEY, Where’ you been, I’ve been looking all over the place?”  It’s always fun to hang out with her.
I admire a lot about Dawn.
Her commitment to everything she’s interested in… her hobbies, now her business, her friends, Robb.
Her enthusiasm for finding anything to spark both her own sense of Being Alive, and encouraging it in those around her.  She’s the one who organizes the group camping trips, double dates, game nights… a night out for a friend who’s feeling low, just to get them out and moving and laughing again.
Plus, she’ll make you pillows!  For the new couch she drove you to pick up!
She’ll call you Sweet Tits!
She will goose you in the middle of an antique fair, and out-do you and everyone else on Halloween!
And she won’t bother to sugarcoat a hard truth – I don’t think she has any interest in that kind of thing at all.  She’ll be gentle about it, sure, but still give it to you straight.
She is Great, and I feel very fortunate to have her as a friend.” – Todd

“Hi Alana, just wanted to tell you about my daughter, Dawn.
She is a daughter to be very proud of – what she’s accomplished in her life, despite many adversities, she’s managed to stand up and keep on going.
Her honesty would be above most people, including myself.  She’s always been honest all of her life.
She is a very loving and faithful daughter, and friend. She always has time for me, and includes me in her life, and also shares her friends with me.
She is very creative, which shows in her handmade crafts that she carefully creates and packages.
Dawn is also a great godmother to April’s two girls, whom she adores and they in turn love her very much.
Dawn takes time to make all her friends feel cared for and important.
She has qualities that make me so very proud of her and the life she lives.
I’m happy she has so many friends and the ability to go on day-to-day, because when I’m not here anymore, I know all of you will watch over my daughter, my gift.” – Diane

“I admire Dawn for all of her qualities. She is confident. She wears what she wants to wear, she says what she feels. She’s just free to be herself. She’s an amazing friend to have. Dawn is vibrant, strong, and honest. She has always been there when I’ve needed her. She’s the kind of friend that you can accidentally spill an entire drink in her lap and she won’t get upset. She will just wipe herself off and proclaim to the entire bar that her panties are wet.
I love the way she loves my girls and my girls adore her. That is why we made her the Godmother of our children, after all.” – April

“Hey Alana,
Thanks for making my lady friends feel good about themselves. You do good work. So here’s some of the things I think are great about Dawn.

“Till the brink of Dawn, baby got it goin’ on!”
Dawn has a great sense of humor. I like joking around with her.
Dawn is inventive and crafty. It’s cool to see what projects she’s working on.
It’s pretty awesome camping or hiking with Dawn.
She’s a very good organizer and hostess.
I love her sense of style and fashion.
Dawn is very smart and witty.
Dawn is a great friend to have. She’s reliable and trustworthy. She truly tries to see where you’re coming from. She likes to get out and experience things. I’m glad I have her as one of my friends.” – Joe

“I just have to start with one of my absolute favorite things about Dawn: her laugh. She’s got this full, big, happy contagious laugh that goes for miles. It’s genuine, pure, and lovely. It’s one of the many beautiful things about my friend.
I have had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with Dawn over the last decade or so. Due to a chance meeting involving a mattress and a male friend (minds out of the gutter, now…), I was lucky to be introduced to this lovely girl. Turns out that we went to the same High School and knew a lot of the same people, but didn’t run in the same circles at that time. However, we did start hanging out at Magoos, drinking, and sharing stories and fun-filled times. I always loved being around Dawn. She has this charisma, this charm. It was always there, every time we were together.
We got closer over the years, and that’s when I got to know the depths of Dawn. She is one of the most honest and true people I know. If someone asks Dawn a question or for their opinion, they know that the answer they are going to get is genuine.  And the great thing is that even if the answer might not be what the person wants to hear, she has a gentleness and grace that comes along with her honesty.
She also has this amazing strength. She stands up for herself and for her friends, with fierceness, if necessary. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, stand up for what she believes, and to be herself no matter what the situation. She has this “realness” that I admire so. She has a outwardly noticeable pride in being a strong woman and I believe that people are drawn to her prowess.
And she’s so smart!  I have been thoroughly entertained listening to her debate a topic with a friend (or a stranger) and just school them like nobody’s business. She also listens and has an open mind, always willing to listen to other people’s opinions and take something away from a conversation.
I love that Dawn is always trying new things, gaining new experience and growing as a person. When she sets her mind to something, she does it whole-heartedly and makes it hers and it’s really inspiring to watch.
Dawn is fashion savvy and sassy! She has this phenomenal sense of style, and when she’s dressed up she’s a perfect picture of vintage class. She’s so beautiful! She has this ridiculously perfect, porcelain skin, stunning eyes, and beautiful hands. Even when we are camping for days, she looks fresh and adorable!
I love so many things about my beautiful friend, and feel honored to be able to write this about her. It doesn’t even begin to do her justice, but I hope that it at least taps the surface of the wonderful things I see in this amazing woman. I love you, Dawn!” – Sylvia


  • creative
  • smart
  • honest
  • loyal
  • generous
  • thoughtful
  • kind
  • determined
  • stylish
  • witty
  • a true friend
  • quirky
  • beautiful
  • fun
  • brings people together
  • supportive
  • outdoorsy/adventurous
  • free spirit
    –        Amy

“Dawn is a person who has learned to turn her life experience into meaningful and compassionate interaction with other people. The strength and grace she has shown whenever life has given her hardship has been an inspiration to all who know her.
Dawn is the kind of friend and companion who will be patient and supportive when you’re struggling, but also honest and open with you at all times. In other words, she’s a real friend.
Like all self-aware, considerate people, her life is a balancing-act, with patient, careful analysis on one side of the cable, and urgency and spontaneity on the other, and it’s always her love and consideration of others that keeps her balanced in the middle, moving ahead.
All cheesy metaphors aside, she inspires me every day to be a be a better person, and I’m thankful that we get to learn and grow together, side by side.” – Robb


Ana ~

“When I think of what it is that makes me the most anxious, the most insecure, I feel my mind trying to shy away from it because it rattles me so deeply. 
Deep down in the core of me – that which informs everything I do and think – I feel as though I’m an obligation. That I’m so beyond redemption, so broken and damaged, that I’m a waste of the time and energy people have put into me…and everyone knows it. But because they’re obligated, because they feel honor bound to carry me, they don’t throw me away as they wish they could. Because I’m not clever, or lovely, I’m not good or kind or smart or brave or strong. I’m just damaged. And no one wants that as a companion, and yet they are stuck with me.
It leaves me in a constant state of anxiety, feeling clumsy and stupid in the company of other people. I t leaves me so exhausted from worrying that I feel like I can’t be a good daughter, or sister, or significant other, or friend, and making new friends is a harrowing and anxiety-ridden experience. I try to be good, of course, but I feel my nature leaves me incapable of being those things that I admire in others, and that leaves me as a burdensome obligation to people who are so much better than I am.”

Ana’s friends and family –

“I remember looking into her newborn eyes of an indescribable color and feeling like I had fallen into eternal wisdom…so I whispered to her, in those first hours of knowing her, that she would teach me the secrets of the universe.
She has been my portal to a realm of wonder – a flouncy, flitting fan girl whose squeals of delight can cause a smile to erupt across 2000 miles. She loves her clan, those related to her by blood or kindred spirit, with a fierce and passionate loyalty.
Her struggles have challenged her and fashioned her into the kind of person who chooses to practice compassion.  She dances with demons and angels, she knows tragedy and triumph, and her spirit, although sometimes wounded, rises again and again to meet the world on her own terms. She may not always triumph, but she is yet to be defeated.
Although I have wondered aloud how on earth such a chick could have ended up in my nest, I have no doubt she was meant to be mine from the founding of the world. My daughter, my child, my Ana.” – Amy

“Hi Alana, it’s hard to know where to start with Ana – I’ve known her pretty much since she was born.  She is easily the kindest person that I know and one of the strongest that I’ve ever met.  It’s hard enough to find one of those qualities in someone and she manages them both in the most genuine way.  Even though she doesn’t always see those qualities in herself, I know that those closest to her see her in the same light.  She also has an incredible mind; every time we hang out I’m surprised by it.  She will remember and tell you exact details of things that happened last week and 15 years ago as though they were the same.  It’s incredible, and even when there’s doubt she’s the one that comes up true, so you learn quickly not to doubt her!
With all of that, the quality about Ana I adore most is that she is always honest with others and with herself.  Right or wrong, angry or happy, she will tell you her true thoughts and not hide behind any kind of a false veil, and that’s one of the hardest things a person can do.  To stay exposed, open, and accepting in the face of everything.
To me she’s more than a friend…she’s family.” – Micah

“I have known Ana for over a decade. I have seen her at her best, and I have seen her at her worst! She is, BY FAR, the strongest person I know! She is misunderstood by many, but for those of us that take the time, she is a blessing like no other. She is the person that will NEVER give up on you! I am living proof that once you let her in, you don’t have a choice! She will change how you view yourself and the world around you! With all of the hardships that she has been through, she can still see the beauty in this world. There are so many that fail to see the beauty and at the same time, they believe that the horrors (like the ones Ana has seen) are just something of myth. Ana has gone toe-to-toe with pure evil and won! She often feels that she is weak for having relapses or panic attacks, but truth be told, most of us wouldn’t have survived long enough to experience the panic that ensues so many years later! She is one of the most kind, loving, forgiving people I have ever had the honor of knowing. I would truly be lost without her!” – Mat

“I’ve known Ana for a handful of years now, and while we’re not always central to each others’ lives, we’re never really out of touch or too far away.
Ana has always been a positive influence in my life. She is an insanely brilliant, creative and good-natured person. Ana has a unique sensitivity to the emotional health and well being of the people around her, and while I might not always understand it, it is something that has brought me comfort many times. She’s one of very few people I have ever met, that know: some things are worth the effort of doing, simply because it is good for the heart/soul/spirit/sense of self/whatever-have-you. She has had more than her fair share of trials and injustices inflicted on her, and I can tell you; she is capable of amazing amounts of grace; more then most people will exhibit in their lifetimes. I am proud and grateful to call Ana my friend.” – Cat


 Jill ~

My entire life I have suffered from a crippling need to make people like me. I want to entertain and charm and generally leave people with the impression that I am a joyful person. And I don’t think that’s false, I am generally joyful. But somewhere along the way I began to work too hard for this, to the exclusion of all else. Instead of developing real, meaningful, informed opinions on things, I churn on the words or an inspired twist of a joke I can make around the topic.  This isn’t always bad. But other times it is – a sort of manic anxiety that I know isn’t healthy.  Then the insecurity really kicks in; I start to fear that people I esteem – my friends and family – can see through my performances. And because they are actual sensitive, intelligent people, they know.

That I lack fundamental substance.
That I don’t care enough about things that are actually important.
That I’m not smart, just clever. 

 I look around at other people who are driven to make a difference and I admire them. I see people who are doing amazing things in life, and I feel pride for them while simultaneously wondering what they see in me. I feel like a fraud.  I don’t want my friendships to become a series of performances, I want real connection. But I don’t always know how to get it.
It is also part of my nature to gloss over the painful emotions in life. I just…decide not to feel them. I take sadness or anger and stuff it down. But in recent years I have come to realize it doesn’t stay down. And when it comes rushing up it’s confusing and painful and destructive. It causes me to need validation and approval to patch the holes I’ve created in myself. And so I entertain and charm and generally pretend to be a joyful person. That makes it better. For a minute.”

Jill’s friends and family –

“There are few friends who have known me since I was a child.  Few who have seen the changes in my life and held on.  Jillian is one of those friends.  I love her because she has the capacity to see past my dark places and still find light.  She doesn’t make me feel small.  In fact, she has the ability to draw anyone in. It is not just her wit that keeps me hanging on to every word, although she is terribly funny; it is the rawness that lies just beneath the surface…the layer that is vulnerable and honest and whole.

I love Jillian because she takes the world seriously while making fun of it at the same time.
I love Jillian because she is a good mother.
I love Jillian because she tells a great story.
I love Jillian because she does not judge.
I love Jillian because of her strength (the kind that makes me want to be stronger) and her beauty (the kind of beauty that slaps me square in the face).
I love Jillian because she is trustworthy.
I love Jillian because she would be an equally fantastic date to a funeral as a baby shower.
I love Jillian because she is a risk taker.
I love Jillian because she understands and appreciates the value of parenthood, friendship, and family.
If you stripped away her fantastic stories and witty remarks, I’d still like to sit next to her at a bar and sip cinnamon whiskey all night long.
I think I might like to be her when I grow up.” – Sunshine

“Jill is so fun, and it was so easy to get to know her. I remember when we first met we liked each other straightaway.. I’m sure she has lots of friends but she has this way of making me feel like an important person in her life when we are together. That feels great! She is also the funniest person I know. She always makes me laugh and look at life in a funny way – especially when it comes to our kids. Jill is also an incredible mother. Very patient, and always interacting with her kids with funny things to say and look at things. Being a mom of two myself, I know how hard it can be to stay engaged and have energy to make things fun for the kids, and Jill is a model mommy with regards to planning fun outings and when things get hectic she just rolls with it and makes everyone laugh all the while.
I think most of all, though, I admire her positive outlook on life. I’ll ask her how her weekend/day was, and it could be any old day, and she would say “the best!” It’s so uplifting to have a positive friend, someone who has great things to say about the life they are living instead of the alternative.
I really love this gal, she’s super!” – Heather

“This letter is harder to write than I thought. I honestly don’t know if I can quantify all that is what I love about Jilly, and love her I most certainly do.
She’s my sweet jilly. My funny bird. My favorite aeroplane to fly. Jilly is smart, and beautiful, and stronger than she will ever know. She, despite all of her attempts to avoid it, has some pretty astute insights and can always be counted on to mention an angle you hadn’t considered when a situation arises.
She’s brave and willing to try anything. I think technically Jill is what you would call ” a down ass bitch”. I can prove it. Well, not here and now…her dad is going to read all of these eventually and he really doesn’t want to hear anything I have to say on that subject. But, it could be fun because Jill would totally blush as this was being read out loud and I think that would be adorable. And so would you, because she is adorable. So, adore her. I sure do.” – Jamey

“I am honored to have been present at the moment of Jill’s conception. While hysterical amnesia has blocked that moment from my memory (no fault of Jill’s), every moment since combine to have made my life worthwhile. Jill and her kids are my mark on the world, and I could not be more proud of that mark.
But it is her qualities that you want to hear about, and it is those that make me most proud. Jill is fiercely loyal. Once you are a friend of Jill’s, you are always a friend of Jill’s. To this day she counts among her friends members of her second grade Brownie troop in addition to the legion of friends she has added through the years. And to a person they are fine people. Jill sees into people, and when she sees good, she makes a friend. Her friends adore her, and why not, she is riotously funny. Without really being conscious of it, Jill remembers everything she reads (which she does voraciously) and hears. When nuggets of that encyclopedic knowledge re-emerge they are invariably in the form of a pun (her favorite form of humor), a joke, or a witty bon mot. It makes her a joy to be with.
The mental machinations behind her wit make her a natural born writer, an artist whose medium is the English language. I like the art she creates.
Interview anyone she knew growing up and you would not have found a single person who would have described her as a “mother type.” But she is exactly that, a wonderful and joyous mom. She not only enjoys her kids because they are her kids, she genuinely gets a kick out of them. She treats them more as little people than as children. One of them may very well be the Kwisatz Haderach… Those who know her, know who.
In short, Jill is an accomplished liver, lover, and laugher. And I could not be more proud.

Her Dad”

“When I think of Jill I think of a beautiful, fun-loving, and interesting girl.  She makes people want to be around her and be part of her life.  She is lively and has an aura of welcoming light.  Don’t understand why she can’t dance…or doesn’t dance.
Jill is very creative in everything she does.  When she was young, she made me an apple core in clay that I absolutely cherish.  Anything she tries, she can do.  She is definitely a left-brain thinker.  She writes poems, limericks and stories that are fun, interesting, exciting, mind-blowing and always a joy to share.  I often wonder where that creativity comes from and I’m definitely glad she has that talent.  I think she could write songs if only she could put it to music.
Jill is an Aquarius and she fits the sign.  She is easy-going, accepting, forgiving, honest, head-in-the-clouds kind of gal.  She tells the truth and expects people will do the same.  I think she learned very early that she is a bad liar…it shows in her face.  I think the only reason she would even tell someone a lie is to spare their feelings…but it wouldn’t be in person.
Jill is so nice to friends, family and strangers.  I think she is naïve in that sense.  She always believes people have the best intentions. In this, I think she can put herself in dangerous situations because she trusts people to behave in an expected manner.  When they don’t, she is thrown off kilter and doesn’t know how to react.
She is mostly fearless of places and people.  We are different in this way.  Where I don’t fear places or people, I am more cautious than she is.  The things she does fear are the things I do not.  Maybe that is just an age and experience difference that she will grow into.
Jill is very sensitive.  She gets hurt very easily.  It was always hard for me when she was growing up to not hurt her feelings because I come from a family of jokesters…we tease and we never let it hurt our feelings.  Her sensitivity is what makes her so sweet.  She has an open heart that sometimes gets bruised but never for long.
Jill takes time to talk with people and is genuinely interested in what they have to say.  She is an engaging conversationalist and people love her.  She has a tolerance for people that I wish I possessed.
Jill is a very good mother.  It is obvious by how her children react to her.  She is a loving, patient and understanding parent.  She always wants to please her children when she can but understands when to say no.  She’s never going to regret loving her children too much.
I don’t think Jill sees herself as a beautiful, interesting woman who people want to be around.  I think she has doubts about her charm, intelligence and her appearance.  She doesn’t trust her instincts and lets others influence her self-esteem.  Recently she questioned why a handsome man would be interested in her…my response was “why wouldn’t he be?”.
Whatever credit I can take for being part of the genetic pool that produced such a fine woman, I’m taking it.  I am so proud of her and happy that she is my daughter.  She is the absolute best daughter a mother could ask for and I only hope she thinks that I the absolute best mom a girl could ever have.  I love her with all my heart with a fierce protection to protect her and her children from harm and hurt.” – Judy


Michelle ~

All right, let’s just say it. Like most of us, I’ve got issues. And, like most of us, I learned very early that you should stuff those issues down deep to protect yourself. And then for the lucky ones (which is still most of us) our issues happened when we were so little that we don’t even remember what or why they are issues.

As I think about my greatest insecurity, far too many ideas come to mind. I’m just a giant ball of insecurity! What in the world ever possessed me to do this I still don’t know..? I thought it would be brave, or healing, or something. And, being so insecure, I can’t ‘reuse’ a word that another woman has used! But, some of them are my words, too. They run through my mind daily and hold it captive.
So much of my life has been about seeking acceptance from everyone else, and hiding the parts of myself that I thought others wouldn’t want to see. The biggest of those parts were my FEELINGS. When I think about growing up, I was always told I was ‘too emotional’ and ‘over-dramatic.’ Don’t FEEL so much, Michelle. Better yet, don’t feel. Period. It’s a nuisance. SUCK IT UP.

 So I learned to ‘feel less’ (not exactly – I just learned to stuff the feelings I had) – I never learned to manage my feelings. They became too big or too scary. Too much emotion shows weakness.

If I feel too deeply, I am weak.

If I am overwhelmed, I am weak.

If I don’t do everything right, everything PERFECT, I am weak.

If I can’t handle it all, I am weak.

I can’t be vulnerable – that’s WEAK.

I can’t let someone REALLY see me. They might think I am weak. 
But now I feel like there might be more for me if it don’t SUCK IT UP. If I FEEL. And so this seemed like a good place to start. FEELING. Period. I am feeling. Guh…”


Michelle’s family and friends:

“Hi Alana. This is Tyler, writing about how awesome my mom is. My mom makes me feel special by how caring and loving she is. It is really cool to see how she brought Jacelyn in as her own daughter. She also knows how to make me feel better when I’m not feeling well or am sad. She is super smart and can help me, by pushing me to do my best in school, and can help me with my projects. She is fun to hang out with. She has a lot of fun creative ideas for things to do. We also love to watch science fiction shows together. I am lucky to have her as my mom.” – Tyler

“Michelle, I have watched an intelligent, loving young girl grow into an intelligent, loving, kind, amazing woman. You are a caring compassionate friend, who tells it like it is and then offers good advice after praying about it. You are also an awesome prayer warrior, a great mom, and have the integrity to stand up for what you believe even if it isn’t the popular thing to do. I could always count on you to be in my prayer loop, even when you were younger. You are a talented woman in many areas, after all who introduced me to kale salad? I have always felt very blessed to have you in my life and I hope this helps you to know what a truly awesome person you are!

Love you, Judy”

“Michelle is the kindest, most empathetic person I have ever met. Heck. She’s the kindest person YOU have ever met. When we were little, Michelle was tall, and kinda goofy, and asked a lot of questions. This annoyed people and I remember them being pretty mean to her. I was probably pretty mean to her sometimes…but she never. ever. ever. held it against anyone. She would accept, absorb and forgive while barely batting an eye (this is a skill most never  even realize they should master). I remember watching her one day while I was waiting in line to play foursquare… she was walking and talking with a girl who had cerebral palsy (I think). This girl was the constant butt of cruel jokes and mostly ostracized…but not by Michelle. They were walking and talking and laughing and I will never forget that moment. I’m not even sure why it’s that one specifically that I’m choosing for this letter because there are more stories of her fighting off kids who were bullying someone less able. I think it’s that it is the stuff of a truly beautiful human being. Just being in that moment – at that time – with that person.  She can do that and make you feel truly loved.
Michelle and I have faced some demons together – I couldn’t imagine having been able to do that with anyone else. She’s brave, and fierce, and funny, and all of those questions that she asks? If you stop and listen…and try to answer them…you may learn something. She has that gift, that intelligence.  Here we are 30 years later…I am so very lucky to have her in my life.
She dedicates herself to protecting others. Others without a voice…I love her for that.
That and her wickedly dirty sense of humor…the way she talks her thoughts through out loud…she really considers herself and her place in this world. She’s great. Really and truly great.” – Jamey


I thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in this project. I feel blessed to not just know you as a friend but also as a colleague. Not only do you amaze me in your professional walk but also in your personal walk in life. It’s a blessing having you as friend. You always  have this attitude that is optimistic and positive. You are enthusiastic and fun to be around! I see you as hard working, knowledgeable and successful. Despite your workload you’re never too busy to listen and offer up words of advice to those around you.  You Michelle are brilliant, ambitious, fun loving, dependable, caring, energetic, a strong leader and one amazing mother.  The Lord is using you in so many ways. You touch so many lives and as He sees you as beautiful inside and out, so do I.  I’m very thankful for you!

Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.

Psalms 55:22

Love, Shannon”

“Michelle R***** L**** (R***** now, except when I yell at you)

Keeper of my secrets
Holder of dreams
Peaceful voice in the craziness of this world
Teacher of wisdom
First real friend
True friend
Pollyanna and sunshine
Balance in this unbalanced world
An advocate for what is right
Compassionate even when none seems to be deserved

You are an amazing friend, woman, and sister.  To me you are all three.  We have gone through this word together.  It is a long hard journey and had I not had you by my side I am not sure if I would have made it.  The good and bad memories of my past all have the vine of you twisting and supporting. Memories of us flood through my mind.  You are an essence to me and this world.  You are strength in the quite.  And when nothing else is working you make people laugh.   Even if it doesn’t make it better, for a moment you made them forget and smile.  You are sunshine and light.  Never let anyone tell you that that is not a strength. If this world had more Pollyanna’s in it we would all be much better off.
Thank you for blessing my life with yours.  Don’t ever become what you are not.  To me, you are the best friend to have walking with in this world.  Anyone whom you choose to walk with is blessed.  Thank you for choosing me.

I love you so.


“Michelle is, and always has been, very concerned about others’ well-being.  Whether it’s a friend, family member, or someone else’s kid, she’s always ready and willing to help.  Michelle sees potential.  She often sees the potential in others long before anyone else – even before the person him/herself.  She uses this potential to feed her desire to help others become their best selves.  Because she sees potential and how to get there, she’s very celebratory of small victories.  This draws others to her like a magnet – because she’s so positive and encouraging and celebratory of every accomplishment along the way.
Part of why Michelle is so good at seeing potential and helping others move towards their best self, is because she’s also doing this for herself. Michelle takes whatever she’s given, combines it with whatever she’s been able to scrape together, and works to make herself better.  Her life better. Her family better.  Her home better.  Her world better.
Michelle is an example of someone on an eternal quest for improvement- always working to make things better- to make everything better.” – Steph

“Michelle is very strong-willed & determined. She knows what she wants and works to get it. Even though there may be detours, she gets right back on track and continues to her goal.  She worked a full-time job with a young child – all the while keeping her family together during stressful times -and still managed to earn her bachelor’s degree at night. At times she was even working a part-time job to supplement while her husband was out of work. Strong willed & determined!
She is very loving & patient. To see how she has raised her son to be such an intelligent, compassionate human being is amazing. Now she has also taken on the added responsibility of fostering a young girl with a huge amount of behavioral issues. It is wonderful listening to the stories of frustration as well as success in this endeavor. Somehow, she has also managed to have her husband and son behind the decision, making it a family affair to love and care for this forgotten child, despite the heartache & drama that follow her.
Michelle is family-oriented and the peacemaker. Always reaching out to keep her extended family & in-laws within her circle. Always working to smooth over the rough edges of arguments and such that happens in family life. Always bringing everyone together again, thus showing her son by example that there is nothing more important than family – no matter how far away they are or how much emotional distance they put between themselves. Family is important and you need to work to keep them together.
She has grown into a beautiful young woman with much to give the world. I admire her and am proud to call her my daughter. I look forward to the great things she will surely accomplish!  I love you, Michelle! – Mom”


I’ve mentally written this and mulled it over a million times and, no matter how I try, I can’t break it down in a way that could make others understand what I have to say to you within a context they could grasp. So instead, I’ve chosen to write to you. To my person. How could anyone else understand who we were when we met and what we’ve each been through to become who we are now? Or who we want to be?  They weren’t there to see the two young teenagers sneaking around the corner to the grocery store during breaks, forging a new friendship. They weren’t there the first time you nursed me through heartbreak, let alone any of the others. They haven’t watched our children grow up as family or listened to us share our professional aspirations. They couldn’t possibly know you are one of the very few people in this world with whom I don’t feel like a schizophrenic freak, nor would they understand. But you do.
You may laugh at what has continually popped up for me as I’ve tried to wrap my head around choosing a word to describe my favorite part of you, but I ask you to then take a breath, believe that I’ve chosen it thoughtfully and intentionally, and let your heart feel it. When I think about the many forms of our relationship, the overriding quality I find myself emulating across the board is your intention to be graceful. Grace. You have such grace in you.
Your grace is so beautiful, Michelle. You fight for children everyday in such graceful ways. You mother your son with grace that inspires me to be more graceful with my own children. You are graceful in your relationship with your husband and have taught me more than you can possibly know about how to have a healthy relationship with he who may yet someday be mine. You speak hard truths with a grace I have always, and will always admire for your resounding ring of truth and kindness. And when your graciousness lapses, I see you feel its absence. I see you look for it to put back on, because it is you. You are grace. Your intention to be graceful in all you do is one of the many reasons I feel safe to trust you with all of me. Why you are my person.
I love you, Michelle. Thank you for sharing your grace with me and mine.

Sincerely, your person too,

“Hi Alana. I hope you are not looking for some eloquently written letter. I’m a relatively smart guy, but not a great writer. That is one of many areas where my lovely wife, Michelle, shines.
What are some words I would use to describe her? Beautiful, smart, caring, thoughtful, wise, patient (she’s put up with me for 18 years) I would almost say she’s a saint! Especially the way that she has taken Jacelyn in. This is a 4-year-old, hyper, emotional girl that most people would run from – yet, Michelle opened her heart, arms, and home to her and is raising her with the love she would give our own daughter. She is an amazing mother. Not only for our own son, but any other child that should be fortunate enough to meet her.
Michelle, is a very loyal friend. She may not have “a lot” of friends, but the ones lucky enough to be her friends, will be her friends for life. She loves every one of them very deeply and with all her heart.
This is tough. I have been with Michelle for 18 years and have been through so much with her that words can’t really describe how I feel. I guess I could say how lucky and blessed I am to have her in my life, and how fortunate I am to have her as the mother of my son. She talks about wanting to get a tattoo of an anchor, in honor of her father (Retired Navy), but I could get one in honor of her. Not in the derogatory term, but in the sense that she keeps me grounded when my emotions get the best of me. I guess you could say…Michelle brings out the best in me. I am one lucky man!” – Bryan


Nicole ~

 My insecurity is that I always feel like an outsider, even with people I know well. I feel like an afterthought and that no one really knows or understands me. It makes me think that either they don’t care to know or that they do and simply don’t like me. This causes me to be guarded with new people I meet and constantly second guessing myself with family and friends.”

Nicole’s friends and family:

“As Nicole’s Mom, I could list hundreds of great things about her, because she’s my daughter and obviously I think she’s perfect. But I will list just some of the many great things about her…

Excellent Mother to Victoria
Loving caregiver to her grandparents
Very big heart
Excellent artist
Extremely Smart
Very creative & resourceful
Very determined
Thoughtful of all family and friends
Always happy to help anyone who needs it
Good friend

I hope this will help your project!”

“She is an active listener
Has a great sense of humor
Eager to learn
Open to try new things
Does not give into peer pressure

I apologize for the delay. This list can go on and on. She is an amazing soul!” – Daisy

“My Sister, Nicole…

Amazing caretaker…to so many people!
Extremely sincere
Independent thinker…she does not follow the pack, which is so admirable!
Loving Mom…gives so much for her daughter
Creative AND Ambitious…you need to have both!
So funny!
Beautiful hair 🙂

I am lucky to have such an awesome woman in my life.  Love you, Nicole!” – Gina


 April ~

My biggest insecurities have changed over the years. Currently, it’s my body after having 2 children via C-section. I’ve always been a bigger girl. As I made my way through high school and onto college I came to terms with that fact. I had always done all sorts of sports and dance and was never thin. It’s not that I’m a different size then I was before I had kids, but somehow I just feel different. It’s not even the scars that bother me. Just something in the back of my mind that tells me that I’m less sexy and less desirable than I used to be. My husband tells me daily that he thinks that I’m sexy, but I just can’t let myself believe it. My insecurity with my body affects me daily. It keeps me from letting me be me.”

April’s friends and family –

“April is a very good friend to me and my daughter, and we also feel like she is part of the family.
She is an excellent mother, and you can tell she really loves being a mom.
She’s very calm and collected, and makes sure both girls get the attention they need.
April actually has 3 children including Dave, her hubby, lol.  She is a good wife, and manages to take everyday in stride. They have a great family and I love to visit with them.
I admire her strength and fortitude; being a wife and mother are both very exhausting jobs.
I think April is rewarded for all her good work by having a nice family to be proud of.
I hope to see her darling girls, Samantha and Ella, grow up to be wonderful and gorgeous young ladies.” – Diane

“I have know April since before she was even started. I helped name her. She is warm- loyal- thoughtful- loving- reflective -patient. She has a quiet reserve about her. I adore her. She was my daughter’s best friend as her mother is mine. I now look at her more with my heart than I should. But when you love someone unconditionally, that is how it is. April – you have all the qualities a woman of this day and age should have. Be brave and proud and move the mountains set before you. I know you will. I love you.” – Gayle

“April and I became friends at a time in our lives that was very difficult, our early twenties, ha! She has come to be a admirable friend. She is genuine, smart, strong, honest, dependable and patient. All qualities in a friend I hold in high regard. She is an excellent wife & mother. I admire her patience with her daughters. I’m proud to call Sam & Ella my goddaughters. I’m honored to be apart of their loving family.” – Dawn

“Hi Alana,

Here are some good positive things about April that I know anyone will agree on.
She happens to be my daughter and I love her deeply.
She is my best friend.
She takes me shopping and sometimes does the shopping for me.
She always gives me back the change.
April is a wonderful mother and wife.  She takes it all in stride.  She loves her ladies, as she calls them, to her very soul.
She is funny and well liked.  A bright ray of sunshine.
She is very good at her job.  She gets things done when they need to be done.
April takes charge of me when I’m not able to do so.  She is what holds our family together.
She is eager to help anyone in distress.  No matter what.  Even stray crippled cats fit into that category.

I couldn’t live without her. Everything I do, I do for her!” – Dawn (Mom)

charinsChar ~

 “Growing up I often felt different and never good enough, feelings that have incapacitated me as an adult.  As an adopted child, I rationalized that I must have been trash for my own mother to not want me.  My twin sister and I were eccentric – peacocks in a family of swans.
By 5th grade I had begun to lose hope in school.  I was a straight F student who was also taking gifted classes, told I just “needed to try harder”.  As a teen I was diagnosed with ADHD, anorexia and severe depression.  I tried to get by on charm and appearance but ultimately felt like a worthless fraud, incapable of success and ultimately of any true worth.
I left school at 16 and ran away, suffered a year on the streets (and rape) and left when I got pregnant (on the pill, go Planned Parenthood).  Due to my very religious upbringing, I married my boyfriend at 17 – who I had met on the street – and was pregnant again, this time with a daughter, two months after giving birth to my son.
The “marriage” was a disaster.  I was basically a single mom living with abuse.  I finally left, as it was hurting my kids, and chose to move away, striking out on my own.  I worked hard to provide for my kids, and besides a perfectionist work ethic, credit them with giving me motivation to get through life.
However, my oldest kids were adversely affected by what I can admit now was mental illness and my extreme shame in dealing with it (depression, anxiety, anorexia, hoarding and conversely, OCD).  I also have had autoimmune issues that made (make) me feel like a genetic weak link.  My self-imposed isolation and not seeking help have come at a great cost and have caused a burden to my family.
I am finally seeking help as I have a sweet 2-year-old son and 8-week-old daughter (and a loving husband) who need me.  I am in the grip of Postpartum Depression, Fibromyalgia and Lupus and need to come to terms with these limitations and MOVE ON.  I would not be such a harsh judge to a stranger; it is time to learn how to love myself and turn off the self-hatred.”

Char’s friends and family –

“I’m sending this message in regards to my mother Char, and I would love to give you my input. She is an amazingly trustworthy person, empathetic, and has always been an incredible mom.” – Demyan

“I have known Char for well over a decade. She is bright, sensitive, caring, and capable. Her love for family and friends is evident in everything she does.  If she is afraid to take on new challenges, she doesn’t show it. Whenever knocked off her feet, she gets back up and tries again. I’m glad that Char is a part of my circle, and happily foresee that she always will be.” – Traci

“Char loves us all. She believes in us. She believes we can do more than what we do. She will be there for us. She will help us.  She will inform us of imminent dangers. She will protect us. She does this for you and she does this for her family. Char is beautiful. Char is intelligent, strong, wise, weird and strange, and isn’t going to stop any time soon. Hold her hand, and you will smile. Love you, kiddo.” – Nicholas

Wonderful mother
Hard working
Gentle and nurturing
Unconditional love
Intelligent” – Sierra

“I couldn’t imagine anyone more open and honest than Char. It was that which drew me towards her and that same trait that characterizes any close friend that I have to this day. Ironically, often the most honest are the least likely to open up. At first they’re quite good at smiling and saying soft “hellos”. A simple gesture, a reply, can be difficult at first and intimidating. Their beauty radiates from within and then outward like a tropical trade wind visiting you on the driest hottest day of the year on the most lifeless side of an island that can sometimes go by the name of Life.
Char was like that for me when we first met. A godsend.
I was young and struggling with my identity and insecurities of my own. If I could go about my day in a hoodie with headphones to drown out my thoughts, I knew I’d be ok. It took a friend like her to help me realize what I was going through. It took a friend like her that went through enough that she wasn’t going to hide it if she met someone who was traveling along that same path. It took a friend like her to tell me all the things I couldn’t tell myself, that she couldn’t even tell herself, things that made my heart and mind stronger. Made me love myself a little more.
We met as co-workers at the Harvester in Stadium district. Perhaps she knew I was looking for something because she took me in under her wing. She was skilled at what she did, a master. From her I learned how to never waste a step and to maximize my potential. To feel good at the end of a hard shift. To help others in need. To care. To open yourself to all those patrons who so badly wanted to give, or at least, share a part of themselves with someone who had no judgment to give, just food.  At the end of some days we would often share a few drinks and joke about our permanent grins and how hard it was to stop smiling. Smiling is the number one addiction in the food industry. If your server is smiling, you’re definitely more likely to say yes to any invitation.  Oh, but to smile a real smile, now that was hard. For women like us. We hurt constantly inside and no one ever knew.
I don’t know what it is about women who have insecurities that draws them to a life of servitude. That’s Char. She’s constantly giving. You wouldn’t know it because of how youthful and beautiful she is, but she suffers in many ways. Her health burdens seem to only make her stronger. But she also has a past that could take a lifetime to forget and still she’s one of the strongest women I know.
Whenever holidays came around I felt blue and lonely and without family and there she would be with something small yet special in a tiny dainty box with cute wrapping paper and just the wonderfulness that could make even finding an empty box followed by a hug the most lovely gift in the whole world. Not to mention she would find a way to make this moment possible when she had nothing to give.
Honesty. Sometimes you can say something to someone and they look at you in disbelief and then suddenly become afraid of how fragile and possibly unstable you might be. Your words have more meaning than the emptiness that most speak and they don’t know what to do. They want to run because they were raised in households where you didn’t talk about how you feel or if there was a problem and that getting angry wasn’t OK. Char didn’t run and I didn’t run from her. We were OK with telling each other that we were not OK and that helped us feel OK. We weren’t alone anymore. We could tell each other that the things we thought weren’t true and we knew we weren’t lying. There was a trust and faith that only time could tell.
Here I am today, cured. Char and I parted ways about 7 years ago. Parted in the way that we no longer were in the presence of each other. It wasn’t until 5 years ago that I was completely cured. I know what it feels like to be better. And sadly, I sometimes feel like I’m not with my sister, Char, as much as I should be. And sadly, I sometimes think it will remind me too much of the old sad me. But, I know its not that at all and that I’m actually just really allergic to cats and she’s a stay-at-home mom now so……well……smiles. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about her and how she was there for me when I needed someone so raw and honest to love and be loved by.
I love her. To this day. And when I knew her, I knew nothing, and still to know that I had a friend like her by my side made every day possible because I knew she was there just a few blocks away. Unconditional love.” – Leilani



 Karin ~ 

“I figured out what is wrong with me…the fact that I think that
something is “wrong” with me.  I am imperfectly perfect in this perfect moment.
When I wrote this a few months ago, I thought I really believed it.
If only I could fully embody this, at the core of my being. To truly live from a place of pure love, not fear.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve strived for perfection. And guess what? I always ended up “falling short”….never quite enough. Like the “Little Drummer Boy” without a “drum”.
Over the years, I’ve “poisoned” myself slowly with the good ‘ole “negative self-talk tapes”. So many years of my life, wasted…secretly loathing myself much of the time, literally shoving down deep those parts of myself that were just too dark & too “ugly” to be revealed.
And beneath it all has existed within me the core belief that I’m not worthy of love.
Sadly…living with this core belief for most of my life has led to feelings of shame, unworthiness, fear, & despair. “Damaged goods”, a “lost cause” not worth “saving” with no hope of healing & finding True Happiness.
I’ve actually been called “Joyless”…how sad is that?!

This distorted view of myself triggered many self-destructive behaviors & led to moments, caused by my inner self-saboteur, which abruptly & seemingly without mercy, changed the trajectory of my life path. You know those moments, when you can never turn back & you are forever changed…Well, recently…some life circumstances, have brought me to my knees into a state of pure madness & surrender.

I believe the Universe finally intervened & made it an impossibility for me to focus on the healing of others, & instead, focus on “healing thyself”.  It has at times felt like a discouraging and lonely road.
Never in my life have I felt so isolated from those closest to me. And why? Because, unfortunately, I was depleting my own soul,  giving away too much of myself. And unfortunately, many times these good intentions of mine proved to be more detrimental, not only to me…but also to those that I tried to “help”. Co-dependence & enmeshment at its finest.
Also…I’ve developed an unhealthy pattern, that seems to have been engrained in me, of looking outside myself for the “magic answer”, to find “enlightenment” &  to “Live Happily Ever After”.
But, now…finally, the lesson is clear. I must first go through this initiation on my quest for self-love & acceptance, before I am able to enter the next leg of my journey…I must take pause. It’s time for me to embrace my True Self & create my own “Happily Ever After”.

It is my belief that this unconditional love can only be attained by accepting…without judgment…ALL parts of myself, even my “shadow-selves”, opening my heart to receive the pure love, that has been lying in wait…all these years. Forgiving myself, for hurting others & myself in my pain & confusion & having faith in myself, completely letting go of my Damn Ego, & trusting my connection to the Divine & to all living things.
To see the Warrior Woman in myself & others, & to believe in my own “voice” & trust it.

As excruciating  as “growing pains” can be, they bring with them Wisdom, Courage, & a true sense of awe & humility.
And…most of all, I pray to truly have gratitude, for all that I’ve learned so far during this this treacherous, yet exquisitely beautiful journey.

To deny your shadow, is to deny your light.
Open your heart & embrace your whole being.
Receive the love of spirit that exists within you.
Surrender your ego & return to your true self.”

Karin’s friends and family:

“Karin has the soul of an angel.  She is always concerned about others, wanting to heal the broken, while putting herself last.  She has a beautiful soul that I believe can never be broken.  I know it has been trampled on many, many times, yet, her soul always shines through.  She is amazing to me. How she keeps going, keeps getting up.
We don’t always keep in touch as often as we should, but she is always a constant in my life, my heart.  I know that she is always thinking of me, just as I am always thinking of her.  I know God has put her in my life not only to help me but for me to help her.  She has been through many lows in her life and I have been there, just as she has been by my side during my lows.  I am so thankful to have such a strong, beautiful woman in my life that will forever be by my side.  I hope and pray that she will see how wonderful she is and know that she is worth her weight in gold.  I want her to be happy, to have a smile on her face everyday and I hope she can find that soon!  I love you!” – Jenee

“This is what I know of Karin…

She’s a beautiful woman. Health issues that never seem to crush her positive spirit. Simple and careful free spirit by nature she seems to go with the flow of life enjoying the ups and downs life has to offer!
That’s all I really know about her, as I’ve not seen her in awhile… Praying she’s well! Hope that your work continues to flourish!” – Kendall

Simply amazing!!!!” – Honor

“Karin is………………….
Unique, Intuitive, Intelligent, Inspirational

Karin is…………………
Charismatic, Compassionate, Caring, Creative, Kind……..a healer

Karin is Loved…………

Karin is Resilient……..

Alana, as I read some of the words described by the ladies doing this project I was drawn to two words LIBERATING and EMPOWERMENT.  Hooray for your project . May it be the start of an ongoing dialogue between women!
Here’s to greater understanding of ourselves, acceptance of ourselves and foremost LOVE of ourselves.  We are wonderful, beautiful women and Karin is one of them !!” – Kathy


  • wise
  • beautiful
  • kind
  • spiritual
  • loving
  • gracious
  • nurturing
  • humble
  • funny
  • eloquent
  • generous
  • sweet
  • has an amazing speaking/singing voice
  • fashionista
  • talented poet/writer
  • brings peace & strength to others
  • a healer
  • the best little sister anyone could ask for.”



Liz ~

“I’ve always been “almost.” 
All my life I’ve heard “You’d be so pretty if…”

If I was taller.

If I had better skin.

If I had a tan.

If I lost some weight.

If I had bigger boobs. 

I’ve heard how I never finish anything. I’d be such a good mom if I had follow-through. I’d prove my intelligence if I would finish school. I’d use my creative aptitude better if I worked faster and turned it into some sort of business. 

And, I’ve always felt incomplete. I’d fill that void with a baby, if I could have one. Or, maybe a dog, if my husband didn’t hate them. Or, a best-friend, if I got along with others.
I’m almost good enough. Almost pretty enough. Almost cool enough. Almost perfect. Almost almost.”

Liz’s friends and family:

“Best friend
Amazing mother of 3 beautiful children
Crazy talented
Caring” – Katie

“Some things about Liz that are AMAZING:

-She is a wonderful mother. Her kids always come first to her.
-She is inspiring to me, as a crafter, as a mother, as a human.
-She says what she means, even when it’s difficult to say.
-She is gorgeous, inside and out.
-She is genuine.
-She follows her dreams.
-She is trusting.
-She is supportive.
-She is kind and expects nothing but a smile in return, like she shares the life philosophy “Create the word you want to live in” with me. I don’t know if she really does, but that seems to be a sign of it.
-It’s not necessarily about her, but I wish we lived closer together.

I hope that is enough. I could go on and on about her, but I think I hit the top points here. She is incredible.” -Andy

“My words for her are: courageous, incredible, beautiful, strong, deep, dreamer, perfect.” – Ethan

“Hi Alana,

I’m writing about my daughter-in-law, Liz…she’s an amazing young woman.
Liz is open – what you see is what you get.  Her emotions are on the surface…she’s passionate about things, animals and people.  She lets you know how she feels and there’s no hidden agenda.
Liz is a wonderful mother – her kids know that they’re the center of her world.  She lets their creativity shine, and their happiness is a testament to her involvement in their lives and the love she gives them.
Liz is a free spirit – she marches to her own drummer in her own way.  She is on a quest to explore herself and her place in the world, and she’s willing to try new things.  She’s growing by leaps and bounds and her potential is endless.  With her intelligence, the sky’s the limit.” – Alvarita

Loving Wife
Extremely dedicated to ANY project
Very creative
A loyal friend
And…above all…an AWESOME mother!” – Duane

“Lizzy has had many experiences, good and bad in her 30 years, and I think the lessons she has learned are the most important “facets” of her life. She has compassion, empathy, and sincere tenderness for those in need.
She is very creative and, whatever she attempts, she does well.  I’ve always admired her ability to teach herself things that she found interesting …knitting, computer skills, gardening, home schooling, quilting, yoga, to name a few.
Her sense of humor is quirky and entertaining, especially when she bleats like a lamb or burps the ABC’s!
When Liz became a Mother, I think she found her niche in life.
Her parenting skills are imaginative, loving, patient, and nurturing.
I don’t think Lizzy has “found” happiness, I think she has worked hard to create a happy life for her husband and family by making wise decisions, backed by a thoughtful evaluation of her options.
I am proud to be her Mom!” – Diane

“Traits about Liz:

Fiercely dedicated
Fantastic mother
Hauntingly good singing voice
Wicked awesome & meaningful tattoos.” – Zoe

“Liz was an unmistakable and remarkable turning point in our son Ethan’s life.  Her independent spirit, willingness to take risks and explore, and appreciation of art and all things beautiful, both aligned with our son’s entrepreneurial nature and challenged him to see and appreciate new things himself.  She helped him come out of his social shell, sharing with him a zany and attractive sense of humor and that “sealed their deal” as soulmates.  And when they had children, they both grew themselves as they dedicated themselves to being great parents and rearing wonderful children.  Liz is inquisitive, exploratory, sometimes daring, very bright, articulate, and not afraid to voice an opinion…character traits that are shared in many respects by our son and by our family in general.  Ethan has said many times that Liz changed his life and made him a better person.  I completely agree.” – Rick

kaylains Kayla ~

“I’ve always been a generally shy person, and I don’t really open up very well to people.  After my freshman year of high school, I moved to a different school district and went to a new high school.  One night, my “best friend” from my old school told me that pretty much everybody that I knew at that school hated me because of how “annoying” I was. Every body talked behind my back.  She said she probably shouldn’t have told me, but she wanted me to know. It was weird because I was always shy.

Even though this was such a long time ago, it still affects me today. Sometimes I find myself at a loss as to what do say in social situations.  So, i withdraw. I’m worried that people won’t like what i have to say, so often times, I am unsure as to what to actually say.  Really, I like you-I just don’t know what to say!”

Kayla’s friends and family:

“What can I say about Kayla that doesn’t bring a smile to my face? She has been a part of my life since the moment her conception was first a reality. She has been the pride of her Mother and of so many others. The thing I most appreciate about Kayla is her empathic tendencies; as a young girl she would weep for the injustices that exist in this world, which was beyond the wisdom of a child.
As a woman I admire her willingness to follow her joy and her life’s purpose. Kayla has very strong influences in her life yet she followed her heart to her joy. I wish as a woman of half her age that I had the guts to do the same. I am so proud of the woman that she is and of the child that she never abandoned. The child who took pride in violins and celebrated the joys of life regardless of what others may have judged her for. I see her living a life that she chose and reveling in the joy she creates for herself everyday; and I am in awe, and I am envious. As my dad always said, “you have the world by the ass on a downhill pull” and if there is one person in this world who does, it’s my precious Kayla. We may not have been bred on the same bloodline but she is my family nonetheless and I love and admire her immensely!” – Erin

“Thank you for having me as part of this! Kayla is an incredible girl.

When I first met Kayla, what struck me the most in our first few conversations was the incredibly confident manner in which she welcomed me into the job. It wasn’t until later that I found out that she had only been working there about three months longer than me! I was impressed. This is a girl who thinks before she speaks/acts and treats everyone (*everyone*) with the same gentle humor and respect – something I always wish I could do. *Then* I find out how old she was… man, if I’d have had such a handle on my life and such poise at that age – sheesh…
And who doesn’t love that crazy mop! Those raven curls of hers that look so effortlessly chic and sexy at the same time.
And the way she lights up when Matt brings Max into the studio.
And that low, quiet laugh – so infectious.
Alana, I could go on and on – you let me know if you want more :D” – Kate

“Kayla is:

has excellent taste in music
friendly” – Matthew

“When I think of Kayla, I think of her big ol’ smile, gorgeous curls, and super contagious laugh.  Man, do I love to laugh with her.  We haven’t had as many opportunities in the last couple of years as we used to when we were in school together, which I really miss.
Kayla has always referred to herself as “shy,” but I must say that she was the one to reach out to me (via Myspace, woot wooooot!) before we started our first quarter at the Art Institute.  So, shy as she may think she is, that was not my first impression.  I’m so glad that she reached out, as, no matter that I was heading into college at 30 years of age, it was still super intimidating to do it alone.  It was nice to make an awesome friend before that that would be experiencing it with me.
And experience it, we did.  She was often my right-hand partner in the studio and we had some pretty fantastic times.  Though, when I think of Kayla, I think of those times outside the studio…outside of school…mainly at Pies & Pints.  The hilarious conversations that we would have over some beers and custom-ordered mac ‘n’ cheese.  YUMMMMMMM.
So many conversations about boys.  Holy crap.  So many.  I will always laugh my ass off thinking about those conversations and the times we had together.  (Going to a particular laser show with a particular Mara is also coming to mind…jeesh.)
We are always able to pick up where we left off, too, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, which is important to me in any friendship.
Another thing about Kayla that I love – her obvious love and support of her mom, and vice versa.  They are super close and always there for each other, which I envy and love to see.
I’m super proud of her following her dreams and making a life for herself that makes her smile.  It’s super helpful that I really love her boyfriend, too…yay for finding a good and hilarious man!
I love you, Kayla!!!!!  Let’s go to the zoo!” – Alana

“My beautiful granddaughter Kayla…  She is the light of my life.  Kayla is so loving and caring, considerate of other people, she is more than her physical and mental self. She is a spiritual creation. Her capacity to think independently reflects her mental ability.  As I connect simple but powerful words, such as faith, love and peace, I am describing her true nature. She is an expression of God’s love and peace. She is faith in action. You will not find a truer or most loyal friend as Kayla.  She exercises this trait whether dealing with friends or in her place of business.  She is someone you can rely upon in good or bad situations.  She embraces the Truth of who she is and lives this truth everyday.  She is an expression of the spirit, contributing to a world of divine creation.  This describes Kayla as her Papa Fred and I see her.
Thank you for the opportunity to express our love for her and who she is.” – Fred and Dianne (Grandma and Papa Fred)

“I am not good at forming thoughts into words. I can draw, sculpt, or paint how I feel!! So please bear with me.
How I see my beautiful Kayla; well, I look up to five people on this rock that we live on and she is one of them.
She defines the word passion, when she believes is something she stands as a pillar – right ,wrong, or indifferent.
Because of her passion and how she expresses it, most people view her as fragile, but, in my opinion, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Unfortunately, people have tried to convince her that she is fragile .
When I view my beautiful Kayla, she has incomparable strength and discipline and would give anything to possess it. If you look at her accomplishments, it’s inspiring and keeps me trying.
Her brain, what I wouldn’t give to have some of that in my brain. Her thought on concept, design, and life, I love it and think she is brilliant artist!
She in so many ways has my respect as an artist, a friend, and most of all, a father’s love.

I’m not sure if this is what you were looking for and sorry it took so long as this isn’t something that I can just rush. Thank you for doing what you do, how rewarding it must be to lift the hearts of people and give the gift of sight.” – Dan


My daughter.

My friend.

My rock.

My hero.

The woman Kayla has grown into is someone that I could only hope to mimic.  To think that this loving, tender, smart, kind woman is a part of me, is overwhelming.  She has taught me what true love really is. This child of mine came into my life and stole my heart with her sense of humor, her kindness, and her beautiful, beautiful smile!  There was not anyone who, when they met her, did not fall in love with her.  She just commands goodness from those that are lucky enough to be around her.

If you are lucky enough to be Kayla’s friend, you have someone that will be loyal to you until the end.  And will accept you for exactly where you are – exactly what you are – and exactly who you are.

I am honored to call Kayla my daughter and my friend.  She is the most beautiful person inside and out that I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  I am truly blessed.” – Mary

“Kayla is…

As gorgeous in body as heart.
Rare, indelible sense of humor.
Calm face, perfect smile.

The true her is hard to access,
thanks and no thanks to an
oft crummy past;

But to see her true,
even for a moment,
trumps all else.

And the passion, her passion,
it’s the greatest passion
I have ever seen.

Without her,
I would be dead.
Of nothing else
have I been so certain.”

– Matt

Group 1, Part 1:
Group 1, Part 2:
Group 2, Teens!:
Group 3, 55+:
Group 5: